Dole calls for investigation of alleged money laundering

By JOE STEPHENS Staff Writer
Date: 04/21/96 22:26

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    Sen. Bob Dole on Sunday said the government should investigate allegations that his presidential campaign received thousands of dollars in illegal contributions from employees at a company headed by one of his national vice chairmen.

    The Kansas City Star reported Sunday that three Dole contributors claimed that the company's executive assistant handed some workers stacks of $100 bills last year. Then they were told to return with checks made out to "Dole for President."

    "If somebody did that, they're in deep trouble," Dole said on CBS' Face the Nation and in an interview after the program.

    "If somebody violated the campaign law, whether it's my campaign or Bill Clinton's or anybody else, they are going to have to suffer the consequences."

    The Federal Election Commission should investigate, he said, and maybe the Justice Department.

    The campaign official, Simon Fireman of Boston, has visited Dole's office, the senator said. He added that they have met "two or three times."

    "He'll be suspended very quickly if he's involved in any improprieties, I can tell you that," Dole said.

    Fireman is a national vice chairman of finance for the campaign. He also is chairman of Aqua-Leisure Industries, a sporting goods company near Boston.

    The contributors said they personally received $4,000. Federal records show that last year Fireman, his workers and their families sent Dole's campaign 40 checks totaling $40,000.

    The gifts came not only from top managers, but also from secretaries, a bookkeeper and a warehouse manager.

    On Sunday, a fourth contributor charged that Fireman's executive assistant asked her to give $1,000 to Dole's campaign. She said the assistant gave her ten $100 bills before she wrote the check.

    The contributor said three other workers told her they, too, got cash for contributing.

    "I'll definitely go before a grand jury," the contributor said. "I will not go down for (this)."

    Fireman could not be reached Sunday, and his lawyer Richard Stein would say only "no comment."

    Earlier this month, however, Stein said workers received only their usual pay and that no one laundered campaign contributions. "I can categorically deny those things happened," he said.

    If true, the allegations circumvented federal limits on contributions and camouflaged the real source of the money. Federal regulations forbid individuals from giving more than $1,000 per election to a candidate's campaign committee. They also forbid g iving contributions in the name of another person.

    Dole said Sunday he did not know if the allegations were accurate.

    "That's for somebody else to determine," Dole said. "It's an allegation that's been made and ought to be checked."

    Whatever the outcome, the allegations are likely to add momentum to calls for political reforms.

    "It's one more nail in the coffin of the current campaign finance system," said Ellen Miller, head of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.

    Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia, said that if true, the allegations violate the law and would put the Dole campaign on the defensive.

    But Dole would cut his losses fast, Sabato said. "It will be a blip in the campaign so long as Dole had no personal knowledge and other similar incidents are not revealed, Sabato said.

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