WASHINGTON – Maryland residents gave more than $90,000 to President Clinton’s legal trust fund during the first six months of 1999, almost matching contributions for all of last year, according to the fund.
An official with the Clinton Legal Expense Trust said there was a similar surge of giving nationwide in the early months of this year, as the president’s impeachment trial dragged through the Senate.
“Particularly in January and February, the more everything was in the news, the more people were irritated by it,” said Peter Lavallee, the trust administrator. The trust capitalized on that irritation with a mailing to 1998 donors, who made up about half of this year’s fund.
Marylanders gave $90,938.27 from January to June 1999, compared to $111,197.22 for all of 1998, according to data from the trust. It ranked Maryland as the ninth-highest for contributions both times.
Maryland brothers Thomas and Edmund Stanley of Oxford again gave $10,000, as they did in 1998, the maximum amount the trust will accept.
“I see an extraordinarily able president who is doing things that are in my best interest and are in the country’s best interests,” said Thomas Stanley. “I want to do whatever I can do alleviate the distraction from what I think was an unjustified legal action.”
“He’s been a terrific president,” brother Edmund added. “He’s made some mistakes and he’s paid for them.”
The brothers both said they did not know if they would contribute more next year, though neither would rule it out.
As in 1998, almost half of the state’s contributions came from Montgomery County, which gave $43,833.50, more than double the amount of any other county.
The level of giving “doesn’t surprise me,” said George Leventhal, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. “We’re an affluent county and we’re politically active.”
Clinton still owes about $5.3 million on legal bills of about $10.5 million, Lavallee said. That debt does not include an $850,000 settlement of the sexual harassment suit filed by Paula Jones or a $90,000 fine Clinton received in the same lawsuit.
Contributions to the trust ranged from $1 to $10,000. Besides the Stanley brothers, Rashid Chaudary of Bethesda and Agnes N. Williams of Potomac gave the maximum, but the vast majority of donations were $100 or less.
Bethesda’s Douglas M. Duffy, a $1,000 contributor, said he usually does not give to political causes, but he was disgusted at the “savage attack” mounted by Clinton’s detractors.
“I thought he was being picked on and victimized unmercifully,” Duffy said.
Most contributors said they did not condone the president’s behavior, but that the matter of his sexual affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky should not have been so politicized.
“I’m disappointed in him, but I think the way this whole scandal was handled was unfair to everyone, including President Clinton,” said Bethesda’s Barbara T. Curtis, who gave $5. “Respect for privacy is something we should all be allowed.”
The trust has raised about $6.3 million since its inception in early 1998, Lavallee said, and an earlier trust raised about $775,000. Lavallee could not say how long the trust would run, although he said it would go at least through the Clinton administration.
“We never set a goal other than to raise as much as we could,” he said. “But everyone’s very happy with what’s been done so far.”
Montgomery County Republican Chairman Robert J. Miller could not account for the generosity of the president’s supporters.
“I really don’t know, I can’t think like a Democrat,” he said. “I wouldn’t give him a cent.”