Two Ns, Many Political Donations
Cincinnati’s own Chiquita Brands International is in the headlines for paying a $25 million fine to the federal government after admitting it gave cash for years to a known Colombian terrorist group that traffics in cocaine as protection money. But a review of other federal documents raise troubling questions about Chiquita’s former owner, billionaire financier Carl Lindner Jr., and his family.
Lindner, his wife, sons and other family members are well known as big-money political campaign contributors, mostly to conservative Republican candidates and causes including President Bush. A review of documents filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), however, show that the family also gives money to candidates under the similar name of “Linder.”
The pattern of listing campaign contributions without the second “n” in the family’s name isn’t limited to one or two reports, and appears to be a pattern going back several years.
According to documents filed with the FEC, it’s not just one “Linder” error, and it’s not just Carl Jr.’s last name being misspelled repeatedly; the same error shows up with a variety of other Lindner family members, including his wife, Edyth, and his son, Carl III.
For example, “Carl Linder Jr.” gave $500 to the congressional campaign of Geoff Davis in 2001; a person listed as “Carl Linder III” gave $4,000 to the U.S. Senate campaign of David Vitter in Louisiana in 2004 and $1,000 to Virginia Gov. George Allen’s senate campaign in 1999. There are multiple other instances in the reports over the years, as well.
During the 2004 election cycle, the Lindner family contributed tens of thousands of dollars, funneled through each member of the family, to various conservative groups, including the Republican National Committee and several GOP politicians. Among the donations, Lindner gave $250,000 to the Swift Boat Veterans PAC, the group recently fined for inaccurate TV commercials smearing the military service record of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
Because a number of donations involve a systematic misspelling of the family’s name, it’s unclear whether the listings are merely a clerical error made for years or an effort to conceal donations as a method for avoiding federal campaign contribution limits.
Current campaign contribution limits include $2,300 per election to a federal candidate or the candidate’s campaign committee and $5,000 per calendar year to a political action committee (PAC), which can support candidates or issues.
Also, contributors may give $10,000 per year to a state or local party committee and $28,500 per year to a national party committee. The total cap on campaign contributions from an individual for a two-year period is $108,200.
In presidential campaigns, individuals may contribute up to $2,300 for the entire primary campaign period, not $2,300 for each state primary in which the candidate runs.
Carl Lindner Jr. is founder of the United Dairy Farmers convenience store chain and a former owner of the Cincinnati Reds. Along with his three sons, Lindner holds a 42 percent stake in the American Financial Group. On Forbes magazine’s 400 richest people list in 2006, Lindner was ranked 133rd, with a value of $2.3 billion.
Surely that’s enough to afford a proofreader.
— Kevin Osborne