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Page   1 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Washington - Page 48

“Simply put, Rice is a liar.” - Steve Almond, Boston College professor on Condoleezza Rice - Boston Globe

The Art of Greasing the Palm

Employee Advocate – – August 6, 2006

This article was written by David Johnston and David D. Kirkpatrick and published by the New York Times:

Deal Maker Details the Art of Greasing the Palm

WASHINGTON — In 1992, Brent R. Wilkes rented a suite at the Hyatt Hotel a few blocks from the Capitol. In his briefcase was a stack of envelopes for a half-dozen congressmen, each packet containing up to $10,000 in checks. Mr. Wilkes had set up separate meetings with the lawmakers hoping to win a government contract, and he planned to punctuate each pitch with a campaign donation. But his hometown congressman, Representative Bill Lowery of San Diego, a Republican, told him that presenting the checks during the sessions was not how things were done, Mr. Wilkes recalled.

Instead, Mr. Wilkes said, Mr. Lowery taught him the right way to do it: hand over the envelope in the hallway outside the suite, at least a few feet away.

That was the beginning of a career built on what Mr. Wilkes calls “transactional lobbying,” which made him a rich man but also landed him in the middle of a criminal investigation.

Last November, Mr. Wilkes was described as “co-conspirator No. 1” in a plea agreement signed by Representative Randy Cunningham, a California Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. In the plea deal, Mr. Cunningham admitted accepting more than $2.4 million in cash and gifts from Mr. Wilkes and other contractors. Another defense contractor, Mitchell J. Wade, pleaded guilty to paying some of the bribes.

Mr. Wilkes could also figure in a related federal investigation into the House Appropriations Committee. The inquiry has focused on ties between Mr. Lowery, who left Congress and became a lobbyist, and Representative Jerry, a California Republican who is the chairman of the committee and the former chairman of its Defense Subcommittee.

Speaking publicly for the first time since Mr. Cunningham’s plea agreement, Mr. Wilkes said in recent interviews that he had done nothing wrong and did not believe that Mr. Lewis and Mr. Lowery had broken the law. Mr. Wilkes, who has not been charged in the Cunningham case, has refused prosecutors’ appeals to plead guilty.

But Mr. Wilkes acknowledged that he was a willing participant in what he characterized as a “cutthroat” system in which campaign contributions were a prerequisite for federal contracts. “I attempted to get help and advice from people who could show me the way to do it right,” Mr. Wilkes said. “I played by their rules, and I played to win.” Mr. Wilkes said he was speaking now to rebut false assertions about him by prosecutors and the news media. While it is unknown whether his account is complete and it is impossible to verify his recollections of certain conversations, many aspects of his story were confirmed by federal records, other documents and interviews with people involved in the events he described.

The Cunningham scandal set off alarms about the proliferation of Congressional earmarks — money for pet projects inserted anonymously in spending bills — which critics say pervert public policy, encourage cronyism and waste federal money. The 12,000 earmarks in this year’s spending bills amount to $64 billion.

Offering a rare insider’s view, Mr. Wilkes described the appropriations process as little more than a shakedown. He said that lobbyists close to the committee members unceasingly demanded campaign contributions from entrepreneurs like him. Mr. Wilkes and his associates have given more than $706,000 to federal campaigns since 1997, according to public records, and he said he had brought in more as a fund-raiser. Since 2000, Mr. Wilkes’s principal company has received about $100 million in federal contracts.

Mr. Wilkes described the system bluntly: “Lowery would always say, ‘It is a two-part deal,’ ” he recalled. “ ‘Jerry will make the request. Jerry will carry the vote. Jerry will have plenty of time for this. If you don’t want to make the contributions, chair the fund-raising event, you will get left behind.’ ”

Lanny A. Breuer, a lawyer for Mr. Lowery, acknowledged that his client had been a lobbyist for Mr. Wilkes. But he said Mr. Wilkes’s portrait of their dealings was “an absolute fabrication.”

“Bill Lowery never demanded lobbying fees in return for any kind of a guarantee of an earmark,” Mr. Breuer said. “He never demanded contributions to Jerry Lewis. There was absolutely no quid pro quo.”

Barbara Comstock, a spokeswoman for Mr. Lewis, said the congressman was unaware of any conversations like those Mr. Wilkes described having with Mr. Lowery.

Contractors who do business with the federal government routinely contribute to the campaigns of Congressional appropriators, and politicians frequently assist constituents in their efforts to win government contracts. But legal experts say that explicitly linking official acts to campaign contributions could constitute a criminal offense, including bribery or extortion. They caution that proving criminal intent is difficult.

The culture of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee is one of great power and little scrutiny. Mr. Wilkes said every member appeared to have a personal allowance of millions of dollars to disburse without public disclosure. Lawmakers, though, sometimes boast about money being spent in their districts.

In the spending bill for this fiscal year, each member took credit for an average $27 million in earmarks, with the chairman, Representative C. W. Bill Young, Republican of Florida, claiming about $125 million, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan group that tracks earmarks.

