09/08/97 - 10:24 PM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Former DNC chief contacted federal agencies, GOP says

WASHINGTON - Former Democratic National Chairman Donald L. Fowler routinely contacted federal agencies on behalf of donors, documents show, in one case contacting the CIA on behalf of a Lebanese fugitive despite a warning that he not do so.

Setting the stage for a confrontational hearing Tuesday, Senate Republican investigators said evidence of the contacts surfaced in some 22,500 pages of documents the Democratic Party recently turned over to the Governmental Affairs Committee.

Fowler is the only witness scheduled to testify Tuesday in the committee's hearings on campaign finance abuse. His attorney, James Hamilton, said he had no comment on the documents.

According to the investigators, Fowler will be confronted by documents showing he contacted the CIA on behalf of Roger Tamraz

Tamraz was a substantial Democratic donor who visited the White House frequently in 1995 and 1996, even though he has been sought by a Lebanese court since 1989 on embezzlement charges. Tamraz has denied the allegations.

Fowler has said he didn't recall asking the CIA to vouch for Tamraz, but the GOP investigators, speaking only on condition of anonymity, said the documents make clear he did so.

Further, Fowler will be confronted with a previously undisclosed memo by a Democratic National Committee staffer written in July 1995. The document was described as a "strong warning" to the chairman about Tamraz's background.

Despite the warning, Tamraz contributed some $100,000 to the Democratic Party or affiliated groups and was allowed to attend at least four White House events with President Clinton, according to the investigators.

The documents also show, the investigators said, that Fowler played a role in the White House contacting a federal agency on behalf of Minnesota Indian tribes that opposed a casino at Hudson, Wis., near the Wisconsin-Minnesota border.

The Minnesota tribes, contributors to the Democrats, won the battle when the Interior Department disapproved the casino. The Wisconsin tribes were Republican donors, the investigators said.

Documents filed in a federal lawsuit by the losing tribes contend that an aide to former White House adviser Harold Ickes contacted the Interior Department in May 1995 about the casino. That was about one month after a meeting between Clinton, White House counsel Bruce Lindsey and Washington lobbyist Patrick J. O'Connor, who represented the Minnesota tribes.

In another instance, the investigators said, Fowler contacted Mickey Kantor when he was secretary of commerce to gain a spot for a party donor on a trade mission. Kantor refused the request.

Democratic Party guidelines prohibit officials from promoting the interests of contributors with government agencies.

By The Associated Press