Strings Attached To Jones' $$$

New York real estate tycoon Abe Hirschfeld handed Paula Jones a check for $1 million today that would become part of an overall settlement of her sexual harassment suit against President Clinton.

Susan Carpenter MacMillan, a spokeswoman for the former Arkansas state worker, said there was no deal yet. But she said the Hirschfeld move should prompt the White House to "negotiate in good faith."

Hirschfeld led Jones in by the arm to a news conference and kissed her cheek before handing her the check. He said he gave her the money so that President Clinton could "have a clear head" in dealing with the nation's problems. He declined to say whether the timing of today's announcement had anything to do with Tuesday's mid-term elections.

Jones said, with a wide smile, "Thank you very much," and declined to make any further comment.

The check was made out to Jones, the law firm of Radar, Campbell, Fisher, and Pyke, and other parties, including John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, which has helped finance her lawsuit.

Hirschfeld said the money had already been transferred. His lawyer, Harvard Hollemberg, said the payment to Jones was conditioned on her reaching a settlement with the president. Hirschfeld also declined to say what would happen to the money if no settlement is reached.

An attorney in the Jones camp, speaking on condition of anonymity, had said Friday the arrangement with Hirschfeld was "a precursor to negotiations" with Clinton's lawyers.

"And then negotiations will begin with (Clinton attorney Robert Bennett), and I don't think it will take very long," said the lawyer, suggesting there might be "some common meeting ground" over money.

As CBS News Correspondent Jonathan Freed reports, Hirschfeld claims he's offering the money as a concerned citizen who wants to put the case to rest for the good of the country.

But the President's lawyer, Robert Bennett, has made it clear that Mr. Clinton wants to keep a distance from Hirschfeld, who is facing charges of tax evasion. The White House reluctance prompted the millionaire to take back his offer just last week.

The lawyer said Mrs. Jones' attorneys would make a new overture to Clinton on Monday. So far there has been no comment from the president's lawyers, and they offered none today.

Previous attempts to reach a financial settlement stalled after Mrs. Jones rejected an offer of $700,000 from Bennett, insisting she wanted $1 million.

Then Hirschfeld stepped into the picture, offering $1 million as part of a settlement involving all parties.

Last week, however, Bennett said he would only consider a settlement if it did not include "strings attached" referring to Hirschfeld's offer. Hirschfeld then said he was withdrawing his offer.

The White House has sought to dissociate itself from Hirschfeld, who is facing tax-evasion charges.

Hirschfeld has said he injected himself into the case in hopes of ending it "for the benefit of the country and the world."

Clinton's denials under oath in the Jones case of a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky were the foundation for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's criminal investigation of the president.

Mrs. Jones' team had been demanding a total of $2 million from Hirschfeld and Clinton to drop the lawsuit, which was dismissed by a judge but could be revived on appeal.

But as late as Thursday, one lawyer in the Clinton camp said the president's attorneys were inclined to put settlement talks on hold until the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals rules on whether to revive Mrs. Jones' lawsuit.

In her lawsuit, Mrs. Jones claims that Clinton made a crude pass at her in a Little Rock hotel room in 1991, when he was governor of Arkansas and she was a clerk for the state.

The suit was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright of Little Rock, who ruled that Mrs. Jones' allegations, even if true, fell short of the standard for sexual harassment.

Written by Sandra Sobieraj