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Dole dogged by laundered funds before

By JOE STEPHENS Staff Writer
Date: 04/21/96 16:36

Eight years ago, during his last bid for the White House, Bob Dole's campaign was rocked by money-laundering allegations strikingly similar to those raised today.

At the time, workers at Birdview Satellite Communications of Overland Park revealed that the company reimbursed them and their wives for contributions to Dole's Senate campaign.

A federal investigation later confirmed that the campaign collected $15,250 in contributions from Birdview employees, all of whom were reimbursed. The workers gave more than half that amount during a fund-raiser at the home of the company's president.

The Federal Election Commission fined several Birdview executives and their wives. And the commission levied a $13,000 fine against the man who arranged the Birdview gathering, former Kansas Lt. Gov. David Owen.

Investigators said Owen had made a $10,000 donation to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and accepted reimbursement from Birdview. Owen went on to become Dole's top fund-raiser during his 1988 bid for the White House.

Dole denied any knowledge of the money laundering at the time and immediately called for an FEC investigation.

That reaction was "very typical of the way Dole operates, just sic an agency on someone to clear himself," Owen said in a recent interview with the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington watchdog group.

"He just cuts and runs whenever the heat gets hot," Owen said. "He leaves his friends out to dry."

In the end, the investigation found nothing to implicate Dole personally. Owen served six months in prison on a tax evasion conviction unrelated to Dole.

"It was pretty much standard procedure in representing someone," Owen told The Kansas City Star last fall about laundering campaign contributions. "It goes on in Washington every day."

Although Dole was not fined in the Birdview scheme, three years ago the FEC did fine his 1988 presidential campaign committee $100,000. An audit found that Dole's campaign accepted illegal corporate contributions, exceeded spending limits in Iowa and New Hampshire, and improperly used a separate political committee he controlled to further his campaign.

All content 1996 The Kansas City Star