Archive for the ‘Judicial System’ Category

“Instead of deliberately favoring democratic industrialists, we have spent most of our billions in backing predatory institutions which, based on their history and present activities, will probably align themselves against us in the showdown between East and West—and this policy alone could easily  make the difference between defeat and victory for democracy. Would that we had such desperate faith in democratic institutions that we could afford the gamble of similar billions for their survival! For every dollar we have spent in Europe to strengthen democracy and arm it against conquest, we have thrown several dollars within reach of the enemy.

In the Far East, as well as Europe, the United States has backed other totalitarian-minded groups as a “bulwark” against communism. By the end of World War II, the peoples of China, Korea, Indo-China, and the Philippines had suffered for years under the “New Order for Asia” sponsored by the Japanese equivalent of Farben, the Zaibatsu cartels. These cartels by force of arms won a stranglehold on the economies of these countries. Instead of rebuilding the Far East generally as fast as we could, we have peddled the fear that Russia would rob and plunder the people, while at the same time we backed the very forces which had already robbed and plundered them. The Zaibatsu cartels are as strong as ever. In Indo-China, we have backed the collaborators of the “Japanese New Order.” In South Korea, faced with a variety of truly democratic choices, we backed Syngman Rhee and the few landowners and cotton millers who cast their lot with the “New Order” gang.

The Voice of America must sound weak to those forced by the United States to choose between Communism and reliving the dark era of World War II. Their will to resist Communism is weakened—to put it mildly—by our facing them with this black alternative.

Can we expect millions of former vassals in Asia to rally around their erstwhile totalitarian oppressors? Can we rally Europe solely around the fear of Soviet enslavement while we deliberately sustain the forces which twice in recent history have enslaved that continent?

On the answer to these questions depends on our survival.” – Page 363

“To the inmates of Camp I, the word “Buna” (which included “Leuna”) was more frightful than “Auschwitz” — the Farben site more terrifying than any place except a large wooded area three kilometers east of Camp I. During the first weeks of construction the workers at Camp I were routed out of bed every morning, stood roll call, ate a poor breakfast, and were marched by the SS five kilometers to the plant. Until this day of testimony, Ambros had insisted several times that disciplinary actions on the site were the responsibility of the SS. Now for some strange reason, he admitted: “I do know for sure that already in 1941 one began to fence off squares, blocks, and in these squares no SS had any further business. That was the preliminary stage for having the entire plant fenced in.” The workers had confirmed this. Once inside the plant enclosure, they found that the Farben overseers outnumbered the SS by 10 to 1…. “We struggled to carry cables, collapsing under the strain; the work was too heavy even for a nourished man.” “Once the inmates were assigned to Farben Meister, they became his slaves.” The prisoners of war, who were given easier jobs, remembered better and longer than most. “The inmates were forced to carry one-hundred C-weight bags of cement. It took four men to lift one bag and put it on the back of one man. When inmates couldn’t go along quickly enough to satisfy the Farben Meister, the Meister beat them with sticks and iron bars and punched them with his fists and kicked them. I have often seen them beaten to death with iron bars.” “When inmates first arrived at the I.G. Farben factory,” one of Ambrus’ underlings had testified, “They looked reasonably well. In two or three months, they were hardly recognizable as the same people; the worst thing was the lack of food… I am not a scientist, Mr. Counselor, I would not pose as an expert on calories or grams or liters. I can merely say what I saw…. And my Czech physician friend was an expert. The Czech physician said: “The prisoners were condemned to burn up their own body weight by working.” Before construction was finished, nine out of ten punishments were meted out by the Farben plant employees. The SS at Camp I became concerned with the depletion of the labor supply. The most ironical occurrences were the repeated complaints of an SS man to his superior that a Farben foreman was beating the prisoners too often — it happened at the plant as it happened at the mine. “I did not observe anything of that kind,” Ambros said – Portions from pages 178 – 181

The buna factory they wanted to build would have a capacity larger than any of the others. They would need a million tons of hard coal, and Oswiecem was on the southern border of the Silisian coal fields. The plant needed as much power as the city of Berlin, and here at Oswiecem three rivers united—the Sola, the Przemsze, and the Little Vistula. East of the town was another river which could furnish extra power and would take off the waste from plant.

A buna factory needed a lot of water, even in winter. They planned to cut a canal to connect the Vistula to the Oder a few miles away. Oswiecem was on a level plain, and all the waters of all the rivers around could be harnessed without flooding. Oswiecem fell on a line between Krakow and Vienna, and the old short stretches of railways could be joined to ship the buna back to the Reich. Said Ter Meer: “There were really so many of our industrial prerequisites that one has to admit that this location, Auschwitz, was ideal industrially.”

