A prospective 2004 presidential candidate and four other members of Congress allegedly received illegal campaign contributions from a defense contractor indicted Wednesday by the Justice Department.
Parthasarathi Majumder and his California-based company, Science and Applied Technology Inc., were slapped with a 40-count indictment that included charges related to illegal contributions to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., John Murtha, D-Pa., and Joe Scarborough, R-Fla.
"The voting process is the foundation of American democracy, and its integrity must be ensured in order for our system to operate properly," said U.S. Attorney Patrick O’Toole.
The lawmakers' offices denied Thursday that they had any knowledge that the contributions were illegal and said they would take appropriate measures to return the money or donate it to charity. Officials related to the indictment stressed that the charges in no way implicate the congressional members in criminal activity, and that no evidence suggests the lawmakers knew about Majumder’s illegal activity.
The indictment alleges that Majumder solicited employees, subcontractors and friends to contribute to politicians he thought could help give his company business or money. Federal law prohibits using the name of another person in making a political contribution or making the donation for another person.
If individuals didn’t want to contribute their own funds, Majumder allegedly reimbursed those "conduit" donors by giving them cash, writing checks from his personal checking account, instructing SAT’s payroll clerk to award them bonuses and instructing subcontractors to inflate labor hours on their SAT time sheets to cover the contributions.
Majumder also allegedly told SAT employees that contributions to specific lawmakers, including Hunter, Cunningham and Kerry, were vital for the success of an experimental program being developed by SAT, the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile program, which is used by the Naval Air Systems Command at Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Md.
The United States so far has paid SAT over $150 million for the design and development of the AARGM program.
SAT also is charged with improperly seeking payment from the Navy for contributions disguised as bonuses and inflated wages when submitting its billing records. SAT then improperly deducted those contributions as business expenses.
Murtha spokesman Brad Clemenson told Foxnews.com that the charges date back to 1993 and were "ancient news."
"We had no way to know if any of those contributions were illegal, if they were," Clemenson said, adding that he is "99 percent sure" that Murtha returned any questionable contributions.
Kerry, who may be pondering a run for president in 2004 and has been busy fundraising for such a race, is proactive in making sure small high-tech and research and development companies are able to compete.
"Mr. Majumder was among hundreds of thousands of contributors to Sen. Kerry's campaign and we assumed his contributions and those of his employees were made because they believed in John Kerry's candidacy," said Kerry spokesman David Wade. "He'll be donating these contributions to charity."
Scarborough resigned in the middle of his term last year to spend more time with his sons, one of whom has diabetes.
O’Toole of the Southern District of California and agents from the FBI, IRS, Naval Criminal Investigation Service and other agencies unsealed the indictment on Wednesday.