Senator's Plan for Foreign Aid Nets Him Campaign Donations

Article excerpt

Just a month after Republicans captured Congress, the new chairman of the Senate foreign aid subcommittee announced plans to redistribute U.S. foreign aid - and in the process found a source for his campaign funds.

Under Sen. Mitch McConnell's plan, aid to poor African countries was curtailed. Aid was increased to former Soviet republics such as Armenia that were making strides toward democracy and free markets.

In the previous two years, McConnell had received no campaign contributions from Armenian-Americans. But in the two years after he targeted $180 million to Armenia, contributions poured in from ethnic Armenians as far away as California and New Jersey - more than $52,000. McConnell, R-Ky., said his 1994 decision to reorganize foreign aid had nothing to do with political donations. But he says he understands why Armenian-Americans have supported him. "These people take an interest in their homeland," he said. "Participation by American citizens should be applauded, not condemned." Giving by ethnic Americans seeking to influence U.S. foreign policy appears to be on the rise, said Larry Makinson, who scrutinizes campaign giving for the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. American supporters of Israel, Greece and Ireland have traditionally been the most active. Pro-Israel political action committees and individuals have given about $5 million to candidates in each of the last several two-year election cycles, Makinson said. …

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