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Trustees' Role in Clinton Legal Fund

September 14, 1997

* The seven trustees of the bipartisan Presidential Legal Expense Trust were deeply offended by Glenn Bunting's "Clintons Knew of Trust Fund's Ills, Sources Say" (Aug. 31). The trust is administered by a bipartisan group of prominent Americans. As was stated at its inception, the trustees agreed to take on the responsibility without compensation because they believed that "it is in the public interest to assist the president in meeting a financial burden that could otherwise distract him from performing his public responsibilities." To maintain its independence, the trust has deliberately avoided communication with the Democratic National Committee or the Clinton-Gore reelection effort and reported to the beneficiaries of the trust, the president and Mrs. Clinton, through the counsel to the president.

Bunting's article suggests that the trustees were influenced by White House officials in their decision to reject more than $639,000 in contributions delivered by Charlie Trie, which appeared to have been raised at meetings of a Buddhist sect. This is demonstrably not the case. The trustees independently made their decision, based on their own investigation of the facts, and reported this decision to the counsel to the president, some four months before any publicity associated with Trie and fund-raising.

Bunting further regards the trust's decision not to disclose publicly the circumstances sur- rounding the rejection of the contributions as evidence of political motivation and White House influence. On the contrary, the decision not to announce publicly the rejection of these funds at that time was consistent with the trustees' long-standing policy of protecting the privacy of individual contributors whose contributions have been rejected by the trust.

What we hope your readers will appreciate is that a bipartisan group of trustees did the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. They rejected what may have amounted to as much as $639,000 in contributions to the Presidential Legal Expense Trust in the face of personal outstanding legal bills owed by President and Mrs. Clinton, which at the time totaled $2.5 million. They did so promptly after a careful investigation of the circumstances giving rise to those contributions. Their decision to reject the contributions and their decision as to when to make their actions public were made without any influence from White House staff members, who at all times respected their indepen- dence. At no time did any White House official attempt to direct or influence the judgment of the trustees. These decisions were solely those of the trustees.

THE REV. THEODORE M. HESBURGH, Co-Chair

NICHOLAS deB. KATZENBACH, Co-Chair

Trustees of the Presidential Legal Expense Trust, Washington

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