February 20, 2004

Kerry & the 'Special Interest' Hit Piece

Stay on message, and protect the Messenger...Yes,
sadly, here we go again..WAR is PEACE, HATE is LOVE,
LIES are TRUTH...An honorable man is running against
an unseemly character, so paint the honorable man as
unseemly, an honest man is running against a liar, so
paint the honest man as a liar, a free man is running
against a special interest panderer, so paint the free
man as a panderer...When the propapunditgandists
challenge Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mekong Delta) on "gay
marriage," he should turn and say, "Look, I am here to
talk about the 540 (and counting) US soldiers killed
in Iraq, I am here to talk about the $500 billion +
budget deficit that the Bush administration has
presented us with. If you want to talk about "gay
marriage," talk to some mayor, talk to some governor.
I am here to talk about National Security and Economic
Security. I can understand why the President would
want to spend his remaining time in office talking
about "gay marriage, but I am here to talk about the
squandering of our soldiers blood and our nation's
When the propapunditgandists raise the phoney issue of
"special interest," JFK should turn to them and say,
"Look, Bush will outspend me by hundreds of millions
of dollars in this campaign, and he has raised it
because he has given over whole Departments and
Agencies of our government over to special interests."
When the propapunditgandists challenge JFK's personal
integrity, he should turn to them and say, "Look, you
didn't have to dig out my dental records to try to
find out where I was or what I was doing when my
country needed me..."
Remember, stay on message, and protect the Messenger.
Here is some ammunition from the Parrys, their
"www.consortiumnnes.com" is one of the best of
the Information Rebellion sites...

Sam Parry, www.consortiumnews.com: Now, in 2004, the
national press corps is busily “defining” Kerry as a
hypocrite who can’t be trusted. This judgment is based
largely on a semantic blurring of the word “lobbyist”
into the totality of “special interests.” The press
corps seems to have blinded itself to the obvious
point that donations from “lobbyists” represent only a
tiny fraction of industry-related money. Ironically,
as in 2000, this kind of press coverage could again
end up installing in the White House a candidate who
represents the opposite of what the news media
pretends that it cares about.

Break the Bush Cabal's Stranglehold on the "US
Mainstream News Media," Show Up for Democracy in 2004:
Defeat Bush (again!)



Kerry & the 'Special Interest' Hit Piece

By Sam Parry
February 19, 2004

One of the new rules of modern campaign coverage is to
tailor a script to each candidate and to squeeze
developments into that script whatever the facts
really are. In 2000, George W. Bush was the blunt
straight-shooter and Al Gore was the delusional liar,
even if journalists had to change Gore’s words (as
with the Love Canal case, “invented the Internet,”
etc.) and downplay examples of Bush deceptions.

A new case in point for Campaign 2004 is the portrayal
of Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts as a captive of
Washington “special interests.” This theme has been
gaining momentum even though Kerry ranks as a leader
in the Senate in supporting environmental causes and
is best known for his investigations into foreign
policy scandals, such as drug trafficking by
CIA-backed Nicaraguan “contra” rebels, not for pushing
through corporate-favored legislation. So what gives?
Is this a fair charge against the Democratic
front-runner or is it another case of the news media
crafting a misleading theme?

Post Article
“The Kerry as captive” theme crystallized with a
breathless Washington Post page-one article on Jan.
31, which reported that, in the last 15 years, Kerry
had received more campaign contributions from "paid
lobbyists" than any other senator, a total of $638,358
since 1989.

The article, written by Jim VandeHei and entitled
“Kerry Leads in Lobby Money: Anti-Special-Interest
Campaign Contrasts With Funding,” cited figures from
the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit that
collects and refines data that candidates file with
the Federal Election Commission.

The Post report was quickly cited by Kerry’s
Democratic rivals and became grist for a new
anti-Kerry commercial by the Republican National
Committee. It was reprised as a top story on NBC’s
evening news on the eve of the Wisconsin primary.

