Bogus e-mail messages claim she's given millions to "radical" groups, some linked to terrorists, and located Heinz factories overseas. Both claims are false.
August 4, 2004
Modified:August 12, 2004
SummaryFalse allegations about Kerry's wife have been circulating for months, but the velocity of the Internet "whispering campaign" picked up substantially with the approach of the Fall campaign.
One false message claims Teresa Heinz Kerry gave $4 million to a foundation that used the funds to support a list of "radical" groups including one with alleged links to Hamas and another that is said to have offered to provide a lawyer for Saddam Hussein. But public records show otherwise. Heinz Kerry's foundation money was directed to projects such as "Sustainable Pittsburgh," which promotes "smart growth" strategies.
Another widely circulated e-mail claims Kerry and his wife "own" dozens of H.J. Heinz Company factories in Europe and Asia. It accuses Kerry of hypocrisy for denouncing offshoring of US jobs while "making millions off that cheap labor."
That's also false: neither of them own Heinz. Public records show Heinz Kerry isn't an officer of the company, isn't on the company's board of directors, and isn't even close to being the largest shareholder. The Heinz Endowments do own Heinz stock -- less than 4% of the company -- but income from that stock goes to charity, not to the Kerrys personally.
FactCheck.org has received hundreds of copies of these two e-mails from subscribers who asked us to check out whether there's any truth to them. They have been circulating like a virus, relayed by people who either don't bother to check out whether they are true, or don't care. It's the modern equivalent of the old "whispering campaign" in which false rumors served as political weapons.
Teresa Heinz Kerry and the Tides Foundation
The more virulent of these nasty, false mailings alleges that she's given more than $4 million to the Tides Foundation of San Francisco to fund a variety of "radical" groups including some that the message suggests are supportive of terrorists.
To start, that's flatly denied by Maxwell King, the President of the Heinz Endowments. King told FactCheck.org:
King: Neither she nor her foundations has ever funded any of the extremist organizations or unpatriotic causes listed in the email you forwarded. Period.
The Tides Foundation also says that no Heinz funds have gone to any of the groups named in the e-mail. Further, it says Tides itself gives little or no money to several of them. Christopher J. Herrera, Director of Communications of the Tides Foundation, told us that the allegation about a Ramsey Clark group is utterly false, for example.
Herrera: We have made no grants to this organization nor can we find any association with it in our records.
According to Herrera, Tides Foundation gifts to the National Lawyers Guild total "approximately $30,000 over the last ten years," and donations to the Council on Islamic Relations amounted to a single $5,000 grant in 2002 for a Southern California project called the "Interfaith Coalition Against Hate Crimes." But even those relatively small sums didn't come from Heinz money as alleged.
Where $8 million went
Both groups say the only money given directly to the Tides Foundation by the Heinz Endowments was $230,000 given between 1994 and 1998, all used to support a pollution-prevention initiative and other environmental projects in Western Pennsylvania.
Much larger sums have gone through a related legal entity called the Tides Center, which administers grants for groups receiving donations that are not themselves incorporated as a nonprofit organization. The Tides Center takes a fee, typically between 7% and 9%, for handling payrolls, disbursing, legal and administrative work, but the rest legally must go to the group for which the donor intended it.
The Heinz Endowments released a list of grants totaling $8.1 million given through Tides since 1994. None of the money went for the "radical" groups named in the e-mail.Instead, the grants included such sums as:
- $1.6 million for "Sustainable Pittsburgh," which promotes such projects as "bike to work week."
- Just over $1 million for the "Chemical Strategies Partnership," which looks for ways to cut the use of chemicals in industry.
- $800,000 for the "Green Building Alliance ," which promotes buildings that use less energy.
- Nearly $1.4 million for the "Pennsylvania Energy Project," which spun off several renewable-energy projects before going out of business at the end of 2000.
Included in the $8.1 million are grants from the Howard Heinz Endowment and also the Vira I. Heinz Endowment, which collectively make up the Heinz Endowments. Heinz Kerry chairs the Howard Heinz Endowment, the larger of the two, and is a member of the board of directors of the smaller Vira I. Heinz Endowment.
The list appears to be accurate: FactCheck.org checked each grant on the list against those that the Heinz endowments reported to the US Internal Revenue Service on their form 990's for the five years 1998 through 2002. We found no discrepancies: all the grants on the master list matched grants reported on the IRS forms, where there could be legal penalties for false reporting. We would have checked 990's for other years but those before 1998 are not readily available, and the two Heinz endowments aren't scheduled to file their forms for 2003 until Aug. 15.
(Anyone who wants to check for themselves can call up the Heinz form 990's here , where they are posted for all to see by Guidestar, a national database of nonprofit organizations. The service is free, but registration is required.)
