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Milagros, Retablos and Arte Popular –rEscomos TRADING [email protected] FOLK ART & OTHER TREASURES FROM AROUND THE WORLD 209 CONGRESS AVENUE 512 / 479-8377 OPEN DAILY 10-6, FREE PARKING BEHIND THE STORE Editorial, continued from page 17 dangerous policy. Surely, ERS records contain information the public deserves to knowlike, for instance, whether high-paid lobbyists, while helping to craft public policy, are receiving lifetime health care at taxpayers’ expense. Unfortunately, many state agencies, like ERS, are finding creative new ways to fight the open government law, from the governor’s office’s refusal to release its budget documents to the Health and Human Services Commission shielding details about major state contracts with private companies. In fact, officials at the Building and Procurement Commission said that other state agencies had used the same bait-and-switch maneuver that ERS pulled on us. The consequence of this trend is not only a secretive government but an increased chance that the public trust, not to mention public money, will be abused. In the end, our eight-month scrap with ERS yielded little. ERS officials did tell us that nine former legislators enjoy the lifetime health-care entitlement. We assume some of these people are lobbyists. But we were never able to obtain the list of names. ERS officials are adamant that these golden parachutes for retired state lawmakers don’t cost the state any money. While former legislators receive health insurance at the state’s discounted group rate, ERS officials maintain, all nine pay the full premium, at no expense to taxpayers. It’s possible that leaving these former legislators on the state plan increases the ERS’ client pool and therefore helps the state snag better group rates. But if more is better, why don’t more state employees have access to this perk? The former legislators may argue that access to the state’s health plan is part of their reward for working in the public sector. That’s a thin defense. Last session, right-wing lawmakers justified cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program by accusing many of the low-income families on CHIP of bolting private health plans to mooch off the state. Meanwhile, the favored high-dollar lobbyists of those very same lawmakers eschew private insurance to remain on the state’s health plan. Sadly, the question of who among these legislator/lobbyists are hypocritesbenefiting from state health insurance they could afford to pay, while shutting out the same benefits for lowincome Texansremains unanswered. Dialogue, continued from page 2 BETTER THAN BAKER Hello, Molly. \(I like you even better long way from Texas, in the marshy flatlands of Northern Germany. \(I hail I am recovering from a disc operation and I take down your book Nothin’ But Good Times Ahead, which I had first read eight years ago, because I needed balm for my bad back blues and an antidote to Bushism. I was amazed. Page after page about George Herbert Walker that might have been written yesterday about Dubya. \(Does he talk to page about things that are going on today. I love the way you keep sneaking in those truths we hold to be self-evident. It’s almost subversive. I want you to know that all my 1 1 th-grade kids in my English classes here at my German high school have to learn these truths by heart. There are still a lot of real patriots out there. Keep up the good work. William Caldwell Via e-mail Fraudcast, continued from page 11 political connections, it will be interesting to see if the settlement is punitive enough to dissuade others from copying a business that made Siskind $7 million a year and paid his wife, Patti, a $500,000 annual salary. Siskind is a frequent business partner of attorney Stanley Rosenberg of Loeffler Jonas & Tuggey, which is defending Siskind from the FTC lawsuit. The firm was started in 2001 by one of President Bush’s elite “Ranger” fundraisers, Tom Loeffler, from remnants of predecessor Arter & Hadden. The firms made a bundle helping Metabolife International, the nation’s number one marketer of ephedra diet remedies, sabotage Texas Department of Health sales. The firm paid Texas Senator Jeff Representative Rick Green \(R-Dripping behalf. The Travis County prosecutor reportedly has a deal in the works with Green and Wentworth to settle charges that they broke a state ethics law that prohibits lawmakers from being paid to privately lobby state agencies. Meanwhile, the FTC has been working for more than a year on voluntary guidelines to help media screen out bogus weight-loss claims. Many experts and common sense suggest that red flags shoot up whenever hucksters sell the idea that pounds can be shed without a change of diet or exercise habits. Media lobbyists are trying to prevent the FTC from adopting such common senseeven in voluntary guidelines. “Creating a list of presumptively false claims based solely on today’s science will choke the flow of new products and information to consumers and impede the introduction of new and effica cious products,” Electronic Retailing Association President Elissa Matulis . Myers warned the FTC last year. Such guidelines also could choke the flow of the hundreds of millions of dollars in snake-oil ad revenues that the media have been wolfing down. Andrew Wheat is research director of Austin-based Texans for Public Justice. 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 12/5/03