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Report: Co. Reimbursed Donations

February 9, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two former employees of a Texas-based oil equipment company say company officials asked them to donate money to Sen. Robert Torricelli’s campaign and later illegally reimbursed them, The Washington Post reported.

The report was the latest development in an ongoing investigation of the New Jersey Democrat’s 1996 campaign. The Justice Department is investigating whether any of Torricelli’s fund-raisers broke federal law by funneling money through employees, associates or other individuals.

In the report Friday, William Hallerberg and Thomas Etheredge said they were both reimbursed by IRI International Corp. for donations made to Torricelli and the campaigns of presidential candidate Bob Dole and former New York Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato.

Federal law prohibits contributors from being repaid for donations.

Hushang Ansary, a major political donor who controlled IRI International at the time, and Daniel Moriarty, the company’s former president, confirmed that senior employees were asked to make donations, but said they were are unaware of any reimbursements.

``They could have been reimbursed. I didn’t reimburse them,″ Moriarty told the newspaper for Friday’s editions. ``There was never any pressure put on these people.″

Ansary said he asked his senior employees to make contributions after Torricelli called him asking for help.

Both Hallerberg, a former metallurgist and manager for IRI, and Etheredge, a former senior vice president, said they had been interviewed by FBI agents.

Two other former IRI employees who donated to political campaigns said they did so on their on volition and were not reimbursed.

Robert F. Bauer, an attorney for the Torricelli campaign, said he was unaware of any illegal contributions by IRI employees.

Torricelli has repeatedly denied that any illegal activities took place in the campaign.

Six people have pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions, including commodities broker David Chang. A seventh, Philippe Hababou, was extradited to France to face financial fraud charges there.

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