Lobbyist Says Forgiver Of Loans Met With Hatfield About Legislation
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The former congressman who forgave $75,000 in personal loans to Sen. Mark Hatfield met with the Oregon Republican three years ago about legislation then pending in the Senate, a lobbyist said Tuesday.
The lobbyist, Kathleen Curry Santora, said she attended the session with Hatfield and the former congressman from Oregon, John Dellenback.
Hatfield could not be reached for comment; his attorney said he was still gathering facts in the case.
Hatfield has said that Dellenback, a longtime personal friend, ″has never communicated any special legislative interest to me.″
The Senate Ethics Committee and the FBI are looking into gifts to Hatfield and a college scholarship to one of his sons.
The issue of a meeting at which legislative business was discussed is potentially important because Senate rules at the time permitted the forgiveness of loans to senators as long as the creditors didn’t have a direct interest in legislation.
Ms. Santora, a lobbyist for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said Dellenback was among those who met with Hatfield about the Civil Rights Restoration Act in late 1987 or 1988.
Ms. Santora said her group organized the meeting to discuss a provision addressing federal money for schools tied t religious organizations.
Dellenback was interested in the legislation as the head of the Christian College Coalition, she said.
″It was natural that he be there. He was a good friend of Sen. Hatfield. He had known him from his days of working in Oregon and they have been in religious groups together,″ Ms. Santora said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Ms. Santora said that while Dellenback contributed to the conversation, he was ″mostly in the background.″ She said he told Hatfield how important religious liberty was to the Christian colleges.
″I didn’t consider John to be a real lobbyist at the meeting. He attended some of the meetings but that was because he knew some of these people and it is almost always more effective to have a former member of Congress come with you,″ she said.
Senate records show that Dellenback forgave at least $75,498 in principal and interest on personal loans made to Hatfield between 1985-89.
Hatfield, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, still owes Dellenback more than $50,000, according to his 1990 personal finance disclosure forms.
″He has never communicated any special legislative interest to me and it is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that a personal loan he made to me seven years ago was anything other than a personal arrangement between friends,″ Hatfield said May 10.
Bill Calder, Hatfield’s press secretary, referred calls to Hatfield’s attorney, John Nields, Jr.
″We are trying to get our arms around all the facts. When we do, we will most likely want to make statements,″ Nields said.
Dellenback has not returned telephone calls to his home in Medford, Ore., over the last two weeks.
The ethics committee has asked the University of South Carolina for records of more than $9,000 in artwork and $5,000 in free travel that former USC president James Holderman gave to Hatfield from 1983 to 1987, but which went unreported on Hatfield’s financial disclosure forms until this year.
Last week, the FBI subpoenaed the school’s financial aid director to appear before a federal grand jury in Columbia, S.C., to testify about a $15,000 scholarship the school awarded to one of Hatfield’s sons, Charles Vincent Hatfield.
Congressional Quarterly first reported in its weekly edition released Monday that Dellenback asked Hatfield for legislative help on the amendment.
Hatfield spoke in favor of the amendment on the Senate floor in January 1988 and identified the Christian College Coalition as being among the groups supporting it, but the amendment failed.
The act was designed to force institutions that receive federal aid to comply with antidiscrimination laws in all their activities. It included an exemption for institutions ″controlled by a religious organization″ and the amendment backed by Hatfield would have broadened the exemption to cover schools with indirect ties to religious groups.