Chicago Banker Identified as Troopergate Fund Benefactor

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The conservative financier who donated about $25,000 to a "whistle-blower insurance" fund benefiting Arkansas state troopers was identified Tuesday by the Chicago Sun-Times as Chicago investment banker Peter W. Smith. The paper also called Smith, 62, "one of the leading benefactors of GOPAC," a political action group once headed by House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Smith told the paper that he spent about $80,000 in donations and attorney fees, including $5,000 in 1992 paid to conservative author David Brock, in what Smith called "an independent effort" to encourage anti-Clinton stories in the mainstream press.

The Arkansas troopers, former bodyguards of then-Gov. Bill Clinton, alleged that Clinton used troopers to carry out and conceal a series of extramarital affairs. The revelations were made in stories by the Los Angeles Times and by Brock in the American Spectator magazine in December 1993.

Two troopers, Larry Patterson and Roger Perry, lost part-time jobs and income--by their accounts ranging from $8,500 to $12,000 each per year--in the aftermath of their controversial disclosures. Perry was forced to resign from his post as president of the Arkansas State Police Assn. and Patterson surrendered a part-time job selling tires.

According to Cliff Jackson, an attorney for the troopers, Smith's contributions were deposited into the Troopergate Whistle Blower Fund, a legal entity established under Arkansas law that existed for "a year or two." Jackson said the fund ultimately raised "about $40,000" that was divided among the troopers and their attorneys.

Jackson said Smith started the fund with a $5,000 donation in February 1994, about two months after the Troopergate stories broke. Another $20,000 Smith donation was deposited into the fund about a month later, Jackson said,

The efforts to create the whistle-blower fund were disclosed in the original Los Angeles Times account on Dec. 21, 1993.

In that story, The Times cited attorney Jackson's claim that the troopers were "completely vulnerable to reprisals" for going on the record with their allegations against Clinton. The 1993 story reported that Jackson had received a verbal agreement from "an unnamed conservative financier" to establish what the lawyer called "a whistle-blower insurance policy," but that Jackson had not obtained a formal contract.

On Tuesday Jackson reiterated that the troopers received no payment for coming forward and, at the time the stories were published, had no guarantees of help if they lost jobs as a consequence.

Jackson said he withheld Smith's name originally at the financier's request. On Tuesday Jackson also acknowledged that it was through Smith that the troopers were introduced to Brock in the fall of 1993.

At the time, a group of troopers already had met for a series of interviews with The Times. However, Jackson said later that he became concerned that "a liberal paper like The Times" might not publish stories critical of Clinton so he "put out the word" that he wanted to meet with a conservative writer. Brock confirmed to the Sun-Times that he learned about the troopers from Smith in the fall of 1993. Brock then contacted Jackson, he said.

Brock recently apologized to Clinton for his role in the Troopergate stories, saying in a series of talk-show appearances and in an open letter published by Esquire magazine that he was part of an orchestrated right-wing effort to "get Clinton."

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