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JIM HIGHTOWER Loophole Lamar Sadly, there no traffic jam on the High Road of Politics these days. Politicians of both parties are all on the low road rushing around in a mad scramble for corrupt corporate cash to finance their campaign& If you think this money chase is going to ease off anytime soon, take a peek at the brand new fundraising loophole that Republican presidential wannabe Lamar Alexander is trying to squeeze through. Alexander, former governor of Tennessee, made a hugely unsuccessful run for president in 1996. Afterwards, he whined loudly that the federal government’s $5,000-perperson limit on contributions to a political action committee should be lifted. He said it cramps his style of getting really big bucks from Fat Cats. He didn’t get a lot of sympathy, but, hey, Alexander isn’t called “Loophole Lamar” for nothing. The Boston Globe reports that under Tennessee law, a person can give up to $100,000 to a state PAC, and there are very few restrictions on how that money can be used, including transferring it to a federal PAC. So abracadabra! Alexander has already moved a cool million bucks from his state pocket to his federal pocket, even though most of this money comes from Fat Cats giving way beyond the $5,000 federal limit. For example, the Globe reports that Alexander took an Iowa businessman to breakfast, told him about this loophole, and collected a $95,000 contribution nineteen times what federal law allows. When the head of Dan Quayle’s presidential PAC was told about “Lamar’s Loophole,” he said: “I didn’t know you could do that. I’m flabbergasted.” He quickly recovered, though, and now Danbo Quayle has his own state PAC in Virginia a state with no limits on contributions. To learn how to stop this shameless money-laundering, contact Public CamPOLITICIAN PLATINUM Retirement. The Golden Years! Well … maybe. In this age of global corporate greed and downsizing, firm after firm has been looting the pensions of their employees, and such giants as General Motors have walked away from their earlier pension promises, leaving thousands of retirees in dire straits not to mention poverty. Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are in cahoots to cut back on your social security, even proposing that you hold off your retirement ’til you’re seventy, then begin drawing the benefits you’re due. But guess who won’t wait ’til they’re seventy to retire? Bingo! Members of Congress themselves. Take Dan Coats of Indiana, who’s announced he’ll step down this year after a decade in the Senate. Dan has always been big on cutting back federal entitlement programs and telling people to get off the public dole. But next January, at only fiftysix years of age, he’ll go on the dole, living the Life of Riley on his congressional retirement of $71,000 a year, courtesy of us taxpayers. If he’s typical, Coats will live to be eighty years old or more meaning we’ll pay him more than $3 million over the next twenty-five years to do nothing! At least Dan’s not a convicted criminal, like some of the fourteen former members of Congress are. Yet, despite their convictions, they’re still drawing their pensions from us taxpayers! According to Citizens Against Government Waste, convicted congressmen collected nearly $700,000 in pension payments during 1996. While the average retiree on Social Security gets only about $8,000 a year, these Felonious Fourteen are averaging $50,000 a year each, and they get their checks, like clockwork, even if they’re sitting in the pokey. To help stop the payment of Platinum Pensions for Politicians, including politicians in the pokey, contact Citizens Against QUACK REGISTRY When a state hands out a license to practice medicine, it bestows an extraordinary power on that doctor, granting him or her the authority to see us naked, to cut us open, to inject chemicals into our bodies, and lit to affect whether we live or die. Now, what if this individual has proven unworthy of such trust, having sexually abused some patients, for example, or become a drug addict, or simply been incompetent? You’d want to know that, right? But mostly, we trusting patients are not informed about abusive, negligent, dangerous, or shoddy doctors. Even those who are caught by the medical review boards generally get protected by the establishment, maybe get a slap on the wrist, but are still allowed to keep their licenses and to keep practicing. A decade ago, Congress finally mandated that a data bank be created to store details about all those bad docs in America who have been officially sanctioned by authorities or successfully sued for malpractice. Problem is, Congress also mandated that this information be kept secret from us patients. So there are thousands of practicing doctors out there guilty of serious medical offenses, but their patients are not even informed about them, much less warned. This is why a new set of books by Public Citizens’ Health Research Group is so valuable. Called 16,638 Questionable Doctors, it provides for us what the government and the profession are hiding: a state-by-state, caseby-case, name-by-name record of doctors in America who have been disciplined by medical authorities. It also includes information on what you can do to report a doctor. Check out the docs in your own town. Regional listings are available for $23.50. Better yet, ask your library to order copies, so others in your community can check this vital consumer resource. For ordering information, erally Jim Hightower’s radio talk show broadcasts daily from Austin, on over 100 stations nationwide. His new book, There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos, is now in paperback. Find him at , or e-mail: [email protected] SEPTEMBER 25, 1998 *NO THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23