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Dole to Close Tax-Exempt Foundation

June 6, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole is abruptly closing his tax-exempt Better America Foundation after critics demanded the identities of its benefactors and questioned its ties to his campaign.

Campaign and foundation officials refused Tuesday to discuss the abrupt decision. But a one-paragraph statement on a letterhead carrying the names of Dole and Executive Director Jim Whittinghill said the foundation would go out of business at the end of the month.

``It now appears that some would use attacks on the foundation as a way to obscure the debate on the issues this organization was established to advance,″ the statement said.

``Rather than allow opponents to muddy the water, the foundation has decided to deny them this distraction. Therefore, effective June 30, 1995, the Better America Foundation will cease operations.″

It was not immediately clear what would happen to the $2.6 million the foundation had in the bank at the end of 1994 and any money it raised so far this year.

The Associated Press reported last month that the foundation had raised more than $4 million in 1994 and spent about $1.5 million on projects that would be useful to a presidential campaign _ a poll, issues papers and a television advertisement that prominently featured Dole.

The foundation is not required by law to disclose information about contributors and it has refused requests for voluntary disclosure.

Whittinghill, who used to work for Dole in the Senate, said last month there was no tie between the foundation and the Kansas Republican’s bid for the White House.

But Whittinghill acknowledged that often solicited Dole’s ideas, shared the foundation’s work with him and met regularly with Dole’s Senate staff to ``see where the foundation can help.″

Whittinghill did not return repeated telephone calls to his office Tuesday. Nelson Warfield, a spokesman for Dole’s presidential campaign, said Dole would have no comment.

Dole created the foundation in February 1993. Its purpose, according to promotional materials, was ``to promote and advocate values and principles espoused by the Republican Party.″

The IRS granted tax-exempt status to Better America. But because it was classified as a social welfare organization, donors were not allowed to deduct contributions from their taxes.

Under federal tax law, the foundation could not advocate the election of a particular candidate. But Dole’s affiliation with the foundation gave him access to indirect help _ poll results and issue reports _ without having to limit contributions and identify donors, which he would have had to do if the money were contributed directly to his campaign.

One critic, Josh Goldstein of the Center for Responsive Politics, said not disclosing contributions provided ``the very real possibility that there can be conflicts of interest.″

Democrats also were quick to criticize the foundation. Last week Democratic National Committee Chairman Don Fowler called Better America ``a Bob Dole political machine that skirts campaign laws by using the mask of non-profit status.″

At least two former foundation employees now work for Dole’s presidential campaign. Jennifer Rider, who was the foundation’s spokeswoman, works in Dole’s press office and former finance director Royal Roth is a top official in the campaign’s fund-raising office.

Warfield said there are no plans to add other foundation employees to the campaign staff.

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