Rich's Ex-Wife, Clinton Library Mum on Donation

ByDavid Ruppe

Feb. 9, 2001 -- The growing controversy over President Clinton's last-minute pardon offugitive financier Marc Rich intensified Thursday, as Rich's ex-wife acknowledged making an "enormous" donation to the Clinton presidential library but refused to specify the size of the donation or when it was made.

The Clinton library is also refusing to disclose the nature of the donation as well.

The existence of the donation was made public during a hearing of theHouse Committee on Government Reform, which was examining thecircumstances surrounding the pardon granted on Clinton's final day inoffice.

In response to written questions from the committee, an attorney for Denise Rich, Marc Rich's ex-wife, indicated Ms. Rich had given an "enormous sum of money" to Clinton's Little Rocklibrary, committee chairman Dan Burton, R-Ind., said at the hearing.

Denise Rich's attorney, Carol Bruce, also announced in a letter Thursday Ms. Rich would be asserting her Fifth Amendment privilege againstself-incrimination and so would not be answering the committee'squestions. Two days earlier, the committee had submitted to Ms. Rich alist of 14 written questions. Among the questions were how much moneyshe had pledged to the Clinton library and whether Ms. Rich was everprovided money or promised reimbursement by another individual to makeher political donations.

Another lawyer representing Ms. Rich declined Thursday to discuss withABCNEWS.com the nature of her contribution. She did, though,release an additional statement saying Ms. Rich had been "generous" inher contributions to presidential library and the Democratic Party.

The Clinton Presidential Library and Foundation also has refused todiscuss contributions. Its senior executive, Skip Rutherford, Clinton's1992 campaign fund-raiser, declined an ABCNEWS.com request to discloseinformation about contributors and noted the information is not requiredto be made public since the library has 501(c)3 tax-exempt status.

Burton said he would seek a grant of immunity from the Justice Department — a move that would allow the committee to compel Ms. Rich totestify.

‘Nothing Political’

Clinton has faced a firestorm of criticism over the pardon in the majormedia and by congressional leaders from the Republicans and members hisown party. Marc Rich, a U.S. citizen when he committed his alleged crimes, 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.

Marc Rich stood accused of evading more than $48 million in federalincome taxes, making the case against him the biggest tax fraud case inAmerican history, and if convicted faced a maximum sentence of more than300 years in jail. Prior to the indictments, he fled to Switzerland, andfor 17 years the U.S. government had been unable to get permission fromthe Swiss government to extradite him.

Clinton last week asserted that he pardoned Marc Rich on the legal merits ofhis appeal and denied the decision had any connection to campaigncontributions or gifts Denise Rich may have given him.

Clinton told reporters "there was absolutely nothing political" aboutthe decision.

Long-Time Contributor

Denise Rich, a singer/songwriter living in New York City, has been along-time contributor to the Democratic Party and President Clinton.

Over the past 10 years she has donated more than $1 million to support Democratic candidates, including both Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her successful run for Senate last year.

Most recently, she donated $25,000 for Vice President Al Gore's post-election recount committee. And she gave the Clintons a $7,000 table and chair set they took with them upon leaving the White House.

In November she threw a star-studded fund-raiser for charity dinner in New York, in honor of a daughter who died of cancer. Her date for the event wasMichael Jackson, but all attention was on President Clinton, to whomRich gave a special saxophone as a present.

The Clintons' relationship with Denise Rich appears to go back well beforethat. They reportedly also were at her house the Monday after theinfamous Starr Report, describing the president's affair with an internand alleged efforts to cover it up, was released in fall of 1998.

Ex a Pardon Advocate

Though the Riches underwent a bitter divorce in 1996 and Marc Rich hassince remarried, Denise had been a major advocate in the quiet butaggressive push to convince President Clinton to grant the pardon beforehe left office.

In a Dec. 6 letter to Clinton, Ms. Rich urged the President to grant thepardon "writing as a friend and admirer …"

Clearly suspicious about Denise Rich's motivations, the House committee, in one of its 14 questions, asked Ms. Rich whether Mr. Rich or his associates had ever suggested that she or her children would benefit financially as a consequence of her support for Marc Rich's pardon.

Rich, in her letter to Clinton, wrote, "the pain and suffering caused by that unjust indictment battered more than my husband — it struck his daughters and me. We have lived with it for so many years."

A stack of e-mail submitted during the hearing revealed that Ms. Rich wrote the letter with assisstance from Marc Rich's lawyers.

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