John Kerry is running for president, so it's no wonder that his legislative and fundraising record is under intense scrutiny. He's been a U.S. senator for 17 years, so it's no surprise that some of his donors had questionable motives.
But Kerry's own campaign rhetoric, in which he rails against special interests and firms that send American jobs overseas, has sharpened attention on his contributors.
For example, Kerry said earlier this month that President Bush "continues to fight for incentives to encourage Benedict Arnold companies to ship jobs overseas."
The Washington Post reports in Thursday's editions that firms at companies who have moved jobs overseas have given $140,000 to Kerry's campaign, and he has received $400,000 from executives at investment firms that have helped firms take advantage of offshore tax havens.
Kerry says he didn't know his donors were involved in those practices, and said he opposed firms evading taxes. The sums are small compared to the nearly $30 million Kerry has raised, and pale in comparison to what Mr. Bush has taken from the same firms, The Post reports.
"If anyone thinks a contribution can buy Kerry's vote, then they are wasting their money," Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter has said:
But the money could open the door to Republican charges that Kerry is a hypocrite on campaign finance, which was already the theme of a Bush-Cheney Web advertisement.
The "Benedict Arnold" donations are not the only ones that have raised questions. Others include:
Majumder and his workers gave $25,000 to Kerry over that three-year period. Federal prosecutors charged that Majumder illegally reimbursed his employees for their donations.
Kerry's campaign recently donated the tainted money to charity, and it denied Kerry wrote the letters because of the donations. Lawmakers often pen such letters to get work for constituents; one of Majumder's subcontractors was based in Massachusetts.
Kerry's campaign says the donations did not influence any of Kerry's votes, and notes that Mr. Bush took far more money from lobbyists. Kerry's chief Democratic rival, John Edwards, also took lobbyist money, according to published reports.
The Kerry campaign says if PAC money were counted, Kerry would rank among the least-favored recipients of lobbyist money.
But Newsweek reported recently that after meeting with Chung and an associate in 1996, Kerry called on the SEC to expedite a ruling on whether to allow the associate's company to list its stock in the United States. Weeks later, Chung threw a $10,000 fundraiser for Kerry in California.
AIG subsequently paid Kerry's way on a trip to Vermont and donated at least $30,000 to a tax-exempt group Kerry used to set up his presidential campaign. Company executives also donated $18,000 to his Senate and presidential campaigns, according to records obtained by the Associated Press.
Kerry's campaign says he opposed the bill only because it would have cost Massachusetts money, and that Kerry was opposed to the loophole that benefited AIG.
Many of the biggest donors to that effort came from companies with direct interests before Kerry's Senate committee, and the Massachusetts Democrat spent much of the money laying groundwork in early presidential primary states, the records show.
In one case, Kerry wrote to the Federal Housing Finance Board to urge the reappointment of a candidate just one day before a Kerry campaign committee received $1,000 from the nominee, the records show.
"One has nothing to do with the other," said Marvin Siflinger, who contributed around the time of Kerry's Oct. 1, 1996, recommendation that he be reappointed for another term to the board.
Kerry's office, like the nominees, insists the timing of the donations and the nominations was a coincidence.
"Sen. Kerry recommends dozens of very qualified individuals each year without regard to their politics or contributions. In this case each of the individuals were highly qualified for the jobs they were appointed to and served with distinction," Cutter said.