February 10, 2005

Peter Paul And Hillary

The New York Times' headline makes it sound like "an administrative snafu". "Lesson of Clinton Fund-Raiser: Double-Check That Donor List"

As if Peter Paul had been some guy who slipped in under the radar to contribute to the Clinton campaign. In 2000 Peter Paul hosted and largely paid for a $2 million bash honoring Bill's Presidency and boosting Hillary's Senate campaign. David Rosen, then finance director of Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign, is now under indictment for lying to the election commission, after having understated the cost of the event by more than a million dollars:

Is Peter Paul, convicted felon and Clinton friend, giving up Mr. Rosen as a way to get favorable treatment on newer felony charges he is now facing? Having posed for pictures with Peter Paul, and handwritten him a thank you note, could Hillary have turned on him any faster?

Mr. Paul said he began having misgivings about the Clintons in the months after the event. "The knee-jerk reaction was to distance themselves from me when my 25-year-old record was exposed," he said in an interview. "This was something that I heard came from their press office. I don't know how much Mrs. Clinton was involved in the decision. But once they said they didn't know me, their flag was planted and they didn't have much wiggle room."...

Add Peter Paul to the list of Clinton associates that were "friends" until their money or their usefulness ran out.

As for the event itself, Mr. Rosen acknowledged that it was "great," as he put it. "But I still think I need therapy for having dealt with these guys," he said, referring to Mr. Paul and his associates.

Read the whole bizarre story, and reminisce about the 90's.

As an aside, it's always interesting to note the varying Times treatment of gadfly attorney Larry Klayman and his Judicial Watch legal group, depending on whose ox is being gored. In this case, Judicial Watch is representing erstwhile Clinton friend, but now potential menace Peter Paul. Consequently Judicial Watch is described as "a conservative legal group that has dogged the Clintons for years". As true as that "dogging" of the Clintons was, when Klayman is dogging Republicans, the preferred description is along the lines of "watchdog legal group" or some such. (And if they didn't archive all their priceless prose, I'd be inclined to dig for examples).

(article pasted in full at the link below, since NYT archives after a couple of days)

The New York Times

February 9, 2005

Lesson of Clinton Fund-Raiser: Double-Check That Donor List


WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 - In August 2000, Bill and Hillary Clinton attended a Hollywood fund-raiser billed as a tribute to a president ready to leave the White House after eight years and a first lady seeking to establish herself as a force of her own in American politics.

The guest list reflected the glitter of the occasion: Cher, Diana Ross, Brad Pitt and Patti LaBelle, to name just a few. But a person who later emerged as perhaps the most memorable - to the Clintons and their associates, anyway - was a well-connected figure with a checkered past who helped organize the event. He is Peter Paul, a man who pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and trying to defraud Fidel Castro's government out of millions of dollars in 1979, among other things.

Mr. Paul said he spent nearly $2 million of his own on the fund-raiser as a way to curry favor with Mr. Clinton, and photographs show him chatting with Mr. Clinton at a dinner table, having a discussion with Mrs. Clinton and striking poses for the camera with both of them.

Associates of the Clintons say the couple did not know of Mr. Paul's troubled past at the time, and in the months after the event, Mr. Paul turned on the Clintons, later urging investigators to look into the fund-raiser.

Last month, the federal investigation produced an indictment charging that the cost of the affair had been underreported.

The case offers a bizarre and tangled tale of how Mr. Paul, a smooth operator with myriad connections and a troubled past, got so close to America's first couple in a political culture dominated by money. It also shows the continuing effort of a longtime nemesis of the Clintons, Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, to make legal trouble for the couple.

A spokesman for the Justice Department, Bryan Sierra, said in a recent interview that Mrs. Clinton was not a subject of the investigation that led to the indictment, which named not Mr. Paul, but another person connected to the event, David Rosen, the finance director of Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaign, who is accused of underreporting the cost of the fund-raiser. No one else has been accused of any wrongdoing arising from the accusations.

Beyond that, people involved in Mrs. Clinton's 2000 campaign expressed bafflement at the indictment, not only noting that prosecutors had failed to state Mr. Rosen's motive but also arguing that Mr. Rosen did not, in fact, have a motive, since underreporting the contributions would not have produced any financial benefit for Mrs. Clinton's campaign under a complicated series of campaign-finance rules.

But one official at the Federal Election Commission disagreed, saying that there was a possible advantage to underreporting such contributions in a case like this: to have more money to spend on the campaign itself.

In addition, Clinton advisers say that Mrs. Clinton's campaign had no idea about Mr. Paul's troubled past until after the gala - and that Mr. Paul was involved only because of his association with a successful Internet company he started with the co-creator of Spider-Man, Stan Lee, who was listed as one of the co-hosts of the event. One Clinton adviser described Mr. Lee as "an American icon."

Mrs. Clinton's advisers referred questions to David Kendall, a lawyer for the Clintons. Mr. Kendall dismissed Mr. Paul's claim that a deal had been struck to have the President assist Mr. Paul in his business dealings provided that Mr. Paul raised money for Mrs. Clinton's campaign. "There was never any kind of quid pro quo," he said.

During an interview he gave to The New York Times in 2001, Mr. Rosen himself expressed bewilderment at how far Mr. Paul got. "I've never seen a guy like this," Mr. Rosen said. "I wish I'd never bumped into him in the first place." Mr. Rosen did not return two more recent phone calls requesting comment on the matter.

Mr. Paul's past is certainly colorful. Two decades ago, he served 42 months in federal prison and his law license was suspended after he pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and trying to defraud the Cuban government out of $8.7 million in a complicated scheme involving coffee sales to the Soviet Union from Cuba.

