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make contributions for." - Former Enron executive and Bush supporter
Duke Beaten by Trent Lott?Employee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – October 31, 2003
Senator Trent Lott is claiming victory over deregulation crazed, out-of-state energy companies, according to Gannett News Service. Merchant-energy companies are said to be moving farther south, to take advantage of cheap labor. These companies then want access to the existing power grid, in which they have not invested one thin dime. Senator Lott has opposed the local companies being forced to pay for grid upgrades to benefit fly-by-night outsiders, looking for a price gouging opportunity.
Such are the controversies caused by deregulation. Duke Energy built a merchant plant near Jackson, Mississippi. This stepped on the toes of the Mississippi senator.
The merchant energy company, grid upgrade debate is credited with stalling the energy bill. But that’s no big deal. Something stalls the bill every day. The bill is basically a hodge-podge of giveaways to energy companies.
Trent Lott claims that his Senate pals are going to see to it that the energy bill will force out-of-state companies to pay for transmission-line upgrades.
Lott said “I believe when this bill passes it will include protections for Mississippi power customers and those customers throughout Southern states.”
Why are there so many problems getting an energy bill through the Senate? Just picture a small trough of free slop, and 100 hogs trying to get into it at the same time! The squealing abounds.
Trent Lott Offers Bush Military AdviceEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – October 30, 2003
G. W. Bush has struggled desperately to be seen as a world leader. But he is regarded as a joke by most foreign leaders. In every country he visits, he is greeted by mass protests. He has all the diplomacy of a cold mackerel. Most leaders in the United Nations rejected his proposal to invade Iraq. He then tried to bribe nations to join him and tried to punish those who refused.
After invading and occupying Iraq, he claimed victory in the world’s biggest publicity stunt. Then he slowly began to realize that he had American troops sitting on a powder keg. Nothing worked out like he thought it would. So what did he do? He issued an open invitation for all terrorist to attack American troops, with his childish “Bring them on” challenge.
For once in his life, foreigners listen to him. American troops are now being attacked from all sides, by terrorists from everywhere. But G. W. Bush is in luck. Trent Lott is on hand to offer advice.
According to The Hill, Lott said “Honestly, it’s a little tougher than I thought it was going to be. If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You’re dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out.”
The Iraqi people did not demand that Bush destroy their country. The American people did not demand that Bush invade Iraq. Hundreds of thousand of Americans and foreign citizens protested the war before it started.
Saddam Hussein was a threat to no one. G. W. Bush is in a quagmire of his own making. Each day more American blood and money will be lost for nothing. Now his old pal Trent Lott is recommending genocide of the Iraqi people. Trent Lott sounds like the perfect running mate for G. W. Bush in the next election.
If he also had Congressman Cass Ballenger as Secretary of Defense, how could he go wrong? Ballenger was in favor of starting a war to get Lott off the front pages!
Read some of the past antics of Trent Lott and Cass Ballenger:
Clark Blames Bush for 9-11Employee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – October 29, 2003
General Wesley Clark blames G. W. Bush for dropping the intelligence ball, which led to the 9-11 terrorist attacks, according to the Associated Press.
On Tuesday, he said “There is no way this administration can walk away from its responsibility for 9-11. You can't blame something like this on lower level intelligence officers, however badly they communicated memos with each other. ... The buck rests with the commander in chief, right on George W. Bush's desk.”
The retired general charged Bush with stifling dissent, manipulating facts, showing disdain for allies, retaliation against detractors, and starting a war for no good reason.
Senate Committees Asked to Investigate EPAPublic Citizen – Citizen.org – October 28, 2003
Public Interest Groups Call on Senate Committees to Investigate EPA Official's False Clean Air Rule Statements
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Twenty-one public health, environmental, labor and consumer organizations today called on two Senate committees to investigate charges that a top Bush appointee at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made untrue statements during his testimony regarding a crucial change to Clean Air Act regulations.
Major contributors to the Bush campaign from the electric utility industry had been pushing for the rule changes.
The groups called for an investigation on the same day that the EPA published its controversial air pollution rule in the Federal Register and 12 states, the District of Columbia and several cities sued the EPA to block the rule's implementation. The "New Source Review" rule requires power plants and industrial facilities undergoing major modifications to install modern air pollution controls.
As early as May 1999, the electric utility industry's trade association urged members to make bundled donations to the George W. Bush fundraising machine; the industry responded by pouring $4.8 million into Bush's 2000 election campaign, the Republican National Committee and the Bush/Cheney inaugural committee.
