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MOLLY IVINS Dancing Lessons From Congress Happy New Year! And now it’s time to take down the Christmas tree, throw out the fruitcake, add up the bills and step on the scale. Here comes January, February, Rye Krisp and cottage cheese. ‘Tis the season to get real, so let’s go right back to political basics. The first law of politics is: You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You. So let’s take a look at who brung our new leaders. Senator Bob Dole’s largest contributor clump is in finance, insurance and real estate, for a total of $537,356, about 60 percent from political action committees and the rest from individuals. His second biggest interest group is agricultureperfectly understandable in a farm state senatorfor $320,731, almost all of it from PACs. Rep. Newt Gingrich also owes most to finance, insurance and real estate, a total of $360,208, with miscellaneous business a close second, $318,584, again with PACs predominating easily. Senator Alfonse D’Amato of New York, new chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, got a whopping $1,331,695 from finance, insurance and real estate, with miscellaneous business a poor second at $456,775. On the other hand, Rep. Robert Livingstone, new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, owes his reelection primarily to defense industries Rep. Pat Roberts, new chairman of House Agriculture, unsurprisingly had agriculture as far and away his biggest contributor; everything else is minuscule. But Rep. Thomas Bliley Jr., new chairman of the House Commerce Committee, has a far more nicely balanced spread. Finance, insurance and real estate lead again with $170,222, closely followed by health interests with $161,638. Also right up there is agriculture with $151,226, which is only unusual if you don’t know that the last committee chairman, Henry Waxman, led the crusade against tobacco interests. My thanks to the newsletter Capital Eye, a Close-Up Look at Money in Politics for the numbers. Now what do our new leaders think about campaign finance reform, the root of the rot, the system of legalized bribery with which they buy office? Why, those li’l ol’ Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. reformers, just listen: Senator Phil Gramm said, “I am eager to reform our campaign process, just as the Democrats were when they were in the majority.” Ho, ho, ho; hee, hee, hee; that Phil Grammwhat a card. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, was up front: “Campaign finance will not be on the agenda. There is no groundswell for it. We won’t waste any time on it.” Thanks, Mitch. According to national polls, 78 percent of Americans think that most members of Congress are more interested in serving special interest groups than in serving the people they represent. Which goes to show that you can’t fool 78 percent of the American people. But that’s no groundswell. As we listen to the Republicans talk about “reforming Congress” and “reforming government” and “reforming welfare,” just remember: The Congress that is on the teat of corporate donations is the same Congress that hands out corporate welfare. The total costs of this election cycle are expected to go over $1 billion. There are no congressional or electoral reformsnot term limits, not cutting congressional committees and staff, not ethics reforms, not lobby disclosurethat will make one iota of difference unless and until we change the way campaigns are financed. Our pols will continue to dance with them what brung ’em. Watch the “reform” Republicans legislate amazing new telecommunications law. Watch General Electric lobbyists again draft corporate tax law that reduces the company’s tax to below zero. Watch “reform” Republicans decide that regulating derivatives would violate sacred free-market standards. Watch Archer-Daniels-Midland \($1.1 million in soft money to Republicans and a quarter-million to President We’ll be hearing about “reform” until it comes out of our ears. Beloveds, until they reform the way campaigns are financed, “reform” is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. O THE DRAFT-DODGING, dope smoking, deadbeat-dad Newt Gin grich \(I find that when one first stoops to the level of Rush Limbaugh, one feels slimy, but it gets easier as you go severely disabled poor children. Supple mental Security Income provides monthly stipends for poor children with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and mental retardation. The money can be spent for food, clothing, shelter or a range of medical and social services. The draft-dodging, dope-smoking, deadbeat-dad Newt Gingrich wants to cut it back to vouchers that could be spent only for a limited program of medical care. Normally, picking on handicapped poor children is not a real popular thing to do, but the new Republicans, who have hearts like caraway seeds, assure us that the money is sometimes paid to poor children with common problems and thatpay attention nowsome parents coach children to fake disabilities. Ahem. Do you know any children with spina bifida, cerebral palsy or severe retardation? On the whole, it is not actually easy to fake these conditions, especially as doctors are usually called in on these cases quite early. Assuming that we have somehow sprouted a whole generation of tiny Method actors who can successfully fake spina bifida \(a pler and fairer to require an accurate diagnosis of the condition than to cut off the program entirely? My favorite poor kid with spina bifida is Kristy Reyna of Austin, some of whose SSI money is being spent to build a shower stall that she can use herself. Kristy is 16 now, so it’s awfully hard to lift her into the bathtub, and she’ll be able to wheel her chair into the new shower stall, boost herself onto a stool and turn the handles at her level. Kristy has had more than 15 operations, and we’re fairly sure she isn’t faking it. Putting her in an institution would, of course, cost tens of thousands of dollars a year. The cost of the new shower stall is in the very low three figures. According to Kristy’s mom, none of Kristy’s SSI money can be spent without a doctor’s certification that Kristy needs it her braces, her wheelchair, the shower stall, all required orthopedic certification. Informed of the Republican proposal, Kristy’s mom stopped dead for a long minute and then said: “Tell them I will be happy to give up any amount of money in the whole world if she could just walk.” El Service Employees International Union LOCAL 100 BECOME A UNION ORGANIZER Statewide Placement 14 JANUARY 13, 1995