(CNSNews.com) - Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) denies accusations that she offered clemency to four Hasidic Jews in Rockland County, New York in exchange for votes in her senatorial contest against Republican Rick Lazio.
A spokesperson in Senator Clinton's office says, "Hillary Clinton played no role whatsoever," in the clemency that her husband, President Bill Clinton, granted to the four men on his last day of office. The men were sentenced in 1999 for stealing more than $40 million in government money.
Virtually the entire village of New Square (Rockland County) voted for Hillary Clinton in the November senate election after village leaders apparently concluded that Mrs. Clinton had been persuaded to support clemency for the four men. Voting records show out of 1,369 residents who voted in the election, only 10 votes were cast for Lazio.
In two other nearby all-Hasidic villages - Kiryas Joel and Kaser - residents overwhelmingly voted against Clinton. Election results indicate Lazio picked up 3,480 votes in the two villages, while the then-first lady received only 152 votes.
Senator Clinton's spokesperson admitted a meeting took place on December 22nd in the White House between then-President Clinton, Grand Rabbi David Twersky, and another representative of the New Square Hasidim. The spokesperson says
then Senator-elect Hillary Clinton joined the meeting since the men were "future constituents." It was alleged in the 45-minute meeting that Twersky made a request for reduced prison time for the four, identified as Kalmen Stern, David Goldstein, Benjamin Berger and Jacob Elbaum. The four New Square men had been convicted in 1999 of stealing $40 million in student grants, small-business loans and housing subsidies.
According to campaign records, Hillary Clinton had met with leaders of New Square, an ultra Orthodox Jewish community about 20 miles north of New York City, during an August 7th campaign swing. However, Senator Clinton's spokesperson denied that Clinton knew about the clemency issue before the December White House meeting.
In an unusual development, Rabbi Twersky openly indicated two weeks before the election that New Square would be backing Mrs. Clinton. The village's enthusiasm for the Clintons was obvious when a letter from the president was posted in the main synagogue before Election Day, saying that he looked forward to visiting New Square some day.
Supporters of Stern, Goldstein, Berger and Elbaum did not deny the men were guilty, but insisted the crimes were not committed for personal gain or to benefit the village of New Square.
The New Square case is only one of numerous pardons granted by Bill Clinton in the waning hours of his presidency. They also included a pardon for millionaire fugitive Marc Rich, whose ex-wife, Denise Rich, was a Democratic donor and a generous
contributor to Sen. Clinton's campaign.