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Supervisor of Whitewater Report Disagrees With White House

May 17, 1996 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The supervisor of a federal Whitewater report refused on Friday to call it a vindication of the president and first lady, even though the White House has been doing so for months.

``It was not our purpose to vindicate, castigate, exculpate,″ said Charles Patterson, a lawyer whose firm prepared the report for the nation’s now-defunct savings and loan cleanup agency.

Patterson testified before the Senate Whitewater Committee while White House officials waited outside the hearing room. They handed out a news release again calling last year’s report a vindication.

``It’s not my opinion,″ Patterson said, but he also told Republicans that he doesn’t think the law firm’s ``dog is in this fight.″

Committee Chairman Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., accused the Resolution Trust Corp., which hired Patterson’s firm, of trying to convince one of the firm’s lawyers _ Jay Stephens _ to sign the report.

Stephens, a former Republican-appointed U.S. attorney in Washington, said he refused to sign the final report because he only had minimal involvement in it.

Stephens’ endorsement was important to the White House, because administration officials wanted a prominent Republican to agree with its findings. Last January, in her newspaper column, Hillary Rodham Clinton praised the report and said Stephens ``headed the inquiry.″ Other news reports also said Stephens led the effort.

The report last year generally supported the Clintons’ description of their involvement in Whitewater, but also said money from a failed S&L may have benefited the Whitewater land company.

The report found the Clintons generally were ``passive″ investors in Whitewater until Mrs. Clinton became more involved in closing down the venture.

Republicans said the report was inadequate, and released a long list of witnesses who were never interviewed. Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, told Patterson, ``I think the report is shameful, inadequate, a rip-off of the taxpayers’ money.″

The two-year effort cost $3.1 million. Its purpose was to advise the cleanup agency on whether it would be cost-effective to file lawsuits aimed at recovering money from the failure of Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan. The thrift was owned by the Clintons’ Whitewater business partner.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, accused the Republicans of trying to ``tar″ the law firm because they disagreed with its conclusions.