April 21, 2000

Dirty Campaign Money Fouls Environment

Environmental Leaders Join "Granny D" in Pre-Earth Day
Protest to Denounce Influence of Corporate Cash

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Environmental activists from Public Citizen and other groups on Friday joined "Granny D" in a Capitol Hill protest to highlight the pollution and environmental harm caused by federal policies influenced by corporate campaign donations.

Granny D, or Doris Haddock, is the 90-year-old great-grandmother who trekked across America recently to call attention to the need to reform the corrupt campaign finance system. She was joined on Friday by a number of environmental and energy activists, including Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen s Critical Mass Energy Project.

The activists held a brief press conference outside the Capitol before marching to the Capitol Rotunda to speak out for campaign reforms, including a ban on unlimited soft money contributions by corporations, wealthy individuals and unions. The protesters were arrested by the police.

Hauter cited electric utility deregulation, nuclear waste disposal and radioactive recycling as examples of issues in which industry is purchasing influence with campaign money.

"Corporate interests are buying and selling public policy, and that has a detrimental effect on our pocketbooks, our health, the environment and our democracy," Hauter said.

Nearly two dozen states have passed laws forcing ratepayers to pay collectively about $150 billion to bail out electric utilities, mostly for uneconomic and dangerous nuclear reactors that never should have been built in the first place. Now nuclear utilities are lobbying Congress to protect the bailout. Electric utilities gave more than $3 million to candidates for federal elections in the current election cycle.

The nuclear industry also has been doling out money to members of Congress in an effort to persuade the government to take control of the industry s deadly nuclear waste. From 1997 to 2000, the industry plied federal candidates with a total of about $16 million. The industry is pushing a scheme to move its toxic trash from nuclear power plants to an inappropriate dump at Yucca Mountain, Nev. In the first quarter of this year, the Senate and House both passed legislation that would lead to 100,000 shipments of nuclear waste on the roads and rails of 43 states, exposing 50 million Americans to radiation in the event of a crash.

The nuclear industry has used its money to develop special relationships with members of Congress. New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, for example, raised $425,000 from energy and defense-related companies or individuals for his most recent re-election campaign in 1996.

Domenici supports every aspect of the nuclear industry -- from food irradiation to recycling radioactive waste into household products. He was instrumental in the authorization of approximately $100 million over the next several years to study whether exposure to so-called low levels of radiation is really a health risk. The study will be used to justify the recycling of radioactive waste into household goods.

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