Three representatives from the electric utility industry were subsequently represented on the U.S. Department of Energy's transition team, and corporations facing Clinton-era lawsuits under the NSR were granted 21 meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney's secret energy task force. The task force's recommendations led to EPA's decision to weaken the rule. After the rule was issued, two key EPA officials who worked on NSR were hired by utilities facing NSR litigation or their lobbyists.
"This is the kind of contribution and payback scheme that has led the Bush administration to consistently place the interests of its industry friends over those of the public," said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch.
Public Citizen, Physicians for Social Responsibility and 19 other groups sent a letter calling on U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jim Jeffords (D-Vt.), chair and ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, to investigate statements by Jeffrey Holmstead, EPA Assistant Administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation. At a July 16, 2002, joint committee hearing, Holmstead testified that the agency's enforcement staff had concluded that existing lawsuits against electric utilities would not be jeopardized by proposed changes to the NSR rule.
In fact, as a recent Public Citizen report documented and the General Accounting Office confirmed on Oct. 26, the staff had informed Holmstead and then-EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman that the proposed NSR rule seriously endangered the enforcement cases.
The enforcement staff's concerns were borne out on Aug. 27, less than two weeks after the new NSR rule was announced, when lawyers from the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice litigating an enforcement lawsuit against the utility Dynegy were forced to abandon their strongest legal argument "in light of EPA's change of position as to its interpretation of the Clean Air Act." During post-trial arguments, lawyers for Dynegy projected that statement from government lawyers onto a courtroom screen for the judge to read.
The House of SecretsEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – October 26, 2003
Over the last three years, the White House has become “the house of secrets.” G. W. Bush has clamped a lid of secrecy on almost all White House dealings, and that’s not all. He placed a veil of secrecy over his dealings as Texas governor. He has even closed access to records of George Bush Senior. G. W. Bush has repeatedly stymied congressional inquires by refusing to hand over information.
The General Accounting Office had to take the unprecedented move of suing V. P. Dick Cheney for the names of the corporate executives who attended the infamous energy meetings. The fruit these secret meetings was a number of corporate giveaway programs to be added to the energy bill. A complete release of information has still not taken place.
How can two men possibly have so much to hide from the American public?
Another charge of withholding information has been made against G. W. Bush by a fellow Republican, according to the New York Times. Thomas H. Kean, chairman of the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, said that he was prepared to subpoena the documents, if necessary.
Friday, Mr. Kean said “Any document that has to do with this investigation cannot be beyond our reach. I will not stand for it…That means that we will use every tool at our command to get hold of every document…Anything that has to do with 9/11, we have to see it — anything…There are a lot of theories about 9/11, and as long as there is any document out there that bears on any of those theories, we're going to leave questions unanswered. And we cannot leave questions unanswered.”
Commission Member Max Cleland said “It's obvious that the White House wants to run out the clock here. It's Halloween, and we're still in negotiations with some assistant White House counsel about getting these documents — it's disgusting... As each day goes by, we learn that this government knew a whole lot more about these terrorists before Sept. 11 than it has ever admitted.”
Interviews with other commission members revealed the widespread, bipartisan concern about information being withheld by G. W. Bush.
Republican Commission Member Slade Gorton said “This lack of cooperation, if it extends anywhere else, is going to make it very difficult…”
Timothy J. Roemer, president of the Center for National Policy, said “Our May deadline may, in fact, be jeopardized — many of us are frustrated that we're still dealing with questions about document access when we should be sinking our teeth into hearings and to making recommendations for the future.”
Senator John McCain said “If the families of the victims weighed in — and heavily, as they did before — then we'd have a chance of succeeding.”
Previous article on the hush-hush energy meetings:
NAFTA Haunts Cass BallengerEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – October 24, 2003
North Carolina Representative Cass Ballenger may live to regret his voting record, according to The Charlotte Observer. He voted for NAFTA and the fast-track trade authority. Mr. Ballenger also voted for trade agreements with Chile, Singapore, Africa and the Caribbean Basin and for Most Favored Nation status for China. He has suddenly realized how dangerous his voting has been.
In Mr. Ballenger’s 10th District, huge losses in manufacturing jobs have occurred. Mr. Ballenger’s home county has lost more job than any other county in the state!
He is being challenged by former campaign contributor George Moretz, both are Republicans.
The Observer previously reported that Cass Ballenger partly blames Muslims for breaking up his marriage. The couple lived near the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Washington, D. C. He and his wife worried that the group was so close to the Capitol that “they could blow the place up.”
