Clinton Legal Defense Fund To Be Dissolved
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Dec. 30) -- President Bill Clinton will be searching for a new way to pay for his massive legal bills now that the trustees of his Presidential Legal Expense Trust have decided to dissolve the operation.
Trustee Michael Cardozo said Monday contributions to the fund have dropped by more than two-thirds this year from the 1996 level of about $260,000. Cardozo says the campaign fund-raising scandals have badly hurt receipts.
Financial statements for the first 11 months of 1997 show administrative and legal costs for the trust itself couldn't be covered by the money raised. Cardozo said the single most damaging scandal may have been one concerning contributions to the fund that were connected to controversial Clinton fund-raiser Charlie Trie. Those funds were later returned by the trust.
Clinton, although disappointed, did not challenge the decision to dissolve the trust, according to Cardozo. Cardozo wrote to the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton about the poor state of fund-raising, and spoke to both the president and White House Counsel Charles Ruff over the past few months about the situation prior to the decision of the trustees.
In a written statement issued Tuesday from Hilton Head, S.C., where the first family is spending the New Year's holiday, Clinton said, "Hillary and I want to thank the thousands of people who contributed so generously to the Presidential Legal Expense Trust."
Clinton continued, "In light of the trustees' decision to dissolve the Trust, we have asked the Counsel's Office to advise us concerning the ethical and legal requirements that would govern any future efforts to address both the substantial legal fees already accumulated and those that will be generated by the need for on-going representation."
Cardozo wouldn't speculate on what the Clintons' options are for raising money to cover their outstanding bills which total nearly $3 million.
The fund currently has about $81,000 on hand and will accept checks made out by December 31, 1997. After taking care of any remaining expenses, it will use whatever is left over toward the president and Mrs. Clinton's legal bills.
The trust was limited in taking contributions of no more than $1,000 per individual and under a ruling by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics was prohibited from soliciting contributions.
Cardozo said the trustees disagreed with that ruling, but adhered to it. He says the inability to actively raise funds contributed to the trust's cash crunch.
Since its inception in June 1994, the trust has accepted $1.3 million. It has paid $766,134 to various law firms representing the Clintons in connection with the Whitewater and campaign finance controversies as well as the Paula Jones case.
Cardozo pointed out that most of the costs in the Paula Jones case have been paid by two insurance policies held by the Clintons.
The fund itself was the target of legal action by Clinton foes and had to spend money to prepare for testimony before the Senate committee investigating campaign finance scandals.
In all the trust spent more than $150,000 over the years on its own legal expenses.
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Tuesday Dec. 30, 1997
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