Jul 312006
 

The Favor Factory
How a top House Appropriations aide didn’t have to wait to lobby

AS ONE OF THE top appropriations staffers to Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), Letitia White made a nice salary. Ms. White, who oversaw the dispensation of earmarks for Mr. Lewis, earned almost $118,000 in 2000 and nearly $125,000 in 2001. But the following year, Ms. White took a hefty pay cut: Her pay dropped to slightly over $113,000. An effort to save the taxpayers money?

Don’t bet on it. The rules — such as they are — that require congressional staff members to wait a single year before lobbying their former committees apply only to those who earn a certain amount — in 2002, $112,500. Even though Ms. White was a bit over that limit, her pay cut, on an annualized basis, put her $80 below the cap — and cleared the way for her to join a lobbying firm and rake in $670,000 in lobbying fees during her first year in business. Why endure a cooling-off period when your former boss makes you a hot commodity?

Ms. White’s lucrative trip through the revolving door was detailed by Paul Kane last week in Roll Call. The story reported how in March 2002, Ms. White and her husband went on a nearly $9,000, nine-day trip to Italy paid for by defense contractor General Atomics. The company received $6.1 million in two separate earmarks in the defense appropriations bill passed that year. Ms. White left the appropriations staff on Jan. 8, 2003; she joined the lobbying firm renamed Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton & White on Jan. 9. Name partner Bill Lowery is a former Republican congressman from California who is one of Mr. Lewis’s closest friends. And guess who Ms. White signed up as a client on her first day? General Atomics.

The company was just one of 16 clients — mostly defense contractors whose interests were overseen by Mr. Lewis as chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee — whom Ms. White secured that year. Those clients received about $22 million in earmarks in the next round of spending bills. That kind of success paid off: By 2004, Ms. White was reporting lobbying fees of almost $1.5 million.

In a statement to Roll Call, Mr. Lewis, who now chairs the appropriations panel, said, ” I have always made every effort to carefully follow the rules of the House of Representatives in all aspects of my Congressional work. I am confident that any review will confirm this.” A spokesman for Ms. White said she consulted the House ethics committee about how to handle job negotiations and “recused herself from any official activity that involved a prospective employer or client.”

This is just a piece of the increasingly disturbing picture emerging about the goings-on at the appropriations panel, which lobbyist Jack Abramoff memorably dubbed the “favor factory.” We’ll examine other aspects of the story in another editorial. Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed a number of Copeland, Lowery clients and examined the financial disclosure forms of Mr. Lewis and his staff. Whether crimes were committed remains to be determined, but this much is clear: There’s quite an odor emanating from the favor factory.

 Posted by at 10:26 am on Mon 07/31/06
Jul 292006
 

Utilities giving big bucks to global warming skeptic
By SETH BORENSTEIN | Associated Press
July 27, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) – Coal-burning utilities are passing the hat for one of the few remaining scientists skeptical of the global warming harm caused by industries that burn fossil fuels.

Pat Michaels _ Virginia’s state climatologist, a University of Virginia professor and senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute _ told Western business leaders last year that he was running out of money for his analyses of other scientists’ global warming research. So last week, a Colorado utility organized a collection campaign to help him out, raising at least $150,000 in donations and pledges.

The Intermountain Rural Electric Association of Sedalia, Colo., gave Michaels $100,000 and started the fund-raising drive, said Stanley Lewandowski, IREA’s general manager. He said one company planned to give $50,000 and a third plans to give Michaels money next year.

“We cannot allow the discussion to be monopolized by the alarmists,” Lewandowski wrote in a July 17 letter to 50 other utilities. He also called on other electric cooperatives to launch a counterattack on “alarmist” scientists and specifically Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” …

Michaels is best known for his newspaper opinion columns and books, including “Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media.” However, he also writes research articles published in scientific journals.
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Progress Report Archives 2006 – American Progress Action Fund

WHO IS PAT MICHAELS?: Pat Michaels is a climate scientist based at the University of Virgina. John P. Holdren, a Harvard scientist, told the Senate Republican Policy Committee that Michaels has “published little if anything of distinction in the professional literature, being noted rather for his shrill op-ed pieces and indiscriminate denunciations of virtually every finding of mainstream climate science.” In 2003, Michaels famously “proved” that global warming was mostly hype by mixing up degrees and radians. In 2004, Michaels told Business Week, “We know how much the planet is going to warm. It is a small amount, and we can’t do anything about it.” This year, Michaels completely misrepresented a study by University of Missouri Professor Curt Davis to falsely claim that Antarctica has been gaining ice in recent years. Michaels’ views about climate change are at odds with the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a rigorously peer-reviewed report that involved thousands of scientists from over 100 countries, which concluded, “There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities” and that, absent aggressive mitigation efforts, future warming will be significant and dangerous.
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On the Roof of Peru, Omens in the Ice By Doug Struck, Washington Post Foreign Service

[Researchers] have confirmed a rapid recession of glaciers worldwide. Snows on Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, extolled by Ernest Hemingway as “wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white,” will be gone within 14 years, Thompson estimates. Glaciers in the Alps, the Himalayas and throughout the Andes are also shrinking, he and other researchers have found.

