Democratic front-runner John Kerry, who claims he is not beholden to campaign contributors, wrote 28 letters on behalf of a San Diego defense contractor who has pleaded guilty to illegally funneling cash to the senator’s campaign.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Kerry tried to free up federal funds for a missile system Parthasarathi “Bob” Majumder was trying to build for U.S. warplanes.

The letters, sent from 1996 through 1998, went to members of Congress and Pentagon officials during a period when both Majumder and employees of his Science and Applied Technology Inc. were donating to Kerry’s campaign, the Times reported. Dwight L. Morris and Associates, which tracks campaign donations, says Kerry took in about $25,000 from the contractor and his employees during a three-year period.

The paper reports court documents show Majumder told employees they needed to make contributions to members of Congress and later reimbursed his workers with proceeds from government contracts. Majumder’s guilty plea was entered last week.

Nearly all of the $25,000 was reimbursed by Majumder, though federal prosecutors say there is no evidence Kerry or four congressmen who also received donations knew of the scheme.

A company in Kerry’s state, Millitech, based in Northampton, Mass., had teamed up with Science and Applied Technology Inc. to work on government contracts. The Times reports in the mid-1990s, Kerry visited the San Diego company, and some employees at Science and Applied Technology attended a fund-raiser for Kerry.

“It obviously raises questions about whether the campaign contributions bought action from Kerry,” Steven Weiss, communications director of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, told the paper.

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