Friends of Webb

mance on 60 Minutes showed that, as they say in politics, he is a man who stays bought. Hubbell, who was the First Couple's closest friend and Hillary Clinton's law partner, had made it clear before the interview that he would answer no questions regarding the nearly half million dollars in fees he collected from clients recruited for him by the president's men, or what he did to earn the money. So the essential function of this exercise was to provide Hubbell with a national platform from which to bid for sympathy by whining about claimed death threats and uncomfortable jail cells--and, more importantly, to buttress the latest position on the hush-money-for-Hubbell question taken by the president the previous Thursday.

Hubbell told Mike Wallace that he lied to the Clintons in denying that he embezzled money from his law firm and defrauded its clients, including the federal government--charges to which he later pleaded guilty--when the Clinton cabal went client-hunting for Hubbell in the wake of his resignation as number three in the Justice Department. As Clinton had put it last week, "At the time that was done, no one had an idea about whether any--what the nature of the allegations were against Mr. Hubbell, or whether they were true. Everybody thought there was some sort of billing dispute with his law firm. And that's all anybody knew about it."

To swallow this latest Clinton whopper, you have to believe that none of the gaggle of Rose law firm alums then working in the White House--including Vincent Foster, who ran the firm with Hubbell and Hillary; White House counsel William Kennedy, the firm's former managing partner; and the First Lady herself--were in touch with their old colleagues. You also have to believe that no one in the White House read the newspapers, which just two days after Hubbell's resignation from Justice were full of the news that Robert Fiske (then the Whitewater special prosecutor) was considering the inclusion of Hubbell's billing practices in his investigation. This, as the New York Times reported then, "threatened to draw Mr. Hubbell into the financial and legal matters related to Whitewater."

Any investigation into Hubbell's billings would have led the prosecutor to the Castle Grande real estate Ponzi scheme on which both Hubbell and Hillary worked. Hubbell's father-in-law, Seth Ward, was one who profited handsomely from this Jim and Susan McDougal scam, selling back to the McDougal's bank for $400,000 a parcel of land that federal bank examiners later found to have been worth only $40,000. Hillary was so worried about her role in all this that, as she has admitted in sworn testimony, she had destroyed four files on Castle Grande and Seth Ward.

Bill Clinton said last week that Hubbell was helped "for no other reason than just out of human compassion." But there was more going on here than a desire to put food on the Hubbell family table. The $500,000 channeled to Hubbell by the Clintonoids was more than three times his salary as associate attorney general, and more than he had ever made in any one year at Rose. Not only that, the White House got Hubbell's wife a $60,000-a-year job at the Interior Department, and then trade representative Mickey Kantor (Clinton's former campaign manager, whose law firm represents the Lippo Group that gave Hubbell a $100,000 no-show job) got Hubbell's son work with the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae). Most American families would be happy to do as well.

But that's not all. It hasn't been mentioned much in recent news stories, but two months ago Jeff Gerth reported in the Times that Hubbell has not one but three legal defense funds. There is no law requiring that these funds disclose their existence, much less how much they collected or from whom. Who is paying for Hubbell's pricey lawyers as he invokes the Fifth Amendment before grand juries? And who raised the money?

The effort to find the half-million for Hubbell was led by then-chief of staff Mack McLarty, and included a failed attempt by Erskine Bowles--then head of the Small Business Administration, now Clinton's chief of staff--to get Hubbell hired by a firm doing business with the SBA. As the Times put it last week in a scathing editorial titled "Welfare for Webster Hubbell," "Government officials with the power to shape federal policies and regulations have no business seeking personal favors from corporate executives. To do so on behalf of someone whose testimony might directly bear on an investigation of the Clintons was either incredibly naive or a calculated effort to protect the President and his wife." Bill Clinton's transparent falsehoods last week made it clear that it was the latter.

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