Kerry Trying To Gain Last Minute Votes In Iowa
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Sen. John Kerry, like many of his fellow Democratic candidates for president, has touched a nerve in Iowa among voters concerned by corporate and mutual fund scandals. "People are angry," he says. "They feel as if the system is stacked against them, and in fact it is stacked against them."
CNBC
updated 1/15/2004 4:06:34 PM ET 2004-01-15T21:06:34

Main Street in Ames, Iowa is a long way from Wall Street. But Iowans know all about corporate scandals, like those at Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and some of the nation's biggest mutual fund companies.

Up the street at the Grove Cafe, customers say the Wall Street frauds of the past year have hurt their retirement plans and shaken their trust. In an understated, perhaps Midwestern way, the patrons of the Grove Cafe say they are mad as heck.

"Everybody I know believes that," says Mike, a customer at the cafe. "The people who did it are going to get away with it because they're big business, they've got friends in high places and they'll slap some wrists but that going to be about it," he says.

"Once this corruption starts people don't have any faith in the market anymore," another of the cafe's customers says.

With the Iowa caucus just days away, Democratic candidates are trying to tap into that Main Street anger with Wall Street -- making a crackdown on corporate crime a major part ot their campaigns. 

Democratic front-runner Howard Dean links President Bush directly to the scandals.

"What he cares [about] is Ken Lay and the boys, Enron, what's in it for him, all those $2,000 checks he's getting from lobbyists and special interests to run his $200 million campaign," Dean says.

At one of his rallies in the state, Sen. John Kerry says that the Administration has a creed of greed. "People are angry about it. They feel as if the system is stacked against them and in fact it is stacked against them," the Massachusetts Democrat says.

Sen. John Edwards is equally aggressive on the issue in a television ad. "If someone goes to the grocery and steals a half gallon of milk, they go to jail. But here we go with George Bush's friends ... they don't go to jail."

Political analyst Steffen Schmidt says corporate crime is a potent political issue, and "it makes everyone angry."

"People are very concerned about the fundamental trustworthiness and stability about American corporations," he says.

Democrats hope the issue has enough resonance around the country -- in places like Ames -- that it will help them beat President Bush in November. 

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