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Ken Starr helping lawmakers fight paparazzi

  • Story Highlights
  • Southern California governments band together to fight celebrity chasers
  • Malibu mayor asked for former independent counsel's help drafting law
  • Los Angeles police chief says no new laws are needed
  • Some officials say situation is stretching police resources thin
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LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- The man whose investigation of President Clinton provided reams of tabloid fodder is now working to help crack down on photographers working for the very publications his efforts once filled.

Photographers surround singer Britney Spears' car in Los Angeles, California, in October.

Kenneth Starr -- the independent counsel whose open-ended investigation of a Clinton land deal veered into an intimately detailed report on the president's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky -- is helping California lawmakers craft laws to crack down on celebrity-hunting packs of paparazzi.

Malibu Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich contacted Starr, now a law school dean at Pepperdine University in Malibu. Local governments in Los Angeles and West Hollywood are also part of the effort to curb what they call a dangerous and expensive problem.

"Just imagine you're a motorist driving down the street and Britney Spears parks next to you; all of a sudden you're swarmed by these people," Los Angeles city Councilman Dennis Zine said. "They've got cameras; they're jumping on the hood of my car.

"You don't know if you're getting carjacked. You don't know what's happening."

The idea of a "safe zone" around celebrities has been kicked around by L.A.-area lawmakers for years. The push became more intense in the wake of multiple mob scenes around pop star Spears last year, including a virtual siege of her Studio City, California, home and similar scenes during her trips to hospitals.

Starr has been in contact with the officials but is "not ready to publicly comment" on any plan he may have, according to a Pepperdine spokesperson.

Lawmakers have set no timetable for when they'd like to have laws drafted. Police Chief William J. Bratton has argued that there's no need for new laws to deal with the problem. But Zine and others argue that police resources are stretched thin by the current state of things, citing $25,000 shelled out last year for a police escort for Spears.

To some, Starr -- the man vilified by liberals for a lengthy and costly Clinton investigation that turned up Clinton's personal foibles but no major wrongdoing in the Whitewater land deals -- seems an odd partner for politicians in the notoriously left-leaning Los Angeles area.

"The irony is that he was so criticized, so vilified by Hollywood liberals 10 years ago during the Monica Lewinsky impeachment saga," said David Mark, a senior editor at Politico. "Now he's kind of aligned himself with a lot of Malibu residents who probably disagree with him politically."

But Zine, who has been a prime backer of laws curbing the "Pap Packs," said Starr's expertise will be valuable as lawmakers try to strike a balance between public safety and First Amendment freedom of the press concerns.

"I have a lot of respect for Ken Starr," Zine said. "We don't want to violate any rules. We don't want to violate the Constitution.

"We believe that the Constitution needs to be upheld [but] at the same time, we need to protect our celebrities."

CNN's Carol Costello contributed to this report.

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