Saturday, February 27, 1999

Hawaii residents
contribute to Clinton’s
legal defense fund

By Pete Pichaske
Phillips News Service


WASHINGTON -- Ask John Koch why he gave $20 to help President Clinton pay his legal bills, and he responds with a bit of history.

During the Civil War, according to Koch, someone complained to President Abraham Lincoln that his top general, Ulysses S. Grant, was a drunk.

"And Lincoln said," recalled Koch, " 'Let me know what kind of whiskey he drinks, and I'll send him a couple of kegs.' "

"In other words, there's no one who's going to take that job if he's going to be assassinated. And I think it's just a whole bunch of crap what they've done -- a political assassination and a waste of money."

Koch, a retired civil servant living in Honolulu, is one of about 180 Hawaii residents who contributed $11,252 total to the Clinton Legal Expense Trust, the defense fund set up to help pay Clinton's towering legal bills, during its first year.

The trust unveiled its first year's finances here this week, revealing contributions of $4.5 million. That's not quite half what Clinton owes the lawyers who've defended him on everything from Whitewater to impeachment in the past few years.

The donations came in all sizes and from every state in the union. The biggest were from the president's better-heeled and, in some cases, better-known friends: singer Tony Bennett (who gave the maximum $10,000), author Stephen King ($5,000) and actor Robert DeNiro ($5,000), to name a few.

But the bulk of the contributions, according to trustees, were smaller than $50, and that was true of the contributions from Hawaii.

Only 33 of the 139 donations from the isles during the second half of the year were larger than $50. Most came from retirees.

The most generous Hawaii supporter was Honolulu architect Scott Wilson, who donated $1,000 to the trust.

Like others interviewed, Wilson praised Clinton as a capable president hounded by vindictive, politically motivated opponents for wrongs that have nothing to do with his job.

"I can't influence what goes on in Washington, but I can offer support in my own small way," said Wilson. "It's been incredibly negative and worthless, this past year of trials and press releases on what the president has done. My only recourse was to send him some money."

"He's been an outstanding president except for one thing, and that is nothing," agreed Elvin Kamoku, a retired Hawaii County firefighter who lives in Hilo. "I think he deserves the money.

"The wealthy people don't give to him, so he has to go to the middle class. He's always been for the little man."

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