President Clinton's new legal defense fund has raised in excess of $2 million in just six months, enriched by a new campaign that largely blamed Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr for the first couple's financial plight, according to several supporters briefed in recent days on the fund's progress.

The Clinton Legal Expense Trust has exceeded its managers' most optimistic expectations, mainly through the direct-mail effort highlighting Starr's inquiry of the president and by the increased annual limit of $10,000 per individual.The $2 million far outstrips the $1.3 million raised over a 31/2-year period by the original fund, formed to help Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton erase millions in personal legal bills. Estimates of their legal expenses range from a current level of at least $6 million to a total that could ultimately exceed $10 million.

More than 8,000 people have sent contributions to the new trust, ranging from a single dollar to the $10,000 maximum, supporters said.