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A New Soft Money Record

A big chunk of money from Guam, too


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 17) -- Republicans and Democrats raised a record $263.5 million in so-called "soft money" donations during the 1995-96 election cycle, according to a nonpartisan watchdog group.

The money, which is not subject to the normal $1,000 limit for donations to federal candidates, goes to political parties for generic advertising, party-building efforts and get-out-the-vote drives.

Soft Money Totals
1991-92$89 million

But critics say the soft money donations represent an end run around 70s' Watergate era reforms and the unprecedented surge in contributions should prompt new controls.

Meanwhile, Democrats face new questions about nearly $900,000 in contributions -- more than half of it soft money -- raised from Guamanian officials and business interests.


On Sunday, White House Special Associate Counsel Lanny Davis confirmed that residents of the U.S. territory of Guam had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton-Gore campaign.

According to a Sunday Washington Post story, most of the roughly $900,000 dollars in contributions came about six months after Hillary Clinton visited the island and attended a reception hosted by Guam Gov. Carl T. Gutierrez on Sept. 5, 1995. Mrs. Clinton was en route to Beijing.

Davis denied that a subsequent change in immigration policy for Guam was connected to the reception and subsequent contributions, saying, "There's no cause and effect between that particular incident and the policy that had been debated and evolving way before those contributions came in."


Local leaders want control over who could immigrate to the island. Opponents fear, though, that transferring power from the federal government to local leaders would lead to the importation of low-wage workers from Asia and sweat-shop conditions in the garment industry.

Because of its commonwealth status, residents of Guam are not allowed to vote for president in U.S. elections.

The soft money total for the two parties for 1995-96 was almost three times the $89 million that the two major parties collected in 1991-92 and more than double the $106.4 million they scooped up in 1993-94.

Republicans raised a total of $141.2 million, compared to the Democrats' $122.3 million.


The numbers are contained in a new report by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group that monitors political money.

"Because soft money knows no limits, individuals, corporations, unions and other interest groups can, and do, write checks for $50,000, $100,000 or even more," the report says.

As in past years, the biggest contributors by far were businesses. Republicans received 96 percent of their soft money from business interests, compared with 87 percent for the Democrats.

For the 1995-96 cycle, the biggest soft-money contributions to the Democratic Party were nearly $1.3 million from Joseph E. Seagram & Sons; more than $1.1 million from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, from the Communication Workers of America and from the Walt Disney Co.; and $727,550 from the Food & Commercial Workers Union.

For the GOP, the largest soft-money donations during the 1995-96 period were just more than $2.52 million from Philip Morris; nearly $1.2 million from RJR Nabisco; $764,471 from Atlantic Richfield; $677,145 from Seagram; and $654,700 from the media-entertainment giant News Corp.

The Democratic National Committee has returned more than $1.5 million in questionable contributions, including potentially illegal ones from overseas firms and individuals.

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