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Public Interest Group Charges Commerce Traded Trips for Donations

August 27, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A conservative public interest law group filed a complaint at the Federal Election Commission charging that President Clinton’s Commerce Department gave seats on international trade trips as rewards for large campaign contributors.

The group, Judicial Watch, cited documents it received from the department under the Freedom of Information Act as evidence that givers of more than $100,000 got to go along on trade missions.

The documents ``raise substantial legal claims about the rampant lack of ethics and illegal practices of the Clinton administration,″ said the group’s chairman, Larry Klayman.

Klayman said his group had accelerated the filing of the complaint to coincide with events at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on Monday honoring the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who died in a plane crash while on a Balkan trade mission in April.

``We thought it was an opportune time to bring it,″ Klayman said, charging that Brown had ``engaged in illegal campaign finance activities in conjunction with President Clinton.″

Administration officials have said there was nothing improper in how companies and their officials were chosen for the trade missions. Participants were picked based on their business prospects and other criteria, the administration contends.

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