Jury Considers Criminal Trial Implicating Gore Campaign Aide

By Ben Anderson | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Jury deliberations began Thursday in the federal conspiracy trial of a Bill Clinton associate who's charged in an illegal scheme to raise money for various Democratic campaigns in 1996. A witness who testified at the trial also implicated a top fund raiser for Vice President Al Gore's presidential bid.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Griesa gave the jury final instructions Wednesday afternoon, setting in motion the beginning of the end of the federal criminal trial of William Hamilton, a former Teamsters political director.

Hamilton is charged with perjury, embezzlement and conspiracy in a plot to donate union money to liberal groups and political organizations in exchange for donations to Teamsters President Ron Carey's re-election campaign. (Two of Carey's top campaign aides pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme. Carey won the Teamster's presidential campaign, but that decision was eventually overturned.)

During Hamilton's trial, a witness for federal prosecutors implicated one of Gore's top campaign finance officials, Terence McAuliffe, in a scheme to swap funds between donors, political groups and Teamsters President Ron Carey's re-election campaign.

Former Democratic National Committee Finance Director Richard Sullivan testified during the trial that McAuliffe, then the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign finance chairman, urged DNC officials to find a wealthy donor to contribute to Carey's re-election campaign. In return, the Teamsters would donate half a million dollars to numerous Democratic Party organizations.

McAuliffe is not charged in the case. His attorney Richard Ben-Veniste maintains that his client did nothing wrong and is cooperating with the federal prosecutors. Ben-Veniste, former chief of the Watergate task force, served as Special Counsel to the Senate Whitewater Committee Democrats from May 1995 to June 1996.

McAuliffe made headlines more recently when he co-signed the $1.3 million loan for the president and First Lady Hillary Clinton.

That arrangement soon garnered increased scrutiny from the media and sparked a complaint to the Federal Elections Commission on the grounds that it constituted an illegal campaign contribution to Mrs. Clinton's possible Senate campaign.

The FEC agreed to review the matter and McAuliffe eventually withdrew from the deal, leaving the Clintons to find other means to finance the $1.7 million home in New York's Westchester County.