- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 21, 2004


Though Sen. John Kerry’s wife is an heir to the H.J. Heinz Co. fortune, the food company and its executives are providing President Bush with money and a campaign issue — jobs flowing overseas — in this year’s election.

Members of the board of the Fortune 500 company and its corporate political action committee have donated thousands of dollars to Republicans in recent years, including contributions to the Bush campaign. The corporate PAC has given nothing to Mr. Kerry.

The Republicans are accepting the cash even as they criticize the Pittsburgh-based company’s job cuts and overseas moves — part of an effort to taint the presumptive Democratic nominee with the conglomerate’s business practices.

While Teresa Heinz Kerry gained much of her $500 million portfolio through her Heinz inheritance, she does not serve on the board and is not involved with the management of the company. Even her late husband, Sen. H. John Heinz III, Pennsylvania Republican, did not serve on the board.

No Heinz family member has been employed by the company or served on its board since H.J. “Jack” Heinz II, its chairman, died in 1987.

Mrs. Kerry, who heads the separate Heinz Family Foundation and the Howard Heinz Endowment, owns less than 4 percent of the company’s stock. Major Heinz stockholders include the company’s top executives, led by Chairman William R. Johnson, as well as beer magnate Peter Coors and former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and pro football Hall of Famer Lynn Swann.

During the campaign, Mr. Kerry has criticized companies that move jobs overseas or shift their tax status abroad to avoid federal taxes, calling them “Benedict Arnold” businesses. He has faulted the Bush administration for embracing a tax policy that rewards them.

Republicans, in response, have pointed to the Kerrys’ ties to Heinz, calling the four-term Massachusetts senator a hypocrite for slamming policies that have poured millions into his wife’s bank account.

Stuck in what it fears is a food fight is the Heinz Co., which is trying desperately to keep the campaign out of its ketchup sales. In the last few months, the company — which gets about 5,000 phone calls a month — has fielded 800 calls from consumers with questions or complaints about the company’s connections to Mr. Kerry, his wife and the campaign, said spokeswoman Debbie Foster.

A look at the company’s campaign donations shows a preference for Republicans. In the past six years, the Heinz company’s political action committee gave more than $64,000 to Republican candidates, nearly three times the amount given to Democrats. It contributed $5,000 to Mr. Bush’s campaign. It has shunned the Kerry campaign, but the PAC gave $5,000 to the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

Determined to make clear that it is not connected to the Kerry campaign, the Heinz company has issued statements about the relationship. “We want to make sure people buy our products on their merit. We’re an equal-opportunity condiment,” Heinz spokesman Jack Kennedy said.

According to Mr. Kerry’s financial disclosure report filed last May, his wife owns more than $4 million worth of company stock. Mrs. Kerry sold more than $14.8 million worth of Heinz stock in 2002.

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