Ter Meer and Ambros looked over the people. “Nature had endowed this place, “Ambros said. “There were men and women [in the whole territory] working partly in industry and also doing part-time farming work. Sociologically, the most ideal condition is to find workers who also have a small plot of ground. This meant everything a chemist could dream of.”

The impressions gleaned by the two doctors were almost Biblical. They were rapt in contemplation of a business which would offer a pastoral craft to the rural inhabitants. Early in the morning, the farmer would get up and milk his cows, then stroll off—lunchbox in hand—to the plant. He would work there in the afternoon while his wife and daughter toiled in the vineyard. Everything about the picture was charming—except that there were not 15,000 such farmers near-by.

But Ter Meer didn’t believe that Ambros, in inviting him there, had mentioned a concentration camp. ”I do not recall that he at the time discussed that some of the labor would be drawn from the near-by concentration camp, but I will say that Ambros, who in his reports was very exact, probably mentioned it, though I am not positive.”

Ambros was very exact.  A few weeks later, he reported twice to a group of buna colleagues at Ludwigshafen that plans were being made to build a second concentration camp at Auschwitz: “The inhabitants of the town of Auschwitz itself are 2000 Germans, 4000 Jews, 7000 Poles. The availability of inmates of the camp would be advantageous.”

Three thousand people were in Camp I. Then the second camp swelled the prison population to 14,000—Dr. Ter Meer was never to share his lunch with them. During the first two years of construction, reports came to his office of daily trainloads of “workers” coming to Auschwitz. Then Camp III and Camp IV were built, both nearer the buna factory than the other two camps. Then at last, in 1943, Ter Meer made a third visit to Auschwitz. Returning to Frankfurt, he had himself transferred to Italy, where he became plenipotentiary for the Italian chemical industries. Ambros’ appeals followed him: “More workers are needed.” “Herr Doctor Ambros is asking for assistance at Auschwitz.”….

Q. We have heard from four other witnesses that there was supposed to have been a large chimney in this camp, too. Do you have any recollection of it?

A. I have no recollection of it.

pages 155 – 156

Ambros bowed as he took oath, exhibiting his sketch in all directions. He waved his counsel aside for the moment. He explained: “This tree of many branches I choose to call the Ethylene Tree to symbolize the Good and Evil in nature.”
Ethylene oxide, he went on, was the trunk which bore many branches “green with peaceful uses” and a few that were rotten with potential destruction. He pointed to lines he had drawn to cut off the rotten branches. Green branches had been his sole interest: soap for dirty soldiers, paint and cleaning agents for vehicles. “I still do not understand why I am here. The collapse promised everything but that I would be arrested.”
At Gerdorf, after those senseless investigations, the Americans had been kind enough to lend him a jeep and driver, to take him back home. Surely, if he had deserved arrest, the French at Ludwigshafen would have picked him up. He’d lived in Ludwigshafen since the mid-1920’s; people there thought he was just born for the place. If Heidelberg was the seat of chemical knowledge, Ludwigshafen was nature’s laboratory; and Ambros was the sort of man who liked earth running through his fingers. At Ludwigshafen, more productive than any other single Farben installation, were planted the synthetic seeds of every Farben product. Ludwigshafen put out the elementary compounds that became hormones and vitamins under Hoerlein at Elberfeld. At Ludwigshafen, the organic roots under careful cultivation grew their first ersatz offshoots. His “mother” was Ludwigshafen, said Ambros; but he owed a good deal, too, to his real father, a professor of agricultural chemistry, who had taken him into the laboratory before he could toddle. It was understandable that, at first sight of Oswiecem, he noted it was “predominantly agricultural terrain.”
When Bosch and Krauch hired Ambros, they got a young man with brains as well as feet in the soil. Bosch, recognizing a young excitable genius, turned him loose to study natural dyes and rosins and yeast breeding and sugar fermentation. Soon the Ethylene Tree was bearing synthetic twigs based on his studies.  – page 170

“Sure, we must have a theory. It’s just like what the first caveman said when he caught his neighbor dragging his wife away: ‘Would you please wait a minute while I get hold of a lawyer?’ When a hungry man steals a chicken, that’s larceny if the statute says it’s larceny. But stealing whole territories is not larceny — that’s foreign policy.”

The car almost went off the road as I listened to him expound. “Murder is a crime in every country in the world, but it’s no crime in the world-at-large because the Second Circuit Court of Appeals never said so. Ask Senator Taft. He never took the trouble to call it murder before anyway, so now he says: ‘How can you call it murder after the war is over? The charges are very badly drafted, Joe. We should have charged excusable larceny and justified, premeditated killing. That’s the kind of theory they’ll be happy with.”
“That’s hardly fair,” I said. “If judges felt that way, they wouldn’t be sitting on this trial.”
If only a “theory” were as simple as he had put it! The bitter edge of his tone suggested the simple injustices that “civilized countries,” one by one, had tried to remedy, but against which the world-at-large had done almost nothing. Yes, there was a lot of truth in Minskoff that couldn’t be squeezed into a usable idea for next Monday morning — or could it?….