‘Feast or Famine’

When Mr. Lowery became a lobbyist, he set himself up as a gatekeeper to his old friend, Mr. Lewis, the appropriations chairman, Mr. Wilkes said. At times, Mr. Lowery hinted ominously that Mr. Lewis might block future earmarks if Mr. Wilkes stopped making campaign donations and paying Mr. Lowery’s fees, Mr. Wilkes said. In recent months, Mr. Lewis has said that he barely knew Mr. Wilkes and that he did not remember seeing him in nearly a decade. But Mr. Wilkes says their relationship was closer than that.

Ever since they went on a scuba-diving trip together in 1993, he said, Mr. Lewis had referred to him as his “diving buddy.” They occasionally dined together or met at political functions, Mr. Wilkes said. At a Las Vegas fund-raiser in April 2005, Mr. Wilkes said, Mr. Lewis greeted him as “Brento” and hugged him as Mr. Wilkes surprised the lawmaker with $25,000 in campaign contributions.

At his peak, Mr. Wilkes controlled a dozen companies whose work included digital document storage. The federal government was his chief customer, and he spent up to 30 weeks a year in Washington courting congressmen and agency procurement officials.

Mr. Wilkes capitalized on the system. The license plate on his black Hummer still reads “MIPR ME,” a reference to a “military interdepartmental purchase request” — bureaucratic jargon for payments for a defense contract. Mr. Wilkes built a headquarters of smoked glass and stainless steel outside San Diego with a 450-seat banquet hall, where Cirque du Soleil performed at a birthday party for his wife, Regina. He crossed the country in private jets and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004, making him a Republican “Pioneer.” Nancy Luque, his lawyer, said the image of Mr. Wilkes as a swaggering deal maker was a caricature. “He had his life in Washington and then his real life,” Ms. Luque said. “His real life was his family, his friends and his business.”

His success, though, depended on government contracts. “It’s a feast or famine deal,” Mr. Wilkes said. “If we didn’t get our earmark, we were finished.”

Washington Connections

A former accountant in Washington and San Diego, Mr. Wilkes had known Mr. Lowery casually for years in California Republican circles. Because of those ties, a San Diego businessman hired Mr. Wilkes as a consultant in 1992 to help persuade Congress to earmark contracts for his company, Audre, which was seeking to convert military documents into digital form.

Mr. Lowery, in his final months in Congress, was looking for new opportunities as well. He had decided to resign after a 1992 inquiry into the misuse of an internal House bank found that he had written more than 300 bad checks. Mr. Wilkes said Mr. Lowery set up meetings for him with a handful of House Defense Subcommittee members, including Representative John P. Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat who was the chairman at the time, and Mr. Lewis. Mr. Lowery instructed Mr. Wilkes to go to the sessions prepared.

“Lowery says, ‘We should raise money; you get the checks,’ ” Mr. Wilkes recalled, describing the meetings at the Hyatt. “I was a rookie. I didn’t want to separate the checks from the briefing,” he said, explaining that he did not understand the need to avoid appearing to link the money to his pitch.

Although they welcomed the checks, Mr. Wilkes said, the lawmakers seemed bored by a lengthy presentation. “I became the king of the 10-minute meeting,” he said.

Later that year, Mr. Wilkes and Mr. Lowery took a diving trip to Belize, where they visited the United States ambassador. Eugene Scassa, then the envoy, said in an interview that Mr. Lowery had quizzed him about his out-of-pocket expenses and then suggested, “You need a chuck wagon.”

Mr. Scassa said Mr. Lowery pointed to Mr. Wilkes and explained: “He is a chuck wagon. If you have expenses, they pay. If you go out to lunch, they pay. If you need a pair of boots, you go out to the chuck wagon to get them.” (The next year, Mr. Lowery and Mr. Wilkes returned for a diving trip with Mr. Lewis.)

When Mr. Lowery left Congress in January 1993, Mr. Wilkes hired him to lobby for Audre. Mr. Wilkes was impressed by Mr. Lowery’s knowledge of the Defense Subcommittee and his confidence in being able to help deliver an earmark.

Mr. Lowery and Mr. Lewis seemed “like brothers,” Mr. Wilkes said. “These guys ate dinner together a hundred times a year.”

Mr. Wilkes and Audre executives gave members of the Appropriations Committee about $54,000 in campaign donations from 1992 to 1994. The Defense Subcommittee earmarked $14 million for Audre in 1993 and $20 million in 1994.

Mr. Wilkes said that at his suggestion, several recipients of his campaign contributions — Mr. Lewis; Mr. Cunningham; Representative Charlie Wilson, Democrat of Texas; and Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California — wrote a letter to top defense officials supporting the expenditures. Mr. Lewis wrote a second letter to an admiral.

