Clinton dealing with new scandals but still getting some shut-eye
publiziert: Samstag, 3. Feb 2001 / 09:23 Uhr

Washington - Although former U.S. president Bill Clinton said he is busy unpacking and undergoing "transition therapy" two weeks after moving out of the White House, he hasn't escaped criticism that has dogged him like no other U.S. president.

He has left behind investigations into a sex-and-perjury scandal, a land deal and allegations of campaign-funding abuses, but new criticisms have been meted out against him for a pardon in a 48- million-dollar tax evasion case, for his high-priced Manhattan offices and for his acceptance of 190,000 dollars in gifts.

The pardon, made days before Clinton left office January 20, was for Marc Rich, one of the wealthiest men in the world. Rich had lived as a fugitive in Switzerland for 17 years while charged with 50 counts of tax evasion, wire fraud and racketeering along with trading in Iraqi oil in violation of a U.S. embargo.

Clinton was not only criticized for letting a man off the hook who many people feel is a crook but also for handing out a political favour. Rich's ex-wife has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Clinton's Democratic Party, and Rich's attorney also served as a White House lawyer until 1997. Clinton denied he granted the pardon as a payback. "This was not a political thing," he asserted Friday.

The former president had said earlier that he believes Rich is innocent and the income on which he is accused of not paying taxes was foreign-earned and, therefore, not subject to U.S. income taxes. Rich's company, however, pleaded guilty to tax evasion in 1984 after the billionaire went into exile.

Clinton added Friday that his pardon covered only criminal prosecution and did not protect Rich from civil suits. But Rich is not the only controversy of Clinton's short post- presidency. Like all former presidents, Clinton enjoys a taxpayer- paid office for life, but he has chosen the most pricey in history.

An entire floor of a Manhattan office building with views of Central Park will cost 650,000 dollars annually, more than twice the cost of the second highest-priced presidential office - that of Ronald Reagan's in Los Angeles, which comes in at 285,000 dollars per year - and more than four times the 147,000-dollar price tag of the Houston, Texas, offices of his predecessor, George Bush.

But on Friday, Clinton announced that his foundation would pay for 300,000 dollars of the cost. "I'm not going to let the taxpayers get gigged on this," he said.

Clinton and his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, have also come under fire for leaving the White House with 190,000 dollars in gifts, including china and furniture, that they received during their final year there. On Friday, the former president announced that he and his wife would reimburse the donors - one of whom was Marc Rich's ex-wife - 86,000 dollars.

Clinton was dealing with those three headaches as he was trying to start a new career as a humanitarian. He made his comments Friday after meeting with Indian government representatives and Indian- American business leaders to start a fund-raising effort for victims of an earthquake that killed thousands last week. Clinton said he hopes the group raises 1 million dollars.

The former president said he wants to devote himself to public service in the future. In the meantime, though, he's going to earn a little money - 100,000 dollars for a speech Monday to brokers in Florida - and he's walking his dog, hanging pictures in his suburban New York home and just skimming the newspapers. He admitted he's not keeping up on world affairs like he used to.

"It's amazing how oblivious you can get to what's going on," Clinton said Thursday in his new home of Chappaqua, New York. "I'm not sure I'm up to speed."

He's also made it a priority to get some sleep. "I've got eight years of accumulated, real exhaustion," the two- term president said. "... For the first time, ... I can get up when I want to."

(klei/dpa)

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