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Soft Money Bonanza

The Democratic Party has received $12 million in soft money contributions from two donors, the New York Times reported Friday.

Party officials said they had recently received a $7 million check, the largest known donation in the history of U.S. politics. Separately, the party received a $5 million check from another donor, the newspaper said.

The $7 million check came from billionaire Haim Saban, the creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other children's programming. The $5 million donation was made by another wealthy Hollywood executive, Steve Bing.

Disclosure of the massive donations came on the heels of Senate passage of a sweeping campaign finance reform bill that would eliminate soft money donations. President Bush is expected to sign the measure into law. Under the terms of the legislation, soft money donations will become illegal on Nov. 6.

Saban said his donation was intended to help finance construction of new $32 million headquarters for the party in Washington D.C. Democrats say the facility is a necessity if the party is to compete with the GOP, which traditionally gets more campaign donations than the Democrats.

The Democrats have also received a number of other checks for $1 million each for the construction of the headquarters from big donors.

"We don't have a future if we don't do this," Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Missouri, told the Times.

Supporters of campaign finance reform criticized the Democratic windfall.

"The size of these contributions is ridiculous," said Fred Wertheimer, a veteran crusader for campaign finance reform.

"It's an extraordinary amount of money from a relatively few donors that helps explain very clearly why this system is being ended," Wertheimer told the Times.