The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which received $100,000 in campaign contributions from disgraced financier Bernard Madoff, has yet to rid itself of the tainted funds that other Washington politicos have rushed to shed since the collapse of Mr. Madoff’s $64 billion Ponzi scheme in December.
Mr. Madoff made four separate $25,000 donations to the DSCC since 2005. The most recent donation was made in September, according to campaign finance records. The committee received the lion’s share of Madoff’s political contributions during that period.
“We have not returned the money yet,” DSCC communications director Eric Schultz told The Washington Times.
Other lawmakers quickly purged Madoff cash from their campaign accounts after the news broke in December that Madoff bilked his investors.
“Madoff stole from people,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Center for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington. “That money is tainted because it´s stolen and no one should be keeping it.”
An analysis conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics found that Madoff and his wife, Ruth, gave the bulk of their campaign contributions to Democrats. The couple donated $238,200 to federal candidates, parties and committees since 1991, and Democrats received 88 percent of those donations.
Madoff gave $11,400 to nine Republicans in the same time period. None of them is in office now. Former Rep. Jack Fields of Texas received the most - $5,000. Other recipients included former Sen. Alfonse D´Amato of New York, former Rep. Vito Fossella of New York and former Rep. Michael Oxley of Ohio.
Numerous Democrats have rushed to give away Madoff-linked campaign cash received since 1991.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, donated the $29,300 he received from Madoff and his extended family to the victims of Madoff´s fraud. Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, donated $13,000 contributed by Madoff and his wife to an Oregon food bank in December, said Wyden spokeswoman Jennifer Hoelzer.
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, received $1,500 from the Madoffs and promptly donated the money to the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. Mr. Dodd´s press secretary, Bryan DeAngelis, said the senator “suffered considerable losses in Madoff´s scheme.”
Meanwhile, several lawmakers asserted their right to keep donations given to them by employees of American International Group Inc., the insurance giant bailed out by the federal government at a cost to taxpayers so far of more than $170 billion. AIG is the focus of public outrage for recently paying millions of dollars in executive bonuses.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, a New York Democrat who is among the most vocal critics of the AIG bonus pay, has no plans to return the money.
“Mrs. Maloney has joined with many other members in deciding to not accept contributions from executives of companies who receive [bailout] funds, and this clearly includes AIG,” a Maloney spokesman said.
Although this may be her standard going forward, it doesn’t cover the $19,200 she has received to date - $1,000 of which came from AIG during the last campaign cycle.
Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate banking panel, has received $31,250 from AIG employees over the past 20 years, but his office noted that Mr. Shelby has “not accepted any political contributions from AIG or any other entity receiving [taxpayer] funds, since the enactment of [bailout] legislation.”
The $27,750 worth of AIG contributions to Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, came with “no strings attached,” said press secretary Beth Pellett Levine.
Every lawmaker who responded to The Times’ inquiries about their plans affirmed their right to keep past AIG donations.
Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, thinks the dates from when he received nearly $100,000 from AIG employees protect him from ethical questions. Kerry spokesman Whitney Smith said the senator “hasn´t received a single PAC contribution from AIG nor any contributions from AIG employees during the company´s troubles.”
Barry Feldman, campaign treasurer for Rep. John B. Larson, Connecticut Democrat, said, “At this point, there aren´t any plans” to return the $43,000 Mr. Larson received from AIG. The insurance giant and its affiliates employ at least 1,500 people in Connecticut.
Ethics watchdog Miss Sloan said taking money from Madoff is different from AIG “because people who made money at AIG weren´t stealing.” Even so, keeping the AIG money raised its own questions as Congress debates tax and regulatory changes directly affecting the company.
“The AIG money should go right back to Treasury,” Miss Sloan said.