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CHECKS WITHOUT BALANCES

Three of the worst offenders in the House bad-check affair also share another bond: Each wrote checks on his House bank account for loans to his own election campaigns.

And all three apparently wrote overdrafts for at least one of the loans.Candidates for office are allowed by law to make loans to their campaigns and are required to report them to the Federal Election Commission. The three lawmakers did report the loans, FEC records show.

However, if the campaign loans came from House bank accounts during periods when they were overdrawn, the lawmakers in effect provided interest-free and penalty-free loans to their campaigns for an undetermined amount of time, some critics suggest.

Rep. Charles Wilson, D-Texas, and former Reps. Jim Bates, D-Calif., and Doug Walgren, D-Pa., have acknowledged making campaign loans with House bank checks. They are among the 24 current and former lawmakers on the House ethics committee's list of worst offenders who wrote overdrafts on their House bank accounts.

The three lawmakers were first identified in Thursday's editions of Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

Wilson overdrew his account once in 1990 when he lent money to his campaign committee. But Wilson said Thursday the overdraft was not his fault because he had immediately deposited a check from his personal account in Texas to cover the $10,000 check written on his House account.

Walgren also said he lent his campaign $10,000 from his House bank account, but he added that at the time he believed he had a "substantial positive balance" in his account.

Walgren said bank records now indicate that his account balance at the time was only $8,000.

Bates has acknowledged that $30,300 worth of checks he wrote on the House bank to lend his campaign money in the spring of 1990 might not have been immediately covered by deposits.