ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: As Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton copes with the fallout of a major fundraiser who’s facing a range of criminal charges, an ongoing federal trial is shedding light on another Clinton donor with a questionable past.
Oscar Wyatt, who is on trial for fraud, conspiracy, and other charges related to Saddam Hussein’s abuse of the UN’s oil-for-food program, has given widely to candidates of both political parties. He and his wife gave nearly $5,000 to Clinton for her two Senate campaigns in New York.
The Website Politico reported Wednesday that, unlike presidential candidates including Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. John McCain, and Gov. Bill Richardson, the Clinton campaign will not commit to returning money donated by Wyatt. Wyatt, 83, made a fortune in the oil business, and now faces up to 74 years in prison for allegedly making illegal payments to the Saddam government to receive oil contracts.
Information that has emerged in federal courtrooms suggests a close a relationship between Wyatt and former President Bill Clinton. In a separate trial of an oil-for-food defendant last year, "prosecutors presented documents that suggested the Iraqis viewed Wyatt as their conduit to the White House after Bill Clinton became president in 1993," the Houston Chronicle reported earlier this month.
Wyatt has been said to have discussed Iraq with Clinton at the White House. And in Wyatt’s trial, prosecutors introduced into evidence a letter sent by President Clinton to Wyatt, asking him to "keep those ideas coming, Oscar," the Chronicle reported last week.
The Clinton campaign declined to comment to ABC News on Wednesday. Wyatt has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys have portrayed his contacts with the Iraqi government as the actions of a patriotic American citizen.
Last month, the Clinton campaign announced that it would refund some $850,000 in donations brought to the campaign by Norman Hsu, who was considered a fugitive in California for failing to show up for a court appearance after being convicted on grand theft charges. The scandal has had particular political resonance because of memories of the various fund-raising scandals that marked President Clinton’s White House tenure.