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The BBC's Paul Reynolds in Washington
"The Clintons, it seems, are still courting controversy"
 real 28k

Friday, 26 January, 2001, 13:51 GMT
Clinton gifts under scrutiny
Bill and Hillary Clinton
The Clintons received gifts for their Chappaqua house
Less than a week after leaving the White House, Bill and Hillary Clinton are facing criticism for accepting gifts worth $190,000 for their New York State home.

There have been allegations of favouritism, as one of the donors is the former wife of fugitive financier Marc Rich, who was pardoned by Mr Clinton on his last day in office.

Gift list
Denise Rich: Coffee tables and chairs, $7,300
Ronald and Beth Dozoretz: Dining table, server and golf clubs, $7,000
Steven Spielberg: China, $4,920
Ted Danson and Mary Steenburger: China, $4,800
Jack Nicholson: Golf club, $350
Sylvester Stallone: Boxing gloves, $300
Denise Rich said her $7,000 gift was not linked to her efforts to obtain clemency for Mr Rich, accused of illegally buying oil from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis and tax fraud.

It is not only the Rich case which has raised eyebrows in Washington, but also the timing of the gifts.

A California friend of the Clintons is alleged to have urged her contacts to send donations of $5,000 before Mrs Clinton was sworn in as senator. Senators are not allowed to accept gifts over $100.

Mrs Clinton's spokesman, Howard Wolfson, said the couple had received many gifts during their administration, and had disclosed them "like other presidents have".

Coffee tables

In the year before the Clintons left the White House, they received $190,000 worth of furniture and other gifts.

Friends and supporters such as film director Steven Spielberg, insurance magnate Walter Kaye, and actor Ted Danson provided the couple with china and furniture for their new house in Chappaqua.

Hillary Clinton in the Senate
As a senator, Mrs Clinton cannot receive gifts worth more than $100
Denise Rich gave them two coffee tables and two chairs worth more than $7,000.

Mrs Rich said it was "entirely appropriate" for her to be among those who petitioned Mr Clinton to pardon her former husband.

But many Republicans are now demanding an explanation as to why the fugitive businessman, who now lives in Switzerland, should have been pardoned at all.

Explanations wanted

Representative Dan Burton, who chairs the Government Reform Committee, said the former president had not given an "adequate explanation as to why Mr Rich deserved a pardon".

Kate and Steven Spielberg
The Spielbergs donated china worth nearly $5,000
The congressman requested documents on the pardon application, to determine whether Mr Clinton had an "improper motive" for the pardon.

"Congress has an obligation to find out if this pardon was appropriate," Mr Burton said.

Mr Rich was accused of involvement in a sophisticated tax fraud scheme on oil transactions, as well as trading oil with Iran in spite of a US embargo.

The fugitive's lawyer, Jack Quinn, told the New York Times that he managed to convince Mr Clinton that the case was best handled as a civil one, rather than a criminal matter.

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20 Jan 01 | Americas
Clinton pardons 100
20 Jan 01 | PM
Where next for Clinton?
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