Starr's law firm makes a big donation to Hillary campaign

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Hillary Rodham Clinton has had significant financial help in her run for a US Senate seat in New York from an unlikely quarter - the law firm of Kenneth Starr, the former independent counsel and one-time legal nemesis of the Clintons.

Recent financial statements from the first lady's campaign show donations from the political action committee at the firm of Kirkland & Ellis amounted to $32,250 in the first quarter of this year. The firm, which Mr Starr joined in 1993, has not given a cent to Mrs Clinton's opponent, Rudy Giuliani.

In fact, Kirkland & Ellis, has directed more dollars to the Clinton campaign than any other law firm in the country. The nearest was Washington DC-based Williams & Connolly, which collected just $3,250 for her over the same period.

There was no comment yesterday from Mr Starr, who took leave from Kirkland & Ellis in 1998. Nor is it clear whether the contributions at the firm - made by 33 lawyers and one legal assistant - were party political or a protest against Starr's five-year tenure as independent counsel, investigating such matters as Monicagate and the Whitewater deal.

"I think Hillary would be a wonderful senator," said Marjorie Lindblom, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, who has known the first lady since school. "She's intelligent, she's compassionate and I think she would be a strong voice for New York state."

Mr Giuliani, Mayor of New York City, appears determined to stay in the race after revealing last week that he has early-stage prostate cancer. A poll by Zogby International showed Mr Giuliani and Mrs Clinton neck and neck in the race with 43 per cent each.