Footing the Bill

Footing the Bill

One small step for reform, one giant gift for the Democrats.

by Omar Beer

#2 Arnold S. Hiatt, 69, Weston, Mass. Party: D. $511,500 total contributions

View Hiatt’s itemized contributions.

Arnold Hiatt When he made the largest single political donation during the last election cycle, Arnold Hiatt explained his $500,000 gift to the Democratic National Committee in oxymoronic terms. “I think the kind of contribution I made should be outlawed,” he said, “and that’s why I did it.” Disingenuous as that may have sounded, Hiatt argued that Democrats were most likely to implement campaign finance reform, and that his humongous contribution would help elect people who would stop people like him from giving such humongous contributions.

Hiatt does lay claim to a history of corporate do-gooding, first during his tenure as president of Stride Rite, the maker of Keds and Sperry shoes, and now through his socially conscious work via its related foundation. The company is widely credited with having pioneered on-site daycare — though lately the shoe manufacturer has had a more checkered history, opting to close, rather than renovate, plants in New England.

Like Stride Rite’s corporate profile, Hiatt’s donation is tough to judge. It seems counterintuitive to flood campaign coffers in order to dry them out. But the DNC can’t claim even the pretense of such lofty ideals. Indeed, the party failed to report Hiatt’s gift at first, later calling the omission “inadvertent.”

Which could help Hiatt’s cause after all. Publicity surrounding such disturbing miscounts might just fuel a reform drive, even if Hiatt’s reform-minded Democrats drag their feet.

Photo credit: Brian Smith

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