Former AG Bill Clinton railed against utility rates

Legal News Line Jan. 31, 2008, 9:12am

Former Arkansas Attorney General Bill Clinton

Long before his presidential ambitions, and now his wife's, Bill Clinton served two eventful years as Arkansas Attorney General from 1977 to 1979 before becoming governor of Arkansas. During that same period his wife Hillary (Rodham as she was called then) became an associate at the Rose Law Firm and two years later was made a full partner. In both achievements - the second remarkable for its speed - she was the first woman to do so. Clinton's failed but well-organized Arkansas congressional campaign two years earlier focused the spotlight on the Rhodes scholar and Yale graduate as a political whiz-kid before he was voted in as AG in late 1976. His AG win gave him momentum to push for the Governor's mansion just over two years later. But his wife's career-path at Rose during that time was even more impressive. She quickly rose from associate to partner by becoming a "rainmaker" - someone who brings in clients. As a specialist in intellectual property at Rose, Hillary Rodham quickly built an impressive list of corporate clients in what was then a growing field. Meanwhile, her husband was building a growing campaign war-chest and a series of free television appearances for his upcoming tilt at Arkansas governor, where he launched high profile campaigns against utility company rate increases. Media attention was focused on the handsome AG - then already picked as a future president - and he complained to a reporter covering his gubernatorial campaign of the usual portrayal of him as a clone with "an Ivy-League education and long hair." His wife was known at Rose for her frizzy afro hairstyles and clunky clothing, according to one report. Her best friends at Rose Law Firm during this time were Vincent Foster and Webster Hubbell, two names later tragically linked to the Clintons and associated scandals. Both went on to join the Clintons in their 1992 White House bid after years of service but Foster committed suicide two years later and Hubbell later pleaded guilty to felony mail fraud and tax evasion charges. While AG Bill geared up for a gubernatorial run, Hillary was forging other relationships with Rose Law Firm clients that would also last, for better or worse, until 1992 and beyond. One, through financial client Stephens Inc., was with Indonesian financier and rumored Suharto associate Mochtar Riady, who later founded the Lippo Group in Little Rock. Riady and his son James later became major supporters of Bill Clinton's 1992 and 1996 bids for presidency, although the U.S. Senate later fined the younger Riady $8.6 million for campaign-finance violations. Earlier, Stephens and the Riadys, with Rose's help, had established in the U.S. an arm of BCCI, a British bank which later failed spectacularly. Another contact would end more tragically. Rose Law Firm client Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan brought the Clintons in contact with Jim McDougall, who ran the S&L, and his wife Susan, and the four quickly became friends. In August 1978, before the general election, the Clintons and McDougalls began an investment later to be called Whitewater and a long-running political scandal in Arkansas. Jim McDougall later died in a federal prison from charges relating all the way back to Whitewater. But long before its Whitewater troubles began, Madison Guaranty helped give AG Clinton the fund-raising boost he needed going into the May 1978 primary. So, apparently did even some corporations who opposed Clinton's consumer-protection agenda as attorney general. Altogether, Clinton raised $500,000 and got 60 percent of the vote against four opponents in that Democratic primary, which virtually assured him victory. Since the four were conservative he ran as a liberal and proposed easing marijuana laws and supporting the EPA. Later that year he won the governor's race easily and was sworn in January 1979. That month, Hillary Rodham was made a partner of the Rose Law Firm.

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