Is Kerry critical of his donors?
The candidate says 'Benedict Arnold' companies are a cause of job losses.
WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, frequently calls companies and chief executives Benedict Arnolds if they move jobs and operations overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
But Kerry has accepted money and fund-raising assistance from top executives at companies that fit the candidate's description of a notorious traitor.
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 fund-raisers, 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 has taken aim at "Benedict Arnold" companies as part of a much broader political and policy debate over stemming the flow of good-paying U.S. jobs overseas, a chief cause of unemployment, especially in the hardest-hit manufacturing sector.
Kerry's solution, detailed in a speech Wednesday in Toledo, Ohio, is to enforce trade agreements, track and slow the outsourcing of U.S. jobs and stop providing government contracts and tax incentives to companies that move operations or jobs offshore.
Kerry has come under attack from President Bush, as well as some Democrats, for criticizing laws he voted for and lambasting special interests after accepting more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator over the past 15 years.
Some Democrats worry that Kerry is opening himself for similar attacks on the latest issue.
Given the vast sums raised during the presidential campaign as well the growing number of companies with offshore operations, it seems almost inevitable that candidates would receive contributions from some of them.
Bush has taken exponentially more from these companies than Kerry, though the president has not made a major campaign issue out of clamping down on them.
On Monday, Kerry was asked why two of his biggest fund-raisers were involved with so-called Benedict Arnold companies. "If they have done that, it's not to my knowledge and I would oppose it," Kerry told a New York television station. "I think it's wrong to do [it] solely to avoid taxes."
David Roux, who has raised more than $250,000 for Kerry since 2002, is co-founder of a California company that helped purchase Seagate Technology Inc. four years ago and incorporated it in the Cayman Islands, one of the world's best-known tax havens.
Roux described himself in an interview last fall as the "anchor tenant in John Kerry's fund-raising mall."
What execs say
Though the State Department lists Seagate as among the companies that reincorporated offshore to save on taxes, Roux said Wednesday he works for a "global" company forced to make "thoughtful" business decisions about where to locate its offices and jobs.
Roux said he does not consider Seagate or himself a "Benedict Arnold." That term, Roux said, "is, like many things in politics, a label that [was] meant to cover a lot of sins."
Thomas F. Steyer, who said he has raised around $200,000 for Kerry, is a partner at a California investment firm called Hellman & amp; Friedman that helped set up an insurance company in Bermuda, another popular tax haven.
The insurance company -- Arch Capital Group Ltd. -- stated in its 2000 Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it was sinking roots in Bermuda to cut down on its U.S. tax bill.
Steyer said it "wasn't my decision" to set up the company in Bermuda and that he now spends less than 10 percent of his time at Hellman & amp; Friedman, the California investment firm that helped fund and set up Arch Capital.
"I believe American citizens should pay their American taxes," Steyer said. He said he "absolutely" does not consider himself part of a Benedict Arnold enterprise.
Both Steyer and Roux have hosted fund-raisers for Kerry and are listed by his campaign as among three dozen supporters who have "bundled" $100,000 more a piece, which means they get credit for packaging together individual donations to reach that total.