Apr 222005

A memo to Congress: want to know why you’re pulling abysmal 34 percent approval ratings? A front page story in today’s Washington Post lays out the problem: while "inflation and interest rates are rising, stock values have plunged, a tank of gas induces sticker shock, ? for nearly a year, wages have failed to keep up with the cost of living," and politicians in Washington are consumed with Terri Schiavo, "judicial tyranny," and Tom DeLay. Conservatives’ big solution? A deceptive media strategy. On Tuesday, The Hill reported that conservative congressional leaders had developed a "conference-wide communications strategy" to promote their energy bill, designed specifically to "try to shift attention from ethical questions surrounding Majority Leader Tom DeLay" and "to win headlines with gas prices at all-time highs." That dog just won’t hunt, as they say, and for good reason. As we show below, bills like the pork-ridden, anti-consumer, anti-environment energy legislation (which the House is expected to pass today) represent precisely the problems laid out in the Post story. They do nothing to lift the growing burden from working- and middle-class families, and represent just about everything wrong with the entrenched leadership in Washington.

DeLay’s fingerprints are all over this train wreck of an energy bill. One particularly heinous provision ? "adamantly supported by Tom DeLay" ? shields the manufacturers of a dangerous gasoline additive from lawsuits stemming from the contamination of drinking water. (The additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether or "MTBE," is a powerful pollutant, as its manufacturers have known since the 1980s. In low doses, its "powerful turpentine taste" makes water undrinkable; in higher doses, it causes cancer.) DeLay’s influence "clearly helped advance" another provision that "would bypass Congress’s normal spending process to funnel up to $2 billion" to oil and gas firms to explore the Gulf of Mexico. Just yesterday, as the energy bill was being debated on the House floor, DeLay was reportedly thrown a $2,000-$5,000-a-plate fundraiser by the energy firm Fluor, which has been actively lobbying on the legislation. (Fluor also happens to be a former client of embattled corporate lobbyist and DeLay crony Jack Abramoff.)

Though conservative leaders "had promised a slimmer version of the energy bill" this year to avoid worsening the massive federal deficit, a new analysis shows that lawmakers added $35 billion in just the last three weeks since the bill was introduced ? "a total of $88.9 billion in subsidies to industry over 10 years in the bill." Surely there must have been a good reason for packing in all that pork. "Analysts said the extra spending was tacked on to win over wavering lawmakers or to placate parts of the energy industry." Oh. As Tweeti Blancett, a sixth-generation rancher who ran President Bush’s 2000 campaign in her part of New Mexico put it, "Northwest New Mexico has been sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed and political buy-offs, and what has happened to us is happening across the West," and across the rest of the country. (Since 2000, Blancett "has become an outspoken critic of the administration’s energy policies.")

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