By Amanda Costikyan Jones
WASHINGTON – Maryland residents gave more than $111,000 last year to help pay the president and first lady’s legal bills, the ninth-largest total from any state, according to data released by the Clinton Legal Expense Trust.
Nearly half the total — $52,788 — came from Montgomery County, which accounted for 522 of Maryland’s 1,164 contributions.
That came as no surprise to George Leventhal, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee.
“Montgomery County is in the top 10 percent of wealthy counties in the country,” said Leventhal. “Certainly Montgomery County is a Democratic county.”
The chairman of the county’s Republican Central Committee, Robert Miller, said the level of Clinton support in the county did not surprise him either.
“The state itself is fairly conservative, but Montgomery County is not,” said Miller, who called the county Maryland’s version of Hollywood. “There are a lot of limousine liberals here,” he said.
The Maryland contributions came from 1,094 different people and ranged from $2 to $10,000, the maximum the trust will accept from an individual in a calendar year.
Luci Slattery Reilly of Bethesda, who gave one of the $10,000 contributions, declined to comment on her donation. The other two $10,000 gifts came from brothers Edmund and Thomas Stanley of Oxford.
“I have always been a very strong supporter of the president and Mrs. Clinton,” said Edmund Stanley. “It’s a shame that a presidency generates such unbelievably large legal bills.”
The president and first lady have amassed around $9 million in legal expenses during Clinton’s presidency, according to the trust. That figure does not include the $850,000 settlement Clinton has agreed to pay to Paula Jones, who sued him over what she said was an unwanted sexual advance.
The expenses, owed to three different law firms, include bills from the Jones case and the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigations.
The trust raised about $3.7 million from individuals across the nation in 1998 and has raised another $800,000 so far this year, trust officials said.
Most of the 1998 gifts were less than $50, and many were much smaller than that. Jack Bowen of Middle River, a 78-year-old retired engineering technician, gave $5.
“I make $11,000 a year, pension and Social Security. I give $80 per year to causes out of that, besides my church,” Bowen said. “I thought to myself … ‘Here’s a man who’s trying to save my Social Security.’ If I don’t have that, I’ll just have to walk out in the street.
“If I had it, I’d send more money (to Clinton’s defense),” Bowen said. “Yes, absolutely.”
Catherine Kirkpatrick of Rising Sun sent $10 to the Clintons. Unlike Bowen, she is ambivalent about the president.
“I wouldn’t give any more to Clinton’s defense fund, because I’m a poor lady, and I figure Clinton has many rich friends,” she said.
Kirkpatrick said she does not regret sending her contribution, which she made because she “really just felt sorry for the guy.”
Still, she said, “I can’t trust Bill Clinton when he looks at me anymore …. I wonder, ‘Is he lying?'”
Like Bowen and Kirkpatrick, more than half the Marylanders who contributed identified themselves as retired. About one in six did not list an occupation. Among the rest, educators, homemakers and attorneys were the most frequent givers.
All contributors to the trust, which was created in February 1998, had to sign a form certifying that they were U.S. citizens and not registered lobbyists or executive branch federal employees.
Stanley, Bowen and Kirkpatrick all said they generally favor Democratic causes. But the trust has received many contributions from non-Democrats, according to executive director Anthony F. Essaye.
“We’ve certainly had quite a few people who have identified themselves as independents or Republicans in their letters,” Essaye said.
Trust officials said that while the contribution form does not ask for a political affiliation, many people send letters with their gifts. The trust does not keep track of how many contributors identify themselves as belonging to various parties.
But Paul Ellington, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said he doubts the number of Republicans giving to the trust is large. “There’s no sympathy for this president” in the state GOP as far as he knows, he said.
“To have a defense fund in the first place — in my opinion, it’s a disgrace,” Ellington said. He said Clinton’s high public-approval ratings do not mean that most people truly support the president.
“(People are) just happy because of the state of the economy. They’re not particularly enamored of this individual,” he said.
Ellington said it is unfair that the Republican-controlled 1980s, with their strong economy, were labeled “the Decade of Greed,” while Clinton gets credit for the current economic boom.
“I call this the Decade of Grope,” Ellington said.