Rosen Shifting Blame, U.S. Prosecutor Says

Times Staff Writer

Two convicted felons who helped put on a glitzy fundraiser for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign had “absolutely nothing” to do with a scheme to conceal the costs of the event from the Federal Election Commission, a federal prosecutor told jurors Wednesday.

Justice Department attorney Daniel Schwager accused Clinton’s former national finance director, David Rosen, of trying to shift blame to the felons in a “baseless and transparent dodge” of responsibility for underreporting several hundred thousand dollars in expenses.

Prosecutors have suggested that Rosen hid the full costs because they would have forced the campaign to divert funds from its “hard money” account, earmarked for advocacy on behalf of the candidate.


The former first lady, they said at the beginning of the trial, was not involved in the alleged scheme.

Rosen, who is on trial in Los Angeles federal court, has said the culprits were Peter Paul, a three-time convicted felon currently awaiting sentencing, and Paul’s associate, Aaron Tonken, now serving a 63-month sentence for cheating charities.

Neither man was called to testify in Rosen’s trial, which drew to a close Wednesday as both sides delivered final arguments to the jury.

The panel is to begin deliberating this morning.

“There is absolutely no evidence that Peter Paul or Aaron Tonken concealed anything,” Schwager told jurors.

Just the opposite is true, he added, citing testimony of several witnesses that Paul and Tonken had complained loudly and frequently about rising costs for the gala, held at a Mandeville Canyon estate two days before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

Paul, who had offered to underwrite the event, was then chief executive of Stan Lee Media, a publicly traded Internet venture he formed with Spiderman creator Stan Lee.


In March, Paul pleaded guilty to a stock fraud scheme that drove the company into bankruptcy.

Prosecutors said that Paul had volunteered to put up about $500,000 to stage the gala, but wound up being stuck for more than $1.1 million. The Clinton campaign reported that expenses totaled a little more than $400,000.

Rosen, testifying in his own defense, said he relied on information provided to him by Bretta Nock, an event planner who reported to Tonken. He contended that Paul and Tonken concealed the true costs for reasons known only to them.

In his closing argument Wednesday, Rosen’s attorney, Paul Sandler, questioned why the prosecution chose not to call Paul or Tonken to testify in the trial.

“Where is Peter Paul, where is Aaron Tonken?” Sandler asked. “Why are they not here? The government has the burden of proof. Why didn’t they call them?” During his argument, Sandler displayed their names on a large wall screen with “AWOL.”

The prosecution did subpoena two other convicted felons to testify against Rosen. James Levin and Raymond Reggie were both Democratic fundraisers who took part in the Hillary Clinton fundraiser.


They testified that Rosen had expressed concern about the escalating costs. Levin, a Chicago businessman who recently pleaded guilty to bribery, fraud and conspiracy charges, quoted Rosen as having told him, “The costs of this event will not be the costs of the event.”

Reggie, who is awaiting sentencing for bank fraud and check kiting in New Orleans, wore a concealed microphone during a dinner meeting with Rosen at the behest of the FBI. The tape was not played during the trial.

“Where is the tape?” asked Sandler. “Bring it forth instead of relying on insinuations and hyperbole.”

During a rebuttal, co-prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg told jurors that when the tape recording was made, Rosen already knew he was under investigation and was careful to say nothing incriminating.

Zeidenberg said that Reggie was one of seven prosecution witnesses who testified that Rosen was present when the event’s costs were discussed.