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CaptShady
9th March 04, 02:47 PM
One big reason for John Kerry's recent political surge has been his ability to convince voters that he's the Democrat with the best record on fighting special interests--the one with "the courage to do what's right for America," as his television ads proclaim. Just yesterday, he told a crowd in Nashua, New Hampshire, "I have spent 35 years fighting for the values you and I believe in, standing up for people, and taking on powerful interests--as a matter of conviction, as a matter of duty, fighting the fights that are hard."

Kerry has some legitimate grounds for this boast: His record of defending environmental measures from well-connected corporate lobbyists, for example, is probably the best of the Democratic field. But Kerry's record on another high-profile issue isn't so clear.

The issue is corporate accountability, a regular staple of Kerry's campaign rhetoric. "From Enron to WorldCom to the mutual fund scandals that have shaken the trust and savings of Americans, a widespread creed of greed on Wall Street has been met by a look-the-other way attitude in the Bush White House," Kerry said in another recent speech. "It's time our government sent a different message." Back in February, 2002, when former Enron CEO Ken Lay appeared before members of the U.S. Senate, Kerry was even more harsh: "Americans everywhere are shocked that you have no answer to explain how Enron executives escaped this sinking ship with their fortunes intact while thousands of everyday working Americans were left holding the bag, robbed of their retirement savings."

But Kerry shouldn't be shocked at all. Back in 1995, he backed a controversial measure that severely limited the ability of investors to sue companies engaged in fraudulent accounting practices--a legal change widely believed to have contributed to the accounting scandals of the last few years. The law, which consumer groups opposed vociferously precisely because they feared it would lead to white-collar crime, was part of Newt Gingrich's Contract With America. Yet Kerry voted for it anyway, not once but twice--the second time overriding a veto by President Clinton.



he law in question is the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. At the time it came up for debate, the bill's supporters said it would curb frivolous lawsuits against companies whose stock prices had fallen but who had engaged in no wrongdoing. According to company executives, these "strike suits" had cost them millions in litigation expenses while making it impossible to communicate freely with potential investors (because they feared every statement might be used against them later in court). Strike suits frequently ensnared accountants and financial firms, which helps explain why they, too, backed the law. Partly because the volatile high-tech economy of the 1990s created such ample opportunity for strike suits, even some of the bill's harshest critics deemed its basic goals worthwhile.

But the question in 1995 was no so much whether to reform securities litigation as how, and critics complained loudly that this proposed law went too far. Particularly worrisome was a proposal requiring plaintiffs to show firm proof of wrongdoing before a case could go forward. (The old law had a much lower threshold for evidence, on the theory that it was frequently impossible to get hard evidence without going through the pre-trial discovery process.) The U.S. Public Interest Group argued that the measure amounted to a "license to lie for white-collar crooks"--a sentiment Clinton would later echo in his veto message. The measure, he said, would "close the courthouse doors" to investors who'd lost money thanks to unscrupulous companies and their accountants.

During the initial debate over the bill on the Senate floor, Kerry, a member of the committee with jurisdiction over banking, acknowledged the legislation's shortcomings. "My preference also would have been to include stronger investor recovery provisions," he said, noting that he had supported failed Democratic amendments that would have softened the bill's impact. But unlike 26 of his Democratic colleagues and a handful of Republicans (Arlen Specter and John McCain among them) for whom such problems were cause enough to oppose the bill, Kerry embraced it anyway. "On balance," he said, "this legislation should lead to the creation of a more favorable climate for investors and businesses." After Clinton vetoed the bill, Kerry voted to override the president--a motion that passed the Senate by one vote. It was the first time a Clinton veto failed, leaving the White House to say merely that Clinton "hopes that the unintended consequences of the legislation actually do not occur."

As we all now know, the consequences did occur. The Enron case is just the most famous example of a company cooking its books while accountants looked the other way, costing investors hundreds of millions of dollars (not to mention throwing thousands of employees out of work). And while it would be grossly unfair to blame it all on the Securities Reform Litigation Act, many experts think the law played a critical role in the scandals--partly by insulating auditors and other would-be watchdogs from the threat of lawsuits. It "substantially reduced the liability of accountants and other corporate gatekeepers," says Columbia University law professor John Coffee, an expert on securities regulation who advised the Clinton White House on this issue in 1995. "It's reasonable to infer that ... [to] the extent that auditors no longer felt the pressure of litigation, it became easier to acquiesce at the margins to a fraud that they might not otherwise allow to happen."

James Cox, a securities expert at Duke Law School, is even more blunt when asked whether the 1995 law contributed to the Enron scandals: "You betcha," he says. And while the enormous publicity surrounding cases like Enron and WorldCom mean the guilty parties in those cases may eventually have to compensate investors, Cox wonders what will happen to less-publicized cases that don't generate congressional hearings or investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission. "There's a wider number of fraudulent-reporting violations than the government has the personnel to prosecute, so we rely on private litigation to pick up the slack," says Cox. Indeed, according to a study he just published, government can pursue just 20 percent of the cases worth investigating.

Of course, the more pertinent question for the presidential campaign is why Kerry voted for the bill in the first place. He certainly wasn't the only Democrat to do so; Ted Kennedy supported it, too, as did some other high-profile liberals. And even to the extent that Kerry might have been doing a favor for the banking or high-tech industry, he had a plausible--if parochial--reason for doing so: Both are large employers in the Boston area.

Still, it's hard not to notice the apparent connections to Kerry's campaign money. Although Kerry often brags that he takes no money from political action committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics he has long been among the top recipients of contributions by executives and employees of the financial services industry, whose Washington lobbying groups pushed hard for this legislation. (Kennedy and other liberals who supported the bill also benefit from substantial financial industry donations.) In addition, one of Kerry's closest advisors and top fundraisers is Robert Crowe, a Boston-based lobbyist whose website notes the work he's done with banks on securities legislation. (Neither a Kerry spokesman nor Crowe returned calls made yesterday seeking comment.)