Mr. Ballenger called CAIR a "fund-raising arm" for terrorist groups. He claimed to have reported them to the FBI and CIA.
His wife, Donna, said “This gang across the street is questionable.”
Arsalan Iftikhar, the council's legal affairs director, said that Ballenger’s “bizarre comments demonstrate the sheer lunacy of his political and religious views. It's unworthy of an elected official at the national level. You wonder what he's been doing in Congress if this is the kind of analysis he does: 'You're a Muslim, so you're guilty.' ”
Mr. Ballenger went on to say that another stress on the marriage was the 1995 decision by "holier-than-thou Republicans" in the House to ban gifts from lobbyists. Keep in mind that Mr. Ballenger is a Republican.
He said that the meals and theater tickets from lobbyists meant “a social life for wives.” His wife went on to blast the “do-goody Republicans.” She said “Just a dinner now and then” would do no harm. Heaven forbid them spending any of their own money, graciously provided by taxpayers.
His wife was anxious about the suspicious activity going on at CAIR: unloading boxes late at night, women “wearing hoods,” or headscarves, going in and out of the building.
Mr. Ballenger said “That's 2 1/2 blocks from the Capitol, and they could blow it up.”
This is not the first time Cass Ballenger has stuck his foot in his mouth:
Mr. President, The Emperor Has No ClothesSenator Robert C. Byrd – October 19, 2003
Mr. President, the Emperor has no clothes. This entire adventure in Iraq has been based on propaganda and manipulation. Eighty-seven billion dollars is too much to pay for the continuation of a war based on falsehoods.
In 1837, Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen, wrote a wonderful fairy tale which he titled The Emperor's New Clothes. It may be the very first example of the power of political correctness. It is the story of the Ruler of a distant land who was so enamored of his appearance and his clothing that he had a different suit for every hour of the day.
One day two rogues arrived in town, claiming to be gifted weavers. They convinced the Emperor that they could weave the most wonderful cloth, which had a magical property. The clothes were only visible to those who were completely pure in heart and spirit.
The Emperor was impressed and ordered the weavers to begin work immediately. The rogues, who had a deep understanding of human nature, began to feign work on empty looms.
Minister after minister went to view the new clothes and all came back exhorting the beauty of the cloth on the looms even though none of them could see a thing.
Finally a grand procession was planned for the Emperor to display his new finery. The Emperor went to view his clothes and was shocked to see absolutely nothing, but he pretended to admire the fabulous cloth, inspect the clothes with awe, and, after disrobing, go through the motions of carefully putting on a suit of the new garments.
Under a royal canopy the Emperor appeared to the admiring throng of his people - - all of whom cheered and clapped because they all knew the rogue weavers' tale and did not want to be seen as less than pure of heart.
But, the bubble burst when an innocent child loudly exclaimed, for the whole kingdom to hear, that the Emperor had nothing on at all. He had no clothes. That tale seems to me very like the way this nation was led to war.
We were told that we were threatened by weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but they have not been seen.
We were told that the throngs of Iraqi's would welcome our troops with flowers, but no throngs or flowers appeared.
We were led to believe that Saddam Hussein was connected to the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, but no evidence has ever been produced.
We were told in 16 words that Saddam Hussein tried to buy "yellow cake" from Africa for production of nuclear weapons, but the story has turned into empty air.
We were frightened with visions of mushroom clouds, but they turned out to be only vapors of the mind.
We were told that major combat was over but 101 [as of October 17] Americans have died in combat since that proclamation from the deck of an aircraft carrier by our very own Emperor in his new clothes.
Our emperor says that we are not occupiers, yet we show no inclination to relinquish the country of Iraq to its people.
Those who have dared to expose the nakedness of the Administration's policies in Iraq have been subjected to scorn.
Those who have noticed the elephant in the room -- that is, the fact that this war was based on falsehoods - have had our patriotism questioned. Those who have spoken aloud the thought shared by hundreds of thousands of military families across this country, that our troops should return quickly and safely from the dangers half a world away, have been accused of cowardice. We have then seen the untruths, the dissembling, the fabrication, the misleading inferences surrounding this rush to war in Iraq wrapped quickly in the flag.
The right to ask questions, debate, and dissent is under attack. The drums of war are beaten ever louder in an attempt to drown out those who speak of our predicament in stark terms.