The Scaife Connection
This false allegation has its roots in a study published in December, 2003 by the conservative Capital Research Center of Washington, DC. It stated that the Tides Foundation and Tides Center "effectively 'launder' donor dollars" so that "the original donor can’t be linked to the ultimate recipient." It said the Heinz Endowments had given $4,298,500 to Tides between 1995 and 2001. That turned out to be much less than the actual amount, and far from being "laundered," donations from Heinz are listed on the endowment's website as well as in publicly available form 990's.
One of the study's authors then wrote an opinion piece that appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, accusing Heinz of teaming with Tides to engage in "secretive funneling of cash . . . to extreme left-wing activist groups." In fact, none of the Heinz money was actually earmarked for any of the organizations listed. Nevertheless, the two articles have been quoted widely on conservative newspaper editorial pages and on conservative websites, one of which is quoted in the bogus e-mail we cite here.
Worth noting is that the publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is conservative Republican donor Richard Mellon Scaife, whose charities also gave $260,000 to Capital Research in 2002, according to a March 7 report in the rival Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Scaife attracted notice in the 1990's when he funded some of the journalistic investigations into Bill Clinton's affairs. It was the editorial page director for Scaife's Tribune-Review, Colin McNickle, whom Heinz Kerry told to "shove it" in a much-reported incident during the Democratic National Convention July 25.
Heinz Kerry and the Overseas Food Factories
Another e-mail that many of our subscribers have asked about claims -- falsely -- that Heinz Kerry and her husband "own" factories overseas and hypocritically are "making millions off all that cheap labor" while denouncing Bush for letting jobs go to other countries.
This one can also be proved false from publicly available records. In fact, Heinz Kerry has no role in running the food company.
As the H.J. Heinz Company reports in its most recent proxy statement on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Heinz Kerry is not on the company's board of directors, nor is she listed among the principal shareholders (those who control 5% or more of the outstanding shares). The charitable foundations she controls once held much more Heinz stock but sold off most of it nearly a decade ago to diversify their investments. The Heinz company said in a recent public statement that she currently controls less than 4% of the company's stock. The largest shareholder is actually a California investment company that owns roughly three times as much as the Heinz charitable foundations.
About all that is true in this e-mail is that the Heinz company has a number of factories overseas.
Its most recent annual report, also publicly available at the SEC's website, lists 32 factories owned in Europe (and three more leased), and 18 in Asia and the Pacific (plus four more leased). Heinz also reported selling just over $3 billion in products in Europe and more than $1 billion more in Asia and the Pacific -- accounting for roughly half the company's global sales.
The company issued a statement back in March, when this e-mail first began circulating, saying that 60% of its sales are outside the US (including those in Mexico and Canada as well as Europe and Asia) and that it locates plants in other countries "to accommodate those customers by providing facilities closer to those markets" and "to pack the freshest ingredients, tailor its recipes to local tastes and deliver the final products in a timely and efficient manner."
The company also distanced itself from the Kerry campaign and Heinz Kerry:
H.J. Heinz Co: In light of some misleading speculation, the H. J. Heinz Company would like to make clear that neither Mrs. Teresa Heinz Kerry, Senator John Kerry nor any member of their family is involved in the management or board of the H. J. Heinz Company. . . . They have no involvement in the Heinz® Ketchup business or any of the company’s other brands or products.
The Heinz company also said it is "nonpartisan." Worth noting, however, is that the company's Political Action Committee has given nearly all its donations to Republican candidates, including $5,000 to the Bush campaign and nothing to Kerry's as of the most recent reports available. That's additional evidence, as if any was needed, that the company isn't "owned" by Kerry's wife.
Update: On Aug. 9 the H.J. Heinz Company's Vice President for Corporate Communications, Debora S. Foster, sent us a letter stating that its PAC's practice is to support both major-party presidential nominees, "and because the Kerry campaign does not accept PAC contributions, (the Heinz PAC) is donating $5,000 to the Democratic National Committee." We received the letter Aug. 12 and are happy to note the clarification.
Heinz Endowments, "The Heinz Endowments Grants to Tides Center / Tides Foundation," news release, undated.
Howard Heinz Endowment, IRS Form 990PF, fiscal years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002.
Vira I Heinz Endowment, a Pennsylvania Non Profit Corp, IRS Form 990PF, fiscal years 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002.
Gretchen Randall and Tom Randall, "The Tides Foundation: Liberal Crossroads of Money and Ideas," Foundation Watch, Capital Research Center, Washington DC, December 2003.
Tom Randall, "The Heinz Endowments have teamed with a secretive left-wing group ," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review , 14 Dec. 14, 2003. (Also here ).
Dennis B. Roddy, "Right zooms in on Heinz grants; Heinz Kerry's foundation work provide grist for foes," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette , 7 march 2003.
H.J. Heinz Company, "SCHEDULE 14A, Proxy Statement Pursuant to Section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934," 2 July 2004.
H.J. Heinz Company, "FORM 10-K: ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934 For the fiscal year ended April 28, 2004" 17 June 2004.
H.J. Heinz Company, "H.J. Heinz Company Confirms Its Widely Held Public Ownership And Non-Partisan Status," news release, 22 March 2004.