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01/11/98- Updated 05:30 PM ET

Resident aliens can give to Dems again

WASHINGTON The Democratic National Committee lifted a self-imposed ban on contributions from legal permanent residents Saturday, reversing a year-old policy designed to help the party weather accusations of widespread fund-raising abuses.

Party leaders, who lifted the ban at an executive committee meeting, said it was a mistake to deny permanent residents the ability to donate to Democratic campaigns.

"This is not about money," said committee co-chairman Steve Grossman. "This is about principle."

The ban was imposed at the height of the fund-raising controversy, fueled by allegations that Democrats had accepted donations from foreign donors.

With much fanfare, the party a year ago imposed the ban on permanent residents, limited donations to $100,000, and refused to accept contributions from U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies. The $100,000 limit was lifted last year by the committee, with party leaders saying they could not compete against Republicans who have not capped their contributions. The committee's ban on donations from subsidiaries of foreign companies is under review and could well be lifted at a later date.

Republicans mocked Democrats Saturday for backtracking on these self-imposed bans.

"The self-righteous, self-imposed restrictions were nothing other than cover for the Democrats' fund-raising crimes in the first place," said Republican National Committee spokesman Mike Collins.

Foreigners are banned from donating to U.S. elections but green card holders who are granted permanent residency and pay taxes in the United States can make donations under U.S. law. The Republicans have always accepted contributions from permanent residents.

Party leaders, including President Clinton, have signaled for months their concern with the ban, saying it was unfair to deny permanent residents access to the political system.

"It was a mistake," said committee co-chair Roy Romer, governor of Colorado. But he explained that the national committee had to move quickly last year to convince voters that it was doing everything possible to keep foreign money away from the party. In the last year, the party has established several guidelines that will prevent illegal foreign contributions from getting into the committee's coffers, Grossman and Romer said.

Unlike the move to lift the $100,000 cap, which Grossman said was needed to compete financially with Republicans, party leaders insisted that today's action toward permanent residents was a matter of fairness - not money.

By The Associated Press

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