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03/06/98- Updated 12:05 AM ET

Senate releases fund-raising report

WASHINGTON - The Senate panel investigating campaign finance abuses released its long-awaited report Thursday, concluding Democrats "reduced the White House, the administration and the presidency itself to fund-raising tools."

The report by the Republican-controlled Senate Government Affairs Committee alleges that the Democratic Party, in a frenzy to boost funds for President Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign, sold access to the White House that ultimately may have compromised national policy.

The committee, which has spent $3.5 million investigating possible fund-raising violations, approved the report by an 8-7 vote along party lines. Democrats released their own report calling for reform of laws regulating campaign donations.

"Among the favors merchandised were access to senior decision makers," according to a summary of the majority report. Other perks included presidential appointments to commissions and administration jobs, as in the case of fund-raiser John Huang, a Democratic fund-raiser who became a deputy assistant secretary of the Commerce Department.

The report also said political donations were exchanged for access to the White House, including overnights in the Lincoln Bedroom and coffees with the president. It also said that Vice President Al Gore knowingly attended a fund-raiser at a Buddhist temple, although Gore has said he did not know the nature of the event in advance.

The committee report wraps up nearly a year's worth of hearings but offers very little new information.

Democrats on the committee responded by filing a report of their own.

"We've done this because it was left to us to bring some balance," said Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio. The Democratic report doesn't deny wrongdoing by its party members, he said.

"But we also don't shy back from criticizing Republicans and the problems ... are on both sides," he said.

Glenn said his biggest disappointment with the committee was its refusal to come up with a bipartisan plan to investigate fund-raising abuses in both parties and to provide suggestions to close loopholes in campaign finance laws.

Other Democrats denounced the timing of the report, calling it an attempt to hide last week's GOP rejection of a bill to revamp campaign finance laws.

James E. Kennedy, a spokesman for the White House counsel's office, said the report "reads more like a campaign press release than an official government document."

"Sen. Thompson and the committee Republicans squandered an historic opportunity to move the Congress and the country closer to the goal of reforming the way in which campaigns are run," Kennedy said. "And they squandered millions of taxpayer dollars in partisan pursuit of political points."

The report recommends the Justice Department review its contents to determine whether perjury charges are warranted for several Democratic witnesses accused of lying to committee investigators under oath.

"We're not a grand jury and our primary purpose is not one of making accusations of criminal activity," said committee chairman Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn. "Ours is trying to disclose information, then handing that information off to the relevant authority, and I think that's been done."

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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