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D'AMATO DEFENDS SEEKING FUNDS TO PAY HIS LAWYERS

Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato Wednesday defended his effort that raised $366,000 from friends and political allies to pay the bills stemming from a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.

"It was the only way for someone of modest means to do it," D'Amato, R-N.Y., said during an interview with The Buffalo News and Gannett News Service. "Should I go into bankruptcy? What should I do?"

During the interview, which will be broadcast on cable television outlets across the state this weekend, D'Amato also lambasted the Clinton administration's budget and health-care reform effort.

Regarding his legal defense fund, D'Amato said he sought large contributions because it was the easiest way to raise the money.

D'Amato got 18 contributions of $10,000, the legal limit for congressional defense funds. The big donors included cosmetics executive Ronald Lauder and investment bankers Saul Steinberg, James E. Cayne, Nicholas Forstmann and E. John Rosenwald Jr.

Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper that studied D'Amato's fund-raising effort, said 28 percent of the donations came from the banking and securities industries.

D'Amato used the contributions to pay most of his $417,708 in legal bills.

Those expenses stemmed from an investigation that ended with the Ethics Committee criticizing D'Amato for allowing his brother Armand to use the senator's office for lobbying purposes -- a practice that resulted in his brother's recent conviction on mail fraud charges.

The Ethics Committee, though, dismissed most of the charges against the senator, who blamed the probe on faulty allegations made by his 1986 campaign opponent, Mark Green.

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