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Demos Return More Gifts, Beyond Earlier $1 Million

Associated Press

The Democratic Party says it is returning $450,000 in donations from an Indonesian landscape architect and his wife, adding to a list of refunds of suspect campaign contributions that already had topped $1 million.

The Democratic National Committee said Friday 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 the couple apparently 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,” said a DNC statement.

The party already had returned more than $1 million in questionable contributions this fall. On Wednesday, it 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 furor over foreign donations.

The Federal Election Commission is investigating the suspect donations.

The Justice Department also may soon ask the FBI to begin interviewing some donors about allegations that contributions made in their names actually came from other people.

Attorney General Janet Reno announced two weeks ago that she was creating a task force within the department’s Criminal Division “to explore fully the range of allegations and issues that have been raised.”

A department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that in such cases it is normal for the Criminal Division to use the FBI as investigators.

Another federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press Friday that no request has been received but that one is expected.

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.

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