- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 31, 2004

A pro-business group has issued a report critical of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s Senate voting record on matters related to investors.

Mr. Kerry, who slightly trails President Bush in a recent poll of investors, routinely has voted against cuts in capital-gains taxes and opposed ending the double taxation of dividends, the American Shareholders Association reports.

“John Kerry has a 19-year record of opposing investors,” said Daniel Clifton, executive director of the group, which is associated with Americans for Tax Reform.

Mr. Kerry’s campaign pointed to skyrocketing deficits and the sluggish return of jobs as damning evidence against Mr. Bush’s economic record and, therefore, the overall climate for investors.

“You can’t call [Mr. Bush] successful on the economy when you have the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover,” said Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton. “This administration has turned record surpluses into record deficits. None of that is good news for investors.”

During the past 25 years, investing has left the clubby confines of boardrooms and golf courses and become part of mainstream American middle-class interest.

When Ronald Reagan became president in 1980, fewer than 6 percent of Americans owned stock. Today, more than half of American households own stock.

Those stock owners make up 64 percent of voters.

“With this growth of investors, the decisions being made in Washington are increasingly impacting shareholders and their savings,” the ASA report said. “Yet, it appears Sen. Kerry still does not understand this phenomenon of the investor class, and he believes the only people who own shares of stock are families named Heinz and Kennedy,” a reference to his wife’s wealthy family and his fellow senator from Massachusetts.

The report says Mr. Kerry has voiced support for ending the double taxation of dividends, yet has voted numerous times against abolishing it.

Mr. Kerry “would favor tax reform that included the elimination of the double taxation of dividends,” a senior adviser to Mr. Kerry said yesterday, but added that Mr. Kerry wants to do so in a “fiscally responsible” manner.

The ASA report also derided Mr. Kerry’s 15 votes against cutting the capital-gains tax.

Campaign officials noted that Mr. Kerry last week said he would cut the corporate income-tax rate by 5 percent in an effort to spur job growth.

But Mr. Kerry might have a hard time winning over some shareholders and corporate leaders. A poll of U.S. chief financial officers conducted by Duke University found that 64 percent said Mr. Bush’s economic policies would better improve the economy, while 13 percent backed Mr. Kerry’s policies.

“CFOs like free trade, they like low interest rates and they like tax cuts because it spurs spending,” Duke finance professor John Graham told Bloomberg News. “They don’t like regulation, but overall they think protectionism slows down economic growth.”

In the razor-close 2000 presidential election, the fast-growing class of investor voters played a decisive role, according to polling conducted by Rasmussen Public Opinion Research.

In that election, Mr. Bush won support from 51 percent of American investors, while Vice President Al Gore drew support from 45 percent of investor voters.

But support for Mr. Bush has slipped among investors since he took office. Today, 49 percent support Mr. Bush, compared with 45 percent who support Mr. Kerry, according to the latest Rasmussen poll.

“Bush still hasn’t locked those voters up,” Mr. Clifton said.

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