Clinton's Fund Gets High Area Response

Article excerpt

Metro area residents have been the third-biggest donors to President Clinton's legal defense fund and became more generous the worse his political plight became.

Virginians, Marylanders and District residents donated nearly $600,000 total since the fund's establishment in February 1998. Only Californians and New Yorkers were more generous, doling out $1,407,997 and $748,376, respectively, to the fund. Arkansans, from the president's home state, ranked 19th and gave about $91,000.

And during the first six months of this year alone, actors, bellhops, college professors and CEOs from Maryland, Virginia and District have given more than $200,000 to President Clinton's Legal Expense Trust.

The outpouring in the Washington area mirrored a similar surge of giving nationwide in the early months of this year, as the president's impeachment trial dragged through the Senate, according to an official with the Clinton Legal Expense Trust.

"Particularly in January and February, the more everything was in the news, the more people were irritated by it," said Peter Lavallee, the trust administrator.

The trust capitalized on that irritation with a mailing to 1998 trust contributors, who gave about half of the donations for the first six months of this year.

For example, Marylanders gave about $90,000 from January to June 1999, compared with $111,000 for all of 1998, according to data from the trust. It ranked Maryland as the ninth-highest for contributions both times.

Virginians seemed to lose interest as 1999 progressed but still ranked as the fifth most generous state. They donated about $80,000 in the first six months of this year compared with about $180,000 for all of last year. District residents gave about $44,000 the first six months of this year and about $83,000 total last year.

Mr. Clinton still owes about $5.3 million on legal bills of about $10.5 million, Mr. Lavallee said. That debt does not include an $850,000 settlement of the sexual harassment suit filed by Paula Jones or a $90,000 fine Mr. Clinton received in the same lawsuit.

So far, the trust has raised about $6.3 million since its inception in early 1998, Mr. Lavallee said, and an earlier trust raised about $775,000. Mr. Lavallee could not say how long the trust would run, although he speculated that it would last through the Clinton administration.

"We never set a goal other than to raise as much as we could," he said. "But everyone's very happy with what's been done so far."

Contributions to the trust ranged from $1 to $10,000 and came in from professors, rabbis, restaurant servers and retirees. The trust only accepts donations from individuals.

Maryland brothers Thomas and Edmund Stanley of Oxford again gave $10,000, as they did in 1998, the maximum amount the trust will accept.

"I see an extraordinarily able president who is doing things that are in my best interest and are in the country's best interests," said Thomas Stanley. "I want to do whatever I can do alleviate the distraction from what I think was an unjustified legal action."

"He's been a terrific president," brother Edmund added. "He's made some mistakes and he's paid for them."

The brothers both said they did not know if they would contribute more next year, though neither would rule it out.

Besides the Stanley brothers, Rashid Chaudary of Bethesda, District resident Robert Johnson, CEO of Black Entertainment Television, and Agnes N. Williams of Potomac gave the maximum, but the vast majority of donations were $100 or less. …