Wall Street likes Kerry
With Massachusetts Senator John Kerry in the lead for Democratic Party presidential nominee in 2004, the election is shaping up more and more to be a race between two candidates with more in common than what sets them apart.
Kerry pulled into the front following the brief rise of "populist" Howard Dean, who, despite his rather conservative record as governor of the liberal state of Vermont, propelled himself forward with a message of taking on George W. Bush, from his war on Iraq to his giveaways to Corporate America. Kerry and his main remaining contender, North Carolina Senator John Edwards, shifted gears from rabid attacks on Dean's fiery "too liberal" rhetoric and in part embraced his populist message.
"I've got news for the HMOs and the big drug companies and the big oil companies and influence peddlers," Kerry declared in a February campaign speech in St. Louis. "We're coming and you're going. And don't let the door hit you on the way out!"
This all sounds very well and good, but Kerry's actual record of pandering to Corporate America paints quite a different picture.
Over the last fifteen years, Kerry has received more money from lobbyists than any other serving senator. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, during this election cycle, Kerry raked in $531,251 from the health care industry. Kerry was also among the top ten recipients of money from the airline and automotive industries, with donations totaling $87,925. By the way, Kerry is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which influences laws governing these industries.
Kerry has powerful ties to lobbyists for the telecommunications industry. Michael Whouley, a Kerry political aide, is a lobbyist for telecom giant AT&T. Kerry has also accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Boston lobbying firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky-where Kerry's brother is a lawyer-which represents communications firms and the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. Should it be any surprise that Kerry voted in favor of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that is responsible for massive media consolidation and huge cable television fee increases.
Indeed, Kerry has proven himself to Wall Street to be a more than acceptable alternative to Bush in the White House.
"I'm calling everyone I know and telling them that they have to give," said Stephen Robert of Robert Capital Management Group Inc., a self-identified moderate Republican. Robert was one of about twenty potential fundraisers at a private dinner with Kerry in New York in February. He told the Wall Street Journal, "Every day, moderate Republicans call me and say, 'I want to get on board.'"
"The anti-business message bothers me and I'm going to talk to him about that," said John Catsimatidis, chief executive of food-and-oil conglomerate Red Apple Group in New York. "But... you're never going to have the perfect candidate."
So while Kerry proclaimed to union members that "In November, it's going to be your turn," upon winning the endorsement of the AFL-CIO in mid—February, in reality he has not strayed very far from his patrician roots. Educated at Swiss and New England boarding schools before attending Bush's alma mater Yale (where he along with Bush was a member of the elite and secret Skull and Bones Society), Kerry eventually landed in public office, where he is currently the wealthiest senator.
Kerry-labeled a "Massachusetts liberal"-has proven that he is willing to be "flexible" on social issues. Supporters of gay and lesbian rights who may feel obliged to endorse Kerry because he voted against Clinton's anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 should take note of his current position on gay rights. "I personally believe the court [ruling in Massachusetts in favor of gay marriage] is not right," Kerry told reporters in February. "I don't support gay marriage. I never have. That's my position."
To listen to Kerry's recent criticism of the civil liberties-shredding USA PATRIOT Act, you'd never know that he actually voted for the legislation in 2001. Kerry also supported Clinton's welfare "reform," which tossed millions of poor people off the welfare rolls or forced them into low-wage jobs. He can also take credit for helping to push through Clinton's 1994 crime bill, which expanded the federal death penalty and included money to put 100,000 more cops on the street.
Kerry has also displayed great flexibility in his stance on foreign policy issues. In 1990, Kerry voted against the congressional resolution authorizing military force in Iraq. But after Washington's quick victory, Kerry did a quick turnaround and became an enthusiastic supporter of the war. Likewise, in October 2002, Kerry voted to give congressional authorization for Bush's invasion of Iraq, only to criticize the war afterward.
Israel won't worry about a Kerry administration, either. "As the only true democracy in the Middle East, Israel has both the burden and the glory of a vigorous public square," Kerry wrote in an essay for a pro-Israel student group at Brown University. "We as Americans must be the truest and best kind of ally-forthright enough to say what we think-and steadfast enough to stay the course in hard passages as well as easy days."
No one should expect a Kerry administration to pull out of Iraq or to cut military spending. According to his campaign's Web site, Kerry will "work to expand participation and share responsibility with other countries in the military operations in Iraq"-and "increase the size of the U.S. Army in order to meet the needs of a new century and the new global war on terror."
Kerry may be seen as a good alternative to the people who run Corporate America, but he's no kind of alternative for the rest of us.
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