Witness Says Clinton Discussed State Job With Political Contributors
KELLY P. KISSEL
Jul. 03, 1996
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ After two political supporters gave him more than $13,000 in campaign money, then-Gov. Bill Clinton asked whether a friend of theirs would make a good highway commissioner, a witness in the Whitewater trial testified Wednesday.
During a 10- to 15-minute meeting in his state Capitol office, Clinton meticulously thumbed through the checks ``kind of like he was memorizing the names,'' Carlton Kent Dollar testified.
As Dollar and Perry County Bank co-owner Robert M. Hill prepared to leave, Clinton posed the question, ``Do you think Herby Branscum would make a good highway commissioner?'' Dollar said.
``Mr. Hill told him he thought he would make a good, excellent, highway commissioner,'' Dollar said. ``I did likewise.''
Branscum, Hill's partner in the Perry County bank, was appointed to a 10-year term on the commission five weeks later.
Branscum and Hill are accused of misapplying money from their bank to reimburse political contributions made by themselves, relatives and employees _ including at least $7,000 delivered to Clinton Dec. 14, 1990. Prosecutors do not allege a quid pro quo, but say political ambition motivated the bankers to break the law.
The bankers also are accused of conspiring to hide from federal regulators large cash withdrawals by the Clinton's 1990 gubernatorial campaign.
According to a memo setting up the appointment, Hill and Dollar wanted an appointment with Clinton to drop off campaign contributions and discuss Hill's desire to see his partner named to the Arkansas Highway Commission.
Hill brought $10,000 to $12,000 to the meeting, Dollar said. Dollar brought $3,000. Clinton had issued a call for post-election contributions to pay off $125,000 in loans taken from Perry County Bank just before the Nov. 6, 1990, election to buy advertising.
Two weeks before meeting Clinton in his office, Dollar had written to the governor asking him to consider Branscum for the highways post. He testified, however, that delivering the $3,000 had nothing to do with his wish to see the appointment made.
``They're not connected at all,'' said Dollar, who in 1987 was named to the state Oil and Gas Commission six months after giving Clinton $1,000.
The 1990 meeting was set up by Clinton campaign treasurer Bruce Lindsey, a previous witness testified. Lindsey is now is a top White House aide.
Clinton is not charged with any wrongdoing in the case.
Earlier Wednesday, a bankruptcy lawyer testified that Branscum and Hill earned their fees for work on a lawsuit against the bank. Prosecutors say the men padded their expense accounts to cover political contributions.
Fred Wetzel, a Little Rock attorney who represented Perry County Bank in a bankruptcy case in 1992-93, said Hill earned his $1,900 fee for accounting work and Branscum properly paid the same amount for legal work.
Wetzel was the first defense witness in the trial of Hill and Branscum, and, because of a scheduling conflict, was allowed to testify before the prosecution rested.
Under cross-examination, chief prosecutor W. Hickman Ewing Jr. showed Wetzel the bank's expense ledger, which detailed payments to Wetzel for the case but none for Hill or Branscum.
``Did you ever see a bill from Robert Hill for $1,900?'' Ewing asked.
``There was no reason for me to,'' Wetzel responded.
Ewing also pointed out that Branscum couldn't work as a lawyer on the bankruptcy case because opposing lawyers planned to make him a participant by taking his deposition.