But what has received almost no attention is how
misleading the key elements of the story are.

The Post article, for instance, doesn’t identify the
lobbyists. The Center for Responsive Politics, which
was cited in the Post story, acknowledges that its
data doesn’t distinguish who the lobbyists are, what
they lobby for or even whether they directly lobbied
Kerry on any specific policy issues.

This lack of clarity means that some of these
lobbyists may be registered to lobby Congress on
public-interest issues, such as the environment,
abortion rights or other legislation that most
Americans would tend to categorize as public-interest
advocacy, not “special interest” influence peddling.

Another potential hole in the data is that there are
thousands of Americans who are or at some time were
registered as lobbyists, but who no longer lobby on
issues before Congress. Such people could be retired
or may have changed careers and moved out of
Washington but they may still make political

Towering Totals

A larger fundamental flaw in the Post article is that
by concentrating only on lobbyists, the Post’s tally
leaves out most donations from contributors that fit
the common definition of “special interests” in the
minds of most people. Employees of Halliburton or
Enron, for instance, would not be included in the
Post’s narrow definition.

Corporate executives, who often bundle tens of
thousands of dollars for a single campaign, were
excluded from the Post’s tabulation because they are
listed on FEC forms as executives, not lobbyists. So,
perversely, the definition of “special interests” used
by the Post in its piece would include an
environmental lobbyist who opposes oil drilling in the
Arctic wilderness and a lobbyist from a pro-choice
group, while leaving out someone like Enron’s Ken Lay.

To put this omission into perspective, George Bush’s
lifetime campaign contributions from Enron -- $736,800
-- eclipses by nearly $100,000 Kerry’s donations from
all lobbyists over these 15 years.

Also not counted in the Post’s tabulation are
donations from political action committees, which pull
together donations from executives of a single company
or from an entire industry and then funnel them to
politicians. Kerry is among the members of Congress
who has refused to accept PAC donations even while
many senators raised tens of thousands of dollars from

Though the Post leaves out various sources of bundled
industry money, those donations actually tower over
the sums contributed by “lobbyists.” During the
15-year period, for instance, lobbyists contributed a
total of $76 million to political candidates, less
than one-quarter what many individual industries
donated, according to the Center for Responsive

By comparison, donors from the agribusiness sector
contributed $311 million during this period; donors
from the health-care sector poured in $460 million;
the communications-and-electronics industry chipped in
almost $470 million; and, the finance/insurance/real
estate sector donated more than $1.2 billion, 16 times
more than “lobbyists.”

Another way to put the Post’s numbers into context is
to compare the total contributions for this year’s
presidential campaigns to the amounts donated by
“lobbyists.” Through the end of January, George Bush
had raised a total of $131.8 million for his 2004
campaign, but only $842,262 of this came from
lobbyists. Out of $28.2 million that John Kerry has
raised for his presidential campaign, only $234,920
came from lobbyists. In both cases, lobbyist
contributions add up to less than one percent of the
total money raised.

The Post further prejudiced the case against Kerry by
tallying donations made during a 15-year period that
effectively excluded from the top recipient rankings
senators who left office during that time or who came
to the Senate more recently. Only 33 senators – out of
100 – have served for all of those 15 years.

During these years, Kerry has had to face reelection
four times and has had to raise money in each cycle to
compete in a state that ranks as the 13th largest in
the country by population and boasts one of the most
expensive media markets. This helps explain why
Kerry’s cumulative totals over this 15-year period put
him near the top of the lobbyist money even though he
led this category of donations in only one two-year
election cycle, his first reelection campaign in 1990.

In Kerry’s last reelection cycle in 2002, he ranked
sixth among senators in accepting donations from
lobbyists. Kerry trailed other Democrats, such as
Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Max Baucus of
Montana and Tom Harkin of Iowa – each of whom comes
from a much smaller state.