“A surprise is coming up,” Minskoff said. “Get ready for a sharp right.”

Around the turn, behind a high barbed-wire fence, deep-green grass leveled out for more than a mile ahead. Set back a good distance from the road was a group of buildings covering an area of about three city blocks. Midway between the road and the building was a large sign: “Prager Verein.”
“We should have stopped in Pilsen,” Minskoff said. “In Pilsen, they still call this place ‘Farben.’ When Farben took over here, they impressed about 1100 people from Pilsen. Six hundred of them ended up at Auschwitz. Of course we’re in Bohemia now, but this is the parent factory of the first two chemical outfits Farben grabbed in Sudetenland—isn’t that right?”
I agreed. This is not being a part of his job, he must have learned the fact somewhere around here.
“Farben got to Czechoslovakia before Hitler did, didn’t they?”
I nodded as the car slowed down. Stopping, we got out and went up the main gate. The guard listened to our explanation, smiled, and asked rhetorically, “Americans?” and let us through. I thought of Paul Haefliger again, and of how Farben was always months ahead of the Nazis. Somehow that should mean more than it did. The Farben doings in Czechoslovakia were linked to the Farben doings in Austria the previous year by purpose and method, but from the legal standpoint they seemed to stack up as separate ventures. According to the Munich Pact the territories of Bohemia and Moravia were supposed to remain Czech. Therefore, technically Prager Verein was still “free” when Farben took over its two subsidiaries, in the Sudetenland. Regarding the taking over of the subsidiaries, I recalled a couple of sentences from the Farben report: “One 1st October began the marching in of the German troops. On 3rd October, Falkenau factory was occupied.” But Farben had been “negotiating” in Sudetenland a long time before that….

We might have been stopping at any one of three or four factories on Route 25 between Newark and Camden, New Jersey — except for that institution of evil. Farben had been months ahead of Hitlerin organization financial power and in the conquest of productive installations. The Munich Pact had been signed in September 1938. But even before Munich — and several months before the Nazi troops had marched here in Bohemia — Farben had been negotiating to try and take over this parent company. Also before Munich, another firm had arrived in Prague to compete with Farben. Von Schnitzler had sold a piece of Prager Verein to this competitor before he even had any part of it to sell. (Farben was to get this piece back after gaining a majority control.)
In Von Schnitzler’s own words, seldom had a “great international agreement been concluded so quickly.” At a conference in November 1938, in Berlin, to which the Prager Verein managers were “invited,” Schmitz and Ilgner had come to form an impressive audience to Von Schnitzler’s demands.
The pressure had culminated in a December meeting, Von Schnitzler presiding. The occupation of Prague was still four months away. Von Schnitzler used the Sudetenland occupation as the persuader. He told Prager Verein representatives that he knew they were trying to “sabotage” the deal and that he was going to report to the German government that Prager Verein’s resistance was menacing social peace in the Sudeten area. Unrest could be expected at any moment, he said, and Prager Verein would be responsible. Actually, there were not many Jews in Prager Verein, and Hitler had no plans at all for taking it over.
Missoff chuckled over Von Schnitzler’s commercial generalship. Farben had not only swallowed the lignite mines and dyestuffs of Prager Verein, but all intermediate plants, stocks, good will, patents, and trademarks. Altogether it was no small feat to do in a couple of months the paperwork that turned the fourth largest business on the Continent into a Farben subsidiary. Minskoff was chuckling even after we hit the road again. He quoted Cardozo’s dictum: “Every man has a little larceny in his heart.”

– Portions taken from pages 104 – 106

Regarding their activities in Japan prior to Pearl Harbor

“Minskoff and Von Halle worked hard to “understand” Braus. Under any supervision but that of Buetefisch and Schneider, he would have been a leading chemist. In the late 1930’s, his light had been hidden under their bushel; then he had spent the two years before Pearl Harbor in Japan, building a nitrogen plant for the Mitsubishi combine…. Duerrfeld and Faust directed construction. They made up the labor quotas for all the Farben installations, including the mine. They ruled the inmates on the site.

Yes, Braus said, he had sent on the weekly reports to Buetefisch. Sometimes he reported in person, too. There were other meetings, called “coal conferences,” which both Buetefisch and Ambros attended on the site, and that was how both men were “always informed” about the procurement of inmates for Fuerstengrube and knew how they were treated at the mine site.” – pages 166 – 167

Dow Chemical is a treasonous bastard and their directors should have hanged at Nuremberg…

“I made my usual morning visit to the snack bar to get a cup of coffee and pick up the Stars and Stripes. The lead story prolonged my recess. It was a blast by Representative George Dondero of Michigan against Secretary of War Patterson for his “failure to ferret out ‘Communist sympathizers;” who had “infiltrated into key army posts.”

