View Full Version : Scooter Libby Solicits Money From Friends, And GOP For Legal Bills

11-09-2005, 02:25 PM
Libby Establishes a Fund to Help Pay Legal Bills


(Gold9472: I'd be interested to see who actually contributes.)


WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 - I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, is establishing a fund to help pay for his legal defense in the C.I.A. leak case, and associates of Mr. Libby have begun soliciting money from his friends and Republican donors, lawyers and people who have been contacted about the fund said on Tuesday.

Barbara Comstock, a Republican communications strategist who has been hired to work with Mr. Libby's defense team, has pulled together a list of potential contributors and has been in touch with some of them in the last week, providing an address in Washington for sending checks, the people said.

Ms. Comstock declined to comment. Other people who have been told of the fund said that their understanding was that names of the donors would not be made public, but that some decisions about how the fund would operate had yet to be made. With Mr. Libby having left government, there is no legal requirement for any public disclosure.

Mr. Libby has put together a high-priced legal team to defend himself against five felony counts of lying to investigators and misleading a grand jury, and lawyers unconnected with the matter have estimated that the bill could run well into the millions of dollars if he goes to trial.

William J. Jeffress Jr., a prominent Washington lawyer added to the defense team last week, confirmed that fund-raising had begun.

"We're certainly establishing a legal defense fund," Mr. Jeffress said, "and we'll do everything we can to make it successful, because he's not a wealthy man."

But in establishing the fund, Mr. Libby is opening himself to questions. Legal and campaign finance specialists said he could face scrutiny about whether any financial assistance he might receive from allies of President Bush and Mr. Cheney was going to finance a defense strategy intended in part to minimize harm to the administration.

The situation could also present Mr. Libby's supporters with a tricky political problem. Many Republicans may be eager to show financial support for a man who they believe is being prosecuted for political reasons, campaign finance analysts said, yet may also be wary about the appearance of giving contributions to a man accused of a serious crime.

"The administration is walking a very tight rope here," said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, "because they want to support Libby, but they don't want to be seen as strong-arming Republican supporters for money."

Mr. Libby, one of the most influential officials at the White House, resigned as Mr. Cheney's chief of staff on Oct. 28, immediately after the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, announced that he had been indicted on felony charges of obstruction of justice, making false statements and perjury. Mr. Fitzgerald is investigating the leak of a C.I.A. officer's identity in July 2003.

Because he has left government, Mr. Libby has more flexibility to raise money for his defense, legal experts said. If Mr. Libby were still working at the White House, his legal defense would be limited to accepting contributions of $5,000 per donor, and he would have to disclose his donor list publicly.

Now, "he doesn't have to worry about any of that," said Stanley Brand, a Washington lawyer who specializes in ethics and political finance issues.

"But the administration has to worry that if the donors are too close to them, it will look like they're currying favor with the administration or doing their bidding," Mr. Brand said.

Democrats in Congress tried to keep up the political pressure on the White House, seeking a commitment from Mr. Bush that he would not pardon Mr. Libby.

"Although it is too early to judge Mr. Libby guilty or innocent of these particular charges, it is not too early for you to reassure the American people that you understand the enormous gravity of the allegations," Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, and three other Democrats wrote to Mr. Bush. "To this end, we urge you to pledge that if Mr. Libby or anyone else is found guilty of a crime in connection with Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation, you will not exercise your authority to issue a presidential pardon."

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, declined to comment.