Pennsylvania Gov. Milton J. Shapp, a millionaire, will personally pay back to the Treasury almost $800,000 in federal funds collected by his unsuccessful 1976 presidential nomination campaign, his aides said yesterday.
The Federal Election Commission on Thursday ordered Shapp to return the money after an investigation revealed that improper contributions had initially permitted Shapp's campaign to qualify for the federal money.
Yesterday, in a statement delivered in Harrisburg, Shapp said he was "appalled" at the improper fund-raising on his behalf that was disclosed by the FEC investigative report.
Lawyers had recommended that he fight the FEC order, Shapp said, but "I believe the full amount" should be repaid and "as the law is written . . . (it) is my responsibility."
Shapp also told reporters that "at no time during the campaign did I have any knowledge of improper fund-raising." But Shapp left before reporters could ask him questions.
Norval Reece, Shapp's 1976 campaign manager and now Pennsylvania commerce, secretary, said yesterday that he had only everything he knew about fund-raising to FEC investigators.During the campaign, Reese said, he had "laid down the strictest orders possible . . . to make sure we were in full compliance" with the law.
Reece said he had been surprised by the FEC disclosures but when asked about Shapp's fund-raisers, the former campaign manager said his lawyer advised him "not to discuss specific people in the fund-raising group."
"The matter is still under investigation," Reece said.
The FEC's continuing investigation is focusing on the persons who ran the Shapp fund-raising operation.
Reports filed with the FEC by the Shapp campaign show that two of the chief fund-raisers were individuals with close personal or political connections to the governor.
Eleanor Elias of Merion, Pa., and William Tucker of Harrisburg are listed as "consultants" aofr "finance coordination" on the Shapp reports.
Elias and her husband are neighbors and friends of Shapp and she, according to one wire service report, was described as a fund-raiser for Shapp in past campaigns.
Tucker is the husband of C. Delores Tucker, Pennsylvania secretary of state and Shapp political ally.
Elias has refused to answer questions from reporters and her lawyers, Patrick Kittredge, said in Philadelphia yesterday, it was "inappropriate" for her or him to make any statements.
One FEC deposition alleged that Elias promised reimbursement of campaign contributions to a Georgia donor whose money was needed to make that state's required $5,000 total.
The deponent went on to allege that Elias repaid hom $500 or $600 in cash at the end of January or early February, 1976.
According to the Shapp reports to the FEC, Elias was paid $400 a week as a consultant beginning in November, 1975, and running through March, 1976. In addition she received expense reimbursement, with one $1,623.58 payment dated Feb. 5, 1976.
Tucker, according to a former Shapp campaign consultant, "worked in fund-raising, primarily in Pennsylvania."
Neither Tucker nor his wife was reachable yesterday.
Tucker, the Shapp FEC reports disclosed, was paid $12,580 as a fund-raising consultant in 1975 and $7,800 in 1976.
Yesterday it was learned that a third Shapp political associate, Samuel Begler, secretary of the governor's personnel, was directly involved with his fund-raising operation in Nevada.
John Vergiels, a Nevada assemblyman who worked for Shapp, said yesterday that he was with Begler in the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas in November, 1975, when Begler was counting Shapp contributions raised "along the (gambling) strip."
Begler, according to Vergiels, "was trying to cull out all the bad" contributions.
"Most of what they culled out was cash," Vergiels said, "and Sam wouldn't take the money . . . if a person would not accept responsibility for the donation."
"When they left (Las Vegas)," Vergiels said, "they did not have the $5,000," That was the amount needed to meet the federal matching requirement and, Vergeisl said, the reason why the Shapp group went to Nevada.
The FEC investigation found five $100 contributions from Nevada were improper because the listed donors later swore in depositions that they had not given the money.