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Kerry Opens Records on Lobbyists, War Days

Times Staff Writers

Sen. John F. Kerry on Wednesday released a lengthy list of his meetings over the last 15 years with lobbyists, a move that responded to his critics and sought to draw a distinction to what he called President Bush’s secret relationship with corporate interests.

In an 11-page summary, the Massachusetts senator lists about 200 meetings he held with lobbyists since 1989, including face-to-face discussions with bankers, corporate raiders, broadcasting chiefs, union leaders, consumer advocates, trial lawyers and many other special interests.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Apr. 23, 2004 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday April 23, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Kerry’s records -- An article in Thursday’s Section A about presidential candidate John F. Kerry’s military service records identified Kerry as an enlisted man. He was a Navy officer, lieutenant junior grade.

The list is the most complete disclosure by any senator or presidential candidate of contacts with lobbyists, a spokeswoman for the presumptive Democratic nominee said Wednesday evening.

The public release appears to be part of a broader effort by the Kerry campaign to counter Republican claims that he is withholding information, and to put forth the image of a presidential candidate who is open to public scrutiny.

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Wednesday’s release of information about Kerry’s interactions with lobbyists came on the same day that the campaign posted online 145 pages of official military records about Kerry’s service in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. Kerry had promised to release the records Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and encountered swift criticism earlier this week when he delayed making the release.

During the Democratic primaries, Kerry was dogged by critics who accused him of close relationships with lobbyists while serving on the Senate Commerce Committee, but at the same time campaigning in the presidential race as a foe of special interests.

The records dump comes after Kerry had been questioned about his war record and his acceptance of campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists. Although Kerry does not accept donations from political action committees, he has raised substantial sums from lobbyists and top corporate executives.

After releasing the lobbyist contacts, Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter called on President Bush to make a full disclosure of all the lobbyists who met with Vice President Dick Cheney in formulating the administration’s energy policy. Bush is fighting the disclosure of the names of industry lobbyists in federal court.

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“This is part of our effort to be as transparent as possible, in contrast to the Bush administration,” Cutter said.

Kerry’s contacts with lobbyists include two 1999 meetings with then Bell Atlantic chief Ivan Seidenberg, now Verizon chief, at a time when the company had several critical regulatory matters before the Federal Communications Commission. Seidenberg, also a key Bush supporter, has since held a fundraising event for Kerry.

The list of contacts also includes Ivan Schlager, head of the public policy practice in Washington for the Skadden Arps law firm, which is also one of Kerry’s top fundraisers. He represents AOL-Time Warner as well as SBC Communications.

In an earlier interview, Schlager said that Kerry “has not done me any favors.”

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Employees from Skadden Arps have given Kerry more than $102,000 since 1992. Schlager said the senator had a number of lawyers working on his behalf. As for raising money from his clients, Schlager laughed.

The lobbyist list also shows Kerry met with John Merrigan, who has raised money for him. Merrigan is a partner at the Washington law firm of Piper Rudnick. In an earlier interview, Merrigan said he had never lobbied Kerry directly.

“My relationship with him is not a lobbyist relationship,” he said. Though Merrigan’s clients have donated to Kerry -- employees of Lehman Brothers, for instance, gave $17,500 to the senator’s presidential bid -- Merrigan said he hadn’t solicited that money.

The Kerry list shows he met with the chief executive of CBS, the late Larry Tisch, in 1990. He met repeatedly with Christopher “Kip” O’Neill, son of former House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr (D-Mass.). The meetings included extensive union leader contacts with such organizations as the Transportation Workers Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

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But Kerry was also meeting with such groups as the Human Rights Campaign and Joan Claybrook, currently a consumer advocate and formerly a government regulator.

The presidential candidate also sought Wednesday to answer critics of his military record, releasing 145 pages of official military documents that describe his trajectory from a privileged Ivy League student to a young Navy man who volunteered to go to Vietnam.

Kerry posted the documents on his website after several days of controversy in an effort, aides said, to quell criticism about his military service. Some conservatives had questioned whether the Massachusetts senator had earned all of his medals. Bush officials also questioned why he did not immediately release the records after promising to do so during an interview Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

Senior Kerry advisor Michael Meehan said that campaign had requested the candidate’s full naval record about a month ago. The 120 separate documents posted on www.johnkerry.com include all of the records released to Kerry by the Navy.

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Meehan said Wednesday that “Kerry has been showing people documents related to his military service since he’s been running for office.”

“We’re not going to let the Bush campaign and the Republican National Committee call into question Kerry’s service for one second,” Meehan said. “He’s a decorated war hero. Sen. Kerry put these up within 48 hours of the television interview on Sunday. It took four to five years for [President] Bush to release his military records.”

Some of the most vivid details of Kerry’s military service are recounted in a 29-page section called “Fitness Reports,” which is a compilation of evaluations of Kerry’s service by his commanding officers.

Kerry commanded swift boats along the Mekong Delta from November 1968 until March 1969. His commanding officer at the time was Lt. Cmdr. George Elliott, who wrote that Kerry “frequently exhibited a high sense of imagination and judgment in planning operations against the enemy in the Mekong Delta.”

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The future senator, then a lieutenant junior grade in his 20s, was “involved in several enemy-initiated fire fights, including an ambush during the Christmas truce [when] he effectively suppressed enemy fire and is unofficially credited with 20 enemy killed in action,” Elliott wrote.

The documents paint a picture of a highly effective officer who volunteered for duty in Vietnam and a skillful leader who inspired loyalty and high morale among his crew members. They also describe a very unusual enlisted man -- fluent in French and German, widely traveled, highly skilled as a recreational sailor with an Ivy League pedigree and membership in the secret Yale society called Skull and Bones.

His final commanding officer, Adm. Walter F. Schlech Jr., said Kerry’s departure from the military -- which he left early to pursue a career in politics -- was a loss for the Navy.

In a 1970 “Report on the Fitness of Officers,” Schlech wrote that Kerry “is one of the finest young officers with whom I have served in a long naval career.”

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Schlech noted that Kerry asked to leave the Navy to run for the U.S. Congress. “The detachment of this officer will be a definite loss to the service,” Schlech wrote. “It is hoped that he will be of further perhaps earlier greater service to his country, which is his aim in life at this time.”

Times staff writers Lisa Getter and James Rainey contributed to this report.


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