In December 1994, Mr. Wilkes set up his own company, ADCS, and continued to use Mr. Lowery’s services. Later, the lobbyist got Mr. Wilkes invited to a party at Mr. Lewis’s town house. The purpose was to help pay the legal bills of former Representative Joseph M. McDade, a Pennsylvania Republican charged with bribery in awarding earmarks. (He was acquitted in 1996.) Many members of the Appropriations Committee and many prominent lobbyists, Democrat and Republican, were there.

“The set of rules that Lowery was teaching me was obviously the right set of rules,” Mr. Wilkes recalled thinking. “If I wasn’t playing the game the way they wanted me to, I never would have been there.”

During his Washington visits, Mr. Wilkes held poker games at the Watergate Hotel, in a suite stocked with beer, Scotch and cigars. He invited several congressmen, colleagues and intelligence officials. Among the occasional guests was Kyle Foggo, the chief administrative officer of the Central Intelligence Agency and a childhood friend of Mr. Wilkes.

Federal prosecutors in San Diego are investigating whether Mr. Foggo, who resigned in May after coming under scrutiny, accepted vacation travel expenses from Mr. Wilkes in exchange for a classified agency supply contract, lawyers involved in the case said.

Ms. Luque, Mr. Wilkes’s lawyer, said, “My client did not give his best friend of over 40 years anything because of any position he may have held.” Mr. Foggo’s lawyer, Mark J. MacDougall, said his client had done nothing unlawful.

Former colleagues say Mr. Wilkes was frank about his view of the appropriations process in Washington. “He was just on a power trip,” said Steve Caira, the former chief executive of a company that sometimes collaborated with Mr. Wilkes. “You would be at a party, and he would come out and say he paid this guy so-and-so, if you throw enough money at him you will get your share back,” Mr. Caira recalled. Mr. Wilkes denied making those comments.

In Mr. Cunningham’s guilty plea, prosecutors portrayed the lawmaker as eager to help Mr. Wilkes. In court documents, they say Mr. Wilkes made cash payments of more than $500,000 to Mr. Cunningham, who intervened to help him earn earmarks and pressed a Defense Department official for faster payment of an inflated invoice. Mr. Cunningham was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison.

Mr. Wilkes said that in recent years, he preferred to work with other Appropriations Committee members. In 1998, records show, he turned to Mr. Lewis for help with the Veterans Affairs administration. Mr. Wilkes was then a subcontractor on a project paid through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and he wanted to take over as the primary contractor. In February 1999, he met with Jeffrey Shockey, a Lewis aide, to ask the congressman’s office to intervene, according to a follow-up letter by Mr. Wilkes that was obtained by The New York Times.

When a Veterans Affairs accounting officer complained about questions from a congressman on ADCS’s behalf, a Wilkes aide, Mike Williams, wrote back that Mr. Lewis was “a close personal friend of Brent’s.” The letter offered to “have the congressman’s office contact the V.A. to put this issue to rest.”

Sometimes, Mr. Wilkes said, lobbyists offered him an earmark if he could come up with a project. In 2004, he said, Edwin A. Buckham, another lobbyist for Mr. Wilkes, reported that the House Appropriations Committee wanted to make a “going-away gift” in the form of an earmark to Representative George Nethercutt, Republican of Washington, who was leaving his seat on the panel to run for the Senate.

Mr. Wilkes suggested a shipboard communications project in Washington State and got $1 million for it. Mr. Nethercutt said he thought the technology was promising.

As he grew more confident, Mr. Wilkes said, he often considered dropping Mr. Lowery, whose fees had escalated to $25,000 a month by 2005, from $2,500. But Mr. Wilkes said Mr. Lowery threatened to block future projects if their relationship ended. Mr. Wilkes said Mr. Lowery had warned several times that doing so could prompt Mr. Lewis to cut off earmarks, saying, “You don’t want me telling those guys on the committee that you are moving on without me.” That meant, Mr. Wilkes said, “I’d be out of business.”

Mr. Breuer, Mr. Lowery’s lawyer, said Mr. Lowery did not make any such threats and called the account “pure fantasy.” He pointed out that in the late 1990’s the two men severed their relationship for a few years, but that Mr. Wilkes retained Mr. Lowery again in 2002.

Business in Jeopardy

In the end, it was the Cunningham investigation that jeopardized Mr. Wilkes’s business with the government. In August 2005, a team of F.B.I. agents swept through Mr. Wilkes’s headquarters. The flow of earmarks, his companies’ lifeblood, dried up. He laid off 200 employees.

Ms. Luque said her client’s legal problems were a battle that he “will fight and win.”

She said federal prosecutors told her in January that they were not interested in Mr. Wilkes’s dealings with Mr. Lowery and Mr. Lewis. “Cunningham couldn’t have followed through on what he did without the cooperation of other people on the committee,” Ms. Luque said. Prosecutors should be looking at the entire committee, she said. Sitting in his office recently, the shelves lined with photographs of himself with President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the presidential adviser Karl Rove, Mr. Wilkes reflected on his plight.

