Republican presidential front-runner Bob Dole urgently sought Clinton administration intervention last summer in a global trade dispute where one of his campaign’s biggest benefactors had tens of millions of dollars at stake, according to government documents.
His previously undisclosed personal entreaties to White House trade representative Mickey Kantor, disclosed in documents obtained by Newsday under the Freedom of Information Act, involved Chiquita Brands International Inc. and came as Chiquita’s parent company was making its corporate jets available to fly Dole to campaign appearances across the country.
Dole wanted Kantor to retaliate against European and Latin American countries for trade policies that, he said in a June 21 “Dear Mickey” letter, threatened to cause “irreparable damage” to U.S. banana companies. Later last year, as Chiquita executives said the European restrictions were costing them more than $100 million in business, Dole complained that Kantor wasn’t doing enough and began drafting still-pending legislative language to punish the offending countries.
All the while, Chiquita’s parent company, American Financial Corp., was stepping up the pace at which it was making its corporate jets available to Dole’s campaign - from one trip each in March and April to two trips each in July and August to six trips in September, making the Ohio-based company the most frequent supplier of corporately subsidized charters to the Dole For President Committee, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
In the first nine months of this campaign year, the Dole campaign took 68 trips on planes owned by 27 companies, including 12 trips on American Financial jets, according to Dole’s FEC filings.
There is nothing illegal in these flights. But they show how Dole has been able to capitalize on federal election laws that allow campaign travel at far cheaper rates than he would pay if he had to charter planes himself.
Dole’s spokesman rejected as “absurd” any notion that the senator’s actions on the trade issue were related to campaign help by Chiquita.