The ex-wife of fugitive commodities giant Marc Rich donated $450,000 to the Clinton presidential library before then-President Clinton pardoned the billionaire last month, ABCNEWS has learned.
Democratic sources say the donations were made in three installments, the first in July of 1998, the second in August 1999, and the final one last May. The sources did not know of any further commitment by Denise Rich for future library contributions.
Ms. Rich, a prominent supporter of the Democratic Party, had been at the forefront of a coordinated effort to convince Clinton to pardon her former husband, who had been wanted by a handful of federal law enforcement agencies after being indicted in 1983 on 51 counts of tax fraud, mail fraud, racketeering and illegally trading with Iran during the U.S. trade embargo.
Details of that effort, including word of the donations, were described during a Thursday hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform, which has been examining circumstances surrounding the pardon, one of several granted on Clinton's final day in office.
Ms. Rich, however, declined to provide details about the contribution, citing her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The Clinton library so far has also refused to discuss the donations.
The final installment came before any publicly known conversation regarding a pardon for Marc Rich. At the time, his lawyers were still trying to reach some sort of deal with federal prosecutors in New York.
A committee spokesman said that if the final payment was made last May, "the timing would weaken the argument."
Pleaded the Fifth
In response to written questions from the committee this week, an attorney for Denise Rich indicated she had given an "enormous sum of money" to Clinton's Little Rock, Ark., library, committee chairman Dan Burton, R-Ind., said at the hearing.
But Ms. Rich's attorney, Carol Bruce, also announced in a letter Thursday that her client would be invoking the Fifth Amendment.. Two days earlier, the committee had submitted to Ms. Rich a list of 14 written questions. Among the questions were how much money she had pledged to the Clinton library, with whom and when she had discussed possible pardon, and whether she was ever provided money or promised reimbursement by another individual to make her political donations.
Another lawyer representing Ms. Rich declined Thursday to discuss with ABCNEWS.com the nature of her contributions. The lawyer did, however, release an additional statement acknowledging Ms. Rich had been "generous" in giving to Clinton's library project.
Skip Rutherford, senior executive of the Clinton Presidential Library and Foundation. and a 1992 campaign fund-raiser, today refused to discuss contributions. He noted the information is not required to be made public since the nonprofit library has 501(c)3 tax-exempt status.
Burton has said he would seek a grant of immunity from the Justice Department — a move that would allow the committee to compel Ms. Rich to testify. A committee spokesman also said today the panel plans to issue subpoenas next week for Denise Rich's bank records and for the donor records of the Clinton Library Foundation. Another hearing on the issue is expected as soon as in the next three weeks.
A number of other individual donors had pledged to give $1 million or more to the library in 1998 and 1999, according to data reported by The Washington Post in 1999.