Ohio Delegation Receives $86,850 In Contributions From WorldCom

By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - More than half of Ohio's congressional delegation has received a combined $86,850 in campaign contributions from WorldCom Inc., another corporation now mired in accounting scandal.

Reps. Ted Strickland and Steven LaTourette announced this week that they will return the money. Most others are keeping the cash.

"I have no intention in helping the corporate executives, but just like with the Enron matter, once they establish a benefit fund for the employees, I will return the money I received to that fund," said Strickland, who has received $7,000 from company since 1989.

WorldCom disclosed last week that it hid $3.8 billion in expenses in 2001 and 2002. The company's demise has cost investors millions, and Ohio's state retirement funds have lost more than $300 million in value. The company has eliminated about 150 of its 2,700 jobs in Ohio.

The contributions to Ohio lawmakers represent a fraction of the donations from the politically connected WorldCom, which contributed close to $1 million for the fall election. Mississippi Republican Rep. Chip Pickering has received the most money since 1989 -- more than $82,000.

Still, the scandal surrounding the company's demise has drawn attention to lawmakers in close election races this fall and those who must now investigate the company.

Strickland, Reps. Sherrod Brown and Tom Sawyer, both D-Ohio, and Rep. Paul Gillmor, R-Ohio, all serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the panels investigating WorldCom.

Brown has received $11,000 from the company and its affiliates since 1989; Sawyer $3,500; and Gillmor $2,000, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. Calls to Brown's office were not returned Tuesday. Gillmor has not decided what to do with the money, his spokesman said.

Sawyer, who lost his primary election this year, also hasn't decided what to do. He expects to report a $35,000 debt from the primary, said his chief of staff Dan Lucas.

Another committee investigating WorldCom is the House Financial Services Committee, of which LaTourette and Gillmor are members and Rep. Michael Oxley is chairman. Oxley, R-Ohio, has received $9,350 in contributions from the company since 1989. Calls to his office were not returned Tuesday.

LaTourette, a Republican from Madison, said he would return the $2,500 he has received from WorldCom, preferably to a fund established to help laid off employees.

Other lawmakers have no plans to return their contributions.

"It was a legal contribution, and at the time the contributions were made, there were no indications of problems with the company," said Mike Dawson, a spokesman for Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, who has received $13,500 from the company and employees of the company since 1989.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, will not be returning the $12,000 he has received from WorldCom since 1989.

"If he learns that there is anything inappropriate about these contributions, then he will return them," said spokesman Scott Milburn.

The $6,300 Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, received from the WorldCom PAC since 1989 has come and gone, spokesman Steve Forde said.

"It's not there to return," he said.

Reps. Tony Hall, D-Ohio, who has received $1,500 since 1989, and Dave Hobson, R-Ohio, who received $200, also have no plans to return the money.

When Hall's United Nations nomination is approved, he'll retire from Congress and donate all money remaining in his campaign fund to charity, said his spokesman Michael Gessel.

Hobson's spokesman said the $200 contribution came in 1989 from MCI Telecommunications, which WorldCom bought, so it's not an issue.

Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, who has received $15,000 since 1989, also will not be returning the money. Rep. Deborah Pryce, who received $3,000, hadn't decided what to do with the money, her office said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)