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Kander Returns $25K In Tainted Campaign Donations

Carolina Hidalgo
St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Senate hopeful Jason Kander has returned $25,000 in campaign contributions that are connected to an alleged straw donor system by a prominent Democratic law firm.

As first reported in The Boston Globe, the Thornton Law Firm has been funneling cash to Democratic candidates by reimbursing employees the amounts that they donated to political candidates. Some have suggested that that is illegal.

In all, the firm donated $1.6 million between 2010 and 2014, giving $25,000 to Kander, who is challenging GOP incumbent Roy Blunt in a tight race.

“As soon as we became aware of this situation we decided to write a check equivalent to what employees at the firm had contributed to the campaign, $25,000, to the U.S. Treasury,” said Anne Feldman, a Kander spokeswoman.

Other Democrats have also returned the cash from the law firm, which is based in Boston. Politico reported six candidates in close races, including Kander, have sent back the money.

The Thornton Law Firm donated nearly $350,000 this year to 31 Democrats and one Republican, according to Open Secrets.  

From The Boston Globe:

Thornton, through a spokesman, said its donation reimbursement program was reviewed by outside lawyers and complied with applicable laws. Campaign finance experts said that without reviewing the firm’s records, they cannot say the payback system breaks the law, but that it raises numerous red flags. That’s because reimbursing people for their political donations is generally illegal, several experts said. When political donors are repaid for their donations, it can conceal the real source of contributions, and enable the unnamed source of the funds to exceed state and federal contribution limits. And in some states — Massachusetts among them — political donations to state candidates from corporations and partnerships such as Thornton Law Firm are flatly illegal.

The Missouri Republican Party blasted Kander’s acceptance of the money.

“Kander has taken tens of thousands of dollars in an illegal fundraising scheme, he won’t resign his position as a co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign even as she faces an investigation by the FBI and he’s been trying to hide his liberal record from Missouri voters,” said Rich Chrismer, a spokesman for the state GOP.

Meanwhile, Five Thirty Eight, the popular blog focused on statistical analysis, on Monday said Kander has a 60 percent chance of winning the race. Most polls show Blunt with a slight lead.

Peggy Lowe is investigations editor at KCUR and Harvest Public Media. You can find her on Twitter at @peggyllowe.

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
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