Heinz Plays Down Kerry Connection; Company Stays Neutral in Race
Byline: Marguerite Higgins, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
H.J. Heinz Co. is seeing red - and not just in its ketchup bottles.
The Pittsburgh condiment maker has been putting considerable distance between its brand name and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.
The company sent out 50 letters to news organizations in the past month to squash rumors circulating on the Internet and radio talk shows that it is involved with Mr. Kerry's campaign.
Mr. Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, is heiress to the $500 million family ketchup fortune. She was married to Republican Sen. H. John Heinz III, who was killed in a 1991 plane crash.
The Kerrys and their family are not involved in Heinz's management, board of directors or charitable organization, the company said in the letters.
Mrs. Kerry, who is chairwoman of the Howard Heinz Endowment and Heinz Family Philanthropies, her children with Mr. Heinz and the Heinz family's charitable groups own less than 4 percent of the company's stock, according to the letter.
The company's move came after the Heinz Endowments, two private foundations unrelated to the company's foundation, were accused of funding Peaceful Tomorrows, a nonprofit group of families of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Peaceful Tomorrows strongly criticized President Bush's use of footage from the attacks in his television ad that began running in early March.
The Heinz Endowments have denied accusations that they gave any funds to the group, said spokesman Doug Root.
But the similarities between the names and rumors that Heinz Co. would profit if Mr. Kerry wins the Democratic nomination or the general election prompted the company to take the pre-emptive measure, said spokesman Jack Kennedy.
The company has received about 800 calls on the campaign connection since the presidential primaries began in January, Mr. Kennedy said. Heinz receives about 5,000 consumer calls monthly.
"There was not a lot of feedback" from consumers praising Heinz or promising boycotts, but the company was beginning to see a trend of people connecting the brand name to Mr. …