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OHIO 2 congressmen will return funds donated by WorldCom



Published: Wed, July 3, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



However, Ohio's two U.S. senators said they have no plans to return the funds contributed by WorldCom.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Two congressmen wanting to represent the Mahoning Valley plan to return contributions they have received from WorldCom Inc., the embattled long-distance telephone company involved in what could be the nation's biggest case of accounting fraud.

But the money U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, a Lucasville Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, a Madison Republican, intend to return will not go to the telephone giant, but to a fund that would be established to benefit company employees.

Strickland is running for the 6th Congressional District seat, which beginning next year, will include Columbiana County and a portion of Mahoning County. LaTourette is running for the 14th Congressional District seat, which beginning next year, will include seven northern Trumbull County townships.

What they've received

Strickland has received $7,000 from WorldCom's political action committee and LaTourette has received $2,500 from the company's PAC, according to an analysis conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics.

"My returning the money doesn't imply that I consider I took an illegal contribution, but when the employees of a corporation are affected so seriously, it seems inappropriate not to return the money to them, if possible," Strickland said.

Strickland and LaTourette recently gave the $500 they each received from Enron, another major company involved in one of the largest accounting fraud scandal in U.S. history, in 1994 to a fund to help thousands of its laid-off employees.

"As soon as a fund is established for WorldCom employees, we'll put it into that fund," LaTourette said.

Strickland is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and LaTourette is a member of the House Financial Services Committee. Both committees are investigating WorldCom, the nation's second-largest long-distance telephone company which announced last week that it hid $3.8 billion in expenses in 2001 and the first quarter of this year, and is on the brink of bankruptcy.

Others who received funds

U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Lorain Democrat who received $11,000 from the company's PAC, and U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer, an Akron Democrat who received $3,500 from WorldCom's PAC, could not be reached to comment Tuesday about what they are going to do with the money. Both serve with Strickland on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Brown represents western Trumbull County through the end of this year, and Sawyer lost the Democratic primary for a congressional seat to represent portions of Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., a Poland Democrat running as an independent, has never received any campaign contributions from WorldCom.

The state's two U.S. senators have no intention of returning WorldCom contributions.

"It was and is a legal contribution and at the time we took it, there was no indication there was anything wrong with the company," said Mike Dawson, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, a Republican who has accepted $13,500 from the company's PAC and individuals affiliated with WorldCom. "Our practice has been if we are aware of an illegal contribution, we return it."

U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican who has received $12,000 from WorldCom's PAC, also will not return the money, a spokesman said.

Overall, the state's congressional delegation took $86,050 in contributions from WorldCom since 1989.

DeWine and Voinovich were among the top 16 U.S. senators in terms of political contributions received from WorldCom since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In Pennsylvania

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, has received $1,000 from WorldCom, and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, also a Pennsylvania Republican, has received no campaign contributions from the company.

U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart, a Bradford Woods Republican who represents Lawrence County, received $500 from WorldCom's PAC, and U.S. Rep. Phil English, an Erie Republican who represents Mercer County, did not receive any contributions from the company.

skolnick@vindy.com




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