Representative Dondero had made this charge on the floor of the House. He had named ten of these “sympathizers.” My name was among them. The story recited my present position and quoted Dondero as saying that I was a “known left-winger from the Treasury Department who had been a close student of the Communist Party line.”

During the next days I was called on often to answer this charge. There was quite a flurry at the Grand Hotel, center of American community life in Nurnberg. One day Judge Shake, a medium-built man with a look of honest curiosity, greeted me from his chair in the lobby. He was reading the Stars and Stripes. It was ridiculous—but I felt ill at ease. Four of the ten people named I didn’t know at all. Suppose one of them was a Communist? I shook off the question.

The obvious cause of the attack didn’t occur to me at first. My statement to the press did point out that five of the men named had worked at one time or another on War Department investigations of I.G. Farbenindustrie. I knew them, of course. I challenged Dondero to repeat his charge off the floor of Congress where he would not be immune from a libel suit. And although this was some months before one could conclude that absolutely groundless charges in Congress always went hand-in-hand with cowardice in the accuser, I added that Representative Dondero was “apparently the type of man who, so far from deserving a seat in the United States Congress, should not be trusted with official responsibility of any kind.” That wasn’t the end of it. There were further calls from Washington and Berlin, requesting further denials. How can you add to a denial?

Then the Congressional Record arrived to solve the mystery. Dondero’s speech before the House had not begun with the Communist labels, but rather with a blast against those “who had been trying to blacken the name of I.G.Farben.” The newspapers had recently reported that the Farben trial staff had been investigating alleged stockpiles of magnesium which the Dow Chemical Company had shipped to Farben when our defense program was critically short of magnesium. Was it more than a coincidence that Dow Chemical was located in Dondero’s district? How often had he lobbied in their interest? I determined to forget the incident, telling myself it should have no influence on the court….”

pages 68 – 69







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Move To Amend Organization

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and other related cases, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

We the People, Not We the Corporations

On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions.

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United and other related cases, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule.

We Move to Amend.

“. . . corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”
~Supreme Court Justice Stevens, January 2010


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Ultimate Civics Organization

Our mission is to re-establish that only human beings are endowed with inalienable rights, thus creating a democratic republic in America that is genuinely accountable to the People.

Ultimate Civics started in May 2009 as a project of Earth Island Institute. Our mission was to coalesce a popular movement to support passage of a constitutional amendment abolishing the legal doctrine of “Corporate Personhood.” In October 2009, we co-founded Move to Amend, a national grassroots coalition to amend the U.S. Constitution – corporations are not persons, money is not speech – which now has community chapters in many states. Ultimate Civics niche within the larger movement focuses on three programs:

Energy & Democracy
Education & Democracy
Alaska Democracy Initiative

Although our mission sounds rather grandiose – especially for three people! – it has very simple beginnings. In Alaska, we each grew more and more frustrated with big money in politics and laws that failed to hold corporations accountable to the people. In Cordova, Riki was a plaintiff in The Exxon Valdez Case and dealing with real long-term social, economic and environmental impacts that Exxon denied even existed. Lisa Marie was working at the Cordova Legislative Information Office of the Alaska State Legislature and saw how big money influenced state policies. Meanwhile from Haines, Gershon was designing campaigns to stop big cruise ships from dumping raw sewage into coastal waterways.

After hearing Thomas Linzey speak at Bioneers in 2006, Gershon and Riki attended Linzey’s first Democracy School in Wasilla, Alaska then two more schools in other states over the next year. Riki included the story of the evolution of corporate personhood – “corporate persons” entitled to human rights – in the final chapter of Not One Drop, her second book on the oil spill. She launched on book tour with Lisa Marie as an assistant in September 2008 – right into the national economic meltdown.

The timing was perfect. Many Americans were reeling from job, home, and financial losses and could quickly connect the dots between their losses and giant corporations wielding human rights to amass financial capital and political clout – at the expense of the other 99 percent. Across America, Riki and Lisa Marie found that people supported the idea of amending the U.S. Constitution to affirm that corporations are not persons and money is not speech.

In May 2009 after book tour, Gershon, Riki, and Lisa Marie co-founded Ultimate Civics as a project of Earth Island Institute. Our goal was to coalesce a movement to amend the Constitution. In September 2009 in anticipation of a Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, Ultimate Civics co-founded Move To Amend, a national grassroots coalition to amend the Constitution. In January 2010, the Supreme Court delivered its most blatant statement that corporations are persons entitled to human rights to justify its decision to allow “corporate persons” to spend unlimited amounts of “speech” (money) to influence elections. With that, “corporate persons” suddenly became a national topic of discussion and MoveToAmend.org launched to build the movement.

