Ex-Clinton aide admits to helping Hubbell Kantor says he aided in gaining consulting fee

December 15, 1997|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- A former member of President Clinton's Cabinet has for the first time acknowledged that he helped former Justice Department official Webster L. Hubbell pry loose a disputed consulting fee from the city of Los Angeles, months after Hubbell pleaded guilty to felony charges.

Mickey Kantor, who served in the Cabinet from 1993 until January, said this year that it would have been "inappropriate" for him to have gotten involved with the Los Angeles payment to Hubbell.

But in sworn testimony to congressional investigators -- a transcript of which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times -- and in an interview, Kantor described steps he took to help Hubbell obtain the $24,750 payment from the city government in late 1995.

Kantor's aid is important because he had been a law partner of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's and a close friend of the president's.

Those prosecutors now are also examining whether any of the payments Hubbell received were intended to discourage him from providing damaging testimony about the Clintons' role in the Whitewater real estate deal.

Kantor is but one of several top Clinton administration officials who sought to help Hubbell financially after he resigned from the Justice Department in April 1994, following accusations that he had defrauded former clients and law partners in Arkansas.

Clinton, among others, has defended telephone calls to prospective employers and other efforts that were made on Hubbell's behalf.

Clinton told reporters in April that when his aides, including the then-White House chief of staff, sought to help Hubbell in 1994, ++ they acted in good faith.

"Let me remind you of the critical fact: At the time that was done, no one had any idea what the nature of the allegations were against Mr. Hubbell or whether they were true," Clinton said.

But Kantor is the first administration official known to have assisted Hubbell with his finances after the former associate attorney general had pleaded guilty, in December 1994, to fraud and tax-evasion charges stemming from his theft of $480,000 from his clients and partners.

The emergence of Kantor's role in the Los Angeles payment comes at a time of renewed difficulty for Hubbell.

The Whitewater independent counsel, Kenneth W. Starr, is considering whether to bring fraud charges against Hubbell in the Los Angeles deal.

Both Kantor and a city official have testified this month before a Whitewater grand jury in Washington.

Kantor, in his recent testimony to lawyers with the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, termed Hubbell "a close friend and someone I care a lot about."

The prosecutors also are weighing tax-related charges against Hubbell regarding the consulting income he received after quitting the administration.

Hubbell obtained 14 or more deals, including a $100,000 payment from a company controlled by James T. Riady of Indonesia, a friend of Clinton's who has been a figure in the campaign finance controversy.

Pub Date: 12/15/97

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