In addition, Kerry was only $200 ahead of #7 on the
list, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. Harkin and Durbin
are notable on this list because they are widely
regarded as two of the most liberal U.S. senators,
suggesting again that lobbyist contributions represent
a mix of interests, both from industry "special
interests" and from public-interest groups.

Similarly, other liberal Democratic senators – such as
Hillary Clinton of New York, Patrick Leahy of Vermont,
Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of
California – have appeared near the top of
lobbyist-contributions lists in various election

Ignored, too, is Kerry’s record of supporting many
campaign finance reform measures, including serving as
a cosponsor of the “Clean Money, Clean Elections” bill
for voluntary public financing of federal campaigns,
which was introduced by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone
of Minnesota.

Finally, and most misleadingly, Kerry appears at the
top of the Senate list only because the Center for
Responsive Politics added the $226,450 in lobbyist
contributions raised in his presidential campaign to
the totals from his four Senate races. Only a handful
of sitting senators have run for president, and only
Bob Dole, in his 1996 campaign, raised significant
lobbyist money during those campaigns.

Given the need to raise money for four statewide races
in a relatively large state and his current national
campaign against George Bush, it would be more
surprising if Kerry weren't at or at least near the
top of cumulative fundraising lists for lobbyists than
the fact that he is near the top.

Despite the inaccurate impression left by the Post’s
figures, the article has become a major factor in
“defining” Kerry. The RNC posted an Internet
advertisement denouncing Kerry as “unprincipled,” a
hypocrite who decries special interests on the
campaign trail while taking “more special-interest
money than any other senator.”

As noted above, the RNC’s charge is not exactly true –
money from lobbyists is only a small subset of
“special-interest money” and may not even represent
“special interests” as most Americans understand the
term. But, thanks largely to the Post’s hit piece, the
RNC ad has garnered a lot of play and has contributed
to the emerging conventional theme of Kerry as
beholden to “special interests.”

In a Feb. 15 column, Post reporter Dana Milbank noted
this RNC’s ad and said its contents, including the
line about Kerry taking “more special-interest money
than any other senator,” present the facts
“accurately.” Milbank added that the RNC’s ad “fairly
questions whether Kerry is disingenuous to accept
money from those he would vanquish.”

While reciting this emerging storyline about Kerry,
Milbank noted that Bush and the Republicans have their
own hypocrisy issue on the question of campaign cash
from lobbyists. “The president raised $842,262 from
lobbyists in the current election cycle – almost four
times the $226,450 Kerry raised,” Milbank wrote. “And
if you take away the funds Kerry collected for the
presidential campaign, he is no longer the Senate’s
top recipient of special-interest funds.”

The original Post story omitted this last fact, a
remarkable oversight considering the thrust of the

Media Distortion?
The bigger question may be whether the U.S. news media
is again going off on a tangent in which it
misrepresents a narrow body of “facts” and then
extrapolates broad conclusions that “define” a

In 2000, Gore was pummeled by repetitious reporting
about his supposed lies and exaggerations – a press
“theme” that survived detailed stories on this and
other Web sites explaining how it was the press, often
following the lead of the RNC, that had actually
engaged in the lies and exaggerations.

Without those erroneous stories in newspapers,
including the New York Times and the Washington Post,
it is very likely that Gore would have become
president of the United States. [For details on the
inaccurate press coverage, see Consortiumnews.com’s
“Al Gore vs. the Media” and “Protecting Bush-Cheney.”]

Now, in 2004, the national press corps is busily
“defining” Kerry as a hypocrite who can’t be trusted.
This judgment is based largely on a semantic blurring
of the word “lobbyist” into the totality of “special
interests.” The press corps seems to have blinded
itself to the obvious point that donations from
“lobbyists” represent only a tiny fraction of
industry-related money. Ironically, as in 2000, this
kind of press coverage could again end up installing
in the White House a candidate who represents the
opposite of what the news media pretends that it cares

Posted by richard at February 20, 2004 02:02 PM