Democrats on the Senate campaign finance panel, brushing aside allegations that foreign money was funneled into the Democratic Party, Tuesday launched an aggressive attack on Republicans for committing what they said were worse offenses.
Democrats focused much of their attention on just-released documents that showed former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour was repeatedly told it was “fiction” that there was any separation between the RNC and a GOP think tank. Democrats said the documents raised the possibility that Republicans knowingly violated tax laws to finance a think tank backed by foreign money.
One after another, Democrats on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee acknowledged that their party may have made serious mistakes in the way money was collected. But Democrats, led by Senator John Glenn of Ohio, accused Republicans of soliciting $2.2 million in foreign money to help finance the think tank. Some of that money was then transferred to the Republican Party, Democrats said.
“This story, as far as I know, is the only one where the head of a national political party knowingly and successfully solicited foreign money, infused it into the election process, and intentionally tried to cover his footprints,” Glenn said, referring to Barbour’s activities.
Lodging one of the most serious charges made by any senator in the campaign finance investigation, Glenn alleged that Barbour “betrayed the trust of the American people when he tried to circumvent the campaign finance laws … (in) what can only be described as the laundering of illegal foreign money.”
Glenn outlined how Barbour served both as chairman of the Republican National Committee and as head of a “subsidiary” think tank called the National Policy Forum. The think tank applied for tax-exempt status on grounds that it was separate from the national committee. The IRS recently denied the application, saying the forum was too political.
In the just-released documents, Michael Baroody, the former president of the National Policy Forum, wrote to Barbour on June 24, 1994, that he could no longer maintain the “fiction” that the RNC and the National Policy Forum were separate.
Baroody, in a letter that explained his resignation from the forum, wrote that Barbour and his RNC aides were controlling the think tank’s operation. While parts of the letter have been leaked to the news media over the last few weeks, the full text was released by Glenn Tuesday.
“I had understood at the outset that this would be an organization separate from the RNC,” Baroody wrote to Barbour. “I had this understanding not only because you and others told me so, but because the deliberate decision had been made to organize the NPF under … the federal tax code. That provision requires separate operation. Especially in recent months, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain the fiction of separation.”