- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 7, 2004

Tens of thousands of truck drivers and other Teamsters approve the diversion of a few dollars from each paycheck to DRIVE, a union-controlled political account that contributes a maximum of $5,000 per election to U.S. senators and other federal candidates whose policies are deemed to be pro-Teamster. Nearly 75,000 individuals contribute to EMILY’s List, an organization that donates to pro-choice Democratic women candidates. By raising relatively small contributions from large numbers of individuals, DRIVE and EMILY’s List generated $9.6 million and $17.2 million, respectively, during the 2001-2002 election cycle. Both of these Democratic-centric organizations practice the modern version of what political scientists have approvingly described as interest-group politics. Today they are called political action committees (PACs). The contributions they make to federal candidates are in the form of hard money, which means that those donations are strictly limited and regulated by federal law.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has been making a very big deal about his long-standing policy of refusing contributions from such member-driven organizations, which he derisively calls “special interests.” But Mr. Kerry has not practiced what he preaches. As it happens, Mr. Kerry formed his very own PAC — the Citizen Soldier Fund.

On the one hand, the Democratic presidential front-runner self-righteously refuses to accept a $5,000 hard-money DRIVE donation cumulatively generated by the relative pittances that truck drivers contribute to a common fund. On the other hand, during the 2001-2002 cycle alone, Mr. Kerry’s own PAC accepted more than $1 million in hard-money donations and nearly $1.5 million in soft money. Soft money represents essentially unregulated, unlimited donations from wealthy individuals and from the treasuries of labor unions and corporations. (The 2002 campaign-finance bill made it illegal for national political parties to accept soft money and for federal politicians to solicit soft money.)

Mr. Kerry refused to permit his Senate re-election campaigns to even consider accepting a regulated, limited donation from DRIVE. However, an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonpartisan campaign-finance watchdog group, found that the Mr. Kerry’s Citizen Soldier Fund PAC attracted soft-money contributions of $230,500 from the communications/electronics business sector; $279,700 from lawyers and lobbyists; and $456,000 from the finance/insurance/real-estate (FIRE) business sector. While accepting $5,000 in hard money from the truckers’ DRIVE PAC was deemed by Mr. Kerry to be unseemly, his Citizen Soldier Fund PAC gratefully accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in hard-money donations from individuals affiliated with communications/electronics ($80,000), lawyers and lobbyists ($118,300) and FIRE ($144,200).

Meanwhile, throughout the second half of 2002, just before he was about to announce his candidacy for the presidency, Mr. Kerry flooded key primary and caucus states with the special-interest soft money his PAC raked in by the bucketful. A perusal of CRP data reveals that the Iowa Democratic Party and Iowa Democratic legislators (who proved to be instrumental in Mr. Kerry’s late surge and surprisingly easy Iowa victory last month) were the beneficiaries of nearly $150,000 in Kerry soft money. Mr. Kerry won’t accept a $5,000 regulated hard-money donation from the truckers’ PAC, but his own PAC contributed $25,000 in unregulated soft money to the re-election campaign of Iowa’s governor. New Hampshire’s Democratic Party and its candidates collected nearly $120,000 in Kerry soft-money largesse. South Carolina’s Democratic faithful pocketed more than $50,000.

It would appear that the sincerity of Mr. Kerry’s oft-stated opposition to special-interest money in politics is subject to some doubt.

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