Cash and Kerry

john kerry official picture

Senator John Kerry looks to be windsurfing to his new post as Secretary of State. The 194 million dollar man faced a very friendly panel of his fellow plutocrats yesterday as he spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he himself chairs. And he had money on his mind. He cited reducing the US budget deficit as the primary goal of his tenure, as reported by CBS News,

“Because while it’s often said that we can’t be strong at home if we’re not strong in the world, in these days of fiscal crisis, and as a recovering member of the supercommittee, I am especially cognizant of the fact that we can’t be strong in the world unless we’re strong at home. And the first priority of business, which will affect my credibility as a diplomat working to help other countries create order, the first priority is whether America at last puts its own fiscal house in order.”

His deficit mania, though far from uncommon in DC, may well be fueled by his close ties to banking and investment firms, as evidenced by the donations he’s taken over his Senate career. Goldman Sachs (his fourth largest donor), Citigroup (fifth), Switzerland’s UBS (11th), JPMorgan Chase (15th), and Morgan Stanley (17th) altogether have poured more than a million dollars into his campaign coffers. Media corporations that push the austerity storyline also contribute heavily to Kerry: Time Warner (his third largest donor), Viacom (13th), and General Electric (20th) together gave him over three-quarters of a million dollars, while advertising juggernaut Interpublic Group, which paid no taxes from 2008-2010 (and in fact got $15 million in tax rebates) tossed him over $200,000.

Law firms gave heavily to this powerful legislator. During his tenure, Kerry received a third of a million from Wall Street’s most powerful law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; another third from WilmerHale; and yet another third from Boston’s Mintz Levin. DLA Piper, the world’s largest law firm, donated nearly $300,000 to him; Minnesota’s litigation-centered Robins, Kaplan, Milller & Ciresi put up almost a quarter million.

Kerry’s foremost donors are educational institutions: his top donor is the University of California (two-thirds of a million dollars); second-highest is Harvard ($463,000). Stanford University gave him just over $200,000 since 1989. Computing colossi Microsoft (his eighth largest donor) and IBM (19th) also chipped in hundreds of thousands.

Despite Kerry’s focus on deficit reduction and his Wall Street ties, the majority of his Senate hearings will likely focus on foreign policy. As spokesman for the Obama Administration, Kerry talked up the unsubstantiated threat of a nuclear Iran, predicted regime change in Syria, and urged much closer involvement in Africa to counter Chinese interests. He also touted corporate solutions to the climate crisis:

Where Kerry was most passionate was on the issue of climate change, calling it a “life-threatening issue.”

“The solution to climate change is energy policy,” he said. “You want to do business and do it well in America, we got to get into the energy race.” He cited Massachusetts, where alternative energy is “growing faster than any other sector. . . . This is a job creator.”

“I will be a passionate advocate for this,” he added, “not based on ideology but facts.”

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