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CAMPAIGN '96 : Dole's Wife Pays $74,635 to Red Cross

Politics: Payment is effort to clear up difference in donation and amount listed on forms. Accountants blamed.


WASHINGTON — Elizabeth Hanford Dole paid $74,635 to an American Red Cross charity Wednesday, seeking to resolve a discrepancy between the donation that she claimed she had made and the amount actually shown on her and her husband's tax returns and financial disclosure forms.

Mrs. Dole, wife of Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, a leading contender for the GOP presidential nomination, said that a "tax and accounting error" by her financial handlers had resulted in a smaller donation than she had intended.

"I was disappointed to learn that my wishes had not been carried out," Mrs. Dole said in a statement timed to coincide with her payment to the charity.

Mrs. Dole, who is on leave as president of the Red Cross as she assists her husband's presidential campaign, made the payment after an article last month in The Times challenged the Doles' financial statements, which maintained that all of the more than $800,000 in speaking fees Mrs. Dole received from 1991 through 1994 were donated to a Red Cross charity--after subtracting taxes, expenses and a deposit to her retirement account.

An examination of their tax returns and federal income-spending disclosure forms indicated that the Doles actually kept about $147,000 in addition to the $246,000 deposited to Mrs. Dole's private retirement account during that period after all the other deductions were taken.

In a letter released by Dole's campaign, Robert P. Davis, a lawyer hired to review the tax matter, said the Doles' accountants had erred in calculating her tax liability and the amount she was supposed to give the Red Cross.

Davis also said that in recalculating the taxes, he found that Mrs. Dole was entitled to claim additional tax deductions in part because some organizations had given speaking fees directly to the Red Cross that Mrs. Dole had not claimed as deductions.

That recalculation apparently allowed Davis to reduce the amount Mrs. Dole had failed to pay from the original $147,000 to the new amount of $74,635.

Mrs. Dole, a Cabinet member in two administrations and an appointee of five presidents, is one of Washington's most popular public speakers. But her public speaking may have posed a conflict of interest for her husband, because some of the groups that paid as much as $35,000 to hear Mrs. Dole's Washington insights were lobbying for or against specific legislation in Congress.

Dole's campaign officials have criticized suggestions that Mrs. Dole's speaking engagements--even if they occurred before groups with business pending before her husband--influenced his vote on any legislation.

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