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Clinton Visits Lewinsky Hometown

With his reputation as the Democratic Party's best fund-raiser apparently unmarred, President Clinton headed to Monica Lewinsky's hometown Saturday for his first Hollywood fund-raiser since allegations surrounding the former White House intern became public.

Clinton was expected to rub elbows with some 250 supporters, including Paul Reiser, Ellen DeGeneres, Penny Marshall and other celebrities who paid $2,500 a piece to raise money for Sen. Barbara Boxer and the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee.

The private event inside the 40-room Italian Renaissance-style mansion of Ralphs supermarket head Ron Burkle came just days after successful fund-raisers in Northern California. The bash caused some pundits to reassess their predictions that news of Clinton's alleged sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky would hurt his ability to draw money for fellow Democrats.

"There seems to be a cadre of loyalists who have a message they want to send and it's sent by supporting Clinton financially," said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe of the Center for Politics and Policy at the Claremont Graduate School.

Independent counsel Kenneth Starr has been investigating whether Clinton had a sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky and then encouraged her to lie about it. Clinton has denied the allegations.

Ms. Lewinsky, who grew up in Beverly Hills and recently visited her father in nearby Brentwood, has asked for immunity in exchange for her testimony before a grand jury.

Ms. Jeffe said Clinton's supporters have developed a growing antipathy toward Starr's actions, and the president's high approval ratings and continued success at eliciting funds for the Democratic Party reflect that sentiment.

Also during his short visit to Los Angeles, Clinton met with local officials and storm victims at Los Angeles International Airport to discuss cleanup of the destructive El Nino storms.

Homes and businesses have been destroyed by flooding and mudslides, and federal disaster officials have already vowed to spend an estimated $250 million in California because of the storms.

Clinton said during a brief speech on the airport tarmac that he received word Friday from a friend whose son lost "a childhood friend," to the storm ravages. He did not identify the victim or the circumstances.

"Our hearts and prayers are with the families who lost their loved ones," the president said.

Before the speech, Clinton met privately for 40 minutes with rescue workers, storm victims brought in wheelchairs, and local politicians.

Written by Michelle DeArmond.
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