Denise Rich, who lobbied President Clinton to pardon her former husband, fugitive financier Marc Rich, donated $450,000 to Clinton's presidential library fund starting in 1998, according to sources familiar with the contribution.
That was before she became active late last year in the successful pardon campaign. The donations were made in three payments from July 1998 to May 2000 at the urging of Beth Dozoretz, a friend and another major Democratic fundraiser, said a source familiar with the donation.
Denise Rich's attorney, Carol Bruce, told a House committee that held a hearing on the pardon Thursday that her client gave "an enormous sum of money" to the Clinton library fund, committee aides said. But the amount and timing of the gifts were not disclosed.
Dozoretz spoke with Clinton 10 days before he pardoned Marc Rich, while she and Denise Rich were visiting Aspen, Colo., according to a Jan. 10 e-mail message released at the hearing.
Because of that phone call, House Government Reform Committee investigators want to talk to both women, spokesman Mark Corallo said. He said the committee plans to issue subpoenas early next week for the donor lists of Clinton's library foundation.
The committee, chaired by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), a longtime foe of Clinton, is exploring possible links between the Marc Rich pardon and contributions to the former president. "We're going to want to see what she gave and what came in," Corallo said.
Marc Rich and his business partner, Pincus Green, were indicted in 1983 on charges of cheating the government out of $48 million in taxes and trading with Iran while American hostages were held in Tehran. The two fled the country and never faced trial. Clinton's last-minute pardon of the two was controversial because prosecutors who brought the case didn't know it was being considered.
Clinton foundation attorney David Kendall said he would fight a subpoena for the library donor list. "Any demand for a list of our donors would be flagrantly violative of the First Amendment and we would resist it," Kendall said.
Tax returns filed by the Clinton foundation show that it had nearly $6 million in the bank at the end of 1999. It plans to raise $200 million to build and endow a library and conference center in Arkansas.
Committee aides said Thursday that they will subpoena Denise Rich's bank records and confer with the Justice Department about offering immunity for her testimony. She exercised Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination before Thursday's committee hearing on the pardons.
Corallo said that "came as a complete surprise to the committee. As a result, it has significantly raised the level of interest." He said the committee may also subpoena Dozoretz and others mentioned in the e-mail.
Aside from the library contribution, Denise Rich, a Grammy- and Oscar-nominated songwriter, has in recent years donated $867,000 to Democratic Party committees, $66,300 to individual Democratic candidates and $70,000 to a fund established for the campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), according to the Center for Responsive Politics. She also gave Clinton's legal defense fund $10,000 and the Clintons furniture worth $7,375.
Rich has said there was no connection between the donations and her support for her former husband's pardon.
Yesterday, a spokesman for former White House counsel Jack Quinn, who took the Marc Rich pardon application to the White House, said Quinn never suggested that Denise Rich or anyone associated with the pardon campaign offer contributions to Clinton in exchange for a favorable review.
"Jack had no knowledge of gifts or contributions by Denise Rich or others," Quinn spokesman Peter Mirijanian said. "If he had the knowledge, he would have thought it would have hurt, not helped, the case based on the merits. . . . His only connection to [Denise] Rich was to get her to write a letter and follow up with the president."
E-mail messages released by the House committee make repeated mentions of Denise Rich's role in seeking a pardon for her ex-husband, including several that indicate Marc Rich's attorneys believed she could persuade the president.
Rich also played a key role in offering advice about whether to involve Hillary Rodham Clinton. Some advisers thought the first lady could help, and they suggested finding others who might help convince her.
But Denise Rich "was adamantly against the proposal" to contact Hillary Clinton, according to e-mail from Marc Rich attorney Robert Fink. "She is convinced it would be viewed badly by the recipient [Hillary Clinton]. Nothing good will come of the overture even with a good word from anyone in NY. She said she is convinced of this and so is her friend, who has advised DR [Denise Rich] not to discuss it in front of HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton]."
Staff writer Robert O'Harrow Jr. contributed to this report.