Kerry and AIG: Improve Your Response Senator
Now that John Kerry is the frontrunner, his votes and actions over years of government service will be explored for damaging votes, actions, and statements. Some of the slings and arrows he will be exposed to shall come from the GOP directly, and some will come from the media, either on their own initiative or based on tips from current and former opponents or the White House/RNC. There has been talk recently that one of the chinks in Kerry’s armor surrounds the “Big Dig”, a multi-billion dollar, decades-long Boston highway project that had notorious cost overruns.
Today, the Associated Press broke a story which insinuates that Kerry helped mega-insurer American International Group fend off an effort by then-Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain to strip $150 million from the federal funding of the Big Dig, after a federal audit found that AIG overbilled the project for workers’ compensation and liability insurance and then invested the overpayment and collected a portion of those profits. AIG subsequently thanked Kerry for his help in the usual Washington way.
In the two years after the Big Dig issue, 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 also donated $18,000 to his Senate and presidential campaigns, according to records obtained by AP.
Now, AIG is a major campaign contributor to both political parties, giving over $2 million just since 1999. A set of contributions totally just under $50,000 over the last three years from one contributor to one official may look commonplace and paltry in today’s Washington, especially compared to the millions in contributions from Corporate America to the GOP and Bush/Cheney and their reciprocations. And as the story notes, McCain himself got money from AIG in the months while McCain’s legislation was pending.
But the problem for Kerry is that there is the appearance of a quid-pro-quo between the efforts by Kerry to save the Big Dig funding and in stopping legislation that would have barred future investment maneuvers like AIG perpetrated, and the contributions that Kerry subsequently got. In defending itself, the campaign needs to do better than "Any contributions AIG made to the senator's campaign came years after the investigation."
Of course they did. That’s the point.