There is one last twist to our story: how Ultimate Civics came to define its niche in the larger campaign through our three programs. In response to the April 2010 BP blowout in the Gulf, Riki flew to Louisiana to help fishermen deal with the mental, emotional, and physical health impacts of the disaster – and wound up staying for a year! In the process, she laid the foundation for Ultimate Civics’ Energy & Democracy Program: Riki and Lisa Marie work with “accidental activists”, people whose lives have been uprooted by fossil fuel-related disasters and who, like us, want to do something about it. We teach campaign skills through rights-based community organizing and recruit for the larger movement.

While teaching in schools and communities, especially after the Occupy Movement started, we all saw a need for education in the basic democratic arts of overcoming our differences, finding common ground, and working together to move dialogue into action. There was also an opportunity to introduce such lessons into community forums and school programs on sustainability, as sustainability is not attainable without basic democracy – people having control over their future at the local level. This became the work of our Education and Democracy Program.

Gershon builds the larger campaign through our Alaska Democracy Initiative, teaching in high schools and working with communities to pass local resolutions and support a statewide ballot initiative to affirm that only human beings are entitled to constitutional rights.

The Democracy Crisis

Please check out our programs!


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2014 marks the 25th memorial of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, an event that altered lives of everyone it touched––and the Prince William Sound ecosystem, perhaps forever.

I recall with stark clarity the shock of flying over the tanker wreck on March 24, 1989, and seeing the black inky stain of some 11 to 33 million gallons of oil on the water. I made a personal vow that day to work upstream of oil spills to help our nation transition off fossil fuels. With my PhD in marine toxicology, I figured I knew enough to make a difference. More importantly, I cared enough. Certainly, at the time, I didn’t know this would become my life’s work––or where this path would lead.

During the twenty years before the Exxon Valdez oil spill, as I trained to become a marine toxicologist, laws were passed to protect air and water quality, worker safety, and public health and welfare. Back then the science focused only on part of crude oil, the “light ends” that easily dissolved into water or evaporated into air. During the twenty years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, scientists’ understanding of oil impacts in the natural world changed when they focused on another part of crude oil, the heavy black stuff that persists on beaches––the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs.

Ah-hah moments in science, like when Columbus “discovered” that the world was round, are “paradigm shifts.” The world was always round: it was peoples’ understanding of it that changed. Likewise, crude oil was always toxic: scientists’ understanding of it changed when they understood that PAHs were 1,000 times more toxic to wildlife than the light ends. When breathed or absorbed through skin or consumed, PAHs enter cells and jam cell function, causing respiratory problems, central nervous system problems, skin and blood disorders, weakening of the immune system, and chronic problems such as liver and kidney damage and reproductive dysfunction. In short, crude oil is a systemic poison––not just in wildlife, but in people, too. A whole new field of “environmental medicine” emerged as medical researchers and doctors began to understand the symptoms and effects of “chemical illnesses” on the human body from exposure to oil, synthetic oil-based products, chemicals, and other toxins.

Ideally, science drives public policy and education; as science changes, so should the science-based laws and lore. But I had learned, while growing up in Wisconsin and watching my father in his successful battle to ban the systemic poison DDT, that when ordinary people understand the science, the lore changes, then the laws change. So I spent three years writing my first book on the oil spill, Sound Truth and Corporate Myths, to explain how scientists came to “discover” that oil is more toxic than thought in the 1970s and what laws need to be changed to better protect people, wildlife, and our environment. But no laws changed.

Disappointed, but determined, I began to focus more on “the lore” to understand how community experience and teachings change as the collective intelligence adjusts to new information. I learned from experience and writing my second book on the oil spill, Not One Drop, that the Cordova community began to recover from the social, economic and emotional spill trauma when people learned to put aside their differences and work together on strengthening or creating projects that would benefit everyone. My personal ah-hah moment occurred when I realized that shifting this nation off fossil fuels would take a social movement of people who understood the need and were just as determined as me. I left Alaska to help build this movement.

Then the BP Deepwater Horizon well blew in the Gulf of Mexico, creating an oil disaster 10 to 20 times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill. I realized this disaster would have deadly consequences, because the lessons learned since the Exxon Valdez spill had not changed the lore and laws of the land. But I didn’t realize how deadly. The unprecedented use of over 2,000,000 gallons of toxic Corexit dispersants resulted in unprecedented harm to people and wildlife, perhaps forever. The ah-hah moment has dawned on scientists and people sickened by the exposure: the oil industry’s cure for oil spills, dispersants, and oil-dispersant combined are far worse than the harm caused by the oil alone. Yet the EPA and U.S. Coast Guard continue to sanction use of toxic dispersants without consideration of these consequences.

