- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards have been engaged in an intense competition in recent months to become the Democratic Party’s most aggressive “anti-special interest” candidate. Mr. Kerry repeatedly claims to be “the only senator who has been elected four times, voluntarily refusing to take one dime of political action committee special interest money.” Mr. Edwards claims to have “never taken a dime from a Washington lobbyist.” A dime here, a dime there. To borrow a phrase from George Wallace, there’s “not a dime’s worth of difference” between the two presidential candidates in terms of their extraordinary financial dependence on the special interests they purport to despise.

According to data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which can be reviewed at opensecrets.org:

• Despite being in the Senate for only five years, Mr. Edwards has raised far more money ($9.8 million) from lawyers and law firms during the 1989-2004 period than any other senator. The next highest total is a tad less than $6 million, which was raised by … Mr. Kerry. (Former Sen. Al Gore is ranked third.)

• In the 2003-04 cycle, Mr. Edwards has raised nearly $7.5 million from lawyers, about $2 million more than any other federal candidate. Lawyers literally have contributed every other dime that Mr. Edwards has raised for his presidential campaign. With more than $3 million raised from lawyers in the current cycle, Mr. Kerry ranks third. During the 2001-02 cycle, Mr. Edwards ($1 million) and Mr. Kerry ($0.8 million) ranked one and four, respectively, among all senators.

• Mr. Kerry may be the only senator to be elected four times without accepting a dime from what he calls “political action committee (PAC) special interest money.” At the same time, no senator has raised more money ($640,000) from lobbyists over the past 15 years than Mr. Kerry.

• Meanwhile, both Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards formed their very own PACs, which raised millions of dollars from the same “special interests” that both candidates now claim to battle. Here are the sector totals compiled by CRP: lawyers/lobbyists ($397,000, Kerry; $4.1 million, Edwards); financial/insurance/real estate ($595,000, Kerry; $447,000, Edwards); communications/electronics ($315,000, Kerry; $1.1 million, Edwards). Note well: These are funds — both regulated hard money and unregulated, now-illegal soft money — that Messrs. Kerry and Edwards raised through their own PACs.

Of course, most candidates raise money from what are called special interests. What makes Messrs. Kerry’s and Edwards’ fund-raising noteworthy is their claim that, unlike other politicians, they are against accepting such contributions. Hypocrisy is common in politics, but Messrs. Kerry and Edwards produce it at an industrial strength.

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