How to Clean Up Elections
If you don’t think campaign finance reform will ever work, check out State Representative David Burnell Smith of Arizona. Actually, call him ex-representative Smith. Arizona is one of six states that have passed the “Clean Election” alternative for candidates running for various state offices. These systems provide public funding for candidates who agree to take no campaign money from special interests and to agree to spending limits that provide a level playing fields. The system is a great success—in Arizona 10 of the state’s 11 top officials (including the governor) have now been elected without taking a dime from corporate executives and lobbyists.
Rep. Smith, a Republican, also chose to take the public funding alternativefor his campaign, even though he asserted that Arizona’s “Citizens Clean Election” law was both unconstitutional and unenforceable. Smith, a lawyer from (ironically) a town named Carefree, has now found out about that enforceable part. The spending limit for his race was almost $25,000, but he carelessly soared above that limit by $6,000—giving him a 25-percent funding advantage over his opponent. He won and strutted to his seat in January. The Clean Elections Commission, however, ordered him out for being an illegal cheat. But Smith asserted that he was now a legislator and immune from the commission’s reach. That didn’t set well with the public—or with the courts. First, an administrative law judge upheld the commission’s order. Smith appealed, but the county superior court also upheld the commission. So did the state court of appeals. And now, so has the state supreme court. Not only is Smith out, but Arizona’s public financing law is in, having been ruled both legal and enforceable. To help bring such a law to your state or city, call Clean Elections: 877-631-8891.
ANOTHER WINDFALL FOR BIG OIL
The only thing deeper than those deep-water oil rigs out in the Gulf of Mexico is the depth of greed in the executive suites of the oil giants. Using a little-known provision enacted by the Clintonites a decade ago, such global outfits as Shell, BP, and Chevron are claiming that they can pump oil and gas from these publicly-owned waters without paying a dime in royalties they otherwise would owe to us. This is the largest giveaway of the public’s oil and gas in American history—at a time when gasoline is at record-high prices and oil companies need trains to take their ill-gotten profits to the bank. In 1996, crude oil prices were down at $10 a barrel, and the corporations ran to Washington crying that they needed “royalty relief” as an incentive to drill the deep wells in the federal waters of the gulf. Clinton and Congress complied, eventually waiving all royalties owed to We the People for Gulf
drilling leases awarded in ’98 and ’99. At today’s prices—with oil soaring to $70 a barrel—the companies expect to extract $65 billion worth of oil and gas from those leases in the next five years, giving them a fabulous profit. Yet, despite the jack-up in oil prices and the windfall profits, they still claim that they deserve full “royalty relief,” costing our treasury $7 billion.
You might assume that the Bushites are doing nothing about oil company greed—but you’d be wrong. They’re fighting hard in Congress—to feed the greed! Last fall, the Senate passed aone-year, $5 billion windfall profits tax on the oil giants.
Bush is bluntly promising to veto the entire tax bill to kill the oil provision. At the same time, Bush & Company say they have no power to prevent the oil company’s royalty robbery. They’re tigers when fighting for Big Oil, but weasels when it’s time to fight for the people.
It’s not widely known, but there are three horse slaughter factories in the U.S.—two in Texas, one in Illinois. Each year, some 90,000 horses are trucked to these facilities, where they are killed (some die an agonizing death), chopped and ground into meat, then shipped off to be someone’s dinner. Americans don’t eat horsemeat—it’s no longer even used for pet food here. This meat goes to Europe. Two of the slaughterhouses in our country are owned by Belgians, the other by French investors. Okay, so they fancy horsemeat, but we don’t have to provide it. The good news is that an overwhelming, bipartisan majority in Congress passed an amendment in December to put a temporary halt to the slaughter of horses for human consumption. The bad news is that the Bushites are siding with the three foreign horsemeat corporations, defying the direct order of congress to stop the killing! What Congress did was to amend the ag department’s appropriations bill to say that none of its money could be spent to inspect horsemeat plants in the next year. No inspection, no meat. No meat, no slaughterhouse. But that underestimates the corporate servility and autocratic arrogance of the Bushites. Bush ag officials have ruled that while the amendment prevents spending the department’s money for horsemeat inspection—the three companies can pay the inspectors themselves under a special fee-for-service arrangement, thus continuing the slaughter and the shipping. Our ag officials also are trying to let the foreign firms do this without even allowing us to comment. If you do want to speak your mind, here’s Bush’s secretary of agriculture’s phone number: 202-720-3631.
Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.