Even in the Senate, our history and tradition of being the world's greatest deliberative body is being snubbed. This huge spending bill has been rushed through this chamber in just one month. There were just three open hearings by the Senate Appropriations Committee on $87 billion, without a single outside witness called to challenge the Administration's line.
Ambassador Bremer went so far as to refuse to return to the appropriations Committee to answer additional questions because, and I quote: "I don't have time. I'm completely booked, and I have to get back to Baghdad to my duties."
Despite this callous stiff-arm of the Senate and its duties to ask questions in order to represent the American people, few dared to voice their opposition to rushing this bill through these halls of Congress. Perhaps they were intimidated by the false claims that our troops are in immediate need of more funds.
But the time has come for the sheep-like political correctness which has cowed members of this Senate to come to an end.
Mr. President, the Emperor has no clothes. This entire adventure in Iraq has been based on propaganda and manipulation. Eighty-seven billion dollars is too much to pay for the continuation of a war based on falsehoods.
Mr. President, taking the nation to war based on misleading rhetoric and hyped intelligence is a travesty and a tragedy. It is the most cynical of all cynical acts. It is dangerous to manipulate the truth. It is dangerous because once having lied, it is difficult to ever be believed again. Having misled the American people and stampeded them to war, this Administration must now attempt to sustain a policy predicated on falsehoods. The President asks for billions from those same citizens
who know that they were misled about the need to go to war. We misinformed and insulted our friends and allies and now this Administration is having more than a little trouble getting help from the international community. It is perilous to mislead.
The single-minded obsession of this Administration to now make sense of the chaos in Iraq, and the continuing propaganda which emanates from the White House painting Iraq as the geographical center of terrorism is distracting our attention from Afghanistan and the 60 other countries in the world where terrorists hide. It is sapping resources which could be used to make us safer from terrorists on our own shores. The body armor for our own citizens still has many, many chinks. Have we forgotten that the most horrific terror attacks in history occurred right here at home!! Yet, this Administration turns back money for homeland security, while the President pours billions into security for Iraq. I am powerless to understand or explain such a policy.
I have tried mightily to improve this bill. I twice tried to separate the reconstruction money in this bill, so that those dollars could be considered separately from the military spending. I offered an amendment to force the Administration to craft a plan to get other nations to assist the troops and formulate a plan to get the U.N. in, and the U.S. out, of Iraq. Twice I tried to rid the bill of expansive, flexible authorities that turn this $87 billion into a blank check. The American people should understand that we provide more foreign aid for Iraq in this bill, $20.3 billion, than we provide for the rest of the entire world! I attempted to remove from this bill billions in wasteful programs and divert those funds to better use. But, at every turn, my efforts were thwarted by the vapid argument that we must all support the requests of the Commander in Chief.
I cannot stand by and continue to watch our grandchildren become increasingly burdened by the billions that fly out of the Treasury for a war and a policy based largely on propaganda and prevarication. We are borrowing $87 billion to finance this adventure in Iraq. The President is asking this Senate to pay for this war with increased debt, a debt that will have to be paid by our children and by those same troops that are currently fighting this war. I cannot support outlandish tax cuts that plunge our country into potentially disastrous debt while our troops are fighting and dying in a war that the White House chose to begin.
I cannot support the continuation of a policy that unwisely ties down 150,000 American troops for the foreseeable future, with no end in sight.
I cannot support a President who refuses to authorize the reasonable change in course that would bring traditional allies to our side in Iraq.
I cannot support the politics of zeal and "might makes right" that created the new American arrogance and unilateralism which passes for foreign policy in this Administration.
I cannot support this foolish manifestation of the dangerous and destabilizing doctrine of preemption that changes the image of America into that of a reckless bully.
Mr. President, the emperor has no clothes. And our former allies around the world were the first to loudly observe it. I shall vote against this bill because I cannot support a policy based on prevarication. I cannot support doling out 87 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars when I have so many doubts about the wisdom of its use.
Mr. President, I began my remarks with a fairy tale. I shall close my remarks with a horror story, in the form of a quote from the book Nuremberg Diaries, written by G.M. Gilbert, in which the author interviews Hermann Goering.
"We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.
". . . But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."
"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."
Secret Deals Cost AmericansCongressman Henry A. Waxman – October 16, 2003
October 15, 2003
There is a lot that is controversial about the war in Iraq and its aftermath. Many Americans believe the President misled the country about the reasons for going to war. Others think the Administration is not doing enough to protect our troops in Iraq. And many more question why so much money is going to Iraq when economic conditions are so tough at home.
