Hillary's Hollywood Headache

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton D-N.Y. is seen at the Capitol in Washingtonin this Jan. 20, 2005 file photo. Clinton collapsed Monday Jan. 31, 2005 during a speech on Social Security, a radio station reported. AP

A trial that could have implications for Sen. Hillary Clinton's political future gets underway Tuesday in Los Angeles. While Clinton has not been accused of any wrongdoing, her former finance director is facing criminal charges for under-reporting the cost of a lavish 2000 Hollywood fund-raising party that drew stars like Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Cher, Diana Ross and Muhammad Ali.

David Rosen, who was Clinton's finance director during her 2000 U.S. Senate run, is facing three counts of filing a false statement. An FBI agent speculated in an affidavit that Rosen was trying to duck federal financing rules so the campaign would have more money to spend on other expenses.

Rosen pleaded not guilty in January. He could face up to 15 years in prison and $750,000 in fines if convicted.

Republicans will be watching the case for any ammunition they can use against Clinton, considered an early front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Democratic supporters of Clinton tell CBS News they believe the matter should have been handled as a civil case, not a criminal one. They suggested it was elevated to the criminal courts because of politics.

Rosen, 40, reported the event – called a "Hollywood Gala Salute to President William Jefferson Clinton" – was underwritten by about $400,000 worth of "in kind" contributions — goods and services provided for free or below cost. But Peter F. Paul, a three-time convicted felon who pleaded guilty in March to securities fraud charges, has told prosecutors he gave the campaign at least $1.1 million for the affair.

Paul has filed a lawsuit claiming he bankrolled the gala on a promise that former President Clinton would become a "goodwill ambassador" for his Internet media company. He is ready to testify against Rosen, according to his attorney, Joseph Conway.

Paul is represented in his lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Foundation, a conservative group that's behind the Hillary Clinton Accountability Project, which is dedicated, according to its web site, to educating the public "about the largest federal election campaign fraud ever reported."

The 2000 gala included both a dinner and a concert. About 350 people accepted invitations to both, which cost $25,000 a couple. About 1,200 people purchased $1,000 tickets just for the concert.

Many people got complimentary tickets and campaign reports never gave a full accounting of the total money taken in. However, organizers reported raising nearly $1.1 million for a joint committee benefiting Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign and the national and state-level Democratic parties.
  • Joel Roberts

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