- By the time John Kerry had virtually locked up the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, he’d already been branded “a handmaiden of special interests,” a Washington elitist, and a hypocrite — and that just by members of his own party. Early in the year, The Washington Post reported that the Massachusetts senator had raised more money from lobbyists over the previous 15 years than any other senator. Kerry’s campaign had sought to portray him as a presidential candidate who would block special interests from the corridors of power. The Post story suggested that he might hold the entryways open for them.
Republicans, unsurprisingly, were also eager to attack. The Bush/Cheney campaign assailed Kerry on everything from his ties with lobbyists to his military and medical records — even his wife’s billion-dollar fortune.
But the questions came to a momentary halt on April 22, 2004, when Kerry’s staff released a list of nearly 200 “official meetings” that he’d had with lobbyists since 1989. The 11-page document, though likely incomplete, was unprecedented. In releasing the list, Kerry, by all accounts, became not only the first presidential candidate, but also the first Capitol Hill lawmaker, to make such a disclosure. The genesis of what grew to become a three-month staff inquiry into his schedules was a simple but unexpected promise Kerry had made in mid-January: “I will happily release any lobbyist meeting I’ve ever had, because I’m not ashamed of them,” he said during an appearance on ABC’s This Week. “Anybody I’ve ever met with, I’m not ashamed of.”
The names of some 300 lobbyists appeared on the Kerry list, including representatives of organized labor, public-interest groups, and corporate interests. One of them was Vicki Iseman, the Alcalde & Fay lobbyist who’s now in the news over her dealings with Republican John McCain.
The Kerry campaign challenged Republican George W. Bush to follow suit. The Bush/Cheney campaign scoffed at the invitation, calling it a political ploy. “Senator Kerry used to say he would show special interests the door,” a campaign spokesman said. “It looks like he’s showing them the revolving door.”
Two weeks later, the Center for Public Integrity released a study showing that President Bush had taken in $1.8 million in contributions from lobbyists since 1998. Kerry, by comparison, had raised only $520,000 from lobbyists and had a much smaller number of lobbyist-fundraisers.