Should any of this matter? It is just one vote, after all. Kerry's overall record on confronting other moneyed interests does appear to be strong. But given that the essence of Kerry's current campaign is his fight against special interests--and considering that he's frequently attacked his rivals over individual votes--it seems only fair to note that there's at least one rather conspicuous blemish on his record.

kismasher
9th March 04, 03:21 PM
REPUBLICAN CONTRACT WITH AMERICA
As Republican Members of the House of Representatives and as citizens seeking to join that body we propose not just to change its policies, but even more important, to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives.
That is why, in this era of official evasion and posturing, we offer instead a detailed agenda for national renewal, a written commitment with no fine print.

This year's election offers the chance, after four decades of one-party control, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress works. That historic change would be the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.

Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend to act "with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right." To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves.

On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government:


FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse;
THIRD, cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
FOURTH, limit the terms of all committee chairs;
FIFTH, ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
SIXTH, require committee meetings to be open to the public;
SEVENTH, require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;
EIGHTH, guarantee an honest accounting of our Federal Budget by implementing zero base-line budgeting.
Thereafter, within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress, we shall bring to the House Floor the following bills, each to be given full and open debate, each to be given a clear and fair vote and each to be immediately available this day for public inspection and scrutiny.

1. THE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out- of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses. (Bill Text) (Description)

2. THE TAKING BACK OUR STREETS ACT: An anti-crime package including stronger truth-in- sentencing, "good faith" exclusionary rule exemptions, effective death penalty provisions, and cuts in social spending from this summer's "crime" bill to fund prison construction and additional law enforcement to keep people secure in their neighborhoods and kids safe in their schools. (Bill Text) (Description)

3. THE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: Discourage illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by prohibiting welfare to minor mothers and denying increased AFDC for additional children while on welfare, cut spending for welfare programs, and enact a tough two-years-and-out provision with work requirements to promote individual responsibility. (Bill Text) (Description)

4. THE FAMILY REINFORCEMENT ACT: Child support enforcement, tax incentives for adoption, strengthening rights of parents in their children's education, stronger child pornography laws, and an elderly dependent care tax credit to reinforce the central role of families in American society. (Bill Text) (Description)

5. THE AMERICAN DREAM RESTORATION ACT: A S500 per child tax credit, begin repeal of the marriage tax penalty, and creation of American Dream Savings Accounts to provide middle class tax relief. (Bill Text) (Description)

6. THE NATIONAL SECURITY RESTORATION ACT: No U.S. troops under U.N. command and restoration of the essential parts of our national security funding to strengthen our national defense and maintain our credibility around the world. (Bill Text) (Description)

7. THE SENIOR CITIZENS FAIRNESS ACT: Raise the Social Security earnings limit which currently forces seniors out of the work force, repeal the 1993 tax hikes on Social Security benefits and provide tax incentives for private long-term care insurance to let Older Americans keep more of what they have earned over the years. (Bill Text) (Description)

8. THE JOB CREATION AND WAGE ENHANCEMENT ACT: Small business incentives, capital gains cut and indexation, neutral cost recovery, risk assessment/cost-benefit analysis, strengthening the Regulatory Flexibility Act and unfunded mandate reform to create jobs and raise worker wages. (Bill Text) (Description)

9. THE COMMON SENSE LEGAL REFORM ACT: "Loser pays" laws, reasonable limits on punitive damages and reform of product liability laws to stem the endless tide of litigation. (Bill Text) (Description)

10. THE CITIZEN LEGISLATURE ACT: A first-ever vote on term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators. (Description)

Further, we will instruct the House Budget Committee to report to the floor and we will work to enact additional budget savings, beyond the budget cuts specifically included in the legislation described above, to ensure that the Federal budget deficit will be less than it would have been without the enactment of these bills.

Respecting the judgment of our fellow citizens as we seek their mandate for reform, we hereby pledge our names to this Contract with America.



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CaptShady
9th March 04, 03:30 PM
And this is relevant how?

kismasher
9th March 04, 03:35 PM
It shows how many more issues were covered in the Contract with America, and also as an illustration as to why someone who would normally vote against something may feel compelled to make a choice outside their norm.

CaptShady
9th March 04, 03:37 PM
Yes, but Bush wasn't a part of that contract, was he?
AND revealing the shittiness of Kerry, doesn't mean said person is a Bush supporter.

Got a lil mo' fo' ya:

Today's radio address by John Kerry is the latest example of his astonishing ability to say one thing and do another. He says he'll never send troops into harm's way without enough firepower and support, but he voted against all of the firepower and support when it mattered most for our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. John Kerry says he supports body armor for the troops, yet he voted against sending it to our soldiers. John Kerry voted against higher danger pay for our troops and against health care for active duty reservists. If John Kerry's policies had been adopted, our troops would not have the support and protection they need to win the War on Terror.

CaptShady
9th March 04, 03:38 PM
Senator John Kerry's policies and inconsistencies should concern Florida voters. In a speech before the Arab American Institute, Kerry labeled the Israeli security fence a barrier to peace. Then, four months later, speaking before a group of New York primary voters, Kerry flip-flopped on the issue, labeling the fence a legitimate act of self defense. This is not the kind of leadership that Americans are looking for.

kismasher
9th March 04, 03:41 PM
seriously, i think Kerry stinks on ice. you don't need to convice me.

i just don't think our country need 4 more years of Bush.

CaptShady
9th March 04, 03:48 PM
I totally agree. But I'm more extremist ... I say it's time the two parties both get fucked.