Investigators to probe Kansas contributions

WASHINGTON - Congressional investigators will travel to Kansas to interview Democrats about allegations of money-laundering in the 1996 elections.

The House Governmental Reform and Oversight Committee is looking into reports that the Democratic National Committee and its affiliates funneled more than $300,000 to the state party through Kansas county organizations and parties in other states.

That is 12 times the limit under a Kansas law barring a national party from giving more than $25,000 annually to a state organization. Investigators are interested in Kansas because of its anti-soft money statute, committee spokesman Will Dwyer II said.

The panel's chairman, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., has asked at least a dozen Kansas Democrats to give depositions over the next two weeks, Dwyer said.

Brett Cott, executive director of the state Democratic party, said the GOP-controlled probe is an attempt to deflect attention from Triad Management Services, a political consulting firm that directed $1 million in advertising to Kansas on behalf of Republican candidates last year.

"This is a partisan circus," Cott said. "We legally raised, reported and spent every dime and it is there in the reports."

The Democratic transactions, which mostly were used to buy television ads, were first reported by The Associated Press and The Kansas City Star in October 1996 and detailed further by The Wichita Eagle in September. Kansas Republicans say they amounted to money laundering, while state and national Democratic officials deny the accusation.

Congressional Democrats have questioned whether Triad, which operates a sophisticated brokerage system linking wealthy donors to conservative Republican candidates, is helping to skirt a legal ban on coordination between political parties and nonprofit groups that finance unregulated attack ads.

In Kansas, attack ads against Democrats benefited Sen. Sam Brownback and Reps. Vince Snowbarger and Todd Tiahrt. All three Republicans say they had nothing to do with the ads and don't know who paid for them.

Cott said Democrats would cooperate with the House committee's request, "but we aren't going to be bullied by a committee with a true partisan agenda."

By The Associated Press

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