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Amway Founder's $1-Million GOP Gift Called a Record

Contributions: April checks from Rich DeVos and his wife are believed to be biggest individual political donation since FEC began reporting.

May 24, 1997|From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Rich DeVos, the founder of Amway Corp. and a longtime GOP supporter, gave the Republican Party $1 million last month, Federal Election Commission records showed Friday.

The donation, which the Republican National Committee said was unrestricted, is believed to be the largest contribution from an individual donor since the FEC began reporting political donations. However, Amway as a privately held corporation has made larger contributions.

FEC records show DeVos and his wife, Helen, wrote two $500,000 checks from their personal bank account on April 2. DeVos, 71, is overseas awaiting a heart transplant.

John Gartland, an Amway spokesman, said GOP leaders had asked DeVos to help the party retire a debt of more than $5.5 million from the last election.

Campaign laws limit individual donations to $2,000 for any one candidate in an election cycle, but soft-money gifts for party-building purposes or get-out-the-vote drives are not regulated.

Amway, which sells 400 cleaning products and services worldwide, donated $2.5 million to the GOP in 1994 that was used for construction of a television studio at the Republican committee's Washington headquarters.

Last summer, Amway donated $1.3 million to the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau to pay for televising the Republican national convention on religious broadcaster Pat Robertson's Family Channel. But the Republican Party later turned down the gift after Democrats claimed corporations could not legally finance such broadcasts.

Dwight Morris, founder of the Campaign Study Group of Springfield, Va., which tracks political money, said DeVos' donation was probably the largest individual donation since the FEC began recording soft-money contributions in 1992. However, in the early 1970s, before campaign finance laws took effect, wealthy supporters of President Nixon--such as Chicago insurance magnate W. Clement Stone--gave individual gifts in excess of $1 million, Morris said.

DeVos, who usually is ranked among the top five richest Americans, also is owner of the Orlando Magic professional basketball team.

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