Dispersants are petroleum distillates and industrial solvents. The oil industry mixes large volumes of solvents as dispersants to break up oil slicks, as diluents to thin tar sands oil for transportation, and as fracking fluids to extract oil from oil-bearing shale. The same properties that facilitate the movement of solvents through oil also make it easier for them to move through skin and into the human body. It should not be surprising that people harmed by oil and gas activities, such as the BP DWH disaster (solvent-crude oil combined), tar sands oil spills (solvent-tar sands oil combined), [link] and fracking activities (solvent-light oil combined) are reporting similar sicknesses and symptoms characteristic of exposure to crude oil and oil-based solvents.

It is my hope that, as people’s health, livelihoods, and property are harmed by these extreme oil activities, people will understand the need to shift off oil to safer energy options and take action to achieve true energy independence. This is the movement that I see growing in all regions of our country. This is the movement that I am committed to building.

See you on the Road.



“The transformation starts when we believe that we have the power to act. When enough of us prove another way is possible and demand change, the politicians will have no choice but to follow the people’s lead and make things right in America.

We have the power to stop the oil industry and the federal government from doing more harm. It is time to exercise our power in our communities.” – Riki Ott

For more on Riki Ott please visit her website here http://www.rikiott.dreamhosters.com/

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(202) 514-2008

TDD (202) 514-1888


WASHINGTON, D.C. – A federal grand jury in Corpus Christi, Tex., today returned a 97-count indictment against Koch Industries Inc., Koch Petroleum Group, L.P., and four corporate employees charging them with environmental crimes at a Texas oil refinery.

The defendants are charged with violating federal air and hazardous waste laws at Koch Petroleum Group’s West Plant refinery near Corpus Christi. The indictment also charges the defendants with conspiracy and making false statements to Texas environmental officials.

The West Plant is subject to Clean Air Act standards that limit emissions of benzene. In 1977, the EPA added benzene to the list of hazardous air pollutants based on scientific reports strongly suggesting an increased incidence of leukemia in humans exposed to benzene. The Clean Air Act also requires owners and operators of oil refineries like the West Plant to submit an annual report to federal and state regulators certifying that their refineries comply with benzene regulations.

Under the Act, the West Plant was required to comply with the federal benzene standards by April, 1993, but Koch Petroleum Group applied for and received a compliance waiver until January, 1995. The indictment alleges that in 1995, Koch Industries and Koch Petroleum Group were informed by an employee that the West Plant had at least 91 metric tons of uncontrolled benzene in its liquid waste streams, some 15 times greater than the 6 metric ton limit that applied to the refinery.

“Companies that produce dangerous pollutants simply cannot focus on profit and efficiency at the expense of a community’s health,” said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the environment at the Justice Department. “We will continue to find and prosecute those who would flout our environmental laws.”

The indictment charges Koch Industries and Koch Petroleum Group with violating the Clean Air Act by, among other things, failing to install required emission control devices in 1995 on certain waste management units, such as its oil-water separators, wastewater sewers, and oil and wastewater tanks.

In addition, the indictment alleges that a device that Koch Petroleum Group installed in January 1995 to destroy benzene fumes from two oil-water separators, the Thermatrix Thermal Oxidizer, could not handle the high levels of benzene routed to it, and it would often shut down for extended periods of time.

According to the indictment, when the Thermatrix shut down, the West Plant continued to operate and Koch Industries and Koch Petroleum Group intentionally vented large amounts of untreated benzene fumes directly to the atmosphere through a bypass stack. The benzene released through the bypass stack exceeded 10 pounds per 24-hour period on several occasions, and Koch Industries and Koch Petroleum Group did not report these releases to the National Response Center. As a result, Koch Industries and Koch Petroleum Group and have been charged with violating the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act for failing to immediately report to the National Response Center the discharges of a hazardous substance, namely benzene, from its West Plant.

The defendants then made false and misleading statements to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to conceal the extent of the refinery’s noncompliance with the Clean Air Act, according to the indictment, and falsely certified in a report filed in1996 that the refinery complied with the benzene regulations.

“The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission takes very seriously its responsibility to enforce all environmental laws to protect public health and the environment,” said TNRCC Executive Director Jeff Saitas. “We continue to work closely with state and federal task force members on this and other environmental criminal matters.”

David L. Lamp of Woodlands, Texas, was plant manager of the West Plant from November 1991 until June 1994, when he was promoted to Vice President for Marketing of the Koch Refining and Chemical Group. In May 1996, Lamp became vice president of Texas operations for Koch Refinery Company, which later became Koch Petroleum Group. Lamp is charged with conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and conspiracy to make false statements to Texas environmental officials; with operating the West Plant in violation of the Clean Air Act; and with making false statements to Texas environmental officials. If convicted, Lamp faces a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment and $1.25 million in fines.

