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Clintons erase legal debts from White House years


WASHINGTON - Erasing a lingering financial burden, former President Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton paid off their last legal debts in 2004 arising from investigations of them during their White House years, a financial statement released yesterday showed.

In her annual Senate financial disclosure statement, Senator Clinton, a New York Democrat, reported that the couple had paid off the legal fees - which for 2003 they listed as between $500,000 and $1 million - for their defenses in investigations.

Their links to Arkansas real estate transactions in the 1980s that became known as the Whitewater controversy led to a range of investigations of the Clintons and the eventual impeachment of President Clinton stemming from a sexual affair. Neither Clinton was ever charged with any crime directly related to the Whitewater deal and the Senate acquitted President Clinton in his impeachment case.

Since they left the White House in January 2001, both Clintons have earned millions of dollars on memoirs they wrote.

In the new financial statements, many senators reported earnings from advances and royalties on fiction and nonfiction books. But Senator Clinton earned the most in 2004 - about $2.38 million in royalties from her autobiography, Living History, which was published in 2003. It has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide.

The lawmakers are required to report assets and liabilities in broad categories. They are not required to list their annual salary, which for those who do not hold leadership positions was $158,100 in 2004 (it was increased to $162,100 on Jan. 1). Nor do they have to report the value of personal residences. Financial disclosure reports for House members will become available today.

As they have in past years, the reports confirmed that the Senate remains largely a club of the wealthy - with at least 46 of the 94 senators who filed reporting assets that qualified them as millionaires.

The reports listed trips some senators took around the world, paid for by trade organizations, think tanks and other groups.

Such travel has received greater scrutiny since news organizations this year investigated overseas trips taken by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, and questioned whether a lobbyist had paid for some of them, which would violate House rules. DeLay has said he did nothing wrong.

Maryland's senators, both Democrats, also reported their assets, gifts and some privately paid trips for 2004.

Among Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes' reported assets are an account with the U.S. Senate Employees' Federal Credit Union, which is worth between $100,000 and $250,000 and earned between $2,500 and $5,000 in interest last year; an account at Amalgamated Bank worth between $50,000 and $100,000 that paid less than $1,000 in interest; and a retirement account from his time as a state legislator that's worth less than $15,000 and paid between $2,500 and $5,000 in interest.

The disclosure forms offer a range of amounts for valuing assets, so it is difficult to tell exactly how much the assets are worth.

Sarbanes listed seven privately paid trips not previously disclosed on travel forms, which are generally supposed to be filed within 30 days. Five times, Sarbanes traveled to New Jersey for his role on the Princeton University board of trustees. He also went to the Boston area to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Science, and to New York, for a speech on the corporate accountability legislation that bears his name.

Sarbanes, one of the best-traveled members of the state delegation, also went on eight other trips last year. Those were disclosed separately within 30 days of his return, as required by Senate rules.

Jesse Jacobs, a spokesman for Sarbanes, said the latest trips were not disclosed earlier because of an oversight.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski has an assortment of stocks and other investments. Only one earned her more than $2,500 in interest last year: a savings account and two certificates of deposit at Kosciuszko Federal Savings Bank, worth between $100,000 and $250,000. She listed 21 other holdings, four of which are worth more than $15,000.

Mikulski went on one trip last year - a conference in Honolulu. The Aspen Institute, a think tank that is the most generous purveyor of congressional trips, paid for her hotel and meals, according to her disclosure form and travel records filed after the January 2004 trip.

Sun staff writer Gwyneth K. Shaw contributed to this article. The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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