“I’m a dead man. I wouldn’t be able to get a meeting. I wouldn’t be able to get a phone call returned,” he said. “There’s no way I could get a deal.”

Sabrina I. Pacifici contributed reporting from Washington for this article, and Aron Pilhofer from New York.

Lobbying or Bribing?

Elizabeth Dole Flounders

Employee Advocate – – July 23, 2006

It was a sad day for all citizens when Elizabeth Dole managed to become a US senator from North Carolina. She and fellow NC senator, Richard Burr, vote in lockstep against the well being of citizens in North Carolina and America. They voted against citizens, in an attempt to limit medical malpractice settlements. Both signed a letter praising cash balance plans. They see no problem with corporations using shady methods to take employees’ pensions. If the corporate lobbyists want it, Dole and Burr try to deliver it.

Sen. Dole is the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, but she is not doing too hot raising money. She is having difficulty attracting people to her fundraisers, according to the New York Times. In one case, she threw a fundraiser for 60 people, but only 18 showed up. Democrats now have more campaign money than the Republican National Committee!

Even the “apologizer-in-chief,” Trent Lott, has publicly criticized Dole’s recruiting efforts.

Pat Toomey, president of the Club for Growth, said “I don’t see a lot to brag about.”

Mrs. Dole offered her assessment of the situation “You know it ain’t going to be easy.”

Dole and Burr Vote Against Citizens Again

Asbestos Legislation – Part Two

Employee Advocate – – July 17, 2006

Below is the follow-up asbestos legislation article. It was written for the Duke Energy Employee Advocate by Benjamin Moore, a student at the Medical University of South Carolina. The writer is an unbiased observer. He was given carte blanche editorial control to write whatever he wanted, based on where his research led.

The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Act of 2003 Part 2;
what it proposes to provide and what is its status on Capital Hill?

S.1125 - ‘The Fair Act of 2003” is now S. 852 - ‘The Fair Act of 2005” thus this article will reflect that update.

Political recognition of the numerous problems associated with asbestos exposure and compensation for asbestos related illness has resulted in the introduction of recent legislation in both the U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate. The ones of most significance (meaning these brought more awareness to the lack of compensation for asbestos related illness to the public’s attention and our Congressional Representatives attentiveness) being H.S. 1360 and S.1125 in 2003 beginning in the 107th Congress. But in the 109th Congress Senator Specter and 20 cosponsors brought forth S. 852 - a bill to create a fair and efficient system to resolve claims of victims for bodily injury caused by asbestos exposure, and for other purposes (Thomas, 2006). Although S.1125 was not referenced as a related bill there are similar and somewhat better legislation found in S.852 – “The Fair Act of 2005” which was introduced in the Senate on April 19, 2005.

The latest major action occurred on February 14, 2006, when S.852 was sent back to the Judiciary Committee to be re-worked. The supporters could only get 59 votes whereas 60 were needed to keep the bill alive on the Senate floor (San Francisco Chronicle, 2006).

This Fair Act Bill was not affected by any specific political interest. The bill introduced by Republican Senator and supported by Bipartisan colleagues has been in the judicial committee in both democratic and republican run houses and would substitute an administrative compensation scheme for the tort system. The judicial committee formulated a potential plan for the disbursement of fair monetary compensation to all stakeholders (Cornwell, 2005). These stakeholders, or political imperatives included claimants/workers, family members (indirect exposure), asbestos manufacturer, insurance companies and trail lawyers.

This bipartisan piece of legislation, formulated to be amenable to both parties was designed to create a trust fund for paying compensations, develop a fair plan for monetary compensation disbursements to workers, and to create a fair payment plan for large as well as small asbestos manufacturers in which monies would be placed into an appropriate trust fund (S. 1125, 2003; S. 852, 2006). In fact, S.852 sets up safeguards aimed at ensuring that small businesses don’t get hurt by the financial obligations included in the bill (Biz Journals, 2006).

In S.852 under Title II: Asbestos Injury Claims Resolution Fund – Subtitle A: Asbestos Defendants Funding Allocation – (Sec. 202) calls for an involuntary payment system by defendant participants (firms, insurers, and bankruptcy) to the Asbestos Injury Claims Resolution Fund and establishes the aggregate payment obligation to the Fund for all defendant participants at $90 billion, less certain bankruptcy trust credits. In addition to other factors, it provides for annual payments to the Fund of at least $3 billion for the first 30 years of the fund by the defendants participants. As good as this sounds and looks, stakeholders on both sides have their own pros and cons on this proposed bill.

Some of the cons:

  1. medical criteria are too strict and prevent some claimants from receiving compensations

  2. the fund will not support the number of claims made against it

  3. asbestos victims be given a choice to stay in court or go to the fund for compensations

  4. existing asbestos trusts will be given the opportunity to opt out of the proposed fund

  5. asbestos victims must give up their rights to sue, and settle for a fixed amount according to the severity of their illness

  6. if the fund becomes insufficient, do the tax payers then becomes liable to pay (similar to the Superfund Act/CERCLA) or are companies exposed to further liabilities?

