Former Employee Of Hart Supporter Describes Campaign Bankrolling
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ Hollywood video producer Stuart Karl funneled money to Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential campaign by ordering his staff to make donations and then reimbursing them in cash, a former Karl employee says.
Rama White Middel told The Associated Press on Wednesday she also was ordered to write personal checks in Karl’s name to cover expenses incurred by the campaign.
Earlier, Middel had told the Orange County Register and the Miami Herald that Karl bankrolled more than $15,000 worth of materials for a rally at the 1984 Democratic National Convention and that he illegally pressured employees to make donations to Hart and then reimbursed them.
Election law prohibits individuals from giving donations or anything of value to a candidate in excess of $1,000 per election, and Robert Bonner, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said he has asked the FBI to investigate the Hart donations.
″All this was an understanding between Stuart and the Hart people about these checks,″ Ms. Middel said. ″The Hart person would call me and say, ‘I need this amount for this company. Please send it out.’ And my instructions from Stuart were, ’Just give them what they asked for.‴
The Hart campaign has said that Karl was in charge of event production and that he billed the campaign $96,000 for rallies and TV commercials.
Campaign manager Sue Casey has said that any bills paid by Karl to vendors were to have been included in his fees to the campaign. The campaign is trying to obtain a full accounting, she said.
Karl, a former publisher of trade magazines who made his fortune marketing Jane Fonda workout and Playboy home videos, has declined to respond to numerous requests for comment.
Ms. Middel, 34, a bookkeeper and later executive assistant to Karl who now works at a data processing company, said in a telephone interview she didn’t know the names of the Hart campaign workers from whom she took orders. But she believed one of the callers, a man, was highly placed on the paid staff.
″He’d say, ‘You have to do this right now; you have to do it today,’ very demanding,″ Ms. Middel said.
Ms. Middel said she wrote more than $15,000 worth of personal checks from Karl’s account for campaign expenses, including material for a Hart rally at the 1984 national convention. Among the items were balloons, mailers and Frisbees, she said.
Karl pressured staffers to lend their names to Hart campaign contributions, Ms. Middel said, adding that she reimbursed at least six employees for contributions they purportedly made.
″They were all different amounts - it could be anywhere from $250 to $1,000. Stuart would pick what was appropriate for that person,″ Ms. Middel said.
Ms. Middel said she made such a contribution of perhaps $250, but didn’t recall the exact amount.
Ms. Middel said she didn’t realize until about 18 months after the election that the arrangements may have been illegal.
″I was told I was doing my job and it never occurred to me that it wasn’t appropriate,″ she said.
The Register reported Wednesday that Hart’s 1984 campaign finance director coached Karl on how to skirt election-law limits on contributions.
Doug Rosen, a Los Angeles media consultant and Hart’s national finance director in 1984, advised Karl on how to conceal contributions above the $1,000 per-person limit, according to Karl’s former financial assistant, the newspaper said.
Rosen, a key supporter of Hart’s current presidential campaign, said the allegations are an ″absolute lie,″ and told the newspaper, ″Whatever Stuart did, he did. I didn’t know about it.″
But Abraham Kantzabedian, Karl’s former assistant, said, ″I’ve kept quiet long enough. The truth needs to come out.″
Hart’s campaign attorney, Bernie Schneider, said the campaign was trying to check out the allegations but had not been able to reach Karl or Kantzabedian.