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Cranston Seeks Funds for His Legal Defense

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), whose fund-raising and lobbying activities are under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee, has begun soliciting contributions of as much as $10,000 from political supporters for a legal defense fund.

Cranston raised $105,510 for the newly created defense fund between Jan. 1 and March 31, according to documents filed recently with the secretary of the Senate. His aides said that the senator personally solicited the contributions.

Most donors to Cranston’s legal defense fund--such as fashion designer Liz Claiborne and her husband, Arthur Ortenberg--previously had contributed the maximum amount permitted under law to the senator’s 1992 reelection campaign committee.

The most generous of these contributors was the Sheetmetal Workers Union political action committee. Since December, the union committee has given $10,000 to Cranston’s 1992 reelection campaign, $10,000 to the legal defense fund and $10,000 to Cranston’s personal PAC, the Committee for a Democratic Consensus. In each case, $10,000 was the maximum gift permitted under law.

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Sheetmetal Workers officials declined to comment on the contributions. But union sources said that the $30,000 represents a decision on the part of Edward J. Carlough, president of the 108,000-member union, to support the liberal Democratic senator as much as possible at a critical point in his career in return for Cranston’s past backing of labor causes.

Cranston has been invited by Carlough to be a speaker at the Sheetmetal Workers’ annual convention in Las Vegas in September.

The Ethics Committee is investigating allegations that Cranston and four other senators intervened improperly with federal regulators on behalf of a big contributor, Charles H. Keating Jr., owner of Lincoln Savings & Loan.

The case involves contributions solicited by Cranston from Keating--$39,000 for his 1986 reelection campaign, $85,000 for the California Democratic Party and $850,000 for voter registration groups supported by the senator.

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Although Cranston reported the creation of his legal defense fund to the Senate secretary on Jan. 8, he did not announce it publicly. It was first reported Thursday in Roll Call, a newspaper specializing in congressional news.

Under Senate rules, a senator under investigation may pay his legal expenses from personal funds, from his campaign coffers or from a legal defense fund. Individual donations may not exceed $10,000 to such defense funds.

Cranston apparently is the only senator among the “Keating Five” who has created a legal defense fund. The other senators under investigation are John H. Glenn Jr. (D-Ohio), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Donald W. Riegle Jr. (D-Mich.).

According to Senate records, Cranston spent $98,022 of the legal defense funds during the first three months of the year. He reported that $93,000 went to the law firm of William W. Taylor III, who is representing him before the Ethics Committee. The remainder went to two other law firms, one of which received $447 for administering the new fund.

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Cranston’s sister, Eleanor C. Cameron, and his brother-in-law, Donald Churchill Cameron, both of whom live in Los Altos Hills, Calif., each contributed $10,000 to the legal defense fund. In a telephone interview, Eleanor Cameron said that she gave the money because “I feel that he really is suffering a great deal more than is proper in this case.”

Claiborne and her husband, who already had contributed $2,000 each to Cranston’s reelection campaign, combined to contribute $10,000 to the legal defense fund.

Likewise, Nathan Shapiro, whose family controls the Chicago insurance firm of Baldwin & Lyons, gave $10,000 for Cranston’s defense.

Robert B. Egelston of Los Angeles contributed $5,000 to the legal defense fund; Aris and Carolyn S. Anagnos, also of Los Angeles, gave $2,500; Alejandro and Lyda Zaffaroni of Atherton gave $2,000, and Bernard and Audre Rapoport of Waco, Tex., gave $5,000.

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