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Senate Leaders Wary of Forswearing Contributions

July 26, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Senate committee leaders aren’t giving up campaign donations from groups affected by the panels’ decisions, although some senators are shedding contributions from savings and loan interests.

A spot check of various committee chairmen and ranking minority members turned up none willing to follow the lead of the Banking Committee’s Donald Riegle, who says he no longer will accept campaign money from interest groups under his panel’s jurisdiction.

″My inclination is to believe it’s an isolated incident from someone who’s under the gun,″ said Michael Traugott, a University of Michigan political scientist and authority on campaign finance. ″I would put it under the heading of damage control.″

Riegle is among five senators whose ties to Charles Keating Jr. and his failed Lincoln Savings and Loan are the subject of an ethics committee investigation.

″Riegle’s been under some pressure because of the Keating affair and this may be the way he wants to deal with it,″ said David Shapiro, spokesman for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee. ″But there hasn’t been any cloud″ over donations from farm interests, he said.

Nevertheless, Lugar postponed a fund-raiser with agriculture groups until the Senate completes work on the 1990 farm bill, Shapiro said. ″There’s a heightened sensitivity to how things appear.″

Spokesmen for several chairmen and ranking minority members said the senators screen individual contributions and return any that appear tainted. But none were ready to ban all contributions from one of their biggest sources of campaign dollars.

Among those surveyed:

-Energy and Natural Resources chairman Bennett Johnston, D-La. He received $180,461 from energy industry political action committees from 1983 through 1988, according to a study by the public-interest group Common Cause.

-Environment and Public Works chairman Quentin Burdick, D-N.D., who received $97,103 from energy PACs and $327,700 from labor PACs, some of which have an interest in environmental legislation such as the pending Clean Air Act rewrite.

-Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee chairman Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., who received $828,842 from business PACs.

-Jake Garn, R-Utah, ranking Republican on the Banking Committee, who received $195,375 from financial institution PACs including $77,600 from those tied to S&Ls.

Riegle, D-Mich., last week announced he was giving the U.S. Treasury an amount equal to all contributions he has gotten and kept from S&L interests since 1983.

Rising public outrage over the multibillion-dollar thrift mess is making the return of S&L money an increasingly popular means of declaring independence from the troubled industry.

Riegle led the Senate in contributions from PACs representing banks, S&Ls, securities firms and others in the financial industry, accepting $344,133 from 1983 through 1988, Common Cause said.

Finance Committee chairman Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, refuses money from subsidiaries controlled by foreign corporations because he favors legislation to outlaw contributions by those PACs, spokesman Jack DeVore said.

Bentsen was the top recipient of contributions from business PAC donations, with $1.8 million.

Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, ″accepts contributions legally given and legally received and he votes his conscience,″ spokesman Rebecca Bell said. She declined to elaborate.

Glenn received $693,166 from PACs between 1983 and 1988.

Sen. Alan Cranston, D-Calif., chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has no plans to follow Riegle’s lead, a spokesman said. He received $1.5 million from PACs from 1983-88, and ranked seventh in receipts of labor PAC money with $410,600 and ninth in finance PAC receipts with $209,195.

Glenn and Cranston are targets of the ethics committee probe, as are Riegle and Sens. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., and John McCain, R-Ariz.

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