Friday, September 21, 2007

Open Secrets

AMERICANS OVERSEAS SENDING MORE MONEY HOME Yard signs in London won't do a U.S. presidential candidate much good, but what the expats there, and in the world's other major cities, can do for a campaign is contribute money. This week Rudy Giuliani held what may be the first-ever fundraiser overseas, in London, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are dispatching their spouses "across the pond" next month. Contributions from Americans living abroad are on pace to far exceed what past presidential candidates have raised outside U.S. borders, according to a new review by the Center for Responsive Politics.

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Since their days together in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office in the early 1970s, presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has been closely connected to Michael Mukasey, President Bush's nominee for attorney general. Mukasey and his wife, Susan, are also connected financially to New York's former mayor -- they have together contributed at least $5,600 toward Giuliani's bid for president (their only contributions to any federal candidate since 1989, apparently). Many years after working together, Mukasey presided over Giuliani's mayoral inauguration in 1994 in his position as a federal judge. After Giuliani left City Hall and joined a law firm, Mukasey's son, Marc, began practicing criminal defense law there. Marc Mukasey has donated $4,600, the contribution limit for individuals, to Giuliani's presidential campaign. Giuliani has named both Michael and Marc Mukasey to one of his presidential campaign advisory committees.

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Trial attorney William Lerach, a major contributor to Democratic campaigns, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to federal conspiracy charges, which will send him to prison for at least a year. John Edwards's presidential campaign announced that it will donate to charity Lerach's own contributions, amounting to $4,600, but it has no plans to return the money Lerach raised from others as an Edwards bundler. Lerach also gave $2,700 to Joe Biden's bid for president and $6,100 to Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign, but neither candidate has said whether they will return his contributions. Since 1989, Lerach and his family have donated about $1.7 million to federal candidates and parties. While 99 percent of his contributions went to Democrats, he did give $2,000 to Republican John McCain in 1998.

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BLACKWATER IN HOT WATER A private security firm whose founder has generously supported the Bush family and Republican Party had its license to operate in Iraq canceled by the country's government this week. A shoot-out involving contractors from Blackwater USA while they were protecting a U.S. diplomatic convoy left eight Iraqis dead in Baghdad and prompted the government's action. Blackwater, founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, has benefited from hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. contracts and steady employment since the Iraq war began in 2003. Prince, who has been connected to President Bush's family since serving as a White House intern under the president's father, is a longstanding contributor to Republican candidates, parties and committees. So far this year, he has given $20,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. A House Oversight and Government Reform committee study found that nearly $4 billion has been spent on private security contracts in Iraq since the war began.

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WITH KEYES, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL FIELD GOES TO 11 Alan Keyes officially launched his third campaign for president this week after filing with the Federal Election Commission. The announcement brings the total number of prominent Republican candidates to 11. A staunch defender of pro-life and pro-family values, Keyes said in a radio interview that he hopes to stand out from the pack with a decisively conservative platform. Keyes served in the State Department under Ronald Reagan. His elected career has been marked by failure after unsuccessful runs for U.S. Senate seats in Maryland and Illinois (where he lost to current Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama) and two unsuccessful presidential campaigns in 1996 and 2000. In 2000, Keyes raised $10 million and collected another $5 million in federal matching funds. Four years earlier, he raised $4.8 million.

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