ODD, JOHN KERRY has not yet spanked Viacom for its raunchy Super Bowl halftime show. This is interesting because Kerry fancies himself the warmonger on special interests who gouge us for our medicines and pollute our environment. Kerry warns he's coming, you're going, and don't let the door hit you on the way out.
But even though Viacom and CBS put on a show verging on S&M, Kerry has not yet said on the stump: "I want to say this to the Viacoms and the special interests in Hollywood who poison our airwaves. We're coming, you're going, and don't let the popcorn hit you on the way out."
To be sure, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being Gandhian suffering and 10 being unbleachable filth, Kerry cannot possibly smell like President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the Republican Party.
The polluters, bomb makers, big oil, and big tobacco give the current administration a solid rating of 14, with the bonus points coming from the no-bid Iraq reconstruction contracts to Halliburton and cancerous Philip Morris, the Republican Party's top donor for the last quarter-century.
Kerry is not a 14. Nor is he Gandhi, according to Charles Lewis, executive director of the campaign finance watchdog group the Center for Public Integrity in his new book, "The Buying of the President."
In the mid 1990s, Johnny Chung illegally funneled $8,000 to Kerry. This month arms contractor Bob Majumder pleaded guilty to illegally funneling between $13,000 and $25,000 to Kerry. Kerry wrote 28 letters from 1996 to 1999 supporting Majumder for federal funds for a proposed missile system. The company received $150 million in federal funds.
Kerry was not accused of wrongdoing himself, but he has come to the aid of those have done wrong. In 2000 Kerry worked to defeat a proposal by Senator John McCain to kill $150 million in Big Dig spending after it was discovered that the American International Group insurance company had been overpaid $130 million in federal funds for worker compensation and liability insurance. Instead of giving back the money, the company used a loophole to invest it for its own profits.
After Kerry salvaged the loophole, the company and its executives gave Kerry $50,000 in senatorial or presidential campaign contributions in 2001 and 2002. The company also paid expenses for a Kerry trip to Vermont. Kerry has denied any connection between his assistance to American International and its assistance to him.
That sounds about as clean as Halliburton's no-bid contracts.
On the stump, Kerry castigates "Benedict Arnold" companies that evade taxes and take jobs overseas.
But this week, The Washington Post reported that Kerry's presidential campaign has received more than $540,000 from either companies that have moved operations overseas to avoid taxes or from fund-raisers run by executives who help companies move to tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Then there are the media and telecommunications. Kerry's top career contributor ($231,000), the law firm of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, is heavily involved in telecommunications. Kerry's third-biggest donor is media conglomerate Time-Warner ($141,000). Fourth is the law firm of Hale & Dorr, which is significantly involved in telecommunications and biotech. Fifth is the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which does work for nearly half of the Fortune top 250 industrial and service corporations.
Media companies, including Viacom, have given more than $300,000 to Kerry. Viacom has contributed a total of $3.2 million to political campaigns in the 2000 and 2002 election cycles, with 81 percent of the money going to Democrats. Kerry has played a role at helping telecom lobbyists control the timing of airwave auctions and helping media conglomerates by voting for telecom deregulation in 1996.
In "The Buying of the President," Lewis writes of Kerry, "Over the course of his Senate career, he has not been averse to taking campaign cash from companies and firms with a direct interest in his work. Federal Election Commission records reveal that their money has been as much a part of his campaign as it has been of anyone in US Congress."
The "Anybody But Bush" crowd will surely be tempted to ignore this. Viacom is no Halliburton: The latter is directly profiteering off a needless war that has taken thousands of lives. But the media and telecommunications play a significant part in our freedom of expression.
Bush's filth should not stop voters from pressuring Kerry on his rhetoric. In the Democrats' dreams, Bush is going and Kerry is coming. But for all the special interests Kerry claims would be going out, it is clear that Viacom and media conglomerates would be coming in. Viacom is no Halliburton, but as it reminded us so vividly during the Super Bowl, it can deliver weapons of mass cultural destruction.
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.