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January 5, 2006
Clinton Pleads Out In Paul Fundraiser Case

Avoiding the coming rush on contribution cases coming with the Abramoff plea deal, Hillary Clinton struck a deal of her own yesterday, quietly settling the Hillywood Fundraiser albatross for the moderate sum of $35,000:

A fund-raising committee for Senator Clinton's 2000 campaign has agreed to pay a $35,000 civil penalty and to concede that reports it made to the federal government understated by more than $700,000 donations to a California celebrity gala held to benefit her Senate bid.

The agreement between the committee, New York Senate 2000, and the Federal Election Commission ends the campaign finance regulation agency's inquiry into a complaint filed in 2001 by an entrepreneur who financed the fund-raising concert, Peter Paul.

"The civil payment assessed to New York Senate 2000 resolves the question of underreported in-kind contributions, and there will be no further action on this matter," an attorney for the fundraising committee, Marc Elias, said.

The conciliation agreement, ap proved at a Federal Election Commission meeting last month, has not yet been made public. However, three sources with knowledge of the terms outlined the deal to The New York Sun. Under the agreement, the committee will amend its public reports to show that Paul's in-kind gifts to the fund-raising concert were understated by $721,895. The committee and its treasurer, Andrew Grossman, agreed that there was probable cause to believe that the filings violated federal campaign finance law. However, the committee claimed that it relied on "reasonable processes" to verify the data it filed.

This provides partial vindication for Paul in his quest to get a court remedy for the pounding he took after the fundraiser. He is currently working with federal investigators on this issue, and the resolution appears to back his contention that the Clinton campaign was aware of the discrepancies and hid them from the FEC in order to claim that they only realized $57,000 from the multi-million-dollar fundraiser. Given the current political climate on the Hill, the FEC finding of malfeasance doesn't help Hillary's image much either, but right now she's not even facing anyone of significance for her re-election bid.

In the end, this probably doesn't hurt anyone too much, but it should remind voters of two important issues. One: the Clintons always seem to trod through the outer fringes of election law when it comes to raising money. Two: These Byzantine rules for designating cash in elections only delight attorneys and accountants, and in that order.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 5, 2006 5:28 AM

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