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02/10/98- Updated 08:11 AM ET

Report: Gore misstated fund-raising

WASHINGTON - A draft of the final Senate report on fund-raising abuses in the 1996 presidential election suggests Vice President Al Gore and some top campaign advisers misstated their fund-raising activities and that several Democratic money men were connected with the Chinese government.

A section of the draft report - portions of which were obtained by The Associated Press - said the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee collected evidence making it obvious "that despite his various denials," Gore "was well aware" that an event he attended at a Buddhist temple near Los Angeles in April 1996 was designed to raise money for the Democratic Party.

Gore originally said he thought the event was community outreach, but later acknowledged he knew it was donor-related and that his staff failed to tell him it was a formal fund-raiser.

The Senate committee, which compiled the report following months-long hearings and interviews last year, also concluded that President Clinton's top political aide at the time, Harold Ickes, illegally "seized the reins of financial power" at the Democratic National Committee to "squeeze as much money" out of the party as possible for the 1996 re-election campaign.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post said in Tuesday's editions that the report stated that Mochtar and James Riady - head of the Indonesia-based Lippo Group conglomerate and longtime Clinton supporters - "have had a long-term relationship with a Chinese intelligence agency."

The report said that relationship appeared to be "based on business interests" to obtain Chinese assistance in international business opportunities "in exchange for large sums of money and other help."

The committee also said, according to the Post, that it had "unverified information" that John Huang, the former Lippo executive and onetime Democratic fund-raiser, may have a direct financial relationship with the Chinese government. Huang has denied such allegations through his lawyer.

The Democratic Party had to return $3 million in 1996 campaign donations - most of it raised by Huang or Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie - because of concerns the money came from foreign or other improper sources.

Senate investigators traced more than $1 million wired to Trie from Asia, including $470,000 from his business partner, Macao property developer Ng Lap Seng.

Trie, a friend of Clinton since the president was Arkansas governor, is awaiting trial on federal charges of conspiring to make illegal donations and to obstruct congressional and Justice Department investigations into his fund-raising activities.

The Post said much of the information on the alleged China links was based on U.S. counterintelligence intercepts.

When the hearings began last year, the committee's chairman, Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., said the investigation would demonstrate that China tried to influence U.S. elections. But the hearings provided little public evidence of that.

The White House dismissed the committee's findings as politically motivated.

"It is sad to see $3 million in taxpayer money being used to fund a partisan attack instead of a bipartisan call for campaign-finance reform," White House spokesman Jim Kennedy said.

The report also cited sworn Senate testimony by Terence McAuliffe, who was treasurer of the Clinton-Gore '96 campaign, in which he said he had no active part in discussions about a contribution swap scheme that triggered a federal grand jury investigation of the 1996 Teamsters election.

But Matthew Angle, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told Senate investigators that McAuliffe "asked did we know anybody that could or would write a check to (Teamsters President) Ron Carey and that if we could help Carey, then we would perhaps get contributions back to the DCCC."

The Washington Times reported in Tuesday's editions that Clinton fundraisers received $211,000 from the Teamsters through Martin Davis, the union's political consultant.

The committee intends to ask the Justice Department to determine whether dealings between the Teamsters and top Clinton aides violated federal law.

Ickes, who testified in public before the committee, and an attorney for McAuliffe disputed the report's conclusions.

"I don't believe the referral has any merit," Ickes said Monday night. "I told the truth about everything that was asked, and I have nothing further to say about it."

McAuliffe's attorney, Richard Ben-Veniste, said the statements made against his client were taken out of context.

"It comes up because it was there on the (donation) commitment sheet - not because Terry McAuliffe calls a meeting and says, 'Hey, gang, I've got a really good idea. To blow it up like this is just not right."

Meanwhile, a draft section of the Democrats' minority report said former GOP Chairman Haley Barbour deliberately sought foreign donations for the National Policy Forum, a Republican think tank.

The section said a $2.1 million loan guarantee for the policy forum came from a Hong Kong business instead of its U.S. subsidiary, as Barbour testified last summer before the committee. As soon as the policy forum obtained the money, it wired $1.6 million to the RNC.

Barbour "knew the money would be used to fund congressional elections in 1994" because the policy forum was "a de facto subsidiary" of the Republican National Committee, the excerpt said.

Ed Gillespie, a spokesman for Barbour, replied: "The fact is the (National Policy Forum) siphoned money from the RNC, it never funneled money into it. Every witness who testified before the committee ... said it was a legal transaction."

By The Associated Press

Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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