- The Washington Times - Friday, February 6, 2004

At least three times in his Senate career, Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry has recommended individuals for positions at Federal Home Loan Banks just before or after receiving political contributions from the nominees, records show.

In one instance, Mr. Kerry wrote to the Federal Housing Finance Board to urge the reappointment of a candidate just one day before a Kerry campaign committee received $1,000 from the nominee, according to records.

“One has nothing to do with the other,” said Marvin Siflinger, who contributed around the time of Mr. Kerry’s Oct. 1, 1996, recommendation that he be reappointed for another term to the board.

Mr. Kerry’s office, like the nominees, insists the timing of the donations and the nominations was a coincidence.

“Senator Kerry recommends dozens of very qualified individuals each year without regard to their politics or contributions,” Kerry campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said.

But a longtime government watchdog said it is common for Washington appointees to donate just before or after they are nominated.

“This is just business as usual in Washington,” said Larry Noble, the former chief lawyer for the Federal Election Commission (FEC) who now heads the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. “Mr. Kerry is out there saying he is not being part of that game, yet he is the product of the same money system.”

When he first ran for the Senate, Mr. Kerry promised voters he would carefully choose nominees on merit.

But all three of the persons Mr. Kerry recommended got the positions they sought on various boards of Federal Home Loan Banks in Boston and New York that provide money for home mortgages.

Mr. Kerry’s recommendations went to the five-member Federal Housing Finance Board, the regulatory body that votes on the final selections. Recommendations come from members of Congress, the White House and trade associations.

Mr. Siflinger, who was a state housing-finance official when Mr. Kerry was Massachusetts lieutenant governor, was first appointed to the bank board in Boston during the first President George Bush’s term and in 1996 sought Mr. Kerry’s help to get reappointed.

Mr. Siflinger made his first donation to Mr. Kerry’s Senate campaign committee in 1995 more than a year before his reappointment, according to FEC records. His most recent donation to Mr. Kerry was several weeks ago, Mr. Siflinger said.

Investment banker Derek Bryson Park said it’s “pure happenstance” that he made a pair of $1,000 donations to Mr. Kerry a month before the senator’s Dec. 29, 1998, letter recommending Mr. Park for a position at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York.

Former congressional staffer Patrick Dober said that “there’s absolutely no relationship” between his $408 donation nearly three months after Mr. Kerry’s Oct. 9, 1998, recommendation to the federal bank board. Mr. Kerry’s letter praised Mr. Dober for having “worked closely with my office” on “the banking crisis in the early 1990s.”

Pete Yost contributed to this report.

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