LOS ANGELES – Presidential candidate John Kerry (search) pressured Congress and the Pentagon to fund a missile system on behalf of a San Diego contractor who, years later, pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to the senator and other politicians, according to the Los Angeles Times.
From 1996 to 1999, Kerry sent 28 letters urging the freeing of funds for an upgraded guided missile system Parthasarathi Majumder (search) was trying to build for U.S. warplanes, the Times said on its Web site Wednesday night.
The letters were sent at a time when Majumder and employees at his Science and Applied Technology Inc. were donating money to the Massachusetts Democrat, the article said, citing court records.
Kerry received about $25,000 during the period, according to Dwight L. Morris and Associates, which tracks campaign donations.
Last week, Majumder pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal campaign contributions and defrauding the government. He could face up to six years in prison and more than $250,000 in fines when he is sentenced.
The plea follows a Dec. 18 civil settlement in which Majumder agreed to pay the government about $3 million for submitting false claims under a government contract.
He acknowledged making more than $95,000 in illegal donations to Kerry; Rep. Duncan Hunter and Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, both California Republicans; Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.; and Rep. Joe Scarborough, R-Fla., who is now retired.
None of the lawmakers or their staff was charged with any wrongdoing.
Majumder, a U.S. citizen born in India, made the contributions between 1993 to 1998 and also encouraged his friends and colleagues to do so, according to the U.S. attorney general's office.
Majumder then reimbursed those donors more than $20,000, according to the plea agreement.
U.S. election laws limit individual contributions to $1,000 to a candidate seeking federal office per campaign period. The law also prohibits corporations from giving money to candidates or using others to donate by proxy.
Kerry's campaign told the Times that the senator's letters of support for the project involved a concern that the delay in funding the project would affect jobs in his home state, where a subcontractor, Millitech, was based.
"Kerry has made a career of going to bat for Massachusetts companies and bottlenecks they might have with the federal government. It's part of his job," said Michael Meehan, campaign senior adviser. "It was a small company. It wasn't a big military firm that had all kinds of influence at the Pentagon."
Kerry donated $13,000 to charity last week, shortly before Majumder's guilty plea.
Kerry's letters were sent to the secretary of the Navy, the defense secretary, the Defense Department comptroller and to members of the House and the Senate committees that control and finance military contracts, according to court records.
Majumder's company was later bought by a Minnesota firm that is continuing to work on the missile project.