Clinton Ex-Aide Found Not Guilty

The former national finance director for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaign was acquitted Friday of lying to the government about a lavish 2000 Hollywood fundraising gala.

David Rosen was charged with two counts of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission about the cost of star-studded gala, which attracted such celebrities as Cher, Melissa Ethridge, Toni Braxton, Diana Ross, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated about six hours before reaching its verdict.

“It was hard for me to hold back tears. My whole family is crying, and my attorney is crying. It was the happiest moment, next to my marriage, in my life,” Rosen said of the verdict.

Clinton was not charged, but Republicans closely monitored the trial, hoping fallout from it might damage the New York Democrat’s 2006 re-election bid and scuttle any hopes for a presidential campaign in 2008.

Prosecutors said Rosen, 38, panicked over the mounting costs for the August 2000 fundraiser and lied to conceal its true cost from both the Clinton campaign and the government. They said Clinton herself was unaware of any wrongdoing.

The government accused Rosen of intentionally causing a campaign finance report to be filed with the FEC that listed “in-kind” contributions of $366,000. Prosecutors said he later amended the report to claim “in-kind” contributions of $400,000, when he knew that actual contributions exceeded $1.1 million.

The fundraiser took place at a tony, 112-acre private estate, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Zeidenberg told jurors it cost $90,000 just to get the celebrities and their entourages there. Zeidenberg said organizers spent $35,000 more to provide attendees with souvenir director’s chairs from the event and another $50,000 to produce musical CDs that were included in the gift bags.

It is not illegal for campaigns to accept in-kind contributions, such as the use of cars, hotel rooms, sound systems and such, but election law requires such items be reported so the public knows who is helping a candidate.

Rosen said he felt taking the stand on his own behalf was one of the keys to the trial. “It was important for me to tell the world that I was innocent of these charges.”

Rosen testified that he mistakenly thought some in-kind contributions, including the Porsche he used while in Los Angeles to organize the event, were simply gifts.

“If I executed poor judgment in that decision, I made a mistake, but I certainly didn’t intend to hide anything,” he testified.

Rosen also said he was mainly involved in raising money for the event and left the actual organizing to others.

Prosecutors responded that it should have been obvious to Rosen that he could not put on an event of such magnitude for as little as $400,000 in in-kind contributions.

Prosecutors say Rosen was trying to duck federal financing rules so Clinton’s campaign would have more money to spend on her 2000 U.S. Senate race, but they have said the New York Democrat was unaware of any wrongdoing.

Rosen’s defense team argued that the Clinton campaign didn’t benefit from the situation.

The event, which netted just $91,000, was bankrolled by Peter F. Paul, a three-time convicted felon who pleaded guilty in March to separate securities fraud charges.

Paul has told the FBI he gave hundreds of thousands of dollars that Clinton’s campaign didn’t report.

The event also was organized by Aaron Tonken, who is serving a 63-month prison sentence for unrelated charges of defrauding charities of hundreds of thousands of dollars.