Swift Boat financier pressed by Kerry admits 'You're a hero'
Michael Roston
Published: Wednesday February 28, 2007
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A staid confirmation hearing yesterday took an exciting turn when it gave Senator John Kerry the opportunity to confront a major financier of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a political group that maligned the decorated Vietnam veteran in the 2004 presidential race. When the senator pressed Sam Fox, a businessman and Bush supporter nominated to be America's next ambassador to Belgium, on the issue, the nominee admitted to Kerry "you're a hero" and called for the government to ban all advocacy groups like the Swift Boat Vets.

Sam Fox is a St. Louis, Missouri-based business executive nominated by President Bush in Dec. 2006 to be US Ambassador to Belgium. Yesterday, in a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his nomination was under consideration prior to a possible vote on the Senate floor. Blogger Bob Geiger presented a recap of the events and a transcript of the exchange at his website this morning.

Fox was a major backer of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a so-called non-partisan "527" advocacy group that attacked Senator Kerry's military service record in the 2004 election. In December, the group paid a large cash settlement to the Federal Election Commission for violating federal election laws. Fox gave $50,000 to the Swift Boat Vets group.

When Kerry confronted Fox on this subject in yesterday's hearing, Fox criticized all 527 groups, and said "You're a hero. And there isnít anybody or anything that's going to take that away from you. But yet 527s tried to."

As Kerry followed up, Fox pleaded ignorance, suggesting that he wasn't fully aware that he had given the large sum to the 527 group. When Kerry asked who had made the request that he give to the Swift Boat Vets, the nominee responded, "I can't tell you specifically who did because, you know, I donít remember."

The senator then asked Fox how he could rationalize giving to 527 groups when he abhors them as a concept and thinks they should be banned.

"I did it because politically, it's necessary if the other side is doing it," Fox responded.

Senator Obama, who was chairing the hearing, said he found Fox's responses to Kerry's queries "unsatisfying."

"By the time you contributed, it was pretty widely noted -- it would have been hard for you to miss the fact that there was something particularly nasty and insidious about these ads," he remarked. "I donít think you necessarily crafted the message but you certainly knew at that point what the message was."

Fox is a major supporter of the Republican Party, and his links to President Bush in particular are extensive. At the May 2006 Republican National Committee Gala, President George W. Bush called out Fox by name to thank him for being a chair of the event. He was also a co-chair of the Finance Committee for Bush's second inauguration.

While Kerry and Obama put Fox in the hot seat in the hearing, he also received praise. Former Senator John Danforth saluted him, along with Senator Joseph Lieberman, according to the Associated Press. They also reported that Senator Norm Coleman, a Republican of Minnesota, said "it would be a terrible shame" if Fox was disqualified because of his political donations.

Washington Post blogger Mary Ann Akers also posted a transcript of key portions of the exchange between Kerry and Fox.