But there is one thing that everyone should agree on: If we are going to be spending taxpayer dollars to rebuild Iraq, we ought to be getting our money’s worth. Yet even on something as basic as this, the Administration is failing. There is growing evidence that favored contractors like Halliburton and Bechtel are getting sweetheart deals that are costing the taxpayer a bundle but delivering scant results.
Today, I am releasing with Rep. John Dingell a letter to OMB Director Bolten that details the latest evidence of overcharging by Halliburton.
I asked my staff a simple question: Can we trace the path of a gallon of gasoline from a refinery in Kuwait to the streets of Baghdad? Although the question was simple, getting the answer was hard. Obtaining useful information from this Administration is virtually impossible.
But what independent experts told us was appalling. The taxpayer is getting gouged by Halliburton.
The wholesale price of refined gasoline in Kuwait and other Mideast nations is 71 cents per gallon. A reasonable cost to transport gasoline into Iraq is another 10 to 25 cents per gallon.
Unless the company is Halliburton. It is charging taxpayers nearly $1 per gallon to truck this gasoline 400 miles from Kuwait to Baghdad.
When we checked with independent experts to see if this fee was reasonable, they were stunned. One called Halliburton’s prices “outrageously high.” Another said it was “highway robbery.”
We then learned that this gasoline is being sold inside Iraq for as little as 4 to 15 cents per gallon. Although Iraq is an oil-rich nation, the Administration has apparently made a policy decision that the U.S. taxpayer — not the Iraqi consumer — should pay the costs of gasoline that Iraqi citizens and companies consume.
As a result, the U.S. taxpayer loses $1.50 or more every time a gallon of gasoline is sold in Iraq.
Unfortunately, this dramatic example of overcharging is more likely the rule than the exception. The problem is that the Administration’s approach to contracting in Iraq is fundamentally flawed.
The Administration is making three basic mistakes. First, it is relying almost exclusively on cost-plus contracts. These contracts are a great deal for companies like Halliburton and Bechtel because they are structured so that the more the companies spend, the more profits they will make. But they are notoriously prone to abuse.
Second, the Administration is shielding Halliburton and Bechtel from any competition by granting them virtual monopolies over basic services. The kind of contracts that Halliburton and Bechtel have received are umbrella contracts called IDIQ contracts because they involve “indefinite delivery and indefinite quantities.” These umbrella contracts are supposed to be awarded to multiple companies at the same time. That way, when there’s a specific task that needs to be performed, the government can make the contractors bid against each other.
But there’s no competition in Iraq. Halliburton has a monopoly over oil reconstruction contracts and Bechtel has a monopoly over infrastructure reconstruction contracts.
Again, this is great for the companies, but terrible for the taxpayer. Both companies are already in Iraq.
They can both do the same work. Think how much money the taxpayer could save if the companies actually had to compete against each other for specific projects.
The third problem is that the Administration is not taking advantage of Iraqi companies who could often do the work at a fraction of the cost that Halliburton and Bechtel charge.
We have been told that the Iraqi oil company SOMO has been able to import gasoline at a price that is 50 cents per gallon less than Halliburton charges. If that’s true, something very wrong is going on.
Ultimately, the root cause of these problems is the Administration’s insistence on virtually absolute secrecy about how it is spending the taxpayer’s money. These abuses could not continue if the Administration were forced to disclose the details of these sweetheart arrangements. That’s why I will support amendments on the House floor to inject transparency into the contracting process.
And on top of this, there’s virtually no congressional oversight, so there’s no accountability. If we at least had hearings on these issues, we could put pressure on the companies to cut wasteful spending.
Millions of Americans want to help Iraqis, but they don’t want to be fleeced.
Retirees Want Harris Ethics InquiryEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – October 15, 2003
Retirees are demanding an ethics inquiry concerning the actions of Rep. Katherine Harris, according to the Miami Daily Business Review. The Florida chapter of the Alliance of Retired Americans claims that Ms. Harris abused the powers of her office and trampled on First Amendment rights. The retirees are incensed because Ms. Harris had printed material brought to a town meeting confiscated.
The group has requested an inquiry by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.
Apparently Ms. Harris is realizing that she may have made some mistakes. The Harris' office wrote in an e-mail to the Miami Daily Business Review that Ms. Harris “was not satisfied with the outcome, as legitimate issue-related materials may also have been excluded.” She also invited the retirees to meet with her. But in the same e-mail, the retirees were referred to as “professional disrupters.”
ARA chapter president Tony Fransetta said “She slandered us with the 'professional disrupters' remark. And she admitted that she messed up. We're willing to work with her too. But she hasn't called us.”
