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Reports: Dems Hit With Record Fines

The Federal Election Commission has imposed record fines totaling at least $719,000 against Democrats involved in the party's 1996 fund-raising scandals, according to published reports.

FEC documents described how Democratic fund-raisers demanded illegal campaign contributions from foreign nationals in China and other countries in exchange for meetings with then-President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, The Washington Post and The New York Times said Saturday.

The FEC documents told of Democratic fundraisers setting specific prices for meetings with Mr. Clinton and Gore, the Post says. A Democratic finance vice chair, for example, said organizers would have to contribute $100,000 in return for Gore's appearance at a Buddhist temple in Los Angeles.

Among those who were penalized by the FEC were the Democratic National Committee, $115,000; the Clinton-Gore campaign, $2,000; and the Buddhist Progressive Society, $120,000, according to the newspapers.

They said the DNC also agreed to surrender an additional $128,000 representing illegal campaign donations that were not returned.

More than 20 people and corporations acting as conduits for the illegal contributions also were fined, the newspapers said, citing FEC documents.

They've all agreed to pay, according to the records.

The total amount of fines would have been much higher except some of the companies have shut down and others were dummy operations used as conduits for money from Canada, China, Venezuela and other countries, the Post said.

The FEC dropped the cases involving another $3 million in illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic National Committee because the respondents either "are out of the country and beyond our reach, or (are) corporations that are defunct," according to FEC papers cited by the Post.

Kent Cooper, a former elections commission official, told the Times the commission limited the fines to some people who said they could not afford to pay more. He said the total assessed appeared to have been surprisingly low.