Miami, Florida,, Sunday, March 25, 2001
Anti-Defamation League chief details advice on Rich pardon
BY ROBERT O'HARROW JR. Washington Post Service
WASHINGTON -- A few months after accepting a $100,000 pledge from fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich, Anti-Defamation League chief Abraham Foxman suggested early last year that Rich reach out to his former wife for help in winning a presidential pardon, Foxman has disclosed.
Over dinner in Paris last February, Foxman told Rich aide Avner Azulay that he had heard Denise Rich donated lavishly to Democratic causes and was a personal friend of President Clinton. "My suggestion then was, why don't you reach out to Denise Rich and see if she had changed her mind about Marc Rich, and if she had to see if she would approach the president," Foxman recalled Friday in a meeting with reporters.
Foxman's account of that conversation -- coupled with an e-mail obtained by congressional investigators that references Foxman's idea -- shows that Rich supporters contemplated approaching Clinton months sooner than earlier acknowledged.
A month after that dinner, Azulay wrote a Rich attorney suggesting sending Denise Rich "on a 'personal' mission to No.1 with a well-prepared script." No.1 was later identified as Clinton.
Foxman commented Friday in the first explanation of his role in the Rich pardon since it was disclosed in January that he had written a letter to Clinton in December urging clemency, a letter Foxman now says he regrets sending.
Federal authorities in New York are examining whether any laws were violated as supporters of Rich and scores of other applicants sought pardons from Clinton at the end of his term. Congressional investigators are conducting their own probe and Foxman said he voluntarily answered their questions Monday.
Rich was pardoned by Clinton 17 years after he left the country ahead of federal charges that he cheated the government out of $48 million and traded with the enemy.
Foxman is the longtime national director of B'nai B'rith's ADL, a leading foe of anti-Semitism. He said that although his name appears in several e-mails circulated among organizers of the Rich pardon effort he was not an organizer and knew few of the details.
Foxman said he has known Marc Rich for the past 15 years. Rich had previously donated $150,000 to fund several ADL anti-prejudice education programs. On several occasions, including once in Romania, Rich and his associates also had worked with the ADL to help Jewish communities threatened by turmoil or anti-Semitism, Foxman said.
He also dined with Rich several times in Switzerland. They came from neighboring towns in what is now Belarus and occasionally conversed in Yiddish. "We had lunch. We had dinner," Foxman said. "We talked about the world. We talked about literature."
Rich aide Avner Azulay called Foxman in the fall of 1999 and offered another $100,000 for ADL, Foxman said. In January another Rich aide set up the dinner meeting in Paris to discuss Rich's legal problems.
Foxman said the money the ADL received last year from Rich's foundation played little or no role in his decision to write the letter to Clinton urging a pardon for Rich. He said
Marc Rich was pardoned by Clinton 17 years after he left the country.
Foxman said that $100,000 represents a fraction of the ADL's $50 million [annual] budget.
"There's nothing dirty or ugly about it," Foxman said. "The fact is he did give money and there were no strings attached."
He acknowledged Rich's contributions and assistance helped to capture his attention. "The guy who gives you $100 doesn't get as much attention as the guy who gives you $10,000," he said.