A federal grand jury indicted Jian-Yun Dong, CEO of a biotech firm known as GenPhar and a major donor to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), for embezzling more than $3 million in federal funds and for illegally funding tens of thousands of foreign dollars to Graham’s senate campaign. Much of the money Dong allegedly stole from the American people came from earmarks secured for Dong’s company by Sen. Graham:
The indictments point to the connections between Dong’s biotechnology company, GenPhar, and Graham, who championed nearly $20 million in federal earmarks for the firm’s vaccine research.
GenPhar employees rank among the top givers to Graham in recent years, while also donating to other Republicans, according to Federal Election Commission records. Prosecutors say that at least $31,000 in donations to Graham came from an unidentified foreign national, who wired $36,000 from a Frankfurt bank in 2007 to bankroll the scheme. [...]
In September 2007, Dong suggested in an e-mail to the foreign national that the contributions had helped the company win federal funding. The project is not identified in court records, but the National Institutes of Health awarded $1.1 million to GenPhar on Sept. 7, 2007, for a “preclinical evaluation” of a vaccine for the Marburg virus, records show.
“This is your money at work,” Dong allegedly wrote in the e-mail six days later.
Federal prosecutors say that Graham did nothing illegal, and there is no reason to suspect that Graham violated the law in his dealings with Dong. The fact that Graham’s role in this scandal is sanctioned by U.S. law, however, is a much bigger problem than the fact that one biotech CEO may have siphoned some money away from a federal projected. So long as our electoral system requires candidates to raise millions of dollars — mostly from wealthy individuals — to compete against their opponents and against corporate-funded Citizens United attack ads, questionable appropriations benefiting major campaign donors are inevitable.