The outsider who found an inside track

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The Independent Online
VERNON JORDAN, 63, is regarded with something akin to awe in Washington: an outsider by background and colour, who became the supreme Washington insider and simultaneously the biggest Friend of Bill (Clinton) in town.

After a law degree and active work for the civil rights movement, he sprang to a partnership in the influential legal firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. Now director of a clutch of big companies, he earns upward of $1m (pounds 600,000) a year, but until now kept a low profile. He is the quintessential Washington power broker, a behind-the-scenes "fixer".

As Ms Lewinsky's job search showed, one call from Mr Jordan can produce remarkable results. She was offered a job at Revlon in New York, but had also been interviewed by American Express and Young and Rubicam.

That is one of the points on which he was expected to be questioned yesterday. But Mr Jordan had already come to the attention of the independent counsel investigating Mr Clinton after he was credited with finding a $100,000- a-year job for his former associate attorney-general, Webster Hubble. Mr Hubble had just served a prison sentence for embezzling money from his Arkansas law firm.

Mr Jordan and Mr Clinton have been friends for many years. In 1992-93 Mr Jordan chaired Mr Clinton's transition team, the group that ensures continuity between the outgoing and incoming administrations. He also gives him a conduit to the rising black elite.

The two men have much in common: from their political acumen to their love of golf and their eye for women, and they dine together regularly. Mr Clinton has said of Mr Jordan: "The last thing he'd ever do is betray a friendship. It's good to have a friend like that."

But the friendship works both ways. Mr Jordan's law firm and responsibilities are affected by government priorities and legislation and, while no one has suggested any impropriety, Mr Jordan's direct line to the top of the administration cannot harm his clients.