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Senate report says Gore, advisers misstated fund-raising activities

A draft of the final Senate report on fund-raising abuses in the 1996 presidential election suggests Vice President Al Gore and some top campaign advisers misstated their fund-raising activities and that several Democratic money men were connected with the Chinese government.

A section of the draft report - portions of which were obtained by The Associated Press - said the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee collected evidence making it obvious "that despite his various denials," Gore "was well aware" that an event he attended at a Buddhist temple near Los Angeles in April 1996 was designed to raise money for the Democratic Party.Gore originally said he thought the event was community outreach, but later acknowledged he knew it was donor-related and that his staff failed to tell him it was a formal fund-raiser.

Gore spokesman Christopher Lehane said Tuesday, "There is nothing to support" the report's finding that Gore knew the temple event was a fund-raiser when he attended it. Lehane called the report "a $3.5 million taxpayer-funded, Republican cut-and-paste job."

The Senate committee, which compiled the report following months-long hearings and interviews last year, also concluded that President Clinton's top political aide at the time, Harold Ickes, illegally "seized the reins of financial power" at the Democratic National Committee to "squeeze as much money" out of the party as possible for the 1996 re-election campaign.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post said Tuesday that the report stated that Mochtar and James Riady - head of the Indonesia-based Lippo Group conglomerate and longtime Clinton supporters - "have had a long-term relationship with a Chinese intelligence agency."

The report said that relationship appeared to be "based on business interests" to obtain Chinese assistance in international business opportunities "in exchange for large sums of money and other help."

The committee also said, according to the Post, that it had "unverified information" that John Huang, the former Lippo executive and one-time Democratic fund-raiser, may have a direct financial relationship with the Chinese government. Huang has denied such allegations through his lawyer.