Washington, Feb. 19: Senator John Kerry, the frontrunner among Democrats to challenge President George W. Bush in the November election, is in trouble for his association with a Calcutta-born defence contractor in San Diego, California.
Parthasarathi Majumder, 52, now a US citizen, last week pleaded guilty to charges that he made illegal contributions to the election coffers of Kerry and four members of the House of Representatives. His company was awarded defence contracts for developing an air-to-ground anti-radiation guided missile.
The Telegraph had reported the scam on August 1, 2002, when Majumder was charged with 40 counts, including conspiracy, making illegal campaign contributions and witness tampering.
At that time, the accused, who was president and chief executive of Science and Applied Technology Inc., the company which was developing the missile, had pleaded innocent.
Under last week’s plea bargain, Majumder faces a maximum penalty of five years in jail and $250,000 in fines for defrauding the government. Election laws in the US allow individuals to contribute a maximum of $1,000 to one candidate seeking federal office during one campaign period. But companies are barred from donating to candidates or using others to give money by proxy.
Majumder was accused of making political contributions of over $75,000 during an eight-year period. His modus operandi was to persuade associates to make contributions to politicians and reimburse them.
When Majumder was charged, the politicians’ aides had said that the lawmakers had no way of knowing if contributions are illegal.
But in this volatile election year, Kerry’s problems may stem from a visit he made to Majumder’s firm several years ago and a fund-raiser for the senator, in which many of that company’s employees participated.