WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 - In August 2000, Bill and Hillary Clinton attended a Hollywood fund-raiser billed as a tribute to a president ready to leave the White House after eight years and a first lady seeking to establish herself as a force of her own in American politics.
The guest list reflected the glitter of the occasion: Cher, Diana Ross, Brad Pitt and Patti LaBelle, to name just a few. But a person who later emerged as perhaps the most memorable - to the Clintons and their associates, anyway - was a well-connected figure with a checkered past who helped organize the event. He is Peter Paul, a man who pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and trying to defraud Fidel Castro's government out of millions of dollars in 1979, among other things....
Mr. Paul said he spent nearly $2 million of his own on the fund-raiser as a way to curry favor with Mr. Clinton, and photographs show him chatting with Mr. Clinton at a dinner table, having a discussion with Mrs. Clinton and striking poses for the camera with both of them.
Associates of the Clintons say the couple did not know of Mr. Paul's troubled past at the time, and in the months after the event, Mr. Paul turned on the Clintons, later urging investigators to look into the fund-raiser.
Last month, the federal investigation produced an indictment charging that the cost of the affair had been underreported...
A spokesman for the Justice Department, Bryan Sierra, said in a recent interview that Mrs. Clinton was not a subject of the investigation that led to the indictment, which named not Mr. Paul, but another person connected to the event, David Rosen, the finance director of Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaign, who is accused of underreporting the cost of the fund-raiser. No one else has been accused of any wrongdoing arising from the accusations.
...people involved in Mrs. Clinton's 2000 campaign expressed bafflement at the indictment, not only noting that prosecutors had failed to state Mr. Rosen's motive but also arguing that Mr. Rosen did not, in fact, have a motive, since underreporting the contributions would not have produced any financial benefit for Mrs. Clinton's campaign under a complicated series of campaign-finance rules.
But one official at the Federal Election Commission disagreed, saying that there was a possible advantage to underreporting such contributions in a case like this: to have more money to spend on the campaign itself.
By this logic one would have found a pattern of underreporting multiple times, but that's not what's being claimed here. Absent of that pattern, it is ridiculous to impugn the motive claimed by the FEC.
Now some folks on righty blogs had been hoping that this would be the "big Hilary scandal," but it looks like yep, another partisan witch hunt against the Clintons.