USA: Political Parties Take Money from Crooks

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The two major political parties are crooked.

Without shame, they take big money from criminals.

Corporate Crime Reporter last week released a report documenting $9.3 million given by convicted criminals to the Democrats and the Republicans in the 2002 election cycle. (See the full report, "Dirty Money: Corporate Criminal Donations to the Two Major Parties," at

The Democrats took $2.1 million of the dirty money, the Republicans took $7.2 million.

Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, condemns President Bush for his "inability to stand up to corporate criminals."

Et tu, Terry?

President Bush talks a tough line on corporate crime, but then pockets millions from the crooks and proceeds to dismantle the enforcement agencies that would crack down on the most serious of those crimes.

Both Deborah DeShong, communications director of the Democratic National Committee, and Christine Iverson, press secretary for the Republican National Committee, did not return calls seeking comment on this story.

Probably the right move.

How can a political party defend taking money from convicted corporate criminals?

It is indefensible.

The Dirty Money report found that 31 major convicted corporations gave the $9.3 million to the two political parties in the 2002 election cycle.

(These soft money contributions will be prohibited in future elections, due to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation. However, corporate criminal campaign funding will still flow from company PACs, company executives' hard money contributions and burgeoning "527" issue committees, and to state parties.)

Archer Daniels Midland -- ADM -- tops the list of criminals that gave money to the parties.

ADM pled guilty in 1996 to one of the largest antitrust crimes ever. The company paid a $100 million criminal fine -- at the time, the largest criminal antitrust fine ever.

The company was convicted of engaging in conspiracies to fix prices, to eliminate competition, and to allocate sales in the lysine and citric acid markets worldwide.

So, here we have a major American corporation, convicted of an egregious antitrust crime that cost us all tens of millions of dollars.

And it turns around and freely gives $1.7 million to Democrats and Republicans - in just the last two years.

And the two major political parties are not ashamed.

They do not blush.

They do not care.

Because it is apparently okay in Washington to take money from convicted corporate criminals.

The second largest corporate criminal donor is Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant, the maker of Lipitor, and Viagra and Zoloft.

In 1999, Pfizer pled guilty to fixing prices in the food additives industry. The company paid $20 million in fines.

No free market philosophy for ADM and Pfizer -- when in doubt, fix prices.

In the last two years, Pfizer gave $1.1 million to the Democrats and Republicans. Convicted criminal.

The parties looked the other way.

Chevron was convicted in 1992 of environmental crimes and paid a $6.5 million criminal fine. Chevron gave $875,400 in the 2002 election cycle to both parties.

Grumman, which was convicted in 1990 of false statements -- lying -- gave $741,250 to both political parties in the most recent election cycle.

And American Airlines, convicted in 2000 of illegal storage of hazardous waste at Miami airport, paid a fine of $8 million, and then turned around and donated $655,593 to the Democrats and Republicans.

Where is Ann Coulter?

Where is Rush Limbaugh?

Where is Bill Bennett?

Where is Hannity and where is Colmes?

Where are the conservative drumbeaters, condemning criminality at every turn?

Why aren't they raving about the convicted criminals in our midst?

These convicted criminals are companies with massive resources, with the ability to manipulate the system to avoid the criminal penalty even when they are caught redhanded.

Yet defying the odds, these companies were caught redhanded and they were forced to plead guilty to serious crimes.

Last year, during the height of the corporate crime wave, scores of lawmakers felt it necessary to give back to Enron PACs or to Enron executives money that had been donated to their campaigns.

These politicians felt a sense of shame - especially since the television cameras were focused non-stop on the issue - until Bush moved the spotlight to Iraq.

Here was Enron, a runaway corporation that epitomized the fast and loose business ethics of recent years.

That runaway corporation crashed, leaving thousands unemployed and without pensions. Ever since, Enron executives are being indicted left and right.

And so, scores of public officials who had financially benefited from Enron's largesse felt a sense of shame, and felt threatened by an angry public, so they decided to give the money back to Enron -- or better yet, to donate it to charity.

It was the right thing to do.

Politicians should not take money from crooked companies, or crooked executives, or PACs set up by crooked companies.

But Enron has not been indicted.

Enron is not a convicted corporation.

And yet scores of politicians, because of the political heat, because of the scorching white glare of publicity, decided that Enron money was too hot to handle.

But what about the convicted corporations that every year donate millions to both political parties?

We call upon the Democratic and Republican parties to get rid of this dirty money.

It is tainted money.

It is criminal money.

Give it up.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of "Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy" (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).

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