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Whitewater Witness Denies Getting Favors

May 02, 1996|ROBERT L. JACKSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Dan R. Lasater, an Arkansas friend and fund-raiser who has proved an embarrassment to President Clinton, did his best Wednesday to make up for past wrongs in an appearance before the Senate Whitewater Committee.

Lasater, a convicted cocaine user and distributor, freely acknowledged that he had lobbied Clinton as governor and had contributed to his state campaigns in an effort to win business for his bond underwriting business.

But Lasater staunchly insisted--as Clinton has before him--that despite Lasater's best efforts he had received no favored treatment in the 1980s in Arkansas.

The well-to-do Lasater conceded to the committee that he had gone so far as to hire younger brother Roger Clinton, at then-Gov. Clinton's request, to work as a stable boy on his horse-breeding farm. And when Roger got in trouble and could not repay a drug debt to someone, Lasater said he advanced him $8,000.

Lasater and Michael Drake, a former associate, insisted that they never mentioned the aid to the governor or anyone on his staff. The White House said that Clinton did not know of the advance until it came out in a later court case.

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Clinton and his aides spent much of the 1992 presidential campaign denying rumors that a $30.2-million state bond underwriting contract was awarded to Lasater and his partners as a reward for his friendship and political contributions. The contract was to finance a new statewide police communications system.

A year after receiving the 1985 contract, Lasater pleaded guilty to federal cocaine charges and spent nearly a year in prison.

His testimony to the committee that he won the police communications contract on its merits, however, was somewhat diluted by a later witness who said that the state administration sought to steer other state business to Lasater.

Charles Stout, a former Arkansas official, testified that he was asked in 1984 by Clinton's office to give Lasater's firm 15% of the bond underwriting business of the State Housing Development Authority on which Stout served.

Stout, who had been appointed to that agency by Clinton's Republican predecessor, said that the request came from Bob Nash, an aide to Clinton. Stout said that he replied: "I don't think it's right."

Mort Hardwicke, then director of the housing agency whom Stout said he had asked to listen to part of the phone call from Nash, told the committee that he could not recall such a conversation. But Lasater's firm subsequently was added to a group of underwriters chosen for a bond offering by the housing agency, officials said.

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