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Susan McDougal’s brother uses Whitewater case for fund raising

May 20, 1997

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ In a move criticized by two lawyers for Whitewater figure Susan McDougal, her brother is using the high-profile case to raise money for her defense in a California embezzlement trial.

The recent appeal for the Susan McDougal Legal Defense Trust Fund offers donors who contribute $1,000 a special ```super freedom fighter″ designation and urges the public to contact Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr to express support for Mrs. McDougal.

``Your contribution will fund the strongest possible defense and investigation to win justice for Susan,″ says a letter signed by Jim Henley, Mrs. McDougal’s brother.

Attorneys Bobby McDaniel and David Berg said Tuesday they’ve been working for free for Mrs. McDougal in her Whitewater case and are concerned the fund-raising appeal is misleading.

Any money raised is going to help her defend a separate embezzlemnt charge in California _ a fact not mentioned in the first fund-raising appeal. Henley promised a follow-up letter will be sent clarifying the situation.

Susan McDougal and her former husband, James McDougal, owned a failed savings and loan at the center of the Whitewater investigation. They were convicted of four felonies last year in a trial conducted by Starr’s office.

Susan McDougal was sentenced to two years in prison on those charges and remains jailed on separate contempt charges for refusing to answer questions before a federal grand jury helping Starr investigate President and Mrs. Clinton’s financial dealings.

In addition, she faces trial in a California state court on charges she embezzled $150,000 from symphony conductor Zubin Mehta.

Henley’s fund-raising letter does not use the word ``Whitewater,″ but twice mentions Starr. In addition to seeking money or contributions of time, it urges people to write or call Starr, ``expressing your concern and support for Susan.″

It asks that contributions be sent to the Susan McDougal Legal Defense Trust Fund, in care of Mark Geragos, her attorney in the California case. The letter, however, doesn’t mention the California case.

Henley said a follow-up letter would be sent clarifying the case for which help was being sought. But, he said, ``most people who wrote Susan are very aware of the Mehta situation,″ and the letter went only ``to people who were well aware of her situation.″

Henley said that Mrs. McDougal’s lawyer in the California case needs assistance with ``trial preparation, investigators.″

``We need to give″ Geragos ``support for the case in California,″ Henley said in an interview.

McDaniel said the letter was sent without his knowledge or consent, and that he would not have consented if asked.

``I have no knowledge Susan even knew about this″ fund-raising appeal ``and I don’t want anyone out there thinking that I am participating in any solicitation for funds,″ McDaniel said.

``The letter should have clearly set forth the purpose for which the funds were being solicited and specifically how they would be used,″ McDaniel added. ``By making reference to Kenneth Starr it at minimum implies that the funds would have reference to the Whitewater-related cases. It creates a false impression.″

McDaniel said: ``I’ve worked for no fee, and I’ve sent (contributions) back to the people who sent them.″

Berg said the letter’s failure to mention the California embezzlement charge while mentioning Starr was ``ill-advised and misleading.″ He said his firm had rolled up more than $175,000 in time and expenses for which it was not seeking compensation.

A card enclosed with Henley’s letter gives people several options for monetary contributions, from ``supporter″ with a donation of $25-$64, to ``super freedom fighter″ with a contribution of $1,000 or more. The form also offers recipients the option of volunteering their time to make telephone calls, stuff envelopes, provide stamps, or provides ``buttons, bumpers stickers, caps, T-shirts, etc.″

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