Wednesday, July 21, 2004

As Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards prepare to accept the Democratic Party’s nominations for president and vice president next week, it is instructive to recall that neither candidate’s presidential campaign had much traction a mere eight months ago. Back in November, Mr. Edwards appeared to have already squandered the several-million-dollar stake his fellow trial lawyers had ponied up the previous spring. At the same time, Mr. Kerry found himself in a rather peculiar situation: Despite the fact that he had raised more money from paid lobbyists than any other U.S. senator over the past 15 years, he could hardly find any lobbyist in town willing to give his downward-spiraling presidential campaign a dime last fall.

Compounding their depleted coffers, the messages of both candidates were falling flat. So, at virtually the same time, both Johns turned to class-warfare populism, and each struck a cord among the Democratic base. Mr. Kerry repeatedly raged against “Benedict Arnold CEOs who shipped jobs overseas.” Having promised earlier to fight “big corporations, pharmaceutical companies [and] big insurance companies,” Mr. Edwards later bemoaned what he perceived to be the post-2000 evolution of “two Americas, not one: One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks.” Mr. Edwards’ campaign-resuscitating class-warfare agenda contrasts sharply with his pre-campaign declaration to columnist Robert Novak that it would be improper to “pit one group of Americans against another.”

Capitalizing on the appeal of his class-warfare rhetoric and mounting an aggressive protectionist attack, Mr. Edwards finished a strong second to Mr. Kerry in Iowa and acquired enough momentum to maintain that position for the balance of the primary season. Meanwhile, Mr. Kerry solved his financial problem by taking out a $6.4 million mortgage on one of the five mansions inherited or purchased by his billionaire wife, who inherited her fortune from Heinz, the multinational corporation with factories throughout Europe and the Pacific. Interestingly, under the “Benedict Arnold” definition that the Kerry campaign scurrilously applied to the executive Mr. Bush initially wanted to appoint as “manufacturing czar,” today’s Heinz CEO would qualify as a “Benedict Arnold.”

The son of a millworker, Mr. Edwards was in no position to inherit a fortune from a U.S.-based multinational spanning Europe and the Pacific. In the four years before entering the Senate in 1999, however, Mr. Edwards acquired his own fortune as a personal-injury lawyer, earning more than $25 million.

As it happens, the protectionism-promoting, class-warfare-waging Mr. Edwards managed to purchase a piece of the Eurasian conglomerate action by investing as much as $5 million of his fortune in foreign firms. Sharp-eyed Newsday columnist Jim Pinkerton, who in an earlier life distinguished himself as the king of opposition research, focused like a laser on a USA Today report listing the EuroPacific Growth Fund as one of Mr. Edwards’ primary investments. It turns out that nearly 90 percent of EuroPacific’s investments are in Europe and Asia, including more than $150 million in Communist China. While Mr. Edwards was wailing against America’s “big corporations, pharmaceutical companies [and] big insurance companies,” he was pouring a big chunk (as much as $5 million) of his own capital into EuroPacific’s foreign-based “big corporations” (e.g., Swiss-based Nestle, United Kingdom-based Unilever); EuroPacific’s “pharmaceutical companies” (e.g., the Swedish-British multinational AstraZeneca); and “big insurance companies” (Japan-based Mitsui Sumitono Insurance).

In sum, two conclusions pointing to extreme hypocrisy are clear. First, John Kerry, the self-styled scourge of “Benedict Arnold CEOs,” has reaped the huge political rewards financed by his wife’s billion-dollar fortune, which was built in part by the profits generated by the tens of thousands of jobs that U.S.-based Heinz has created overseas. Second, protectionist-rabble-rouser John Edwards has diverted a good chunk of his own personal-injury fortune to the task of creating still more jobs overseas. What a ticket.

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