By 1999, Mr. Paul teamed up with Mr. Lee to create Stan Lee Media, a multimedia company based in the San Fernando Valley that, among other things, introduced animated superheroes on the Internet.

He got involved in Democratic politics afterward, donating money at the suggestion of Aaron Tonken, also a fund-raiser, who told him that that would be a good way to raise the profile of his company, according to Mr. Paul and his legal representatives at Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group that has dogged the Clintons for years and has been representing Mr. Paul. (Among the ideas Mr. Paul had was trying to get Mr. Clinton to serve on the board of his company, he said.)

It was then that Mr. Paul claims he began having discussions with Democratic operatives close to the Clintons, including Mr. Rosen, about how to get Mr. Clinton to help bolster the image of Stan Lee Media after he left office.

Mr. Paul claims that he was eventually told by Mr. Rosen and Jim Levin, a former Chicago strip club owner who was a major Clinton donor, that the best way to win favor with Mr. Clinton was to raise money for Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaign in New York. The idea for the fund-raiser was subsequently born.

"My motivation had nothing to do with getting Hillary elected senator," Mr. Paul said the other day in an interview from his home in North Carolina, where he is under house arrest in a separate case. "I could care less about that. My motivation was to do this as a favor to Bill to demonstrate my good faith."

By nearly any measure, the Aug. 12 fund-raiser Mr. Paul organized - billed as The Hollywood Gala Salute to William Jefferson Clinton - was a success. It drew some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, including Gregory Peck, John Travolta, Melissa Etheridge and Muhammad Ali. And it raised more than $1 million, according to the indictment against Mr. Rosen.

It was such a popular affair that Democrats close to Al Gore, who was running for president at the time, complained that the Clintons were upstaging Mr. Gore at the same time he was set to be nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

"It was the most spectacular event that I organized in my life," Mr. Tonken recalled in a telephone interview from federal prison, where he is serving a sentence for defrauding donors of charity events he organized. "I thought if I could pull this event off, it would be the highlight of my career."

Mr. Paul even has personal thank-you notes from both Clintons afterward, as well as photographs of him and the Clintons at the affair. Judicial Watch provided those items to The New York Times.

"Thank you so very much for hosting Saturday night's tribute to the President and for everything you did to make it the great occasion that it was," Mrs. Clinton said in a note to Mr. Paul dated Aug. 18, 2000. "We will remember it always."

But not long after the Aug. 12 event, Mrs. Clinton's campaign appeared to begin distancing itself from Mr. Paul as disclosures of his previous felony convictions surfaced publicly. On Aug. 16, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton's campaign told The Washington Post that the campaign would return $2,000 in campaign donations that Mr. Paul had directly made.

Mr. Paul said he began having misgivings about the Clintons in the months after the event. "The knee-jerk reaction was to distance themselves from me when my 25-year-old record was exposed," he said in an interview. "This was something that I heard came from their press office. I don't know how much Mrs. Clinton was involved in the decision. But once they said they didn't know me, their flag was planted and they didn't have much wiggle room."

In early 2001, Stan Lee Media declared bankruptcy, according to Mr. Paul. Federal investigators soon began asking questions about the company's demise. Around that time, Mr. Paul boarded a plane to Brazil, where he says he had a home and a business.

(Eventually, in June 2001, Mr. Paul and three other men were indicted on charges that they inflated the stock of Stan Lee Media and then sold it for a profit. He was extradited to the United States in August 2001.)

Mr. Paul says that he went public with his concerns about financial matters involving Mr. Rosen and the Clinton campaign after discovering irregularities in the financial disclosure statements filed by the campaign. But allies of the Clintons say he made the accusations in an attempt to cut a deal with prosecutors investigating the financial improprieties at Stan Lee Media.

Mr. Paul's charges did not appear to go anywhere for years.

Then last month, federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment of Mr. Rosen by a grand jury in California, accusing him of falsely reporting that the August 2000 gala cost $401,419 when it actually cost at least $1.2 million. While the indictment does not mention Mr. Paul by name, it said the event was paid for with more than $1.1 million worth of "in-kind" contributions of goods and services from an unidentified donor.

As a professional fund-raiser and the chief finance director for the campaign, Mr. Rosen was responsible for all planning and costs for the event, according to the indictment. Mr. Rosen is also accused of obtaining and delivering a false invoice stating that the cost of the concert part of the event was $200,000, when in fact it actually cost more than $600,000, according to the indictment. Mr. Rosen faces four counts of lying to the election commission. Each count carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines upon conviction.

In an interview, Mr. Rosen's lawyer, Paul Sandler, would not discuss the case other than to say: "He's innocent and we will present our case in court." But in a 2001 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Rosen said that Mr. Paul was making the accusations against him and the Clinton campaign as "a way to get immunity" from the charges he might face in the investigation involving Stan Lee Media.

"He's a desperate man," Mr. Rosen said of Mr. Paul at the time.

He also said that since Mr. Paul had organized the event, it was up to him to disclose the costs of the event to campaign officials. "It's their responsibility to report the contributions," he said.

As for the event itself, Mr. Rosen acknowledged that it was "great," as he put it. "But I still think I need therapy for having dealt with these guys," he said, referring to Mr. Paul and his associates.

Even Mr. Paul's former associate, Mr. Tonken, says he believes that Mr. Paul's accusations against the Clintons were an attempt to cut a deal with federal investigators looking into the financial improprieties at Stan Lee Media. "I know David Rosen personally and he is a good person," Mr. Tonken said. "Paul knew that he had to give up Mrs. Clinton to save himself."

But Mr. Paul, who said he was cooperating with investigators, is sticking to his story. "I came forward as soon as I found out that my contribution hadn't been reported at all," he said.

Posted by dan at February 10, 2005 2:22 AM