Political Intelligence



Among the luminaries in attendance at the Texas AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education convention in mid-January was David Bonior, the Michigan Democrat and House minority whip. In his address to the COPE convention, Bonior exhorted the delegates to get out the vote for November 2000, expressing confidence that the Dems can swing the five seats necessary for a House majority: “The working people of Texas can make it happen!” He said the AFL-CIO is committed to organizing “flying squads” of union members to travel across the country to talk about union issues and stump for Democratic candidates.

Bonior appeared less sanguine about the presidential race, although he took the occasion to boost Al Gore (already endorsed by the national AFL). Echoing a Gore campaign charge against Bill Bradley, he praised Gore for truly “walking the walk” on labor issues, and pointed to Gore’s record: “Except for Ted Kennedy, he had the best labor voting record in the Senate.” Bonior said he wishes the Dem candidates were better on “trade issues”–Bonior led the House fight against so-called “free trade” agreements, in defiance of the Clinton administration. But he insisted Gore has a true “moral commitment” to defend labor, reflected in his good votes on labor issues despite political costs in Tennessee. (The implication being that Bradley, from a heavily organized state like New Jersey, can walk easier on labor votes.)

In a later conversation with the Observer, Bonior added that he is continuing to lobby Gore on trade. “If we could just get these guys together and bring them down to the border, and let them see what NAFTA is doing to people,” he said, “I think we could bring them around.” He pointed to Clinton’s recent statements on labor and environmental protections, in the wake of the Seattle W.T.O. meetings, saying, “At least their rhetoric is getting better.”

Bonior described the national Democratic leadership as needing continual pressure from a progressive movement, which he believes is growing. “Folks are beginning to come together on the environment, labor, and human rights,” he said. “We’ve got the real possibility of building a strong national movement on all these issues, of bringing together ‘people like us.'”


Corporate food engineering may be hazardous to your health–although you wouldn’t know it from the mainstream news. One reason you wouldn’t know it is corporate censorship, as in the notorious instance of Monsanto versus Jane Akre and Steve Wilson. Akre and Wilson were investigative reporters at the Fox-owned television station in Tampa, Florida, where they prepared an investigative report on the use by Florida dairies of “recombinant bovine growth hormone” (commonly known as rBGH). After struggling with Fox executives to get the story on the air, the two journalists were fired in 1997. Akre and Wilson say Monsanto, which produces the hormone, pressured the station to suppress their reporting. The reporters are on a nationwide tour to tell their story, and will be visiting Austin February 9.

Though legal since 1993, rBGH has been linked to cancer, and is banned throughout Europe because of human health concerns. “We set out to tell Florida consumers the truth a giant chemical company and a powerful dairy lobby clearly doesn’t want them to know,” Wilson said. “That used to be something investigative reporters won awards for. As we’ve learned the hard way, it’s something you can be fired for these days whenever a news organization places more value on its bottom line than on delivering the news to its viewers honestly.”

Akre and Wilson will speak on the U.T.-Austin campus Wednesday, February 9, at 7 p.m. in the Bass Lecture Hall in the Sid Richardson Building. For more information, contact Joni Gilton at (512) 912-8598; [email protected]. For details on the lawsuit, see www.foxBGHsuit.com.


Criticized by opponents for using each office she has held as a stepping stone to another (she left an unexpired term on the the Austin school board to run for Mayor, then vacated a seat on the Railroad Commission to run for Comptroller), Carole Keeton Rylander might be ready to move again. This time she’s got her eye on Lieutenant Governor, according to John González of the Houston Chronicle. Rylander publicly denies she is considering a move, but Bill Miller’s flogging of her candidacy is a sign that she may well be. If Governor Bush is elected president and Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry becomes governor, Rylander’s past points to a race for lieutenant governor. (She’s already disabled one of her opponents, by sending Republican Land Commissioner David Dewhurst a bill for overdue taxes on luxury items purchased out of state.) Miller, an Austin flack for corporate accounts and Republican candidates, believes that Rylander is destined for greatness. “She’s innovative, she thinks out of the box, she does her own thing,” Miller told the Chronicle. “Her future is based in Texas. She’ll make her move on something–there’s no question.” When she left the Democratic Party to run for Congress against Jake Pickle, previously her longtime friend and supporter, Pickle said, “Most people see it as an act of opportunism.”


The daytime talkshow host is looking for two white racists, for a “Walk a Day in My Shoes” program that will have prejudiced blacks staying with a white family and prejudiced whites staying with a black family. Blacks have been located, but the show’s producers need two Caucasians–not neo-Nazis but someone who has racial prejudices in the “kind and gentle” category. They’re looking in Texas.