Individuals and companies who contributed to other conservative causes were secret financial backers of organizations that aired hard-hitting TV spots to help GOP congressional candidates, according to bank records.
The contributors were able to legally donate unlimited amounts of money in obscurity because the independent groups were not obligated to identify their backers.
Senate Governmental Affairs Committee investigators obtained the records from Crestar Bank in Richmond, Va., in response to a subpoena. The donors' names were supposed to be deleted but were mistakenly left in the records.
The money went to three entities: Triad Management, a political consulting firm that refers conservative donors to non-profit groups, and two non-profit organizations, Citizens for Reform and Citizens for the Republic Education Fund. Both ran ads attacking Democratic congressional candidates during the 1996 election campaign.
Included among the list of donors obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press was Lorena Jaeb of Hillsborough County. Jaeb, who along with her husband, Robert, once owned the Shop 'N Go convenience store chain, donated $30,000 to the groups.
Other donors on the list were Robert L. Cone, former chairman of Graco Children's Products and now a management consultant; real estate developers Fred and Ruth Sacher of Grass Valley, Calif.; the Economic Education Trust; the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain; and Dan Gerawan, a California fruit grower who waged an unsuccessful campaign to defeat Rep. Calvin Dooley, D-Calif.