For the story behind the story... Thursday, Jan. 23, 2003 10:24 a.m. EST Hillary Tainted by Bin Laden Cash? New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's household income for 2002 included $750,000 in payments from three Arab nations with ties to the 9/11 hijackers, including a $267,000 speaking fee from a group funded by the family of Osama bin Laden, NewsMax.com has learned. In late January 2002, ex-president Bill Clinton traveled to bin Laden's hometown of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to address a group of Saudi businessmen. He was paid $267,000 for a 40-minute speech, according to a Jan. 25, 2002, report in The Middle East Newsfile, a British-based news service specializing in coverage of the region's business developments. Contemporaneous reports in London's Financial Times revealed that the audience included representatives of the BinLadin Group, which helped fund the Jeddah forum. The BinLadin Group is a leading Saudi construction company run by relatives of the 9/11 terrorist mastermind. Osama bin Laden grew up in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah. "The conference was dominated by the Saudis' desire to overcome the pressures of September 11 and strengthen U.S.-Saudi ties," the Times said. "The BinLadin Group, one of the forum's backers, has been battered by its association with Osama." The Times also noted that the forum's "pro-western businessmen are also some of the kingdom's biggest donors and they give generously to Muslim charities out of religious duty. The U.S. believes some of the contributions were siphoned off by some charities to finance terrorism and it wants better control over donations." During his January 2002 visit to the region, Clinton also collected nearly a half-million dollars for speeches in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East Newsfile said. Investigators probing the backgrounds of several of the 9/11 plotters have uncovered links to both countries. Some members of the Jeddah forum were mystified over the payments to Mr. Clinton. "How could we invite him to get $750,000 from us and for what? This is a strange situation," Prince Talal ibn Abdul Aziz said in an interview with Al-Jazeera television station. "What use does Clinton have now?" he added. But it's not clear whether the Saudi royal realized that Mrs. Clinton, who had just been elected to the Senate, was planning her own run for president of the United States before the decade is out. Throughout their years in the White House, the Clintons filed joint income tax returns, which, if still the case, would mean the bin Laden-Saudi cash was co-mingled with Mrs. Clinton's other income, such as the $8 million book advance she collected to write her memoirs. The former first couple has refused to release their tax returns since leaving the White House. A call to Sen. Clinton's office inquiring about the bin Laden-tainted payment was not immediately returned. Last week, Sen. Clinton accepted a coveted spot on the Senate Armed Services Committee, where she'll play a key role in congressional decisions affecting the U.S.'s war on terrorism. Another speaker at the Jeddah forum was first brother Neil Bush, but coverage of the event makes no mention of his being paid. While the Saudi royal family had reportedly donated $1 million to former President Bush's presidential library in College Station, Texas, in the early 1990s, there is no report of any Saudi payment to a Bush family member in the period since the 9/11 attacks. In March 2002, columnist Robert Novak, citing "high-ranking" Saudi sources, reported that, in addition to the $750,000 in speaking fees he collected last January, Mr. Clinton obtained a pledge from the Saudi royal family to bankroll his own presidential library with donations estimated to range from "less than $1 million to $20 million." Former White House adviser Dick Morris has predicted that monies collected by the Clinton library will be used to help fund Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign.