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Democrats Return $1.4 Million in Questionable Donations

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 28, 1997; Page A04
The Washington Post

Democratic National Committee officials announced yesterday they had returned another $1.4 million in illegal or inappropriate donations, meeting a self-imposed deadline of June 30 to give back all questionable contributions identified by an earlier audit.

Yesterday's refunds raised to $2.8 million the amount of money returned by the DNC, which has been struggling with a massive debt and multiple investigations brought on by fund-raising activity during the 1996 presidential campaign cycle. The committee reported a $14.4 million debt earlier this year. An updated report will be released next month.

DNC spokesman Steve Langdon said the committee did not have to borrow to repay the questionable contributions. "The money has come from direct mail, contributions and recent fund-raising events," he said.

The DNC said of the $1.4 million there were 28 contributions totaling $256,100 considered illegal. An additional 34 contributions totaling $434,650 were returned because they were considered inappropriate, while 62 donations totaling $663,050 were returned because the DNC lacked sufficient information about the alleged donors.

Committee guidelines preclude contributions from anyone convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors. They also require the DNC to return funds where the identity of the donors cannot be independently established.

Information released by the DNC showed that three fund-raisers – John Huang, Johnny Chung and Charles Yah Lin Trie, were responsible for raising $2.2 million – or 79 percent – of the $2.8 million returned this year.

The activities of the three men are among the main areas under investigation by the Justice Department and by House and Senate committees. Senate hearings are scheduled to open July 8, with House hearings to follow.

The DNC said yesterday that since its earlier audit it had identified an additional 11 smaller contributions, totaling $8,100 raised by Huang, and was returning that money as well. Officials also noted that further examination had convinced them that contributions totaling $143,741 from Farhad Azima and his company, ALG Inc., initially flagged as questionable were judged to be legitimate.

The DNC's fund-raising problems, which resulted from unprecedented demands for money created by President Clinton's reelection campaign effort, have brought about significant changes in operations. Several Democrats have said privately the DNC remains so burdened by debt that its ability to help candidates in the 1998 midterm elections may be severely limited.

In announcing the refunds, the DNC statement challenged the Republican National Committee to return what it said were more than $2 million in illegal funds donated to the National Policy Forum, a think tank created by former RNC chairman Haley Barbour.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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