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Ex-toy firm chief among donors to conservatives

A wealthy Pennsylvania businessman who gave $1.8 million was among dozens of donors listed in bank records as supporters of conservative nonprofit groups that aired TV ads to help Republican congressional candidates.

The documents show that Robert L. Cone, former chairman of Graco Children's Products and now a management consultant, gave $600,000 in start-up money to Triad Management, a political consulting firm that matches wealthy donors with conservative campaigns, according to two people familiar with the investigation. Triad is headed by Carolyn Malenick, a former fund-raiser for one-time Virginia GOP Senate candidate Oliver North.Cone also donated $1.2 million to two nonprofit groups associated with Triad: Citizens for the Republic Education Fund and Citizens for Reform. Both spent heavily last year on often hard-hitting television spots attacking Democratic candidates.

Such groups can receive unlimited amounts of contributions and do not have to disclose the names of donors.

The records were turned over to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which is investigating allegations of improper fund raising in the 1996 elections.