Previous related article:
Rewards for Bush PioneersEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – October 14, 2003
The White House has been overly accommodating to companies run by G. W. Bush's fund-raising "pioneers," according to a Common Cause report released Monday. Whatever they want, they seem to get. It all started with letting energy CEO's write government regulations, including billions of dollars in energy industry tax breaks. V. P. Cheney is still trying to keep those details hidden from the public.
The pioneers have raised a minimum of $100,000 each for the Bush 2000 campaign. One pioneer was blessed with $93 million in taxpayer money spent to protect an oil pipeline in Colombia. The pipeline was used by Occidental Petroleum, home of Bush pioneer executives.
Common Cause president Chellie Pingree said “I think what's wrong is in the overall picture. You don't want to think wealthy executives can contribute money or raise money and then get the rules changed to their benefit.”
Sure they can. What do you think lobbying and campaign contributions are all about?
Mr. Pingree added "The average businessperson who doesn't make contributions at that level doesn't get that kind of treatment."
American Chemistry Council president, and Bush pioneer, Frederick Webber opposed a Senate proposal for security requirements on chemical companies. The proposal was defeated.
Mr. Pingree said that the presidential public financing system needs to be fixed. Bush bypassed public financing (and its spending limits) in the 2000 primaries. But the pioneers helped ensure that he still raised over $100 million.
EPA Official Caught in a WebEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – October 14, 2003
In a press release, Public Citizen rejected Environmental Protection Agency denials of making untrue statements to Congress. Two Senate Committees had asked about a change to the "New Source Review" rule sought by electric utilities that were Bush campaign supporters.
On Monday, Public Citizen stated: “In at least two media interviews, Jeffrey Holmstead, EPA assistant administrator of Air and Radiation, denied allegations in a Public Citizen report that his Senate testimony contained false information about the agency's assessment of how revisions to the New Source Review (NSR) regulation would affect government lawsuits to clean up coal-fired electric plants.”
A Public Citizen report cited documents and former EPA officials who directly contradicted the denials of Holmstead. He did not tell the truth when asked if weakening the rule would jeopardize lawsuits against electric utilities for making illegal modifications to coal-fired plants. It hard to make a convincing denial, in the face of public records and eye witnesses!
Mr. Holmstead tried to explain away his comments to the Senate, in an October 10 Washington Post interview. Public Citizen did not buy his explanation.
Read about Public Citizen's original press release below:
EPA Rules Altered to Suit UtilitiesEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com – October 11, 2003
Public Citizen reported that the Bush administration is trying to “fix” legal problems facing Duke Energy and several other electric utilities. Corporations in 14 states are facing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lawsuits, charging illegal modifications to coal-fired plants.
Bush appointees have gutted the applicable EPA Air Quality Rule, after the fact. Then they provided false information to Congress about the consequences of their actions. Former EPA officials revealed that the Bush appointees made untrue statements to two Senate committees. The committee members were led to believe that if the New Source Review (NSR) rule were weakened, it would not affect the current lawsuits. EPA staffers knew the information was false. They had already concluded that rule changes would undermine enforcement lawsuits. These cases could have reduced electric utility air pollution by 50 percent annually!
The electric utilities funneled $4.8 million into Bush's 2000 campaign, according to the new Public Citizen report.
Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, said “This is an example of big campaign donors getting huge paybacks. These electric utilities were rewarded with positions on the Department of Energy's transition team, with free access to Vice President Cheney's secret energy task force. Now, a crucial air quality rule has been watered down as Cheney's task force recommended.”
Bundled donations were made to the Bush fundraising machine, at the urging of the electric utility industry's trade association.
Public Citizen stated “That arm-twisting bore fruit in August 2003, when the EPA issued a new NSR rule that could shield electric utilities from billions of dollars in fines and compliance costs at their coal-fired plants.”
Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, said “The Bush administration's approach to environmental violations is to change the laws - in exchange for millions in contributions from the violators. This administration's willingness to sacrifice public health by exchanging environmental policy revisions for cash is so extreme that they are now changing the enforcement of those rules retroactively.”
Public Citizen is a national nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.WhiteHouseForSale.org or www.citizen.org.
The article linked below has more about the cozy relationship between the EPA and electric utilities:
Senate Defies Bush on OvertimeEmployee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com - September 12, 2003
In defiance of G. W. Bush, the Senate voted to kill a bill that would have taken overtime pay from many workers, according to the Associated Press.
