LOS ANGELES – The federal trial of David Rosen (search) promises to be one that political insiders will watch with interest. Jury selection was scheduled to begin Tuesday in the case against Rosen, a former finance director for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (search).
The case could provide ammunition to Republicans seeking to derail her re-election next year and potential 2008 bid for the White House.
Rosen is accused of filing false campaign finance statements in connection with a gala fundraiser for Clinton's successful 2000 senatorial campaign. Rosen has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. Clinton, a New York Democrat, has not been accused of doing anything illegal.
An FBI agent's 2002 affidavit said the costs of the gala were deliberately understated "to increase the amount of funds available to New York Senate 2000 for federal campaign activities." However, Justice Department officials recently said they need not prove a possible motive by Rosen.
The organization Judicial Watch, which has pushed officials to look into the fundraiser, filed paperwork with the Senate Ethics Committee on Monday saying Clinton had to have known of the alleged misreporting.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton argued that Clinton closely monitored the Hollywood fundraiser and knew its actual cost was much greater than the $400,000 tab reported in campaign financial filings.
"They're false and she knows them to be false," Fitton said. He equated her situation with the ethics controversy surrounding House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who has been criticized for privately funded travel.
Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson on Monday called Judicial Watch's complaint "a meritless publicity stunt by a thoroughly discredited right-wing attack group."
Questions about the fundraiser surfaced after Peter F. Paul, a three-time convicted felon who pleaded guilty in March to securities fraud charges, told the FBI he gave hundreds of thousands of dollars that Clinton's campaign didn't report. He told prosecutors he spent $1.1 million, but Rosen reported the amount as $400,000.
Judicial Watch took the unusual step of providing legal defense work in Paul's criminal case, but Paul later broke with the group, complaining they were using him to raise money from conservatives opposed to the Clintons.