CQ Flashback: Champion Against Special Interests? (2/4/04)

The AP reports an “exclusive” on an apparent conflict of interest involving Senator John Kerry from four years ago, when he blocked legislation and later received cash from a beneficiary of his action:

A Senate colleague was trying to close a loophole that allowed a major insurer to divert millions of federal dollars from the nation’s most expensive construction project. John Kerry stepped in and blocked the legislation. Over the next two years, the insurer, American International Group, paid Kerry’s way on a trip to Vermont and donated at least $30,000 to a tax-exempt group Kerry used to set up his presidential campaign. Company executives donated $18,000 to his Senate and presidential campaigns.

The colleague was John McCain and the project involved was the Big Dig, a highway project often cited as an example of cost overruns and government inefficiency. McCain wanted some government funding of the Big Dig stopped in order to put an end to American Insurance Group’s overbilling on the project, which eventually totalled over $125 million, as well as create legislation to prohibit the abuse from occuring again. Instead, Kerry convinced McCain to hold hearings instead, and the legislation was never submitted. As a result, AIG continued to collect government funds, and Kerry collected thousands of dollars in contributions from AIG and its management.
Is this Kerry’s idea of fighting special interests?

A few months later in December 2001, several AIG executives gave maximum $1,000 donations to Kerry’s Senate campaign on the same day. The donations totaled $9,700 and were followed by several thousand dollars more over the next two years.
The next spring, AIG donated $10,000 to a new tax-exempt group Kerry formed, the Citizen Soldier Fund, to lay groundwork for his presidential campaign. Later in 2002, AIG gave two more donations of $10,000 each to the same group, making it one of the largest corporate donors to Kerry’s group.
The insurer wasn’t the only company connected to the Big Dig to donate to Kerry’s new group. Two construction companies on the project — Modern Continental Group and Jay Cashman Construction — each donated $25,000, IRS records show.

The Big Dig sounds exactly like what you need when Kerry starts talking about how he fights special interests when election records show that he’s taken more special-interest money that anyone in the Senate in the past 15 years. As this boondoggle’s history shows, Kerry’s contributors get their money’s worth.