The Smell of $$$$$ = Business as Usual in WV
by Janet Fout
Did anyone notice that foul odor emanating from WV Gov. Bob Wises office in early September? The smell came right after he ordered the Division of Environmental Protection (DEP) to grant J.P. Mascaro a 45-day extension to bring Mascaros Wetzel County sewage sludge composting facility in compliance with the law.
The governor flatly denies that the $21,000 the company officials, employees and relatives lavished on his campaign shortly before the November 2000 elections had anything to do with DEPs flip-flop on the issue, as reported by Brian Bowling from the Charleston Daily Mail. The campaign contribution data was provided by the Peoples Election Reform Coalition-WV (PERC-WV), formed by OVEC and West Virginia Citizen Research Group.
Citizens' complaints about odors stimulated a DEP order to Mascaros company to construct a building to house sewage sludge from New York and to cease outdoor composting of the stinky stuff by June 15.
In early May, DEPs Mike Zeto, along with DEPs attorney, denied a request to extend the deadline until October 15 but then in August, the director of DEPs waste management division granted the extension. The change of heart came after the governor received calls from "legislators and others interested in the project."
Hmmm wouldnt you like to have been a bug on the wall when those calls came in?
Citizens for Clean Elections is Growing
Can you imagine the difference in West Virginia politics if it were possible to reduce the influence that money (in the form of campaign contributions) has on public policy? While some politicians adamantly deny that a hefty campaign contribution influences decisions and legislation, it surely makes a policy-maker take phone calls (see story above for one example).
A growing number of citizens and groups believe that there is a better way to finance elections. The Citizens for Clean Elections is a broad coalition of organizations and groups that supports the West Virginia Clean Elections Act, a bill which would provide voluntary public financing of election campaigns for the legislators and governors races.
Current supporters of the Act are Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, AFL-CIO (WV), Catholic Committee of Appalachia, Common Cause of West Virginia, Commission on Religion in Appalachia, Concerned Citizens' Coalition (Calhoun, Roane and Gilmer counties), Episcopal Appalachian Ministries, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Peoples' Election Reform Coalition-WV, Service Employees International Union Local 1199, Southern Appalachian Labor School, Trout Unlimited Mountaineer Chapter, West Virginia Citizen Action Group, West Virginia Council of Churches, West Virginia Environmental Council, West Virginia Fair Trade Coalition and West Virginia Rivers Coalition.
Introduced in both the House and Senate during the 2002 WV legislative session, The WV Clean Elections Act (HB 4532 and SB 654), would provide public financing of elections as an option to candidates who, after collecting a small number of $5 qualifying contributions, agree to limit spending, reject all private donations and spend only the money allotted them from the Clean Elections Fund. This Clean Elections system is already working in Maine and Arizona; similar laws are also in effect in Massachusetts and Vermont.
Public Campaign, a D.C.-based organization promoting clean elections on the federal level, reported that:
"...in Maine, 62% of all candidates (231 out of 372) on the 2002 fall ballot are participating in that states Clean Elections system, which offers candidates the option of receiving full public financing in exchange for limiting their spending and rejecting private donations. In Arizona, 53% of all the candidates (84 out of 158) are running clean. These candidates include two of the three major candidates for governor of Arizona and 70% of all the contenders running for statewide offices. These participation rates are about twice the rate seen in both states in 2000, the first time candidates had the option of seeking public funding."
Observers predict that more than half the Maine House and as much as three-quarters of its Senate, along with 6 of 9 of Arizonas statewide offices, will likely be held by candidates who ran clean. "
A statewide public education campaign is underway.
To learn more about the West Virginia Clean Elections Act and Citizens for Clean Elections, contact Janet Fout with OVEC at (304) 522-0246 or check out OVECs website, www.ohvec.org, and click on Campaign Finance Reform.
Candidates Get Opportunity to Come "Clean"
More than 50 candidates for WV House and Senate races were invited to attend a public forum on Clean Election Campaign Finance reform. The forum, sponsored by the Citizens for Clean Elections, was held October 15 at Christ Church United Methodist Church in Charleston.
Candidates who attended viewed the video "The Road to Clean Elections," narrated by journalist Bill Moyers, which shows how well publicly financed campaigns are working in Maine and Arizona.
After the video, each candidate expressed her/his views on the Clean Election concept and then the floor was open for questions.
The discussion was lively, at times heated, but most agreed that publicly funded elections might reduce cynicism in voters, increase voter participation and create more contested races. All agreed that passing the WV Clean Elections Act would be an uphill battle - but then all of our battles are uphill and against the odds.
Our thanks to Delegate Bobbie Hatfield, Delegate Carrie Webster, Janet "J.T." Thompson, Dan Foster (who sent Will Carter to express his views on the issue), Patrick Lane, Mark Sadd, "Brud" Warner and Douglas Waldron, all candidates for the 2002 election who took time out of their busy schedules to attend.
A special thanks goes to Julie Archer with WV Citizen Action Group for helping with all the logistics and to Helaine Rodkin (Common Cause WV) for being our official greeter.
Paybacks and Really Big Bucks
Bush Administration Environmental Giveaways
(Reprinted from: OUCH ! A Regular Bulletin on How Money in Politics Hurts You, #105, Published by Public Campaign, October 9, 2002.)
"We were looking for friends, and we found one in George W. Bush." So James H. "Buck" Harless told the Wall Street Journal in June 2001.
Harless isnt any ordinary concerned citizen. He is a board member of Massey Energy, a major coal mining company in Appalachia that practices mountaintop removal mining. Thats right, his company, along with other coal mining companies, actually blasts the tops of mountains to get to seams of coal.
Harless also happens to be a Bush "pioneer," one of the volunteer fundraisers who promised to raise $100,000 for the 2000 Bush campaign. He and his family alone have given $60,650 to Bush and the Republican National Committee (RNC) since 1999.
In May 2002, Bush rewarded Harless and other mountaintop removal miners by weakening Clean Water Act rules to make it easier to dump the waste from mountain top mining into rivers and streams below.
Harless is just one of the many industry campaign contributors who have benefited from regulatory "paybacks" granted by the Bush Administration, detailed in a new report released by Public Campaign and Earthjustice, "Paybacks: How the Bush Administration is Giving Away Our Environment to Its Corporate Contributors."