MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Also in Los Angeles today, the trial of Democratic fund-raiser David Rosen continued. He is accused of lying to elections officials about the true costs of a lavish Hollywood fund-raiser thrown in 2000 for his then-boss, US Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. NPR's Luke Burbank reports.
LUKE BURBANK reporting:
There are a lot of similarities between Hollywood and national politics, so it was only natural that the two worlds converged on a warm Los Angeles night in August 2000. The guests of honor were President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary. The entertainment was Cher.
(Soundbite of event)
CHER: Sir, I didn't vote for you, and so this next song is my little lament.
(Soundbite of music)
CHER: (Singing) If I could turn back time...
BURBANK: The $25,000-per-plate event was billed as Hollywood's salute to William Jefferson Clinton. In truth, it was Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaign that stood to gain from the million dollars plus that was raised. That's where David Rosen, the man currently on trial, came in. When asked by others in the campaign how much they should report the Hollywood event cost, Rosen, who was Mrs. Clinton's finance director, repeatedly stated the tab was only $400,000. Federal elections officials didn't buy that, putting the total at something more like 1.2 million. And for Peter Paul, the man who actually paid for the event, he says it was even more costly.
Mr. PETER PAUL (Event Payor): Well, it destroyed my life. I'm no longer a Hollywood mogul. I lost my fortune, and then my whole existence is dedicated to finally getting the truth out about the largest campaign finance fraud in history.
BURBANK: Paul says he picked up the tab in the hopes that President Clinton would later lend his name to an animation Web site he had started. He says David Rosen knew costs were skyrocketing and yet still pressed him to spend more money. Rosen denies that. His attorney, Paul Sandler, declined several requests by NPR to be interviewed but, in his opening statement, told jurors it was Rosen who was misled about the real costs of the party. The government disagrees, as does Peter Paul.
Mr. PAUL: A blind person who attended the event would know that it cost a lot more than 400,000, with a stage that looked like the Grammy Awards with eight international headliners singing for the president.
BURBANK: No one's arguing that the party wasn't costly. The question is: Did David Rosen know about it? The prosecution has been building its case with witnesses who've testified that Rosen was well aware of the event's actual costs. Two of the government witnesses have unrelated legal trouble of their own. And Peter Paul, who hasn't been called to testify, also has a rap sheet.
So where does all this leave Senator Clinton? Neither she nor her husband have been implicated in any way, they're not being called to testify, and the prosecution has been explicit that this trial is not about them. Still, the watchdog group Judicial Watch last week filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee over the matter. Peter Paul has filed a civil suit against the family, claiming the former president reneged on their business deal. With millions spent in total between the party and now on legal fees and various reputations questioned, it's likely some of the participants are feeling a little bit like Cher.
(Soundbite of song)
CHER: (Singing) I don't know why I did the things I did.
BURBANK: Luke Burbank, NPR News, Los Angeles.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.