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Who will pay the Clintons' legal fees?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton owe lawyers nearly $4 million, and an official of the former first family's legal defense fund said Wednesday he is uncertain who will pay the bill: the Clintons, financial donors or the taxpayers.

The fund announced that it and a previous legal defense fund had paid $7.4 million of the Clintons' $11.3 million in legal expenses — leaving a balance of $3.9 million.

"We will meet with the former president and his staff" soon on the matter, said Anthony Essaye, the defense fund's executive director.

On the last full day of his presidency, Clinton agreed not to seek taxpayer reimbursement of legal fees for the scandal involving former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

The promise did not extend to the Whitewater criminal investigation, which lasted until September.

Clinton has said that he might be entitled to government reimbursement for legal expenses stemming from Whitewater but that his "instinct" was not to seek it.

Essaye said the fund does not have a breakdown of which unpaid fees relate to the Lewinsky matter and which to Whitewater. One million dollars of the unpaid legal fees are in connection with the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the former president, leaving nearly $3 million for Whitewater and the Lewinsky investigations.

Donations have slowed substantially, to $750,000 for the last six months of last year. At the height of the Lewinsky investigation in the second half of 1998, the fund raised $2.3 million.

There were few big donors recently, just eight people who gave $10,000 each, the maximum donation allowed by the fund. Absent were the names of previous well-known donors, including Hollywood luminaries who have supported the former president throughout his legal problems.

If the Clintons decide to seek taxpayer reimbursement for Whitewater expenses, they would do so by filing an application with the federal appeals court that appointed the independent counsels who investigated the Clintons.

"Our office will evaluate any petition for fees if and when we see it," said Keith Ausbrook, deputy to Independent Counsel Robert Ray, who investigated the former president. Federal law also calls on the attorney general to review any request for reimbursement of attorneys' fees.