Vincent A. Mietlicki of Andover, Kan., was an attorney in the legal department of Koch Industries, Inc. and subsequently the environmental manager of the West Plant. Mietlicki is charged with conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and conspiracy to make false statements to Texas environmental officials; with operating the West Plant in violation of the Clean Air Act; and with two counts of making false statements to Texas environmental officials. If convicted, Mietlicki faces maximum penalties of 35 years imprisonment and $1.75 million in fines.

John C. Wadsworth of Wichita, Kan., was vice president and plant manager of the West Plant from 1994 until 1996. Wadsworth is charged with conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and conspiracy to make false statements to Texas environmental officials. Wadsworth is also charged with operating the West Plant in violation of the Clean Air Act. If convicted, Wadsworth faces maximum penalties of 20 years imprisonment and $1 million in fines.

James W. Weathers, Jr. of Andover, Kan., was environmental engineer from 1992 until 1996, when he became manager of the environmental department at the West Plant. Weathers is charged with conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and conspiracy to make false statement to Texas environmental officials . Weathers is also charged in the indictment with two counts of making false statements to Texas environmental officials. Weathers faces maximum penalties of 20 years imprisonment and $1 million in fines if convicted.

Koch Industries and its subsidiary Koch Petroleum Group face a maximum statutory penalty of $48.5 million. Alternatively, under federal law, the companies may be subject to fines of twice the pecuniary gain realized from the criminal offenses, in lieu of the maximum penalty under the applicable statutes. According to the indictment, Koch Industries and Koch Petroleum Group earned profits of more than $176 million in 1995, while operating the refinery in violation of the Clean Air Act. One goal of the alleged conspiracy was to maximize profits and avoid shutting down the refinery, which did not meet environmental standards.

The case was investigated by the Texas Environmental Enforcement Task Force, comprised of federal and state agencies, including the FBI, the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission’s Special Investigations Unit. The case is being prosecuted by the Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section.

“Today’s indictments demonstrate the importance of close cooperation with our state and federal task force partners,” said Steve Herman, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “We will continue to work vigorously with other enforcement agencies to ensure that the public is protected from chemical pollution in the air.”

An indictment is a formal charge that a defendant has committed a criminal violation of federal law. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

To view the Department of Justice Press Release click on the link below.

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PBS Bill Moyers Journal – JUSTICE FOR SALE

February 19, 2010

This is a critically important look at our current justice system. You can watch the program by accessing from the link above or you can read the transcripts below.

February 19, 2010

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal. That famous definition of a cynic as someone who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing has come to define this present moment of American politics. The power of money drives cynicism into the heart of all levels of government. Everything — and everyone — comes with a price tag attached; from a seat at the table in the White House to a seat in Congress to the fate of health care reform, our environment and efforts to hold Wall Street accountable.

On the right and the left and in the vast middle more and more Americans doubt that representative democracy can survive this corruption of money.

Last month, the Supreme Court carried cynicism to new heights with its decision in the Citizens United case. A case, you will recall, spun from a legal dispute over the airing on a pay-per-view channel of a documentary attacking Hillary Clinton. The decision could have been made very narrowly. Instead, the conservative majority of five judges issued a sweeping opinion that greatly expands corporate power over our politics.

Since then, in at least two separate polls an overwhelming majority of Americans say they want no part of the court’s decision; they want even more limits on the power of money in elections. But candidates, special interests, and their campaign consultants are gearing up to exploit the court’s gift in the fall elections. Media outlets are licking their chops at the prospect of all that extra money spent on buying airtime.

If you want to know just how corrosive this flood of money may turn out to be, look to the decision’s potential impact on our court system, where as you know, integrity, independence and fair play count the most when it comes to preserving faith in our system. In 39 states, judges have to run for election. That’s more than eighty percent of the state judges in the country.

The Citizens United decision means those elected judges are even more susceptible to the corrupting influence of cash, because many of their decisions in civil cases directly affect corporate America, and a significant amount of the money judges raise for their campaigns comes from lobbyists and lawyers.

There’s now a crooked sign hanging on every courthouse in America reading “Justice for Sale.” It was already apparent ten years ago. That’s when I collaborated with public television’s “Frontline” and the Center for Investigative Reporting on a documentary, produced by Steve Talbot and Sheila Kaplan, about the impact of money on judicial elections.

In the ten years before our report, candidates for high court judgeships in states around the country raised $85 million dollars. In the decade since, the numbers have more than doubled to over $200 million dollars. In this extended excerpt, you’ll see how money crept into judicial elections in three states — Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Texas — and you’ll get a stark foreshadowing of what could come now that the Supreme Court has announced the sky’s the limit. You’ll also hear from two Supreme Court justices who went on to participate in the Citizens United decision, one of whom wrote the majority opinion. He sings a very different tune now from the one he sang for our cameras eleven years ago.

