Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) yesterday released documents that show more extensive financial links than previously disclosed between his wife's blind trust and his longtime political ally, David Owen, who served as the trust's "investment counselor" until late last year.
The documents also revealed for the first time that Elizabeth Hanford Dole's blind trust established a real estate partnership with the company of a former aide to Sen. Dole 11 months after that company got a government contract through the Small Business Administration.
Before the contract was issued, the senator's office tried for more than a year to help the former aide, John Palmer, compete for the business, according to a statement by the senator's campaign.
The documents released yesterday included the senator's 1966-1986 tax returns, data on Elizabeth Dole's blind trust, and an explanation of a 1986 real estate deal that has become the focus of attention. The Office of Government Ethics, Small Business Administration and several other federal and state agencies are studying aspects of the recent disclosures.
Dole made the records public in an effort to answer questions about his and his wife's wealth, and to try to quell a growing controversy over the handling of the trust Elizabeth Dole set up when she was named secretary of transportation. The net worth of the trust rose from $1.24 million to $1.67 million in three years.
Owen, a former lieutenant governor of Kansas, resigned Thursday as the campaign's national finance cochairman after nearly a week of questions about investment, real estate and financial transactions between the trust and Owen's companies in 1985 and 1986, when Owen was its adviser.
The documents released yesterday reveal that in 1986 the blind trust received $5,268 in interest from Owen's Kansas investment company, Owen and Associates. A Dole campaign official said he understood the payment was for a loan of an undisclosed sum.
The same year, the trust received $55,575 in interest, some possibly accumulated from earlier years, on an earlier Elizabeth Dole loan of at least $100,000 to a television and motion picture production company set up by Owen in 1983. The loan, to GolFun Productions, was not listed in the blind trust when it was dissolved yesterday. However, the Office of Government Ethics late last week had no record of its repayment, suggesting that it was paid off only recently.
One key question not addressed directly by the documents released yesterday was whether Owen profited personally from various transactions involving the trust. Knight-Ridder news service has reported that Owen received $139,000 as part of the trust's purchase of an Overland Park, Kan., office building in January 1986. The sale price was $1,350,000.
Dole campaign counsel Scott Morgan, citing this report, said yesterday: "We think that is something Dave should address." Owen did not return phone calls.
Financial advisers and trustees have broad powers to make investment decisions for blind trusts without telling the owner of the assets. The trust agreement set up by Elizabeth Dole stated that its purpose was "to avoid any conflict of interest, or appearance of any conflict."
Dole's main presidential rival, Vice President Bush, challenged Dole a week ago to release his financial information. The challenge was aimed at counteracting Dole's efforts to depict Bush as a man of wealth and himself as more in line with the average voters.
The issue surfaced at the GOP debate in New Hampshire when Dole, announcing he had now released 21 years of tax returns to Bush's 10, said to the vice president, "I called you and raised you."
"Elizabeth and I wanted all this information -- probably an unprecedented release of personal financial data -- to be in the public domain. Now it is," he said in a statement released along with the documents.
The Doles' joint tax returns showed income of $508,078 in 1986, and taxes of $133,856. Earlier returns reported joint income of $365,209 and taxes of $120,828 in 1985; $309,793 and taxes of 23,722 in 1984; $574,282 and taxes of $162,816 in 1983; and $436,676 and taxes of $141,830 in 1982.
In 1983, the Doles' biggest income year, there were no limits on how much money a senator could keep from articles and speaking engagements. Dole reported just over $100,000 in income from that source. He gave another $82,250 in speaking fees to charity.
Bush in 1986 reported gross income with his wife of $348,954, and paid a tax of $115,486. Bush also reported a capital gain of $430,165, of which $172,066 was taxable. The gain was from the sale of an undisclosed asset owned by a partnership in which Bush had invested.
The financial connections between Elizabeth Dole and Owen go back at least to 1979, when Owen's Stanley, Kan., bank loaned her $50,000, which she in turn loaned to Sen. Dole's presidential campaign. Owen wrote to the Dole for President Committee on Dec. 14 of that year that the 13.5 percent interest was "considerably below the existing prime rate."
The Federal Election Commission looked into the loan in 1980 as a possible violation of campaign financing law, but later dropped the case.
In 1985, Owen helped arrange financing for the blind trust's purchase of a Capitol Hill townhouse for $137,000, according to Tim Murrell, chairman of American Investors Life Insurance Co., of Topeka, Kan., which issued the mortgage.
The same company issued the initial mortgage on the Overland Park, Kan., office building.
Murrell said he is currently serving as a national finance cochairman for the Dole campaign, the same post from which Owen just resigned. Murrell said Owen joined the company's board in February 1986, soon after the Overland Park purchase, but resigned that October.
On Dec. 30, the trust shifted ownership of the Overland Park office building to a partnership in which it had a half interest. EDP Enterprises, the company set up by Sen. Dole's former aide John Palmer, was the other partner.
First, the trust sold a half interest in the office building to EDP for $804,000. EDP apparently put up no more than $24,985 in cash. Both EDP's interest and the trust's half interest were then "contributed" to the real estate partnership.
The trust's sale to EDP resulted in a gain of $100,944, after less than a year of ownership. Two days later, on Jan. 1, 1987, the capital gains rate increased.