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Romancing The Widow?

By Viveca Novak And Michael Weisskopf/Washington

TIME magazine

(TIME, March 30) -- In a town of scandals and intrigue, Nathan Landow seems to show up in more than his share. His dealings with Native American donors to the Democratic Party in 1996 landed him in the sights of congressional investigators. A House committee is probing any role he may have played in a suspected scheme to buy the silence of disgraced Clinton pal Webster Hubbell in the Whitewater affair. In the most provocative charge yet, Kathleen Willey fingered him on 60 Minutes as the man who tried to get her to deny an alleged sexual advance by Clinton. But was Nate Landow a secret Clinton operative or an easy mark for a calculating gold digger?

The mystery, which had most of Washington in thrall last week, seems only to deepen. Landow, a Maryland real estate developer, has told friends that Willey called him a number of times in recent months seeking favors. In fact, Landow claims to have saved voice mail from Willey, a source told TIME. In one message, she asked him to buy a $1,500 table at a USO dinner (Clinton had appointed her to the USO board) and escort her. In another, she described herself as "all stressed out" and asked if he had a Florida retreat she could use. In a third, she invited him to accompany her to the Turks and Caicos Islands and inquired about hotel recommendations. At first blush, the calls might be seen as the importunings of a debt-ridden, glamour-seeking widow--an image prevalent in her hometown of Richmond, Va.

One might ask, however, why Landow would keep old voice mail. The shrewd millionaire and old political hand may have had his reasons. If, as some lawyers in the case speculate, Landow was attempting to keep Willey quiet by wooing her, the old messages might serve as convenient cover. White House aides protest loudly that Landow is the last man they would enlist as a presidential cutout. Though an old supporter of Vice President Gore, Landow was a latecomer to the 1992 Clinton campaign, after backing Democratic rivals. He is also not known for having a soft touch, which is, for those who suspect the worst, exactly why he might make a good go-between.

Kenneth Starr is trying to untangle the mystery. He subpoenaed records from Landow and had a voluntary interview scheduled with him--until Landow canceled it. And the House Government Reform and Oversight panel is examining contacts between Landow and Hubbell while the latter was receiving "consulting fees" paid by friends of the Clinton White House. Landow denies trying to pressure Willey to absolve Clinton, though he admits speaking with her many times in recent months. In fact, in October he flew her to his Eastern Shore estate. Was it for pleasure or persuasion?

In TIME This Week

Cover Date: March 30, 1998

Why Clinton Is Still Buoyant
Outrageous Fortune
The Lives Of Kathleen Willey
Viewpoint: The Trouble With The Present Tense
Africa Rising
Dividing Line: My Dungeon Shook
Courting Controversy
The KGB Of Mississippi
Romancing The Widow?
The Notebook: Primary Colors, Part II


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