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Hillary Clinton Is Glad Inquiry's 'Finally Over'

Politics: Senate candidate says the report will allow her and New Yorkers to focus on the campaign.


NEW YORK — A visibly relieved Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that she was heartened but not surprised that independent counsel Robert W. Ray found insufficient evidence to charge either her or President Clinton with wrongdoing in the Whitewater real estate deal, removing a political hazard to her Senate campaign.

"I've said all along there is nothing there to report," the first lady said in New York. Later, addressing reporters in Albany, she said: "I'm glad this is finally over. . . . I think most New Yorkers and Americans had made up their minds long ago about this, and I think now everybody can just move on and be focused on issues."

Ray's wrap-up of the Whitewater inquiry had been hanging over Mrs. Clinton's U.S. Senate campaign for months. Damaging information in his report would have plagued her in the final weeks of the hotly contested race, especially because her Republican foe, Rep. Rick Lazio, has tried to make Clinton's credibility the key issue of the contest.

Lazio has not directly raised the Whitewater question, but his extensive television advertising campaign concludes: "Hillary Clinton--you just can't trust her."

Although Ray's report did not exonerate the Clintons, most political observers predicted that this nuance will have little or no effect on the Senate race. "New Yorkers' eyes will glaze over with this [report], like all the other Whitewater news," Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf said.

Mrs. Clinton's campaign braced for another potential political headache later this week over her fund-raising tactics. The White House plans to release a list of overnight guests at the White House or Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, in response to recent suggestions that such visits were being offered to major donors to the first lady's campaign.

Mrs. Clinton acknowledged last week that some financial backers have been guests at the White House or Camp David, but denied that the visits were part of a quid pro quo for contributions. Still, the release of the guest list is sure to keep the issue alive.

Lazio has sought to focus attention on fund-raising practices since he challenged Clinton to eliminate "soft money" contributions from their contest. Such contributions are largely unlimited and unregulated and are used by groups to tout political causes or candidates.

Lazio continued to press the issue Wednesday, saying that he had gotten signed agreements from 14 separate political action committees to stop running ads on his behalf.

Clinton had said earlier that she would call off her own soft-money sponsors if Lazio would get such agreements. "It's time for Mrs. Clinton to put her soft money where her mouth is," Lazio said Wednesday.

In response, Clinton said that her staff would meet with Lazio's aides "and figure out if what he's offered is compatible with the request I've been making for months."

If both candidates eliminated soft money, Lazio would hold a big edge in direct contributions. He has $10.2 million, compared with Clinton's $7.1 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.

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