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The Senate Whitewater Committee is focusing on Hillary Rodham Clinton's sworn statements about how her law firm began doing business with the failed savings and loan at the heart of the Whitewater affair.

Under questioning by federal regulators, Richard Massey of the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Ark., twice has said he was unable to recall the origins of Rose's business with Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan.The question is an important one for the Senate Whitewater Committee, which is trying to determine whether Hillary Clinton told the truth when she pointed to Massey as the one who brought Madison's business into the law firm. The Clintons' partner in the Whitewater real estate venture, James McDougal, owned Madison.

In sworn statements to federal regulators last spring, the first lady described her involvement as "minimal" in a proposal to sell preferred stock in Madison Guaranty - which was the first matter Hillary Clinton's law firm handled for Madison.

On the stock sale proposal, newly produced billing records show Hillary Clinton submitted bills for 22 conferences over four months with Madison executives, state regulators and attorneys at her law firm.

The White House has said the billing records - missing for two years - were "discovered" last Thursday and that they had been brought down from an office in the White House family residence sometime before then.

"To the best of my recollection," the president of Madison Guaranty and Massey "became interested in having Madison Guaranty issue some kind of preferred stock to raise capital," the first lady said in sworn answers last May.

The S&L president "had spoken to Massey about doing the related legal work" and Massey "came to see me" because some Rose lawyers wanted McDougal to pay off an old debt to Rose and to require Madison to prepay the law firm once a month, the first lady added.

Hillary Clinton provided the written responses to the Resolution Trust Corp., which was overseeing the cleanup of the S&L industry.

Massey told federal investigators on Oct. 4, 1994, that he "does not know how or why Madison selected the Rose Law Firm to represent them" before state securities regulators.

And last April 25, Massey said in a written statement to the RTC that "I do not recall after the passage of 10 years precisely how Rose was retained by Madison Guaranty."

Hillary Clinton was the billing partner for the Madison Guaranty account. Massey said he does not know how she came to be put in that position.

The Associated Press reviewed Massey's written statement and the Oct. 4 interview summary, prepared by investigators for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s office of inspector general. Neither document has been released publicly.