It was only last Thursday that I attacked John Kerry's anti-special interest rhetoric here at the Spectator. After I demonstrated that influence peddling could only increase in a future Kerry administration because of the liberal vision of big government, the Washington Post published an article Saturday proving the point conclusively. The headline? "Kerry Leads in Lobby Money: Anti-Special Interest Campaign Contrasts With Funding." Ah, sweet affirmation. Botox boy is on the run.
Rather than sitting here gloating, let's review a few of the damaging facts set out by the Post. In the lead paragraph, we learn the daring outsider Kerry "has raised more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator over the past 15 years." Pause there for a moment. Isn't this the guy who tells the special interests, "We're coming. You're going. Don't let the door hit you on your way out!" Their response is easy to imagine. "Damn, Kerry. We paid for the door and that newly smooth forehead of yours. Sit back down and have some caviar."
The fun doesn't stop there. Caught in a crossfire between fiery rhetoric and grim reality, the Kerry campaign issued a statement. "Senator Kerry has taken individual contributions from lobbyists, but that has not stopped him from fighting against special interests on behalf of average Americans. If anyone thinks a contribution can buy Kerry's vote, then they are wasting their money." You hear that corporate America? Kerry says you needn't send the checks. Dr. Dean, you may yet have a chance!
Somehow, I think the checks will keep coming in as long as Kerry continues to win primaries. Although he courageously assures the public he will accept special interest money, but won't be influenced by it, his record indicates otherwise. The Post story recounts, "Kerry in 1999 lobbied the Coast Guard on a rule-making process that benefited a foreign company represented by Cassidy & Associates. Soon after, employees of Cassidy & Associates sent Kerry $7,250 in bundled contributions." A Coast Guard official interviewed by The Hill described Kerry's intervention as "highly unusual" for a Senator. Yes, and even more unusual for a guy running against "influence peddlers."
Perhaps the final nail in the coffin containing Kerry's integrity is that he has accepted substantial funds from the supposedly unholy trinity of HMO's, drug companies, and big oil he describes in his stump speech. If Kerry can be believed, these are the terrible titans destroying the lives of average Americans. Why are they sending him money? And why is he soliciting it? This poor man needs help. He is either engaged in a very cynical campaign of lies or suffers from a terrible case of cognitive dissonance. "I'm an outsider! No, I'm not! Yes, I am! No, I'm not!"
Last Friday, Kerry was interviewed by National Public Radio's Bob Edwards about his campaign. When asked how a longtime Senator like himself could run against special interests and avoid Howard Dean's accusations of being an insider, Kerry polished his halo and replied that he had never taken money from political action committees (PAC's). The effect was impressive. Total deflection. Invulnerable, like the heat of the sun, as they say.
Unfortunately for Kerry, the Post blows the lid off that dodge entirely. Although reducing the influence of PAC money was once the cutting edge of reform, the tactic lost much of its force when "unregulated soft money" from corporations and unions became the hot way to raise money. The Post's description of Kerry's fake integrity is worth quoting: "As Kerry was pushing reforms and boasting of his PAC-free campaigns, he was aggressively soliciting money from individuals working for companies and ringing up much bigger checks from corporations in the form of soft money." Starting today, there shouldn't be a single reporter on the campaign trail who will let the candidate get away with his insincere talking points about reform. One hopes NPR's Bob Edwards feels suitably snookered.
In any case, it looks like John Kerry is going to need a new stump speech. Howard Dean can once again campaign as an outsider without Kerry taking notes. But what will Massachusetts' most liberal Senator run on now? With the popularity of the hit television program Extreme Makeover, I suggest Kerry could have a little more work done on national television and run on self-esteem.
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