NEW ORLEANS – Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search), who has criticized President Bush for setting policy after meeting in private with business leaders, has had nearly 200 meetings with registered lobbyists since 1989.
Nearly one-fourth of the meetings were with lobbyists for unions or other groups representing workers, Kerry's campaign said Wednesday after releasing a list of the meetings. Powerful business group advocates, including representatives of Microsoft, Intel, IBM and Cisco, were among those Kerry met.
Members of Congress routinely meet with lobbyists. Campaign officials said from 1989 to February of this year is the only period for which they have Kerry's schedule.
"We believe that it's the most comprehensive list of lobbyist meetings that we know of that any U.S. Senate office has produced," the Kerry campaign said in a statement.
The campaign provided the list to reporters traveling with the Massachusetts Democrat after The Washington Post asked for a list of meetings Kerry had held with registered lobbyists during his nearly 20-year career in the Senate.
Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said the contacts underscore Kerry's close ties to the political establishment. "Kerry's release is a political ploy," Schmidt said.
After critics questioned Kerry's military background, his campaign released more than 100 pages of military records on the Internet on Wednesday. Kerry has also released his tax returns for the last five years.
Kerry has declined to release the financial records of his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry (search), the multimillionaire heiress to the Heinz prepared-foods fortune. A campaign aide said that decision is being reviewed. The Kerrys file separate tax returns and are not required by law to release them.
Kerry campaign aides contrasted his disclosure with that of the Bush administration, which went to court to avoid disclosing meetings it held during formulation of an energy policy.
"Now it's the Bush administration's turn to release the list of oil company lobbyists in (Vice President Dick) Cheney's secret energy task force that rewrote our energy policy," Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton said.