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SENATE DEPARTURE WON'T HURT DOLE FINANCIALLY

While Bob Dole may be relinquishing "the trappings of power and comfort," he won't exactly be hurting financially by resigning from the Senate.

He'll soon be eligible for retirement benefits of at least $107,000 a year. That's a healthy chunk of his $148,400 salary as the Senate majority leader.Dole may be running short on campaign funds but shouldn't have any personal cash-flow problems from his surprise decision to resign from the Senate - after four decades of government service.

Dole has said he will quit the Senate on or before June 11 to focus full time on his presidential campaign.

Dole's salary of $148,400 is the same as Cabinet members - and would equal President Clinton's annual pension if voters retire Clinton this November and give Dole his job. The president's annual salary is $200,000.

"Sen. Dole's lifetime of service to his country, 35 years in Congress and five years in the military, make him eligible for benefits that are exceeded by those of Bill Clinton after just four years in office," said Dole Senate spokesman Clarkson Hine.

"The irony is that next year Bill Clinton will be receiving a pension and President Dole will not," Hine said, not passing up an opportunity to make a political point.

Dole was seriously wounded in World War II and, to this day, receives a $18,300-a-year compensation check from the government. These disability payments continue on top of any pension Dole draws.

As a 72-year-old, Dole also qualifies for Social Security benefits. These are paid when an individual reaches age 70 - whether or not he or she is still working.

However, Dole has relatively little due from Social Security as a member of an older congressional retirement system. In 1984, when federal and congressional retirement systems were merged with Social Security, Dole exercised an option to remain in the old system.

Dole is entitled to some Social Security benefits - due in part to money he paid in before he was first elected to Congress in 1961, including eight years as county attorney in Russell, Kan.

However, Dole so far has elected not to apply for these benefit payments, based on his tax returns through 1995.

Ronald Reagan, who was 69 when he took office, declined to apply for Social Security payments during his two terms as president.

As a citizen, Dole also would no longer be required to turn over his speech fees to charity - as he and his wife Elizabeth have both done in recent years.

Elizabeth Dole is on an unpaid leave as president of the American Red Cross. She has said she will return to the $200,000 post, whether her husband wins or loses.