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DEMO PARTY RETURNING DONATIONS TO COUPLE

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The Democratic Party said Friday it was returning to an Indonesian landscape architect and his wife $450,000 in donations that raised a spotlight on foreign-linked political contributions in the 1996 election.

The Democratic National Committee said it was giving back the 1995 and 1996 donations from Arief and Soraya Wiriadinata, former permanent U.S. residents who lived in a middle-income Virginia suburb, because apparently they did not file a federal tax return for 1995."This failure, in our view, is fundamentally inconsistent with the obligations of permanent residency as it is with U.S. citizenship," the DNC said in a statement.

The Democrats already had returned more than $1 million in suspect campaign contributions this fall. On Wednesday, they returned $253,500 from an Asian American business consultant.

Several of the returned contributions were solicited by fund-raiser John Huang, a former U.S. executive of Indonesia's Lippo Group banking and real estate conglomerate who is at the center of the foreign donations furor.

Questions arose about the legality of the Wiriadinatas' contributions when news reports surfaced last month that Soraya Wiriadinata's late father was a major investor in Lippo.

Lippo's owners, the billionaire Riady family, are longtime friends and financial supporters of President Clinton and the Democratic Party.

In Friday's statement, DNC spokeswoman Amy Weiss Tobe said the committee had checked the Wiriadinatas' donations and found them to be legal. By law, citizens of other countries who are permanent U.S. residents are allowed to make political contributions.

Tobe said the DNC then learned that the couple - who had left the United States - had not filed their 1995 tax return but were planning to file a late return and pay any interest and penalties and to return to this country soon.

Later, she said, the committee was unable to contact the Wiri-a-dinatas to confirm that they had filed the late return - leading it to assume that they have not done so.

If the DNC is unable to find an address for the Wiriadinatas by Dec. 2, it will attempt to return the money to the U.S. bank on which the funds were drawn, Tobe said. If that isn't possible, the $450,000 will be turned over to the U.S. Treasury.