Dole's use of company planes questioned

The Associated Press

NEW YORK Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole has reportedly gained at least one thing from his quixotic campaign to help Chiquita bananas by pursuing trade sanctions against Colombia and Costa Rica campaign trips in planes controlled by the banana company's owner.

The New York Times reported in today's editions that Dole, the Republican presidential front-runner, has been flying in planes belonging to companies owned by the family of Carl Lindner, a Cincinnati multimillionaire who controls Chiquita Brands International.

Lindner is one of the largest contributors to the Republican Party, but one reason why the trips haven't received much attention may be that he is also a major contributor to the Democratic party, the Times reported.

Dole's office said yesterday that Lindner's largesse is irrelevant. ''Senator Dole has taken this position because it is right for America, and to suggest any other reason is totally absurd,'' the statement said.

A spokesman for Dole's presidential campaign could not be reached immediately, and Clarkson Hine, spokesman for his office in Washington, told The Associated Press he hadn't seen the story and couldn't comment.

Dole has been trying for months without success to include amendments to the budget process that would impose sanctions on Costa Rica and Colombia unless they pull out of a trade deal securing banana exports to the European Union.

The White House has made it a low-priority issue, not worthy of stiff trade sanctions, because it has little direct effect on American jobs, because few bananas are grown in this country.

''I hate this issue,'' a senior administration official told the Times. ''This is a case where no one can explain how we are saving a single job.''

Dole's office says the Kansas senator is acting because the Clinton administration has ''failed to deliver on its two-year-old commitment to resolve this case of blatant trade discrimination, which continues to cause serious injury to U.S. commercial interests.''

Chiquita and the Lindner family have little to say about Dole's efforts, declining to return calls Monday, the Times said.

Both Democrats and Republicans maintain that Chiquita has a legitimate case, saying that the deal with the European Union probably violates the world trade treaty approved last year.

But while Chiquita turned to Washington for help, competitors such as Del Monte Foods and Dole Food Co. have circumvented the deal by investing in companies in the Caribbean that benefit from the European quota system, the Times said.

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