The dramatic rise in carbon dioxide that has accompanied the industrial age has brought a spike in global temperatures. Scientists have found that the jump in temperatures is even greater in the upper atmosphere, where the glaciers reign on silent mountain peaks.

Glaciers store an estimated 70 percent of the world’s fresh water. Water that falls as snow moves through the slowly churning ice and may emerge from the glacier’s edge thousands of years later as meltwater. Humans have long depended on the gradual and faithful runoff.

The melting of glaciers in the Himalayas, which feed seven great Asian rivers, will bring “massive eco and environmental problems for people in western China, Nepal and northern India,” a World Wildlife Fund report concluded last year.

“The repercussions of this are very scary,” agreed Tim Barnett, a climate scientist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. “When the glaciers are gone, they are gone. What does a place like Lima do? Or, in northwest China, there are 300 million people relying on snowmelt for water supply. There’s no way to replace it until the next ice age.”

 Posted by at 5:07 pm on Sat 07/29/06
Jul 292006
 

O’Niell’s Pub recently opened on Central and Washington. Glowing reviews appeared in the Alibi and iQ; neither mentioned an important fact…

Like many others, we’ve been looking forward to the return of O’Niell’s for some time. O’Niell’s had the best burger in town. Unfortunately, we will not be able to enjoy the new location because it allows smoking everywhere at all hours, something your review failed to mention. We used to eat at O’Niell’s Uptown every week, until they opened it to smoking all the time, at which point it became as unbearable as the Central location.

The staff suggests we sit on the patio, but that doesn’t help if someone at the next table is smoking.

It’s too bad O’Niell won’t extend his legendary hospitality to those of us who can’t enjoy a burger and beer with smoke. A smoke-free section or hours would open his place to more of the community. mjh

 Posted by at 10:33 am on Sat 07/29/06
Jul 272006
 

UNM Today: UNMH Shuttle begins Rail Runner Express service
University Hospitals Parking & Transportation Department has announced UNMH shuttle service between the Alvarado station in downtown Albuquerque and the UNM main hospital to accommodate Rail Runner Express riders. The service begins today, July 14. …

To meet the needs of most morning-arriving hospitals employees and visitors, the shuttle will be available at the Amtrak stop at the Alvarado station at:

• 6:25 a.m. to pick up passengers from the 6:30 a.m. train (no initial shuttle stop at UNMH)

• 7:30 a.m. to pick up passengers from the 7:35 a.m. train (leaves UNMH shuttle stop at 7:15 a.m.)

• 8:40 a.m. to pick up passengers from the 8:45 a.m. train (leaves UNMH shuttle stop at 8:25 a.m.)

In normal conditions, you may expect the shuttle to arrive at the main hospital
within approximately 10-15 minutes.

To meet the needs of most afternoon-departing hospitals employees and isitors, the shuttle will leave UNM Hospitals at:

• 3:45 p.m. to drop off passengers for the 4:10 p.m. train

• 5:05 p.m. to drop off passengers for the 5:25 p.m. train

• 6:10 p.m. to drop off passengers for the 6:30 p.m. train

 Posted by at 1:51 pm on Thu 07/27/06
Jul 272006
 

Letter: Veto aims to please Bush’s few remaining supporters – Opinion
Editor,

President Bush has issued his first veto ever.

Why wasn’t this plastered over every newspaper in the country? For the first time in seven horrible years of incompetent leadership, President Bush actually vetoed a bill. This time, instead of cynically circumventing the Constitution by attaching a ‘signing statement’ to a bill he doesn’t agree with, at least he did the proper, legal thing and vetoed it.

Of course, this historic veto is against stem cell research. The message seems to be that science, which actually helps humanity, will not be tolerated. Death and destruction are far more profitable than saving lives. Bush has already spent most of his presidency standing in the way of our constitutional protections. Now, he is standing in the way of scientific advancement.

This man clearly has a great legacy to look forward to.

The question is, why the veto this time? The answer: religious idiocy. This guy is so beholden to the religious right, he has no choice. If it’s not the Zionists, it’s the fundamentalist Christians. Frankly, they are the only supporters he has left. Anyone with a functioning brain stopped listening to him years ago.

But what’s even more stupid is new White House spokesman Tony Snow’s ridiculous reply to a reporter’s question as to why Bush chose this moment for his historic veto: “The simple answer is he thinks murder’s wrong.”What? Was he serious? It’s always the same story – it’s perfectly OK to murder innocent civilians by the thousands in illegal acts of aggression, but it’s not OK to kill tissue that is not even alive.

Jason Darensburg

UNM student

 Posted by at 1:35 pm on Thu 07/27/06
Jul 272006
 

Merri and I got back yesterday afternoon from a 12-day camping trip that took us through parts of New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. We were above 10,000 feet much of the time. We think that big storm may have followed us home.

Over the next week, I’ll be posting some thoughts from the trail and a few of the 1,000 photos we took.

As always, we are first struck by how much space our house has, after spending almost two weeks in the camper with 2ft x 4ft floorspace. Of course, on the road, all of the outdoors is our other room.

Then there is the free-flowing water. Our first night back, we used more water than we did most of our trip.

peace, mjh

 Posted by at 8:28 am on Thu 07/27/06