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Cash And Kerry

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:

  • Last week Parthasarathi Majumder pled guilty to making illegal donations to Kerry and other lawmakers. The Los Angeles Times reports Kerry sent 28 letters from 1996 to 1999 to try to free up federal funds for a missile system that Majumder was working on.

    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 has said he wants to "free our government from the grip of the lobbyists." But he has accepted more "hard money" donations — $640,000 — from lobbyists that any other senator in the past 15 years.
    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.

  • In 1998, Democratic fund-raiser Johnny Chung, pleaded guilty to charges involving an $8,000 donation to Kerry's 1996 Senate campaign. Kerry was never accused of knowing that Chung's donations were illegal.

    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.

  • Kerry opposed a 2000 bill that would have stripped $150 million from the Boston "Big Dig" construction project. The bill also would have closed a loophole favorable to the American International Group.

    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.

  • Kerry launched a tax-exempt political committee that collected nearly a half million dollars directly from companies and labor unions just before those types of donations were outlawed in late 2002, tax records show.

    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.

  • At least three times in his Senate career, Kerry has recommended individuals for positions at federal home loan banks just before or after receiving political contributions from the nominees, 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.

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