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February 27, 2004
Eggs Benedict

John Kerry storms around the country with a populist message of righteous anger at those companies who incorporate offshore in order to take advantage of legal tax shelters. Continuing his theme of irrelevant patriotic qualifications, he's called the CEOs of such corporations "Benedict Arnolds", after the Revolutionary War general who tried to give West Point to the British. Yesterday, the Washington Post and MS-NBC reported that some of Kerry's biggest donors were the CEOs of such companies, leaving the candidate with some egg on his face:

Executives and employees at such companies have contributed more than $140,000 to Kerry's presidential campaign, a review of his donor records show. Additionally, two of Kerry's biggest fundraisers, who together have raised more than $400,000 for the candidate, are top executives at investment firms that helped set up companies in the world's best-known offshore tax havens, federal records show. Kerry has raised nearly $30 million overall for his White House run. ...

[Kerry] sought to clarify his position: "What I've said is not that people don't have the right to go overseas and form a company if they want to avoid the tax. I don't believe the American taxpayer ought to be giving them a benefit. That's what I object to. I don't object to global commerce. I don't object to companies deciding they want to compete somewhere else.''

Anyone else notice that Kerry has had to do a lot of "clarification" on the campaign trail the past few weeks?

Here's a list of the Little Benedicts that are part of the Kerry team:

* David Roux, co-founder of Seagate Technology, which the State Dept. has listed as a tax-flight Cayman Islands corporation: Raised $250,000.

* Stephen J. Luczo, CEO of Seagate: Donated $4,000 (maximum allowed) for presidential campaign, $2000 for campaign legal defense fund

* Thomas F. Steyer, partner at Hellman and Friedman LLC, an investment firm that put an insurance company in Bermuda and in an SEC filing explicitly stated it was for tax-shelter reasons: Raised $200,000.

Steyer and Roux also raised an additional $100,000 each in "bundled" contributions, which means they went out and flacked for individual contributions and bundled them back to the campaign.

How does the Kerry campaign respond to the appearance of hypocrisy on the Benedict Arnold issue? Not terribly well; in fact, their spokesperson manages to only make the situation worse:

When asked for the definition of a "Benedict Arnold" company or CEO, Stephanie Cutter, Kerry's spokeswoman, said: "Companies that take advantage of tax loopholes to set up bank accounts or move jobs abroad simply to avoid taxes." She pointed to a list compiled by Citizen Works, a tax-exempt nonprofit group that monitors corporate influence, as a source of the companies that fit the candidate's definition.

According to federal election records, Kerry has received $119,285 from donors employed at what Citizen Works described as the "25 Fortune 500 Corporations With the Most Offshore Tax-Haven Subsidiaries." The list does not include nearly all of the companies that shave their tax bill by moving jobs and operations overseas, so Kerry has actually raised substantially more from firms qualifying as "Benedict Arnolds."

Once again, Kerry wants you to believe that he's fighting the "special interests" while stuffing their money in his pockets. He's practically writing new Bush campaign commercials all on his own each week. Every time he opens his mouth, Kerry puts a new angle on his hypocrisy on display.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 27, 2004 5:42 AM

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