WASHINGTON – At least six of the 10 members of a bipartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have made partisan campaign donations since joining the panel, campaign finance reports show.
Democratic Commissioner Jamie Gorelick (search) has given roughly $14,000 to Democratic candidates and causes since joining in December 2002. That includes the maximum $2,000 each to presidential nominee-to-be John Kerry (search) and former hopeful Dick Gephardt (search) and $1,000 to former presidential candidate Wesley Clark (search).
Gorelick said the commission decided early on that members shouldn't physically take part in partisan political activities, but that they could make campaign contributions. She is one of five Democratic members; there also are five Republicans.
"If I stopped (giving) for the period of my service, it doesn't give a more honest representation of who I am. I am a Democrat," said Gorelick, a partner at the Washington law and lobbying firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering and a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration. She said she has donated to Republicans in past elections.
Gorelick said that while the independent commission is bipartisan, it has not voted along party lines.
"We have asked hard questions of Democrats and Republicans and the factual statements produced by the staff have almost entirely been left unchanged by the commissioners," she said.
Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Democrat, has donated at least $25,000 to Democratic candidates and party committees since being named to the panel in December 2003.
Using money left over from his Senate campaign, Kerrey gave $20,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and $2,000 each to Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senate hopeful Inez Tenenbaum of South Carolina. He also gave $1,000 to Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama.
The commission's chairman, Republican Thomas H. Kean, has donated at least $4,000 to Republicans since joining the panel in December 2002. The former New Jersey governor gave $2,000 each to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the New Jersey GOP.
Republican Slade Gorton, a former U.S. senator from Washington state, donated roughly $2,700 to Republicans, including $500 each to senators trying to keep their seats in two of this year's hottest races: Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski. He gave $500 to a Democrat, Pennsylvania House candidate Joe Torsella.
Former Illinois Gov. James Thompson, a Republican named to the commission in December 2002 by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., donated $2,000 to President Bush's re-election campaign last September. Thompson is chairman of Winston & Strawn, a Chicago-based law and lobbying firm with a Washington office. Its lobbying clients have included companies with an interest in national security issues.
Thompson said he drew a distinction between donating to Bush and becoming more involved in the campaign by raising money for him from others. Thompson was a volunteer Bush fund-raiser in 2000 but said he doesn't think it would be appropriate to play an active role in the current campaign, at least until the commission finishes its work.
Kerrey, Kean and Gorton did not immediately respond to messages left at their offices Tuesday by The Associated Press.
Republican John F. Lehman has given at least $6,000 to GOP candidates and causes since joining the commission, including $2,000 each to Bush and Arizona Sen. John McCain and at least $1,000 to Specter.
Lehman said the Sept. 11 investigation has nothing to do with the elections.
"This is not a political issue even though the media tries to play it into a partisan issue," said Lehman, chairman of a private equity firm and former Navy secretary under President Reagan.
He said it isn't the commission's fault if Bush and Kerry criticize each other on national security.
"So I see absolutely no conflict with people continuing to go to church, people continuing to be members of clubs, people continuing to participate in their public lives and to contribute to political campaigns as they see fit," Lehman said.