  7. bill does not protect or provides for asbestos victims beneficiaries compensations

  8. The Congressional Budget Office analysis indicates that the proposed legislation funding may be insufficient

Some of the pros:

  1. a no-fault administrative process

  2. $140 billion trust fund to compensate victims of asbestos exposure

  3. fund wholly supported by private contributions and no federal dollars

  4. halt backlogged of court cases and spare defendants crippling jury awards

  5. receive a more expeditious response to claim settlement

  6. more monies would go to workers rather than legal counsel

The funding mechanism may not be the most serious problem or concern. A greater concern just may be the integrity of the people who will be selected by the President and other Congressional leaders to hold these position of leadership and reviewers of asbestos claims. Just remember the Great Asbestos Scam, as reported in the “Wall Street Journal” by Kimberly Strassel--- neither of the Attorneys felt that they had done any wrong nor admitted to any ill doings. If a person of this mind set was to hold any of these offices mention in S.852, then a new but old familiar problem will/may resurface (delays, refusals to pay claims, minimum claim amount issued) although there is a time clause in responding to asbestos victims’ claims in S.852.

Another point to consider is the results from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) study report that will comprehensively review, evaluate, and summaries the peer-reviewed scientific and medical literature regarding the association between asbestos and colorectal, laryngeal, esophageal, pharyngeal, and stomach cancers. What will the results show and how will it affect a claim analysis with the respect to approving a claim and the amount of money paid, if any is paid?

As stated earlier, the bill is back in committee – how will it come out this time? Will there be enough votes (60) to pass on the Senate’s floor to become law or even a serious measure? What is going on in the House? We will have to wait for these answers. These are just a few questions or food for thought as we observe the asbestos bill battle on the Hill for 2006.

Benjamin Moore, a student at the Medical University of South Carolina - Executive Doctoral Program in Health Administration and Leadership.

The link below is to the original article:

The Other Side of Asbestos Legislation

The Other Side of Asbestos Legislation

Employee Advocate – – July 10, 2006

The article below was written for the Duke Energy Employee Advocate by Benjamin Moore, a student at the Medical University of South Carolina. The Advocate does not favor legislation that blocks citizens from using the legal system and limits compensation. The article demonstrates why this bill is attractive to some, especially the corporations. The writer has no axe to grind.

The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Act of 2003, what started its movement?

The realization of the danger of asbestos exposure, its identification as a public health concern, and the economic and social implications experienced by mass numbers of persons has necessitated political concern and oversight.

It is reported that asbestos litigation is the longest running mass tort proceedings in U.S. history. Through 2002, approximately 730,000 individuals have brought claims against some 8, 400 business entities and defendants (Bloomberg, 2005; Carroll, et al, 2003). The out-of-pocket expenses to the manufactures, suppliers, and insurers in these litigations have been a total of $70 billion dollars (Bloomberg, 2005). Increasing numbers of lawsuits, bankruptcies, and medical claims relating to asbestos exposure over the years raised public outcry and the call for legislative actions in various communities and regions in the United States (S. 1125, 2003).

Asbestos, is a potent cancer causing agent known to cause pleural plaques, asbestosis, mesothelioma, and causes cancers of the lung, esophagus, and colon. Of these illnesses, the two most prevalently identified in asbestos litigation are asbestosis and mesothelioma (Asbestos Resource Center, 2005).

Diseases caused by asbestos have a long latency period, usually taking 10 to 40 years before showing any symptoms of the disease. The evidence of this is visible when persons who worked with installation of asbestos as insulation and other materials in the 1970’s began showing evidence of developing cancers in the 1990’s (Carroll, et al, 2003).

The first wave of asbestos litigation began in the late 1960’s, when victims brought actions against asbestos manufacturers and suppliers. These lawsuits increased significantly in 1973 when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decided the Borel v. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation., 493 F.2d 1078(5th Cir. 1973)(S.1125, 2003).

Asbestos litigation has clogged the courts with more than 700,000 civil claims and has sent more than 70 corporations into bankruptcy. However, asbestos litigation has failed to award significant monetary compensation to persons affected by asbestos exposure. As a result of the vast number of lawsuits and public outcry, congress began to focus on laws that would provide greater compensation to those persons exposed and less compensation to legal entities and other fees.

Initially, compensations received by claimants were arbitrary and inequitable. Persons were able to bring their claims to certain jurisdictions and receive huge awards even when they were not sick, whereas persons fatally injured by asbestos exposure may receive substantially less or nothing at all (Carroll, et al, 2003). Only a small percentage of monies spent by defendants and insurers on asbestos litigation have reached persons who have been injured. The majority of these funds find their way into the pockets of lawyers on both sides (S.1125 Congress, 2003).

According to Carroll et. al (2003), asbestos victims received only 42 cents of every dollar spent on asbestos litigation where as plaintiff lawyers received 27 cents and defense cost accounted for the remaining 31 cents.

