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WASHINGTON-Everyone knows about the Friends of Bill, but there's an emerging group of Friends of Hillary, coming out with page ads in the first lady's defense.

Amid a steady stream of invective, accusation and innuendo against Hillary Rodham Clinton for alleged financial wrongdoings, a covey of friends last week turned to advertising to help refurbish her image.

"We interrupt this newspaper to give you the facts!" screamed the ad headline in bold, varied type from the pages of The New York Times. After responding to various charges-"Neither Bill or Hillary Clinton used influence to protect Madison Savings & Loan"-the ad gushed, "We are proud of Hillary Rodham Clinton."

The ad was written by Ann F. Lewis, president of Democratic Washington political consultancy Politics Inc., and signed by 56 mostly high-profile Democratic faithful.

"Paid ads ... were the only way for us to get back into the debate over Hillary Clinton," Ms. Lewis said. "Using paid advertising establishes us as a serious player whereas going with a news conference or a news release or announcement just won't do it."

Ms. Lewis said the ad, which cost about $50,000, was decided upon during three meetings of major Democratic players and financed through contributions of $1,000 or less.

Ms. Lewis said her group probably would purchase more ads.

The real target of the ad may have been Mrs. Clinton herself, said Ladonna Y. Lee, president of the Eddie Mahe Co., a conservative/Republican Washington political consultancy.

"Any time you do paid media or direct communication, you have to think of your audience and your objective," she said, "and I can't see any objective here that makes sense other than to be telling Hillary to feel better."

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