Loral CEO a Donor to Democrats

Article excerpt

A top Democratic fund-raiser targeted by the Justice Department's campaign finance task force on possible criminal charges in the sale of missile-related expertise to China has donated $734,500 to Democrats for the 2000 campaign.

Bernard L. Schwartz, chairman and chief executive officer of Loral Space & Communications Ltd., was recommended in 1998 as the focus of an independent counsel investigation to determine if questionable technology transfers his firm made with the White House's assistance were related to the $1.5 million in donations he gave Democrats in 1996.

Federal Election Commission records show that between February 1999 and June 2000, Mr. Schwartz gave Democrats an average of about $40,000 a month - almost exclusively in unrestricted, soft-money donations.

The soft-money donations went to the Democratic National Committee ($245,000), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ($235,000) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Coordinating Committee ($177,500). Another $77,000 went to individual candidates, including $45,000 to the New York senatorial race of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In addition, Loral employees have given more than $61,000 to Democrats, records show.

The FEC records, which reflect contributions only through June 2000, show no donations by Mr. Schwartz to the Republican Party, which vigorously questioned Loral's role in the transfer of missile technology to the Chinese.

Last year, a House committee chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican, said key missile-related expertise supplied by Loral to China had damaged U.S. national security and that the firm had assisted the Chinese government in improving the reliability of its long-range missiles - 20 of which are now aimed at the United States.

Task force chief Charles G. LaBella, who later was removed from office, had questioned Mr. Schwartz's White House ties in a July 1998 memo to Attorney General Janet Reno. He wanted an outside counsel to investigate the Loral executive and also to examine President Clinton's relationship with Mr. Schwartz and the firm.

Miss Reno later rejected the recommendation.

Mr. Schwartz, the Democratic Party's largest single donor in the 1996 elections, has denied his contributions were meant to influence Mr. Clinton's policies on satellite exports. The White House also has denied any wrongdoing.

DNC spokeswoman Jenny Backus did not return calls to her office for comment.

Loral is a high-technology firm based in New York specializing in satellite manufacturing and satellite-based services. It manages and is the largest equity owner of both Globalstar and Space Systems/Loral, which build large, high-powered satellites for telecommunications and environmental applications.

In his July 1998 memo, Mr. LaBella described Mr. Clinton and Vice President Al Gore as key players in a 1996 fund-raising plan designed to "raise money by whatever means and from whomever would give it, without meaningful attention to the lawfulness of the contributions."

He said abuse was "rampant" and that the campaign was "so corrupted by bloated fundraising and questionable contributions that the system became a caricature of itself."

Mr. LaBella also described Mr. Gore as "an active participant in the core group fundraising efforts" and told a Senate committee in May that the Loral-White House connection was a legitimate topic for an independent counsel probe. …