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Tainted donations vex political campaigns
Question of the Day
The House Republicans’ campaign arm said it won’t return donations from two contributors who have been accused of severe corporate irresponsibility - one is accused of running an $80 million Ponzi scheme while the other pleaded guilty to defrauding U.S. government operations in Afghanistan.
North Carolina businessman Vance Moore II, who donated more than $85,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee between 2004 and 2008, was arrested this week on charges of bilking investors in his automated teller machine business.
And earlier this month, Barbara Spier, who gave $16,000 to the NRCC earlier this decade, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring with her husband to defraud the U.S. Agency for International Development for at least $3 million by inflating the costs incurred by their contracting firm. Mrs. Spier made her donations from 2003 to 2004.
The NRCC declined to comment on the record, but a committee official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said committee members have no plans to refund the money from either Mr. Moore or Mrs. Spier.
Candidates and political committees often have to grapple with how and when to return campaign contributions, and it’s not just Republicans whose donors have gotten into trouble for corporate wrongdoing recently.
In August, New York authorities accused Democratic fundraiser Hassan Nemazee of fraudulently obtaining $292 million in loans from three banks. Mr. Nemazee, an investment banker who served as finance chairman to the presidential campaigns of both Sen. John Kerry and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, pleaded not guilty.
Together with his wife, Mr. Nemazee donated more than $200,000 to the Democratic senatorial and congressional campaign arms.
A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee official said the group donated the $25,000 it received this year from Mr. Nemazee to charity. Mr. Nemazee also donated $25,000 to the committee in 2007.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee received more than $150,000 from the Nemazees between 2004 and 2009. A spokesman for the committee said it donated the $25,000 it received this year from Mr. Nemazee to charity.
The question of what to do with potentially tainted donations is often more of a political debate than a legal one, according to Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center.
“When it’s shown that there are questions about the donors, the responsibility then is on the recipient to be able to say, ‘All right, while we cannot track all this money, to the degree we can track some we’re going to donate this money to an appropriate charity,’ ” Ms. McGehee said. “It may not be that any of the money was illegal per se, but a lot of this in politics is public perception and giving some assurance to the public that there is a commitment to run your campaign with legal money and not money that could have been gotten through illegal means.”
Ms. McGehee said campaigns typically make a judgment call as to whether they can sustain any resulting bad publicity.
“It turns really into a political question of how much hay can your opponents make,” she said, “and how much political damage do you think it’s going to inflict on you versus the overarching need that most politicians have for money.”
An attorney for Mr. Moore, who has yet to enter a plea, did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the indictment, unsealed this week in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, N.Y.,Mr. Moore, who owns Best Lab Deals Inc., asked investors for money to purchase 4,000 ATMs, but only bought 400. Charged with wire fraud, he faces up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000 if convicted.
About the Author
Kara Rowland, White House reporter for The Washington Times, is a D.C.-area native. She graduated from the University of Virginia, where she studied American government and spent nearly all her waking hours working as managing editor of the Cavalier Daily, UVa.’s student newspaper.
Her interest in political reporting was piqued by an internship at Roll Call the summer before her ...
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