Ari & I: May 2, 2001
White House Press Briefing with Ari Fleischer
Mokhiber: Ari, last month, Koch Industries, one of the nation's largest oil companies, pled guilty to a felony environmental crime. The Washington Post reported, also last month, that the company and its employees gave $30,000 to President Bush during the Presidential race and a similar amount in 1995 as Governor of Texas when he was running.
Mokhiber: -- is the President now willing to give the money back because the company has been convicted of a felony? And does the President have a policy of accepting campaign contributions from convicted felons?
Ari Fleischer: Can you give me a list of who the individuals were who gave the campaign contributions?
Mokhiber: David Koch --
Fleischer: And were these individuals convicted, or was it just the company?
Mokhiber: The company was convicted --
Fleischer: So, it was not the individuals --
Mokhiber: But the company also gave --
Fleischer: So, it was not the individuals.
Mokhiber: The company was convicted of a felony and the company gave money to the --
Fleischer: And therefore every employee of the company is a felon?
Mokhiber: Now, wait, wait, wait, wait -- if I could follow up. The company was convicted of a felony. The company gave money to the campaign.
Fleischer: The company gave money to the campaign?
Mokhiber: According to the Post, Bush received more than $30,000 from Koch Industries and its employees in the Presidential race and received a similar amount since 1995 as Governor of Texas.
Fleischer: As you are aware, it is illegal to accept corporate contributions in federal campaigns, so therefore, any contributions came from individuals. So, unless you are prepared to say that a company that has a conviction means that all of its employees are felons -- I'd be careful there.
Mokhiber: Let me just ask one further follow-up. Does the President have a policy of accepting money from executives of corporate felons?
Fleischer: Again, individuals are free to give money in their own capacity. And it is illegal to accept money from corporations, as you know.
[Note to readers: On April 10, 2001, the Washington Post's Dan Eggen ("Oil Company Agrees to Pay $20 Million in Fines, Koch Allegedly Hid Releases of Benzene") reported the following:
"The company and its employees donated $800,000 to GOP candidates and organizations during the last election cycle, half of which came from David H. Koch, the firm's executive vice president, according to campaign finance records. Bush received more than $30,000 from Koch Industries and its employees in the presidential race and had received a similar amount since 1995 as governor of Texas, campaign records show." Fleischer said "it is illegal to accept corporate contributions in federal campaigns, so therefore, any contributions came from individuals."
True and false. It is true that it is illegal for a corporation to write a check out of its general treasury to a federal candidate.
But a corporation's political action committee (PAC) can give money. And in this case, Koch Industries PAC gave $5,000 to Bush during the last election.
I rang up Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. Noble said that Fleischer was engaged in a "diversion" and that it reminded him of Clinton saying it depends on what the definition of "is" is.
"The PAC is run by the company, it is a separate account within the company," Noble said. "The company decides who the PAC gives money to."
And most often, the individual Koch executives who give money to the Bush campaign often give at about the same time � as they did here � indicating that a fundraiser from the company was in progress.
"It's a distinction without a difference," Noble said of Fleischer's parsing.]