- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Campaign donations made more than four years ago at a celebrity-studded Hollywood gala have led to a federal criminal trial against a former finance director for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton that could hamper her future campaigns.

The trial set to open tomorrow focuses on a lavish August 2000 political party at a tony Brentwood estate that drew dozens of A-list guests and performers, including Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Cher, Diana Ross and Muhammad Ali.

Mrs. Clinton, New York Democrat, hasn’t been linked to charges that the cost of the event was vastly underreported, but Republicans will be watching for any ammunition they can use against the former first lady, who is considered an early front-runner for her party’s 2008 presidential nomination.

David Rosen, who was Mrs. Clinton’s finance director during her 2000 Senate run, faces three counts of filing a false statement. An FBI agent suggested in an affidavit that Mr. Rosen was trying to duck federal financing rules so the campaign would have more money to spend on other expenses.

Mr. Rosen pleaded not guilty in January. He could face up to 15 years in prison and $750,000 in fines if convicted.

The party, called the “Hollywood Gala Salute to President William Jefferson Clinton,” included both a dinner and a concert. About 350 people accepted invitations to both, which cost $25,000 per couple. About 1,200 people purchased $1,000 tickets just for the concert.

Many people got complimentary tickets, and campaign reports never gave a full accounting of the total money taken in. However, organizers reported raising nearly $1.1 million for a joint committee benefiting Mrs. Clinton’s Senate campaign and the national and state-level Democratic parties.

Mr. Rosen, 40, reported the event was underwritten by about $400,000 worth of “in-kind” contributions — goods and services provided for free or below cost — but Peter F. Paul, a three-time convicted felon who pleaded guilty in March to securities-fraud charges, has told prosecutors he gave the campaign at least $1.1 million for the affair.

Paul has filed a lawsuit claiming he bankrolled the gala on a promise that former President Bill Clinton would become a “goodwill ambassador” for his Internet media company.

Another of the event’s organizers, Aaron Tonken, is serving 63 months in prison for unrelated charges of defrauding charities of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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