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Clinton’s Legal Defense Fund Counts $608,000

February 3, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton’s legal defense fund collected $608,000 during its first six months in operation. Donors included entertainers Barbra Streisand and Garrison Keillor, former President Jimmy Carter, Washington lobbyists and ordinary Americans from all 50 states.

The list included $1,000 each from Keillor, Streisand, Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. Actor Sean Penn gave $1,000, as did Clinton’s campaign consultants, James Carville and Paul Begala. Lew Wasserman, chairman of entertainment giant MCA, also donated $1,000, the maximum amount the fund accepts.

The donor list also showed $1,000 donations from lobbyists Michael Berman, president of the Duberstein Group; William Cable of Timmons & Co.; Michael Driver of Patton Boggs; and Thomas Hoog and Howard Paster of Hill & Knowlton.

``The fact that (donations) come from people in all 50 states and even that the contributions are, on the average, small, is a source of satisfaction for both the President and Mrs. Clinton,″ said Nicholas Katzenbach, co-chair of the trustees. ``They are both grateful that so many people contributed and that they came from all walks of life, quite obviously.″

One Ohio woman who identified herself as a self-employed baby sitter contributed $300, and a handful of students and retired teachers were also listed as donors.

Fund trustees said 5,865 people made donations from the time the fund was established on June 28 through Dec. 31. The average contribution was $104, and 654 people gave $200 or more, accounting for two-thirds of the total receipts.

The fund, the first of its kind for a sitting U.S. president, was set up in June to collect contributions from Americans who want to help Clinton defend himself in a sexual harassment suit and a federal probe into his involvement in the Whitewater land deal.

``Whatever the merits of those proceedings, the trustees have all believed ... that it was in the interests of all of us that the President and Mrs. Clinton, with the financial burdens from litigation of these claims, are not distracted from the other heavy burdens that the President of the United States has,″ said Katzenbach.

Anticipated legal expenses in the two cases have been estimated as high as $2 million, well in excess of the net worth Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, list on their financial disclosure forms.

So far, the fund has paid $321,134 in legal fees to four law firms in Washington and Little Rock that are involved in the president’s defense.

When the fund was created, its trustees said it would accept no gifts from corporations, labor unions or political action committees. Lobbyists, however, were not barred from giving.

In his State of the Union speech last week, Clinton challenged Congress to refuse gifts from lobbyists, and was stung when Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., called that ``a cheap shot″ and hypocritical, since Clinton wasn’t holding himself to the same standard.

The next day, the White House said the fund would no longer accept money from registered lobbyists.

However, using such a definition still could allow contributions from individuals whose primary business is influencing government policy decisions. Current lobbying registration laws are so riddled with loopholes that they are widely regarded as virtually meaningless, and many lobbyists do not register.

``That’s a problem we can’t cope with,″ said Katzenbach. ``It’s a problem that comes right out of the Constitution and the right to petition.″

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