ONE MORE Republican Culture of Corruption bribery scandal, this time involving Senate Majority Leader Frist, and the wife of Senator Kit Bond. AP: Frist AIDS charity paid consultants
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s AIDS charity paid nearly a half-million dollars in consulting fees to members of his political inner circle, according to tax returns providing the first financial accounting of the presidential hopeful’s nonprofit.
The returns for World of Hope Inc., obtained by The Associated Press, also show the charity raised the lion’s share of its $4.4 million from just 18 sources. They gave between $97,950 and $267,735 each to help fund Frist’s efforts to fight AIDS.
The tax forms, filed nine months after they were first due, do not identify the 18 major donors by name.
… The donors included several corporations with frequent business before Congress, such as insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield, manufacturer 3M, drug maker Eli Lilly and the Goldman Sachs investment firm.
World of Hope gave $3 million it raised to charitable AIDS causes, such as Africare and evangelical Christian groups with ties to Republicans – Franklin Graham’s Samaritan Purse and the Rev. Luis Cortes’ Esperanza USA, for example.
The rest of the money went to overhead. That included $456,125 in consulting fees to two firms run by Frist’s longtime political fundraiser, Linus Catignani. One is jointly run by Linda Bond, the wife of Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Mo.
… Political experts said both the size of charity’s big donations and its consulting fees raise questions about whether the tax-exempt group benefited Frist’s political ambitions.
“One of the things people who are running for president try to do is keep their fundraising staff and political people close at hand. And one of the ways you can do that is by putting them in some sort of organization you run,” said Larry Noble, the government’s former chief election lawyer who now runs the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics that studies fundraising.
Kent Cooper, the Federal Election Commission’s former public disclosure chief, said the big donors’ motives are also suspect.
“These tax deductible gifts were earmarked through Senator Frist,” Cooper said. “They were raised in the political arena at the 2004 Republican Convention and the natural question is were they given to the Senate majority leader to gain favor or were they given for true charitable purposes?”
Cooper said the consulting fees were “excessively high” and the fact that they were “paid to primarily political consultants also raises questions about the long-range strategic benefits for the 2008 presidential race.” [emphasis added]
So Sen. Bond’s wife received a chunk of the $450,000 paid out for “fundraising” even though there were only 18 donors. Right. Repeat: “The donors included several corporations with frequent business before Congress, such as insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield, manufacturer 3M, drug maker Eli Lilly and the Goldman Sachs investment firm.”
(Through Fired Up Missouri)