- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2002

The candidates in Colorado's neck-and-neck Senate race yesterday defended their past involvement with financially troubled companies, highlighting the level to which personal dealings in corporate America have become a common campaign issue.
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Democratic challenger Tom Strickland denounced a recent television ad from the campaign of incumbent Republican Wayne Allard questioning the ethics of Mr. Strickland's 1999 sale of Global Crossing stock.
Global Crossing, a now-bankrupt telecommunications firm, is under investigation by Congress for its accounting practices.
Mr. Strickland, who previously worked as a lobbyist for Global Crossing, has admitted to buying stock in the company when it went public and then selling it later that day for a $25,000 profit. But he defended the legality and ethics of the sale.
The ad says: "[Tom Strickland] brags about getting tough on corporate crooks. But who is he kidding? Tom Strickland made $25,000 in one day selling Global Crossing stock a company under investigation by the FBI."
In response yesterday, Mr. Strickland said, "The entire commercial is rife with innuendo and inference that is completely misleading and false. And the Allard campaign has acknowledged I had nothing to do with the problems at either of those companies. ..It's the rankest form of guilt by association and innuendo."
While Mr. Strickland defended himself yesterday, Mr. Allard has fended off criticism throughout the last several months for his close ties with troubled Qwest Communications, which donated about $100,000 to his campaign.
Qwest is expected to announce plans this week to retract about $1 billion in revenue booked from trades of capacity on its fiber-optic network. The company is already under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice for a possible accounting violation.
After the similar and more high-profile accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom, corporate responsibility and the need for reform have been hot topics in most campaigns across the nation. But some candidates have found themselves in sticky situations because of the massive political contributions these companies made.
WorldCom, for instance, donated more than $7.6 million to political campaigns and committees since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Some candidates have returned money given to them by corporations currently under investigation. But outside the political arena, candidates' personal stock portfolios and business dealings have become potential liabilities. Maryland Senate candidate Mark K. Shriver, a Democrat, conducted a survey in July to determine how the public would respond if he owned shares of companies he criticized.
Mr. Shriver has extensive holdings in energy, gas and oil stocks, along with as much as $110,000 in pharmaceutical stock and $15,000 invested in Philip Morris Co. In addition, he is heavily invested in Qwest Communications, where he briefly served as a vice president in 1998.
In other races, personal financial actions have been a source of criticism as candidates attempt to portray their opponents as uncommitted to pushing for corporate reforms.
In North Carolina, the candidates seeking to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Jesse Helms have been vocal about letting voters know of their opponents' involvement with American corporations.
Democratic candidate Erskine Bowles has criticized Republican Elizabeth Dole for earning millions of dollars in speaking fees from corporations. Meanwhile, Mrs. Dole has fought back by pointing to Mr. Bowles' service on coporate boards and his past activity as an investment banker.
In California, Bill Simon, the Republican nominee for governor, is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service for suspected use of an offshore tax shelter. In addition, he was forced to pay $78 million to a former business partner accusing him of fraud. The bad publicity has helped incumbent Gov. Gray Davis hold his lead in his re-election bid.
In New Hampshire, the recent Republican primary race for governor centered heavily around the business career of candidate Craig Benson, founder of computer networking firm Cabletron. Mr. Benson's opponent, former Sen. Gordon Humphrey, criticized him for laying off workers and for watching over the company's declining stock price. Mr. Benson won the primary.


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