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DNC Swaps Funds With Its State Affiliates (Washington Post, April 24)

Soft Money Explained

Money Talks: Big Donors Still Give Early and Often

Tobacco, Liquor Firms Keep Donations Flowing

By Ruth Marcus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 25, 1998; Page A04

Tobacco companies, gambling interests and liquor firms all gave large donations to political parties in recent months, according to reports filed this week at the Federal Election Commission.

While Congress debates proposals to eliminate soft money -- the unlimited donations from wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions to political parties -- the reports show how various interest groups with important matters before Congress have written large checks to various party committees.

The tobacco industry, which is fighting congressional moves to toughen the $368.5 billion settlement agreed to last year, contributed heavily to House Republicans. Philip Morris Cos. gave $110,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee this year, while UST Inc., the smokeless tobacco maker, gave $41,000; the Smokeless Tobacco Council gave $31,000; the Tobacco Institute gave $25,000; and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. gave $20,000. At the Republican National Committee, Philip Morris gave $75,000 in January, and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. kicked in another $35,000 in March followed by $15,000 from UST.

While Republicans were by far the main beneficiaries of tobacco money, they weren't alone. The Tobacco Institute has given $32,000 this year to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, its most recent report said.

Also contributing to various party committees was the law firm representing the tobacco industry, Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand, which gave $10,000 to House Republicans and $15,000 to the RNC. The Democratic National Committee, which reported its receipts earlier, has received $25,000 from the firm this year.

Other industries with significant interests before Congress contributed heavily as well.

Mirage Resorts, the Las Vegas casino operator, gave $250,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee on March 24, accounting for more than one-fourth of the soft money the Senate Republicans took in that month. A national commission is considering whether to recommend new regulations and taxes on the industry.

"We have had for several years a very ongoing and active interest in politics," said Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman. "That interest remains strong today as it has in previous election cycles."

Another significant giver to the Senate Republicans was Microsoft Corp., which contributed nearly $100,000 in software a few weeks after its chairman, Bill Gates, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "As an industry and as a company we're becoming more active in Washington, D.C., as more and more policy issues affect technology and our companies," said Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray.

Alcohol interests also were significant contributors in recent months, as they battled congressional proposals to create a national drunken driving standard. At the House Democrats' committee, E&J Gallo Winery gave $50,000, while Joseph E. Seagram & Sons contributed $13,500. Seagram also gave $20,000 to House Republicans, and the Distilled Spirits Council contributed another $50,000, while Anheuser-Busch Cos. gave $20,000 and Allied Domecq Spirits & Wine gave $10,000 to Senate Democrats.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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