Thursday, February 19, 2004

Another Kerry scandal?

John Kerry accepted 25,000 dollars in donations from a company called Science and Applied Technology Inc. Coincidentally, Kerry also wrote 28 letters in support of the company and a particular missile system it was developing. In addition, a portion of the 25,000 dollars that was given to Kerry by Applied Technology Inc. was done so illegally, according to federal prosecutors.

Sen. John F. Kerry sent 28 letters in behalf of a San Diego defense contractor who pleaded guilty last week to illegally funneling campaign contributions to the Massachusetts senator and four other congressmen.

Members of Congress often write letters supporting constituent businesses and favored projects. But as the Democratic presidential front-runner, Kerry has promoted himself as a candidate who has never been beholden to campaign contributors and special interests.

Between 1996 and 1999, Kerry participated in a letter-writing campaign to free up federal funds for a guided missile system that defense contractor Parthasarathi "Bob" Majumder was trying to build for U.S. warplanes.

Majumder's firm, Science and Applied Technology Inc., was paid more than $150 million to design and develop the program in the 1990s. But the program ran into some stumbling blocks at the Pentagon.

Kerry's letters were sent to fellow members of Congress — and to the Pentagon — while Majumder and his employees were donating money to the senator, court records show. During the three-year period, Kerry received about $25,000 from Majumder and his employees, according to Dwight L. Morris & Associates, which tracks campaign donations.

Court documents say the contractor told his employees they needed to make political contributions in order for him to gain influence with members of Congress. He then reimbursed them with proceeds from government contracts.

Federal prosecutors initially determined that $13,000 of the donations were illegally reimbursed, but they now say that nearly all of the money was tainted. They said there was no evidence Kerry or other members of Congress would have known that.

Asked what he did to repay the money, Kerry's campaign said Wednesday he had donated $13,000 to charity on Feb. 9 — which was two days before Majumder's guilty plea.


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