After 20 years of legislative efforts, the Senate has reached a critical stage where their decisions will result in either compromise or removal of this issue from the Judiciary Committee agenda. A draft discussion bill has been published in the congressional record and its provisions are now being scrutinized by members and so-called stakeholders, really combatants, four of the toughest interest groups in Washington: manufacturers, labor-AFL/CIO, the insurance industry and trial lawyers. (Specter, 2005).

The major factor contributing to the development of this legislation was the fact that workers wanted to be compensated for disease related exposures. Asbestos manufacturers’ have been reluctant in compensating workers and have done so by allocating funds partly from the company and partly from the insurer. On the other hand, the insurers only wanted to pay a percentage of money only to those workers who show symptoms of asbestos related exposure. Trial attorneys attempting to help the workers get adequate compensation for the manufacturers then become the recipient of greater financial compensation than the exposed worker (Carroll et. al, 2003).

As a result of increasing asbestos litigation Senate Bill S. 1125 was introduced.

Statement of Purpose: The Fairness in Asbestos Injury Act of 2003 is essential legislation that is needed to fix a broken system. It will create an alternative, but fair and efficient system to resolve the claims of victims for bodily injury caused by asbestos exposure. It is intended to bring uniformity and rationality to the system so that resources are directed toward those who are truly sick. It is also intended to provide economic stability by stemming the tide of runaway asbestos litigation that has clogged our courts, bankrupted companies, compensated those who are not sick at the expense of those who are, and endangered the jobs and pensions of employees (S. 1125, 2003).

This proposed Fair Act compensation system removes transaction costs and compensate victims while at the same time has the benefit of shepherding more funds to sick victims rather than to legal and other fees. S. 1125 initially provided for $108 billion, nearly all of which would go directly to claimants. This is a sharp contrast under our current tort system, thus it becomes evident that S. 1125 is a far superior option (S. 1125, 2003).

It is uncertain if this proposed legislation will achieve the desired outcomes which it is set to undertake. The current tort court system definitely is not working well enough for equitable and prompt settlements. This proposed policy appears to be able to establish definite system that will provide an equitable, prompt, realistic system that will address the needs and concerns of most of the stakeholders. Until a better formula is presented, Congress should move forward.

This is the first effort in the long history of asbestos exposure and litigation that has recognized the need for legislative action. Since there has been no model legislation there are no systems already in place that adequately addresses the asbestos dilemma thus this is the major reason for the development of this bill. An important aspect of this bill is that it ceases companies from filing bankruptcy and enables workers to remain employed and the manufacturing and insurance companies to survive along with workers pension plans not being affected by compensation activities.

This bill is effective in relieving the courts from the large number of backlogged asbestos litigation and the consolidation of cases where many times the most servile cases where not adequately compensated. However, an attention-grabbing point to mention here is that on April 10, 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported a story by Kimberley Strassel on The Great Asbestos Scam. Judge Kathryn Ferguson ordered the law firm of Gilbert, Heintz & Randolph (GHR) to disgorge $9.6 million it received working on the Congoleum asbestos bankruptcy. This was due to or from a “payoff,” double-dealing and bogus claims by dishonest doctors. The “scam” process that GHR used appears to be very similar to the funding process in S.1125. Will greed and dishonest win again or will honest finally prevail? The answer is, only time will tell.

The next article will explore the ‘nuts and bolts’ of S. 1125.

Benjamin Moore, a student at the Medical University of South Carolina - Executive Doctoral Program in Health Administration and Leadership.

Below is the link to the follow-up article:

Asbestos Legislation – Part Two

The Government Official to Lobbyist Revolving Door

Employee Advocate – – June 18, 2006

The New York Times reports that at least 90 Homeland Security officials have moved through the revolving door to become executives, consultants or lobbyists. Over two-thirds of the department’s most senior executives have hit the revolving door!

The same revolving door is used by many government pension officials. They are policing corporate pensions one day, and lobbying on behalf of the corporation the next day. Some bounce from government official, to lobbyists, and back to government official at will to accomplish their own agenda.

Former Homeland Security Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin said "People have a right to make a living. But working virtually immediately for a company that is bidding for work in an area where you were just setting the policy — that is too close. It is almost incestuous."

The law banning jumping from government official to lobbyist only apply for one year. And, this weak law is often bypassed, one way or another.

Even former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge hit the revolving door, so he could make some real money.

A ruling was made in 2004 that really oiled the Homeland Security revolving door. The department was split into seven components. Officials can bounce between the other six components with impunity, as long as they do not become a lobbyist for the component they now work in.

Mr. Amey of the Project on Government Oversight said "It is a dirty way to get around the conflict-of-interest and ethics rules. It is legal. But is it appropriate? I don't think so."

Prestigious Potomac Pension Plundering Party

Dole and Burr Vote Against Citizens Again

Employee Advocate – – May 18, 2006

People Over Profits reported that for the fourth time in three years, the Senate leadership attempted to push through industry-lobbyist-driven medical malpractice legislation. The bill, written by the HMO and insurance industries, would have deprived victims of medical malpractice a fair settlement.

