Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gephardt's Pac Outings Run Up Tab

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gephardt's Pac Outings Run Up Tab

Article excerpt

This year's beach outing for wealthy contributors to House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt wasn't the first time the St. Louisan has held a "retreat" for friends and fund-raisers on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

The Effective Government Committee, Gephardt's political action committee, played host to similar events in 1992 and last year. The committee told the Federal Election Commission that the events were intended to raise money to support Democratic candidates nationwide.

But the expenses for the beach events were considerable - more than $85,000 in the last two years alone, mostly for lodging and catering, according to federal campaign records. Expenses this year included $343 for a company that provides beach towels.

Robert Bauer, an attorney for the committee, estimated that each of the two beach events netted $10,000 to $15,000.

Guests had to contribute $5,000 and pay their own transportation to this year's July 4 weekend retreat. They were lodged in rented homes on Pine Island, where they played golf, fished and enjoyed the beach with Gephardt.

The PAC got a better return on another outing - its four-day ski retreat at Telluride, Colo., last winter. That event, records show, cost about $30,000 and raised $52,000 in contributions. Guests were housed at The Peaks ski lodge Feb. 11-14.

Short-term funds are not the only purpose for the events, according to Bauer.

"We look to them (guests) later to help with fund raising in the future," Bauer said. "We're creating new relationships with these people, letting people get to know Dick. . . . People are asked to spend some time with Dick and hang out."

Bauer said the fund-raising effort was "an attempt to break the mold and create a relaxed environment."

No questions have been raised about the legality of Gephardt's PAC expenses, but they have prompted criticism from Republicans.

Gary Gill, Gephardt's opponent on Nov. 8, said he found Gephardt's explanation of the committee to be "totally unbelievable. …

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