Scandal-tainted funds are election-year poser

The Political Game

Money: Candidates from both parties have received, and handled differently, contributions from ethically challenged corporations.

August 27, 2002|By Howard Libit and David Nitkin | Howard Libit and David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

LEST ANYONE think that Republicans are the only ones backed by big business, Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's contributors include at least three who have been touched by the nation's corporate scandals.

Finance reports show the lieutenant governor's campaign has received support from ImClone Systems Inc. founder Samuel D. Waksal, ex-Global Crossing Ltd. CEO Gary Winnick, and Frank Savage, who has ties to bankrupt Enron Corp.

Waksal, who gave $2,000 to Townsend in November 1999, is facing criminal charges related to allegations that he gave insider-trading tips to family members and friends -- including Martha Stewart -- a day before the Food and Drug Administration announced it was rejecting the company's cancer drug application.

Winnick's company, Global Crossing, raised billions from investors but never made a profit, and it collapsed this year in the fourth-largest bankruptcy filing ever. The telecommunications company is being investigated for deceptive accounting practices. Winnick, who cashed out hundreds of millions in stock before the price crashed, gave Townsend $1,000 in October.

Finally, there's a $1,000 donation from Savage in November 1999. Savage is a former executive with Alliance Capital Management and a former board member of Enron. Alliance is being sued by investors for losses incurred through the collapse of the energy giant.

Nationally, candidates have taken different approaches to campaign contributions tainted by corporate scandal and collapse. Some, including New York Democratic Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, have donated to charity the contributions they received from Waksal. So did Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat.

Other Democrats and Republicans have kept the donations, saying they were given before the corporate scandals erupted.

A spokesman for Townsend's campaign says that is the lieutenant governor's plan, too.

"For all we knew, these guys were spotless when they made their contributions," said Townsend press secretary Len Foxwell. "If they tried to come to us today with checks, we'd send them back."

Of course, Townsend isn't alone in receiving scandal-tainted money. Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s congressional campaign account -- which he is not permitted to use in his gubernatorial campaign -- includes $6,500 from the political action committee of bankrupt WorldCom Inc.

Depending on stance, idea is inclusive or embarrassing

Republican Michael S. Steele made an unusual promise to the Harambee Dinner Club last week: There will be black Democrats in prominent places in an Ehrlich-Steele administration.

Steele, who is Ehrlich's running mate, told the group of Baltimore black business and government leaders that the shortage of black Republicans in Maryland would force the administration to pick black Democrats for high-ranking posts, according to one person who attended the dinner Aug. 20.

Steele reiterated his point a couple of times -- prompting one African-American Republican to comment that he ought to take another look within his own party.

A spokesman for the Ehrlich campaign didn't back down from Steele's comments. "It speaks to what Ehrlich-Steele will do," said spokesman Paul E. Schurick. "It is wholly consistent with Bob's and Michael's approach to governing, which will be very inclusive."

But a spokesman for the state Democratic party suggested that Steele is simply begging for votes among black voters.

"That's either pandering to the embarrassment of the Republican party, or it's an admission that the Republican party has never been too terribly concerned with the African-American community," said Democratic spokesman David Paulson.

By the numbers: Astle, 59, runs his 27th 10-miler

State Sen. John C. Astle kept his streak alive Sunday by completing his 27th consecutive Annapolis 10-mile road race.

Astle, 59, was one of seven runners who ran the race in 1976, its first year. It began on a dare issued at a party in the Severna Park home of Clayton "Buddy" Beardmore, the former University of Maryland, College Park lacrosse coach.

Four women and three men met at 5 a.m. at the City Dock in Annapolis and drove 10 miles north on Ritchie Highway. "We parked the car and ran back to town," said Astle, an Anne Arundel County Democrat.

The next year, about 120 runners took part, followed by more than 1,000 in year three. This past weekend, more than 5,000 were registered.

Astle also is responsible for keeping the race alive. In the 1980s, when Maryland State Police said such activities were prohibited, Astle sponsored a bill permitting foot-races on state roads. In gratitude, the Annapolis Striders, the club that now runs the event, waived Astle's entrance fees for life.

So how did he do on the hilly course this year?

"The most important thing is I'm still finishing it," said the former Marine fighter pilot. "I don't worry about the clock. I finally got my ego under control, so from time to time, I can walk."

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