Thanks to citizens complaining to their senators about the last two terrible bills, they both failed to pass. But G. W. Bush and his rubber stamps will keep trying to restrict citizens’ access to the legal system.

Of course, the Bush rubber stamp senators from North Carolina voted against the best interest of the citizens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr both caved in to the lobbyists and voted for the bills.

Letter to Senators Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr

‘Simply put, Rice is a liar’

Employee Advocate – – May 13, 2006

This open letter to the president of Boston College was written by Steve Almond and published May 12, 2006 by The Boston Globe.

An open letter to William P. Leahy, SJ, president of Boston College.

DEAR Father Leahy,

I am writing to resign my post as an adjunct professor of English at Boston College.

I am doing so -- after five years at BC, and with tremendous regret -- as a direct result of your decision to invite Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to be the commencement speaker at this year's graduation.

Many members of the faculty and student body already have voiced their objection to the invitation, arguing that Rice's actions as secretary of state are inconsistent with the broader humanistic values of the university and the Catholic and Jesuit traditions from which those values derive.

But I am not writing this letter simply because of an objection to the war against Iraq. My concern is more fundamental. Simply put, Rice is a liar.

She has lied to the American people knowingly, repeatedly, often extravagantly over the past five years, in an effort to justify a pathologically misguided foreign policy.

The public record of her deceits is extensive. During the ramp-up to the Iraq war, she made 29 false or misleading public statements concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda, according to a congressional investigation by the House Committee on Government Reform.

To cite one example:

In an effort to build the case for war, then-National Security Adviser Rice repeatedly asserted that Iraq was pursuing a nuclear weapon, and specifically seeking uranium in Africa.

In July of 2003, after these claims were disproved, Rice said: ''Now if there were doubts about the underlying intelligence . . . those doubts were not communicated to the president, the vice president, or to me."

Rice's own deputy, Stephen Hadley, later admitted that the CIA had sent her a memo eight months earlier warning against the use of this claim.

In the three years since the war began, Rice has continued to misrepresent or simply ignore the truth about our deadly adventure in Iraq.

Like the president whom she serves so faithfully, she refuses to recognize her errors or the tragic consequences of those errors to the young soldiers and civilians dying in Iraq. She is a diplomat whose central allegiance is not to the democratic cause of this nation, but absolute power.

This is the woman to whom you will be bestowing an honorary degree, along with the privilege of addressing the graduating class of 2006.

It is this last notion I find most reprehensible: that Boston College would entrust to Rice the role of moral exemplar. To be clear: I am not questioning her intellectual gifts or academic accomplishments. Nor her potentially inspiring role as a powerful woman of color.

But these are not the factors by which a commencement speaker should be judged. It is the content of one's character that matters here -- the reverence for truth and knowledge that Boston College purports to champion.

Rice does not personify these values; she repudiates them. Whatever inspiring rhetoric she might present to the graduating class, her actions as a citizen and politician tell a different story.

Honestly, Father Leahy, what lessons do you expect her to impart to impressionable seniors?

That hard work in the corporate sector might gain them a spot on the board of Chevron? That they, too, might someday have an oil tanker named after them? That it is acceptable to lie to the American people for political gain? Given the widespread objection to inviting Rice, I would like to think you will rescind the offer. But that is clearly not going to happen.

Like the administration in Washington, you appear too proud to admit to your mistake. Instead, you will mouth a bunch of platitudes, all of which boil down to: You don't want to lose face.

In this sense, you leave me no choice.

I cannot, in good conscience, exhort my students to pursue truth and knowledge, then collect a paycheck from an institution that displays such flagrant disregard for both.

I would like to apologize to my students and prospective students. I would also urge them to investigate the words and actions of Rice, and to exercise their own First Amendment rights at her speech.

Lyrics: ‘Let’s Impeach The President’

Employee Advocate – – April 27, 2006

These lyrics are from Neil Young’s new album, Living with War, as published by Fox News:

“Let’s Impeach The President”

Let’s impeach the president for lying
And leading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

He’s the man who hired all the criminals
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
Of why we have to send our men to war

Let’s impeach the president for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones

What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our government’s protection
Or was someone just not home that day?

Let’s impeach the president
For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected

Thank god he’s racking down on steroids
Since he sold his old baseball team
There’s lot of people looking at big trouble
But of course the president is clean

Thank God

Protesters Greet Bush in Charlotte

Employee Advocate – – April 8, 2006

When G. W. Bush rolled into Charlotte, NC, he was greeted by hundreds of protesters, according to The Charlotte Observer. Bush’s appearance Thursday at Central Piedmont Community College was a frantic bid to boost his low approval rating. The latest The AP-Ipsos survey shows Bush making new lows in public opinion for his overall job performance and handling of the Iraq war.

