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Not the Way to Run for Office : Freshman Rep. Kim allegedly used corporate funds to win a seat in Congress

July 19, 1993

There is no convincing explanation for the lapses in judgment on the part of Rep. Jay C. Kim (R-Diamond Bar) pointed up by last week's articles in The Times by reporter Claire Spiegel. The articles raised questions about his campaign financing practices and about borrowing from an employee profit-sharing plan.

What many business people in Southern California will recognize immediately is the pressure that apparently was felt by the engineering firm owner during the recession. Times are tough. And in the middle of trying to jump-start his American Dream, Kim--whose firm is now in court receivership--was talking on the hustings about his vision as he campaigned for a seat in Congress. While trying to make payroll, he took on the additional financial burden of running for office.

During the campaign last year Kim made a strong case for himself as a fiscal conservative with moderate views on social issues and, by the way, picked up the endorsement of this newspaper. He won election in the new 41st Congressional District, encompassing parts of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. So 31 years after arriving on a student visa, and later working his way through USC, he was on his way to Washington, the first Korean-American congressman.

But there was a twist in the road for this modern-day Horatio Alger story. Perhaps, inevitably, a self-made man traveling Kim's path in the 1990s would be destined to reckon--successfully or otherwise--with twin facts of contemporary life: the high cost of political campaigns and the recession. Somewhere amid those obstacles, a toll was taken.

As Kim watched his firm founder, The Times investigation found, he was aware that the employee profit-sharing plan was being used to loan money to meet his payroll, which is illegal. The records show Kim withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company for personal use and campaign expenses, a violation of federal election law.

Obviously, actions of these types are wrong. Corporations must not succumb to the temptation to borrow from employee funds. And even though the astronomical expense of running for Congress has fueled political action committees, prohibitions on corporate spending to influence elections are clear. The Federal Election Commission should investigate.

On Thursday Kim announced that he has hired two Republican consultants to review his campaign expenditures. Perhaps the freshman House member can get back on track. It would be regrettable to see such a promising political career sidetracked by serious financial questions.

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