From Hollywood to Main Street they pitched in, some wealthy enough to give the $1,000 limit while others could only scrape up a dollar or two for a president they believe has been unfairly beset by deepening legal woes and a barrage of bad press.

There were celebrities, like Sean Penn, Barbra Streisand and opera singer Roberta Peters, as well as prominent business figures, such as MCA Inc. chairman Lew Wasserman, hair-care magnate Vidal Sassoon and Laurence S. Rockefeller. There were some of politics' biggest names, including Jimmy Carter, former New Jersey governor James J. Florio and former secretary of state Cyrus R. Vance.

But there were also people like Keith Ackley, a retired sales executive in Marble Falls, Tex., and Marilyn Ahluwalia, a substitute teacher from Salt Lake City, who were among the nearly 6,000 individuals who contributed a total of $623,000 to President Clinton's legal defense fund.

"I was pitching in to the cause because a need was being expressed," said Ackley, 77, who donated $2 to the legal defense fund, one for him and one for his wife, both of whom live on a fixed income of about $35,000 a year. "Clinton is going to need the money, there is no question about that. But my thinking is that if enough people give, anything they can, it will help him get over the hump."

Like Ackley, who said he votes "both sides of the streets," not all the donors were Democrats. There were those who said they were independents and even some Republicans, who expressed dismay about the way the new GOP-controlled Congress has been attacking Clinton on everything from Whitewater to welfare.

"I have become quite disenchanted with the Republican Party because they have been so mean-spirited," said Marylou Acorn, 65, of Alamo, Tex., who along with her husband gave $100 to the legal defense fund. She is a Republican who voted for Clinton and is considering switching parties.

"I like Clinton and I'm tired of him being beaten on. I feel that he is sincerely trying to take the country in the right direction, but the Republicans are trying to undermine him," she said."

There were donations made to the fund from all parts of the country, including states as far away as Hawaii. Contributions also came in from Americans living overseas in such places as Rome, Paris, Budapest and Saitama, Japan.

But for the most part, the checks that came in were from Democrats who not only want to see Clinton chalk up successes during the remainder of his presidency, but want him back in the White House for another term.

Clinton's political consultant James Carville said his only regret was that he could not donate more than $1,000.

"I'd be glad to belly up to the bar and write another check," Carville said. He said of the Whitewater and Paula Corbin Jones controversies surrounding Clinton: "I don't feel sorry for him. I feel sorry for the people who believe there is something to all this."

Clinton's Arkansas contributors included a longtime friend who also has been involved in the Whitewater investigation -- banker Maurice Smith, a former state official under Clinton. Smith has acknowledged that his tiny Bank of Cherry Valley loaned Clinton at least $400,000 for campaigns and political initiatives during the 1980s. These personal loans to Clinton have come under scrutiny by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, but Smith yesterday declined comment on his role in the probe or on his $1,000 donation to Clinton's fund.

Sassoon said in an interview that he is particularly pleased that he sent his $1,000 donation to Clinton after seeing the steps the president took this week to help stem the financial crisis in Mexico.

"At the time of the fund, I had a certain empathy for the man because he was being castigated by just about everybody," said Sassoon, who said he did vote for Clinton. "But after this week's action {with Mexico}, now I'm thrilled. We've at last found a president."

There were also some real surprises on the donor list, like David Brock, the journalist who has written scathing articles about Clinton, including the first report that he used state troopers to solicit women, in the conservative American Spectator.

Asked why he made a $25 donation, Brock quipped: "You never know when you might need a favor from someone in the White House. It was done kind of tongue in cheek."

"He {Clinton} has sort of kept me in business, so it's the least I could do for him," Brock said. Researchers Barbara J. Saffir and Ann O'Hanlon and special correspondent Ben Abramson contributed to this report. CAPTION: THE PRESIDENT'S FUND


Legal defense fund for President Clinton, DEC. 31, 1994

Receipts ..................................... $608,080


Williams and Connolly ........................ $150,000

$505,436 in additional outstanding bills

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom ......... $125,000

$476,246 in additional outstanding bills

Consulting fees, office costs, other ......... $184,111

Total payments ............................... $459,111

Cash ......................................... $143,969



Washington connections:

Bill Clinton: President Hillary Rodham Clinton: First Lady Tipper Gore: Wife of vice president Jimmy Carter: Former president Rosalynn Carter: Former first lady Lloyd Cutler: Former White House special counsel Vernon E. Jordan Jr.: Washington lawyer Nicholas deB.Katzenbach: Fund chairman, former U.S. attorney general

Edna Shalala: Ohio attorney, mother of HHS secretary

Howard Paster: Former White House chief lobbyist, now chairman of Hill & Knowlton lobbyists Tony Coelho: Investment banker, senior Democratic adviser for 1994 campaign Paul Begala: Political consultant to Clinton, others James Carville: Political consultant to Clinton, others Michael Donilon: Media consultant, Clinton campaign publicist Peter D. Hart: Pollster Cyrus R. Vance: Former secretary of state Vera Blinken: Wife of U.S. ambassador, Hungary Melinda Blinken: Wife of U.S. ambassador, Belgium Richard Leone: Former N.J. state treasurer, president of nonprofit Twentieth Century Fund John Sasso: Dukakis campaign strategist

Entertainment, arts:

John Kluge: Billionaire entertainment mogul Barbra Streisand: Singer, actress, film director Lew Wasserman: Chairman, MCA Edith Wasserman: Wife of MCA chairman Sean Penn: Actor Garrison Keillor: Radio star, creator of "A Prairie Home Companion" Stuart Subotnick: Metromedia owner Bud Yorkin: Film and television producer


Vidal Sassoon: Hair care products creator Edgar Bronfman Jr.: Seagram's president and CEO Nate Holden: Los Angeles city councilmember Laurence S. Rockefeller: Philanthropist, businessman John Brademas: President emeritus, New York University Paul Whillock: President/CEO, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Roy Clinton Jr.: Clinton cousin Charles Dyson: Frequent contributor to Democratic Party Dean and Paul Shatz: Retired stockbrokers, Washington arts patrons Faith Popcorn: Futurist


Jonathan Tisch: President/CEO, Loews Hotels Peggy Tucker: Executive secretary, Arkansas Racing Commission Greil Marcus: Rock critic

SOURCE: President's Legal Expense Trust