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JIM HIGHTOWER Cashing In on Health Reform Whether or not our lawmakers get around to passing any real health-care reform for us this year, the issue for them has already proven to be very healthy indeed. Some members are getting fatter than a butcher’s dog as lobbyists line up to feed them with big bucks. Check out Representative Jim Cooper, the poster child of anti-reform lobbyists. An obscure House member from Tennessee, Cooper catapulted himself into the limelight last year by sponsoring a “reform” bill that doesn’t require universal coverage, doesn’t cap how much insurance companies can gouge us on their premiums, and doesn’t limit drug company profiteering on us consumers. So, of course, the industry loves the Cooper bill and is absolutely gushing with gratitude. Cooper has received more health-industry donations than any other member of the House. He’s pretty slick, though. To cover his tracks, Cooper announced that he wouldn’t accept contributions from political action committees. Whoa, sounds like ethics! But like a cat with feathers on his whiskers, this guy is no innocent. Instead of giving PAC money to Cooper, companies are simply “bundling” individual contributions from their top executives… and handing the whole wad over to him. In January, drug company lobbyists delivered a wad of executive checks totalling $14,000 at a breakfast for Cooper. In February, Cooper traveled to Kentucky, where executives of Hospital Corporation of America gave him a $16,000 bundle. Then, in March, Cooper scooted up to Hartford, Connecticut, where he bagged thousands more at a breakfast sponsored by Travelers Insurance. [Editor’s Note: Citizen Action recently reported that Cooper received $358,190 from health and insurance PACs and large donors from January 1, 1993, through March 1994, placing him second only to the $591,159 Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison received. See “Political Intelligence.”] Asked about the hypocrisy of publicly refusing corporate PAC donations, then dragging a sack around the country, quietly col Jim Hightower, a former Observer editor and Texas agriculture commissioner, does daily radio commentary and a weekend call-in talk show on the ABC Radio Network. lecting bundles of checks from the very same special interests, Cooper sniffs: “I thought about only accepting money from Mother Teresabut then she’s in the health care business.” Oh, he’s cute, isn’t he? To fight this corrupting tie between big money and bad legislation, contact the Center for Responsive Politics at 202-857-0044. Library Spending Overdue Here’s an interesting fact: Even in the depths of the Great Depression, not a single library in America was forced to close its doors. Think about that. Banks closed, right and left. Factories folded. But these little democratic houses of learning all across America were kept open…because our parents and grandparents knew that libraries were the key to a better future. How strange, then, that our current administration in Washingtonwhich says that the “information superhighway” is our future, that our children must have “more access to knOwledge”is now taking a budget axe to our libraries. I tell you, if ignorance is bliss, those people must be ecstatic. Start with the fact that the feds put up only $146 million for all of our community and college libraries. Sheesh, Washington wastes 10 times that much each year just in furniture and redecorating costs for Congressional, White House and other government offices. Yet here comes Bill Clinton trying to whack almost a third from our kids’ library budget. Well, kids are fighting back. Meet Alexandria Johnson. Bill Clinton sure did, just recently. This smart and determined thirdgrader in North Chicago has held a library card for five of her nine years. As winner of an American Library Association essay contest on how libraries change lives, she got a trip to the White House to meet the Prez himself. And she made the most of the opportunity. Clinton greeted Alexandria warmly, read her essay aloud and gave his own moving testament on how his childhood library had meant so much to him. Then she politely but firmly turned her eyes up to his and said, “Give libraries more moneynot lessso they can buy more books and computers and more people can get smarter.” Clinton just smiled. I’m with Alexandria, how about you? Libraries are one government agency that actu ally delivers the goodswhy whack them? Call your members of Congress on 202224-3121 and tell them what Alexandria told the President. Tobacco Fits These tobacco companies are something else, aren’t they? For years they’ve tried to deny that smoking has anything to do with 100,000 folks a year gasping to death with lung cancer, even though practically every scientist not drawing a paycheck from the industry says otherwise, and even though the “Marlboro Man” himself died of lung cancer and blamed his smokes for it. If ignorance is bliss, tobacco executives must be ecstatic, right? Well, turns out they’re. not ignorant, just greedy. Greedy enough to hide their own internal research results that told them 30 years ago each cigarette they sell is another nail in someone’s coffin. Just this month, the chief executive of Brown & Williamsonwhich makes Kools, Viceroy, and other brandstold a Congressional committee: “I believe nicotine is not addictive.” Wrong. And he should know it’s wrong. Internal company documents reveal that back in 1963 their own researchers had found that “nicotine is addictive.” The company lawyer wrote to top brass: “We are, then, in the business of selling nicotine, an addictive drug.” The lawyer also wrote that Brown & Williamson researchers had found that cigarettes were a cause of cancer, heart disease and emphysema. That was 30 years ago, yet industry bigwigs continue to pretend cigarettes areas one executive actually suggested to Congressno worse for people than eating Twinkies. Twinkies? Tobacco executives push cigarettes not because they really think they’re safe, but because cigarettes are hugely profitable. While they concede that they hope their own children don’t smoke, their ad campaigns suggest smoking is “cool” for kids. RJR’s “Joe Camel” character is now as recognizable as Mickey Mouse. The “Joe Camel” cartoon ad increased sales of Camel cigarettes to kids under 18 by nearly half a billion dollars in its first two years alone. If you oppose promoting a cancer-causing, addictive drug to kids,’ don’t just get agitated…get to agitating. Call a consumer group called INFACT: 617-742-4583. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13