Democrats proposed that the new overtime provision be eliminated. Enough Republicans voted with them for the measure to pass. The vote was 54 to 45. Bush has threatened a veto.
The overtime changes would not affect employees fortunate enough to belong to a union.
'It Smells as Bad as it Looks'Employee Advocate – DukeEmployees.com - September 10, 2003
Knight Ridder Newspapers reported that two top Environmental Protection Agency officials have taken private job. There must be a little more to this story, and there is.
These government paid officials were “deeply involved” in relaxing air pollution requirements for aging power plants. There still must be more, and there is.
These officials took jobs in the very industry that they worked so hard to accommodate. Were these officials double agents? They worked for a government agency, but their work was to make things easier for the private industry that they now work for. One official went to work for the number two power-plant polluter in the nation, Southern Co.
Over a four-year period, Southern Co. gave $3.4 million in political contributions, as it lobbied for easier pollution rules. John Pemberton, chief of staff, EPA air and radiation office, joined Southern as director of federal affairs.
Bracewell & Patterson is a Houston law firm that facilitated lobbying for utilities. There agenda was the easing the power-plant pollution rule. Bracewell & Patterson shares staff with the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council. The council was formed by Southern Co. and several other utilities as the public arm promoting softer EPA rules for power plants. Bracewell & Patterson hired Ed Krenik, formerly EPA associate administrator for congressional affairs. These job swaps came a matter of days after the EPA announced the easing of pollution rules for power plants.
The former EPA officials tried to downplay their involvement in the rule change. But other knowledgeable people have stated that the two former officials were heavily involved in the rule change.
The State and Territorial Air Polluter Program Administrators is a Washington group that represents air regulators. Executive Director Bill Becker said that Mr. Pemberton was one of the top people involved. Mr. Becker tolde Knight Ridder “His role was significant and was huge. Pemberton was the guy behind the scenes that worked very closely on this rule.”
Senator James Jeffords said “The timing is atrocious. You do it (change the rules) and walk out and get a job.”
John Walke is the director of the clean air project at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He said “It smells as bad as it looks. You've got this devastating public health decision that directly benefits this polluting company that suddenly snatches away two high-ranking EPA officials to get their top in-house and outside lobbyists.”
This type of thing happens all the time in Washington. Richard C. Shea worked for the Treasury Department. He tried to insert wording into the rules so that cash balance pension plans could not be declared illegal due to their obvious age discrimination. Then he promptly went to work for a private firm that exploited cash balance conversions.
The link below leads to more on Richard Shea:
VP Cheney Lied to CongressFindLaw.com – by John W. Dean - September 6, 2003
GAO's Final Energy Task Force Report Reveals that the Vice President Made A False Statement to Congress
(August 29, 2003) - This month, the General Accounting Office (GAO) -- the investigative and auditing arm of Congress -- issued a report that contains some startling revelations. Though they are couched in very polite language, they are bombshells nonetheless.
The report -- entitled "Energy Task Force: Process Used to Develop the National Energy Policy" -- and its accompanying Chronology strongly imply that the administration has, in effect, been paying off its heavy-hitting energy industry contributors. It also very strongly implies that Vice President Dick Cheney lied to Congress.
The Background: How Cheney Stonewalled GAO
In a sense, this story begins during the close 2000 Presidential election, when energy industry special interests were big-dollar contributors to the Bush-Cheney campaign. (In 2004's re-election campaign, they will doubtless be called upon once again.)
After he was elected -- and very much beholden to those contributors -- Bush put Cheney in charge of developing the National Energy Policy. To do so, Cheney convened an Energy Task Force.
Cheney's selection alone was ominous: He had headed Halliburton, just the kind of big-dollar Republican energy industry contributor that had helped Bush-Cheney win the election in the first place.
The Energy Task Force might have operated in absolute secrecy, were it not for GAO. GAO is a nonpartisan agency with statutory authority to investigate "all matters related to the receipt, disbursement, and use of public money," so that it can judge the expenditures and effectiveness of public programs, and report to Congress on what it finds.
To fulfill its statutory responsibility, GAO sought documents from Vice-President Cheney relating to Energy Task Force expenditures. But in a literally unprecedented move, the White House said no.
Amazingly, it did so without even bothering to claim that the documents sought were covered by executive privilege. It simply refused.
On August 2, 2001, Vice President Cheney sent a letter -- personally signed by him -- to Congress demanding, in essence, that it get the Comptroller off his back. In the letter, he claimed that his staff had already provided "documents responsive to the Comptroller General's inquiry concerning the costs associated with the [Energy task force's] work." As I will explain later, this turned out to be a lie.