For years, Bush has caged protesters blocks away from where he was appearing. Protesters were kept well out of camera sight in so called “freedom of speech zones.” Members of his audience were always hand picked supporters, eager to grovel before Bush. Attendees have even been required to sign a Republican Party pledge of support to gain access to a Bush speech! People have been ejected from the parking lot because the Bush gestapo did not approve of a bumper sticker on their car.

Bush has been called “The Bubble Boy” because of his complete isolation from any unflattering public input. The public is wise to his choreographed town hall meetings and caged protesters, as the polls show. Bush has been forced to loosen his control a little, in an attempt to not look so isolated from the American public.

The protesters were on a sidewalk across from Central Piedmont Community College. They chanted "One, two, three, four, We don't want your bloody war" and "This is what democracy looks like."

Signs read: "Down with King George," "Worst president ever," and "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."

Two were arrested, one man for “wearing a mask at a public protest” and one for carrying a concealed weapon. The second arrest sounds legitimate, until one learns that the “concealed weapon” was a pair of pliers. Did you know that you have WMD in your toolbox?

Sarah Jones said "I just don't feel we need to be in other people's countries, telling them what to do."

Elaine Pruitt said "The president has gone to great lengths to inhibit free speech in this country. If we don't come out in situations like this, pretty soon we won't have the freedom to."

Things were not going perfectly for Bush inside either. When Bush called on Harry Taylor, a Charlotte real estate broker, he quickly found out that he was not planted sycophant.

Mr. Taylor said "While I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food. If I were a woman, you'd like to restrict my opportunity to make a choice...about whether I can abort a pregnancy."

Bush interrupted with "I'm not your favorite guy. Go on, what's your question?"

Mr. Taylor continued: "What I wanted to say to you is that I -- in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened, by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency…And I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself...I also want to say I really appreciate the courtesy of allowing me to speak...That is part of what this country is about."

Bush replied "It is, yes."

Bush defended the “terrorist surveillance program” and said "Would I apologize for that? The answer -- answer is, absolutely not."

Bush Runs, But Cannot Hide

Congressman Questions FERC’s ‘Sweetheart Deal’

Employee Advocate – – March 31, 2006

Rep. Henry Waxman has questions about an apparent “sweetheart deal” between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Southern Company, according to the Wall Street Journal. Rep. Waxman was tipped off by Rich Heidorn Jr., FERC Office of Market Oversight and Investigations Unit analyst.

FERC has been investigating “alleged affiliate abuse” at Southern, since May 2005. Mr. Heidorn charged that Daniel Larcamp, FERC chief of staff, tried to derail the investigation, resulting in a “complete capitulation to Southern.”

Rep. Waxman sent a letter to FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher, questioning what “appears to be a sweetheart deal for Southern Company.” Rep. Waxman alleges “favoritism” to Southern, a “major political donor.”

Mr. Heidorn is seeking federal whistleblower protection.

Duke Settles Some California Charges

Medicare Drug Plan Written by Lobbyists

Employee Advocate – – January 22, 2006

Paul Krugman’s New York Times article, “The K Street Prescription,” explains how the disastrous Medicare drug benefit was hatched.

G. W. Bush appointed Thomas Scully to run Medicare. There was a conflict of interest in this appointment – Scully was a hospital industry lobbyist. It was Scully who threatened to fire his chief actuary if he told Congress what the Medicare drug program would really cost.

Here’s the good part: Scully managed to get a special ethics waiver from his superiors which allowed him to negotiate for jobs with lobbying and investment firms, even though he was in public office! These are the very companies who were pushing for the drug plan. What a recipe for the American seniors to be sold out.

Almost as soon as the bill passed, Scully left his government job and is now a drug company lobbyist.

Rep. Billy Tauzin was the ring leader in getting the Medicare Bill passed. When it passed, Tauzin left Congress and became the president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a drug industry lobbying firm!

Senior citizens never wanted the Medicare Bill. It was forced upon them by G. W. Bush, drug lobbyists, and the AARP. The AARP wanted to sell insurance to seniors.

The drug plan cost taxpayers heavily, confused seniors, increased bureaucracy, and started moving citizens from Medicare to private plans. Plus, some seniors cannot get their medications and some are being overcharged. But all is not lost, things are working out great for drug and insurance companies and for Scully and Tauzin.

Rep. Tom DeLay orchestrated the K Street project of pressuring lobbying firms to hire only Republicans. The confessions of lobbyist Jack Abramoff has brought much exposure to this crony game.

Mr. Krugman points out: “The more important effect of the K Street project is that it allows the party machine to offer lavish personal rewards to the faithful. For a congressman, toeing the line on legislation brought free meals in Jack Abramoff’s restaurant, invitations to his sky box, golf trips to Scotland, cushy jobs for family members and a lavish salary after leaving office. The same kinds of rewards are there for loyal members of the administration, especially given the Bush administration’s practice of appointing lobbyists to key positions.”

Medicare Malaise

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