WASHINGTON - David Brock, the reformed right-wing reporter

who once took aim at Hillary Rodham Clinton, has cultivated surprisingly deep

ties to the senator - paying $200,000 to a Clinton confidant for working at his

watchdog group, Media Matters.

In the strange-bedfellows world of Washington, few couplings are odder than

the Clinton-Brock alliance. The ideological chameleon has emerged as a

reliable defender, while she's quietly nurtured his $8.5-million-a-year

nonprofit empire.

"David is immensely valuable to Hillary," says a wealthy Democrat with ties

to Brock, speaking anonymously. "It's like having your former prosecutor

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running around saying you were wrongfully prosecuted. He's living proof the

right wing is out to get Hillary. ... I don't think anyone really trusts him.

He'll never get a job in the [Hillary Clinton] White House, but he's useful."

Back in the mid-'90s, Brock, now 44, seemed the perfect choice to write the

definitive anti-Hillary tome. While at American Spectator, reporter Brock

@Newsday

repeated claims that she had an affair with her family friend Vince Foster. He

also broke the Paula Jones sex scandal, creating the cascade of denials that

ultimately led to Bill Clinton's impeachment.

But researching "The Seduction of Hillary Rodham" domesticated the attack

dog: Brock ended up admiring Clinton, infuriating his backers and driving him

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into the Democratic fold. "In finding Hillary Clinton's humanity," he later

wrote, "I was beginning to find my own."

Brock's mediamatters.org Web site debunks attacks on all prominent

Democrats and has been funded by donors with connections to many party leaders.

Still, it's been particularly kind to Clinton. The site posts three to four

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articles per week chiding perceived Clinton bashers from Bill O'Reilly to

Tucker Carlson to The New York Times. When Brock listed his 2005

accomplishments, he highlighted his point-by-point dissection of Ed Klein's

error-strewn Clinton biography.

For her part, Clinton's extended family of contributors, consultants and

friends has played a pivotal role in helping Media Matters grow from a $3.5

million start-up in 2004 to its current $8.5 million budget.

Two years ago, she advised Brock on creating the group, encouraging the

creation of a liberal equivalent of the Media Research Center, a conservative

group that has aggravated Democrats for decades.

And while Clinton and Brock aren't exactly chums, she chats with him

occasionally and thinks he provides a valuable service, according to people

familiar with the relationship.

Kelly Craighead, one of the Clinton's closest friends, served as one of

Brock's top advisers during Media Matters' formation in 2004. She was paid as

part of a $202,781 contract with her husband, Erick Mullen's, consulting

company, tax records obtained by Newsday show.

Brock, whose group is committed to media accountability, declined to

comment for this story and didn't return repeated calls. Mullen and Craighead

didn't return calls.

Craighead - whose 2001 marriage ceremony in California was performed by

Sen. Clinton, acting as a justice of the peace - now serves as a top adviser to

the Democracy Alliance. That group, which advises Democratic donors on where

to spend their political contributions, has steered more than $6 million to

Brock's group in the past two years, say alliance members.

Two of Media Matters' top alliance donors are Susie Tompkins Buell and

James Hormel, both Clinton loyalists and donors.

There are other Clinton connections. Media Matters' special projects

director, C. Neel Lattimore, was Clinton's press secretary when she was first

lady.

And Brock is close to Bill Clinton's former chief of staff John Podesta,

founder of the powerhouse Democratic think tank Center for American Progress.

Podesta, one of Hillary Clinton's top policy advisers, made room for Media

Matters in the center's offices before Brock found permanent digs for the group.

Still, Brock's backers say that his relationship with Hillary Clinton

merely reflects his rising stock among the liberals who once reviled him.

Its Web site has become a destination for liberal bloggers and radio hosts,

providing truth-squad commentary on the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson

and Michael Savage. It also tracks the mainstream press, pointing out

reporting errors while alleging anti-Democrat or pro-GOP bias in news stories.

"David's really filled a void," said Fred Baron, a Texas lawyer and

Democratic donor to Media Matters. "The thing that sets him apart is his

commitment to publishing scrupulously accurate information. He really holds you

guys accountable."