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Kerry discloses lobby contacts

WASHINGTON -- Senator John F. Kerry yesterday disclosed nearly 200 meetings he has held with lobbyists since 1989, including dozens having business before his Senate committees, as the presumptive Democratic nominee sought to draw a sharp contrast with what he describes as the Bush administration's more secretive and expansive dealings with corporate lobbyists.

No member of Congress-turned-presidential candidate has ever listed in such detail contacts with lobbyists, who are paid to influence policy decisions.

In an 11-page document provided to The Washington Post before wider release today, Kerry detailed the participants and dates of private meetings in his Senate office with lobbyists representing everything from labor unions, trial lawyers, and environmental groups to Microsoft, IBM, and other corporations seeking his assistance.

The records highlight Kerry's relationship with varied companies and with this city's most influential Democratic lobbyists such as Thomas Hale Boggs Jr. of the powerhouse firm Patton Boggs, who was granted several personal meetings. In 1999, for instance, Kerry, who was working on several telecommunications issues, met twice with Bell Atlantic's (now Verizon's) Ivan Seidenberg and lunched with Gerald Cassidy, a top lobbyist who represented several companies affected by the senator's actions on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

Several lobbyists who met with Kerry, including John A. Merrigan of the law firm Piper Rudnick, have raised $50,000 or more for his presidential campaign. The lobbyists who met with Kerry gave at least a combined $230,000 to his various campaigns over the last decade.

Kerry's records indicate that he tended mostly to traditional Democratic backers such as the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and home-state interests such as Raytheon Co.

Kerry is moving quickly to address criticism from President Bush and others that he is refusing to provide voters a fuller view of everything from his personal finances to his combat and medical records. Since Tuesday night, Kerry has been posting his military records on his website and promised additional medical information soon.

The campaign also is rethinking its decision to keep private the tax records of the candidate's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, a top aide said.

After days of playing defense on the disclosure issue, Kerry is going on the offensive by releasing these records. The extraordinary disclosure, which goes well beyond public disclosure laws, was an implicit and strategically timed challenge to Bush to prove that he is not in lobbyists' thrall.

The White House is fighting to keep secret the meetings between top administration officials and energy industry lobbyists. The Supreme Court on April 27 will decide whether Vice President Dick Cheney should disclose meetings with oil, gas, coal, and nuclear industry lobbyists conducted before he wrote a new national energy policy. Kerry has been a sharp critic of those deliberations.

"We released this information today," Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton said. "Now it's the Bush campaign's turn to release the list of oil company lobbyists in Cheney's secret energy task force that rewrote our energy policy."

Bush campaign spokeswoman Nicolle Devenish called that a political ploy.

To differentiate himself from Bush and his Democratic rivals for president, Kerry, in the heat of the primary campaign, said one of his first acts as president would be to issue an executive order requiring public records of meetings between government officials and lobbyists. On Jan. 19, Kerry said he would practice what he was preaching by "happily" releasing his contacts with lobbyists.

Soon after, he instructed his staff to review his schedules over the past 15 years to come up with the list, which aides say took nearly three months to complete. The list covers meetings between 1989 and February of this year; it does not include phone conversations and more casual contacts with lobbyists.

The Kerry list appears to be incomplete. Several lobbyists contacted say they had additional encounters with the Massachusetts Democrat over the years that are not listed in the report.

Under law, lobbyists must register with the government and describe in broad terms those they are seeking to influence and on what issues. White House officials and members of Congress are not required to disclose their contacts, which makes Kerry's voluntary disclosure unique, not only among presidential candidates, but also lawmakers.

Kerry's membership on two of the Senate's premier money committees, Commerce and Finance, made him a target for many interest groups, corporate and otherwise. In addition, in the early years covered by the list, he was also a member of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee.

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