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DNC fined for illegal 1996 fund raising

Highest fine stems from Buddhist temple event

From Brooks Jackson
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Federal Election Commission has finally closed its books on the 1996 Clinton fund-raising scandals, announcing Monday that it fined the Democratic National Committee a relatively modest $115,000 for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from non-U.S. citizens and other illegal sources.

The FEC's general counsel recommended a more severe penalties, but the three Democratic election commissioners blocked those recommendations on 3-3 tie votes.

Scott Thomas, one of the Democratic commissioners who voted against stronger action, filed an 11-page statement to explain his votes, saying that "for the most part the DNC seems to have been the victim of unscrupulous or careless donors and fund-raisers."

In all, the FEC imposed $719,000 in fines -- the vast majority of those on the donors.

The highest fine fell on the Buddhist Progress Society, which paid $120,000. It was responsible for funneling illegal donations to the party in connection with an event at a Buddhist temple attended by then-Vice President Al Gore.

Other fines included $95,000 against DNC fund-raiser John Huang, $21,000 against Johnny Chung, and $7,000 against Charlie Trie, who were major figures in the long-running scandal.

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