In the end, GAO had to go to court to try to get the documents to which it plainly was entitled. On December 9, 2002, GAO lost in court, though the decision was incorrect.
Then, on February 9, 2003, the Comptroller General announced GAO's decision not to appeal. He said he feared that another adverse decision would cause the agency to lose even more power, more permanently. Several news accounts suggest that it was the Republican leadership of Congress that stopped the appeal.
This August's Report Reveals Cheney Lied About Providing Responsive Documents
Then this August's Report was issued. It was not the thorough, comprehensive Report GAO wanted it to be. (Indeed, GAO's Comptroller General has stressed that "the Vice President's persistent denial of access to" records "precluded GAO from fully achieving our objectives and substantially limited our analysis.") But it is enough to shock, and disturb, the reader.
The Report shows that Cheney's claim to Congress, in the August 2, 2001 letter, that responsive documents were provided to GAO, was plainly false.
According to the Report, Cheney provided GAO with 77 pages of "documents retrieved from the files of the Office of the Vice President responsive to" GAO's inquiry regarding the Energy Task Force's "receipt, disbursement, and use of public funds."
To any lawyer, a mere 77-page document production seems suspiciously slim -- especially when it is meant to represent information from a group of people on a fairly broad topic. Surely there were more documents that were not turned over.
Moreover, it turned out, as the Report reveals, that the documents that were turned over were useless: "The materials were virtually impossible to analyze, as they consisted, for example, of pages with dollar amounts but no indication of the nature or purpose of the expenditure." They were further described as "predominantly reimbursement requests, assorted telephone bills and random items, such as the executive director's credit card receipt for pizza."
In sum, the incomplete document production was not only nonresponsive -- it was insulting. So the GAO pressed for responsive documents numerous times in different ways: letters, telephone exchanges and meetings.
Perhaps the most pointed of these was a July 18, 2001 letter from the Comptroller to the Vice President. It noted that GAO had "been given 77 pages of miscellaneous records purporting to relate to these direct and indirect costs.
Because the relevance of these records is unclear, we continue to request all records responsive to our request, including any records that clarify the nature and purpose of the costs." (Emphasis added.)
Cheney's False Statement About the Responsive Documents Was Plainly Intentional
Despite receiving this letter, Cheney still claimed to Congress, a few weeks later, on August 2, that responsive documents had been produced.
Of course, Cheney is a busy man. Yet there can be no question as to whether he was aware of the July 18, 2001 letter from the Comptroller complaining about the 77 pages of documents' being unresponsive: He even attached it to his own August 2 letter to Congress, as part of a chronology. And again, he personally signed that August 2 letter.
Nor can there be any question that Cheney knows what it means to produce responsive documents -- and not to do so. In the same paragraph of the August 2 letter in which he claims he was responsive to the Energy Task Force request, he makes a lesser claim with respect to another GAO request -- stating that there, he had merely "provided substantial responses." (Emphasis added.)
Plainly, Cheney knows the difference between being responsive; offering a substantial response; and sending insulting non-responsive materials, featuring unexplained phone bills, columns of unidentified figures, and a pizza receipt.
Thus, Cheney's claim to have produced responsive documents was a false statement and, all evidence suggests, an intentional one. That means it is also a criminal offense -- a false statement to Congress.
GAO's Polite Tone Belies The Shocking Evidence Its Report Offers
The straight arrows at GAO were no doubt horrified that the Vice President of the United States, who is the Constitutional presiding officer of the U.S. Senate, would deliberately mislead the Congress with such blatant misinformation.
Being nonpartisan, they refrained from accusing the Vice President of this crime. But as their Report shows, they included evidence that makes the crime evident for all to see. They also provided evidence of what the motive for the crime was.
The Report quietly -- but tellingly -- notes that the Vice President's team "solicited input from, or received information and advice from nonfederal energy stakeholders, principally petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, and electricity industry representatives and lobbyists." (Emphasis added.)
In other words, if the Vice President is not trying to cover up the fact that he met with big energy interests -- including past contributors -- and allowed them a large role in settling our nation's energy policy, why all the secrecy? That is what other observers have suspected -- and what has been rumored from the beginning. Thanks to Cheney's obfuscation, we still can't know for certain. Yet thanks to GAO, we do now know for certain that he lied to Congress to cover up something, and there is little doubt in my mind as to what he is hiding.