- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Several members of Congress and party strategists are refunding WorldCom Inc. campaign contributions or giving them to charity, moving to head off a potential issue in this fall's battle for congressional control.
Rep. Bill Luther, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the panels investigating WorldCom, is donating at least $7,000 in WorldCom campaign money to a state displaced-worker fund.
"My point is there needs to be a high standard here," said Mr. Luther, Minnesota Democrat. "This is outrageous conduct. I wouldn't want my campaign benefiting from any of that kind of conduct."
Like Enron, another corporation mired in scandal, WorldCom and its workers have been prolific donors, contributing close to $1 million for the fall election. The giving continued through last month, when civil fraud charges were filed against the telecommunications company amid revelations it filed inaccurate financial reports.
WorldCom donated $100,000 two weeks ago to the National Republican Senatorial Committee as a sponsor of a fund-raising dinner headlined by President Bush. The group is giving the money back, committee spokesman Dan Allen said Monday.
The decision was based on developments with the company, Mr. Allen said. "I don't want to speculate on the politics of it," he said.
Others are exploring the political possibilities, viewing WorldCom contributions and the broader backdrop of corporate ethics as budding campaign issues.
In WorldCom's home state of Mississippi, Democratic Rep. Ronnie Shows, in a contentious House race against Republican Rep. Charles W. "Chip" Pickering Jr., plans to give $6,000 in WorldCom donations to a worker-relief fund. Mr. Shows is criticizing Mr. Pickering for refusing to do the same.
"Giving it back shows compassion," Shows campaign spokesman Troy Colbert said. "It shows that you're really on the side of the people who are the innocents in this, and that's the investors and that's the employees."
Although WorldCom is in Mr. Shows' district, Mr. Pickering has been the biggest congressional recipient of campaign money from the company and its employees, receiving at least $82,050 since 1989, an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics found.
Mr. Pickering's campaign will keep the donations, campaign manager Henry Barbour said. He contended that Mr. Shows will criticize Mr. Pickering whether he gives the money away or not.
"Why even look like he's done something wrong?" Mr. Barbour asked. "We think these are legal contributions from a Mississippi company, and Ronnie Shows is grasping for an issue because he doesn't have any to run on."
Mr. Shows and Mr. Pickering both serve on House committees investigating WorldCom Mr. Shows on Financial Services and Mr. Pickering on Energy and Commerce.
In a close South Dakota Senate race, Democratic incumbent Tim Johnson and Republican Rep. John Thune are both giving their WorldCom contributions away.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, plan to do the same.
WorldCom spokeswoman Julie Moore declined to comment on the political donations or moves to unload them. WorldCom and its workers have contributed to more than half the House members and about 80 percent of the Senate in the past 13 years, the Center for Responsive Politics review found.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide