Who Backs Paula Jones?
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 17) -- The case of Paula Jones vs. Bill Clinton has some critics pointing the finger firmly at the group that is paying Jones' legal bills. They allege that the Rutherford Institute is simply out to get the Democratic president.
When, in 1993, Jones surfaced for the first time with her allegations that Clinton had sexually harassed her, she appeared at a news conference sponsored by organizations so conservative that she was dismissed by many as a right-wing dupe.
For quite some time, no one owned as to who was paying the bills for Jones' legal challenge. But in the midst of the case, the Rutherford Institute stepped forward to help with her expenses.
The institute is a 15-year-old foundation which, in its own words, is an "international, non-profit, legal and educational organization that specializes in the defense of religious liberty and human rights."
Rutherford Institute founder John Whitehead
As part of its promotional campaign, the institute has produced a video titled "religious apartheid" in which the organization fights for causes often associated with conservative Christians.
The institute also is paying the legal bills for a former member of the American Nazi Party who was barred from a television debate when he ran for Congress, a case that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. The institute says it helped Ralph Forbes not because it agrees with his views, but because it supports "the right of all citizens to access the political process."
Even though the Jones case does not involve religious freedom, Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead suggested that his organization got involved for a very basic reason: "No one is above the law, whether you're the emperor of Japan, the prime minister of Great Britain or the president of the United States."
The Charlotte, Virginia-based institute is said to have put up as much as $200,000 for Jones' legal bills.
Bennett said the institute clearly was providing "a conduit of funds that want to hurt the president."
Clinton's lawyers tried earlier in the week to force the
tax-exempt institute to disclose its contributors, who the lawyers say are partisan. That legal attempt failed -- and promptly drew comment from Rutherford lawyers about the case.
It is absurd to describe the institute as "an enemy of the president," attorney Thomas Neuenberger said.
Congressional correspondent Bob Franken contributed to this report.