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Padres’ Owner Also Hired Hubbell

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The owner of the San Diego Padres baseball franchise was among those who hired Webster L. Hubbell after he resigned his high-ranking Justice Department position three years ago.

Like others who hired Hubbell, John J. Moores, the Padres owner, acknowledged that he had demanded and received little work for the money he sent Hubbell, who had resigned amid allegations of impropriety.

In an interview, Moores said Friday that in 1994, he paid Hubbell an advance retainer of $18,000 on the basis of a recommendation from Truman Arnold, a longtime friend of President Clinton who served in 1995 as finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Moores said that Hubbell ultimately did not provide him with an accounting of any services he had provided. Moores recalled having one telephone conversation with Hubbell, lasting less than 10 minutes. The two never met, according to Moores.

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Reports that Moores and two other major Democratic contributors, also from Texas, hired Hubbell in 1994 come as congressional committees and Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr are examining the nature of Hubbell’s employment arrangements.

The investigations are seeking to determine whether any of the deals were intended to discourage Hubbell from providing information that could incriminate his former law partner, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, or others. It has by now been established that Hubbell was hired by more than 12 employers who collectively paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees. Some of Hubbell’s deals resulted from calls made by senior presidential aides.

Moores confirmed that he and two of his employees have been subpoenaed by Starr and will appear next week before a grand jury in Little Rock, Ark.

Moores, who built his fortune in the computer software business, said he had little knowledge of Hubbell’s legal problems in 1994. Hubbell, who President Clinton once described as his best friend, announced in March 1994 that he would resign, ostensibly because of a dispute over billings with his and Mrs. Clinton’s former colleagues at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock.

Hubbell quickly came under criminal investigation by Whitewater prosecutors and pleaded guilty, on Dec. 6, 1994, to fraud and tax-evasion charges that stemmed from his bilking of $482,410 from his former partners and clients.

Moores, who flies in his own jet, said that he hired Hubbell in 1994, at a time when he was seeking to build new facilities at an airport in Monterey County, near his home in Carmel.

After encountering what he regarded as resistance from county officials there, Moores said, he thought it might help to hire an attorney based in Washington, D.C., who could persuade the Federal Aviation Administration to intercede.

Moores said that he mentioned his idea to Arnold--an old friend from their home state of Texas who also maintains a residence on the Monterey Peninsula.

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“Literally, all I wanted was someone to pick up the phone and call the FAA,” Moores said. “I felt like, if there was anyone who could get that phone call returned, it was Webb Hubbell.”

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Moores said that his interest in the airport matter receded in 1994, as he sought to buy the Padres. At the same time, it turned out, Hubbell’s own legal troubles were escalating. Still, Moores said, he viewed the retainer as reasonable.

“If he could have gotten my problem solved, $18,000 would have been an extraordinarily cheap price to pay to get a multimillion-dollar project off the ground,” Moores said. “If I hadn’t lost interest in building up there, I would have been very comfortable with that. That is not an unreasonable fee from a lawyer in Washington for something like that.”

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According to people familiar with the hirings, Hubbell also was retained by C.W. Conn, owner of a chain of appliance stores, and Wayne Reaud, a lawyer. Conn and Reaud also were introduced to Hubbell by Arnold, who himself paid Hubbell $18,000 in 1994, according to knowledgeable sources. The hirings by Conn and Reaud were reported Thursday by the New York Times. The Associated Press originally reported Moores’ payment Friday.


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