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The $50,000 question.

From a February 27 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination of Missouri businessman Sam Fox to be U.S. ambassador to Belgium. During the 2004 presidential race, Fox donated $50,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a 527 group that tried to discredit Senator John Kerry's military service in Vietnam.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY: I assume you believe that truth in public life is important.

SAM FOX: Yes, sir.

KERRY: And might I ask you your opinion of the politics of personal destruction?

FOX: I am very concerned about the amount of money that's going into politics and even more concerned about the fact that politics has become mean and destructive. Let me say this, I'm against 527s. I think they've hurt a lot of good, decent people. I very much respect your dedicated service to this country, Senator Kerry. You're a hero, and there isn't anybody or anything that's going to take that away from you. But 527s tried. By the same token, on the other side of the aisle, one 527 went so far as to compare the president to Adolf Hitler.

KERRY: I'm not looking for anybody to call me a hero, Mr. Fox. I think most of the heroes died. But notwithstanding the comments you made, you did see fit to contribute a very significant sum of money to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Given what you said about how bad 527s are, why would you do that?

FOX: My wife, Marilyn, and I have lived the American dream, there's no question about it. My father came here with only the clothes on his back. Because we're blessed financially now, when people ask us for money, we give. Especially if we know who's asking.

KERRY: Well, who asked you to give to the SBVT?

FOX: I don't remember.

KERRY: You have no recollection why you gave away $50,000?

FOX: I gave away $50,000 because I was asked to.

KERRY: A 527, as you said, is mean and ugly and not accountable. Why would you give $50,000 to a group for whom you have no sense of accountability?

FOX: Because if 527s were banned, then they would be banned for both parties. So long as they're not banned--

KERRY: So two wrongs make a right? Is that the judgment you would bring to the ambassadorship?

FOX: No, I didn't say that two wrongs make a right, sir.

KERRY: Why did you do it then?

FOX: I did it because politically it's necessary if the other side is doing it.

KERRY: So as an individual citizen, you don't think you have any responsibility not to support that kind of politics. Do you think this should matter to me?

FOX: I'm sorry?

KERRY: Do you think this should matter to me?

FOX: Yes, I do. I think it's disgraceful. I think it's terrible. But that's the world we live in. I think the best way to change it is to restrict the amount of money that can go into 527s and regulate them.

KERRY: Well, we've been trying to do that for the twenty-two years I've been here, and one of the most effective ways to do it would be for people like yourself to know what they're giving to and care about it. There's a question here, obviously, about judgment. I'm not trying to be unreasonable about it. Sometimes you go to these hearings and senators rant and rave and scream. I'm not a screamer. I know your family is here. I'm sure they're sitting there thinking, "Why's he giving my dad a hard time right now?" I understand that. I'm sympathetic to it. This is not going to make a difference to my outcome, but it's important to the future.
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Title Annotation:Chastisement
Publication:Harper's Magazine
Article Type:Discussion
Date:May 1, 2007
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