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Does campaign money = vote?

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When Sam kick-started the 5th Estate, an initial focus was us doing the job that the press wasn’t doing and should be — holding the powerful accountable for their actions. That’s the spirit in which I’m writing to my local paper about my congressman.

More important, I want to demonstrate to my students what marvelous Web-based tools allow citizens to keep track of the votes cast by representatives and senators — as well as following their money trails.

Behind the LJ cut is another letter to the editor about my congressman who seems to vote based on where the money is.

Politicians’ votes show their priorities. The glossy, taxpayer-funded brochures they send to constituents do not. The financial company politicians keep while casting votes gives insight about motivations behind those votes.

With just one vote, the District 29 representative to Congress, the Honorable Rep. John R. “Randy” Kuhl, signaled his priorities.

On April 27, Rep. Kuhl voted with 231 of his Republican colleagues against the interests of taxpayers on a motion on a House bill seeking tax-cut reconciliation. This kind of bill gives instructions to House negotiators when the House and Senate disagree on legislation.

Rep. Kuhl (R-Hammondsport) rejected a motion that would have told House negotiators to close tax loopholes for oil companies.

He rejected telling House negotiators to end reduced tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

The Senate wants to close the loopholes and deny the extension. That would mean more tax money paid by corporations and the super-rich rather than by you and me. The GOP-controlled House, apparently, doesn’t want to relieve our tax burden.

In short, that means Rep. Kuhl and his GOP colleagues voted to maintain profits for oil companies at the expense of the taxpayers. It means he voted to keep taxes low on the super-rich – again at the expense of taxpayers. This vote says, “I value corporate interests more than constituent interests.”

Rep. Kuhl cast this vote in a climate of taxpayer anger about sharply rising gasoline prices, soaring oil-company profits and stratospheric top executives’ pay and perks.

Exxon Mobil broke records with its $36 billion in profits in 2005. That’s enough money to fund Exxon’s petroleum exploration efforts. It doesn’t need additional tax breaks.

Exxon Mobil will reward its retiring CEO and chairman with a nearly $400 million separation package. His base salary in 2005 worked out to about $6,000 an hour. The median family income in Cattaraugus County in 2000, according to government figures, is just more than $33,000 a year.

Yet that CEO and other super-rich folks are likely to keep their reduced tax rates for their capital gains and dividends, thanks in part to Rep. Kuhl’s vote.

While he has been coy about running for re-election, Republican political action committees run by powerful patrons in the House leadership have given generously to his campaign.

According to Federal Election Commission data collated at opensecrets.org, Rep. Kuhl received $10,000 each from:

Americans for a Republican Majority, begun by indicted former House majority leader Tom Delay.
• the Committee for the Preservation of Capitalism, the PAC of Rep. Jim McClery, an influential member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Keep Our Majority PAC, the leadership PAC of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

He received $9,999 from Rely on Your Beliefs, a group chaired by the House majority whip, Roy Blunt, a member of Delay’s handpicked leadership team.

Rep. Kuhl received $5,000 each from other PACs committed to maintaining a Republican majority:

• The Freedom Project, chaired by John Boehner, Delay’s successor as House majority leader.
• the Future Leaders PAC, run by Calif. Rep. Jerry Lewis, which has given GOP candidates nearly $400,000 since 2003.
• the IRL PAC, which has given $121,000 to Republicans.
Promoting Republicans You Can Elect, which has among its donors tribes formerly represented by indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
• the Texas Freedom Fund, which is affiliated with Rep. Joe Barton of Texas (who voted with Delay 91 percent of the time) and has given $149,500 to Republicans.

Rep. Kuhl got $5,000 from the Freshmen PAC, which gave $92,500 to Republicans. He received $5,000 from Majority Initiative-Keep Electing Repubs (sic), which gave $315,500 to Republicans. Ditto $5,000 from Together for Our Majority.

Judge politicians by the votes they cast and the company they keep. Powerful Republican House leaders have given nearly $75,000 to Rep. Kuhl. Is it any wonder that, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, he has voted with President Bush and the House leadership 85 percent of the time?

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 2, 2006 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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