We begin in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

BILL MOYERS: District Attorney Peter Paul Olszewski knows that if he wants to become a judge, these days he has to campaign like a politician- on television.


ED MITCHELL, MEDIA CONSULTANT: As District Attorney, Peter Paul Olszewski considers it his duty to fight crime. Okay. You’ve got to look a little more animated, Peter, okay?


ANNOUNCER: District Attorney, Peter Paul Olszewski considered it his duty to fight crime-

BILL MOYERS: To pay for his expensive T.V. ads, Olszewski has to raise lots of money. And where does the money chase take him? To the very lawyers who may one day appear before him in court.

LAWYER: And I look forward to that first time that I’m standing before you, and I have to say, “Your Honor.” I really am! You know that would be the greatest thrill!

BILL MOYERS: Judge Tom Burke is already on the court. To hold off a strong challenger, he reckons he’ll need to raise $250,000. That means a lot of time at country-club fundraisers.

JUDGE TOM BURKE: You choose to enter a campaign, and one of the first things that you realize is this is all about selling yourself over the next 6 to 12 months.

HELEN LAVELLE, MEDIA CONSULTANT: It’s almost like an impulsive buy at a supermarket, you know? That’s how people vote, based on emotion. We have spent an inordinate amount of time-

BILL MOYERS: A quarter of a million dollars enables Judge Burke to afford a high-priced media consultant and commercials that are ready for primetime.

HELEN LAVELLE: Am I concerned with having the most cinematic music that I can possibly have behind the radio spot? Am I concerned about what the light looks like when our candidate walks into a courtroom? Am I concerned about how he looks, that we present him the way he should be seen by the voters, as a dignified, wonderful, humble, hardworking, incredible, deserving-of-your-vote kind of guy? Yes, I do. They are emotional ways, emotional angles that I go in. And yes, people do vote based on that.

ANNOUNCER: Every day, Judge Tom Burke brings a lifetime of experience to his Luzerne County courtroom. As a father of five, he’s concerned for the future of our children. As your judge, Tom Burke is committed to seeing that those in his courtroom are held accountable for their actions. Vote for Judge Tom Burke.

JUDGE FRED PIERANTONI: Hey, thanks for coming out, Mr. Capp. I appreciate that.

BILL MOYERS: Meanwhile, back in the pack, the challengers must hunt for voters the old-fashioned way, handshake by handshake. Municipal Judge Fred Pierantoni, a descendant of coal miners, does his fundraising with frankfurters.

JUDGE FRED PIERANTONI: After this election, I won’t touch a hot dog for at least six months.

BILL MOYERS: The proceeds from his fundraisers are modest, and he can afford only the most basic — and noisy — campaign commercial.

ANNOUNCER: Over 25,000 cases in 7 years. Assistant district attorney 5 years. District justice 7 years. Judge Pierantoni. The experience you want. Pierantoni, the people’s judge.

VIRGINIA MURTHA COWLEY: Going on the bus? My name is Virginia Murtha Cowley. I’m running for judge.

BILL MOYERS: Virginia Cowley is also short of funds. Her hopes depend on kinfolk and the public’s sweet tooth.

VIRGINIA MURTHA COWLEY: My name is Virginia Murtha Cowley. I’m running for judge. Here’s a lucky cookie to remember me by.

COWLEY’S MEDIA CONSULTANT: There are really just a couple of points that I’d like to hit in the commercial that need to come out of your mouth. One of them is,” Virginia is one tough cookie.”

ANNOUNCER: People are talking about Virginia Murtha Cowley for judge.

MAN: Virginia is one tough cookie.

VIRGINIA MURTHA COWLEY: Protecting our children, our senior citizens, keeping our neighborhoods safe. That’s what this job is all about.

ANNOUNCER: Vote Virginia Murtha Cowley — Judge.

VIRGINIA MURTHA COWLEY: What it has become is the ability to buy the seat. If you can- if you have a half a million dollars, you can basically go out there and get your name on T.V. so many times that you will have bought yourself a job for the rest of your life.

BILL MOYERS: True enough, the winners for the two open seats are the candidates who raised the most money and made the most expensive T.V. commercials. It’s a system that disturbs even the winning media consultant.

HELEN LAVELLE, MEDIA CONSULTANT: Other people who are in my profession will be ready to kill me. I don’t care. I don’t. I think that the amount of money flowing around out there to get people judicial seats is obscene. It’s unfair, and people are ending up with a chance to be on a bench who have no business being there. I really believe that we are in a system where elections can be bought. It’s sad.

BILL MOYERS: That’s what concerned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, so they appointed a commission chaired by Philadelphia attorney Jim Mundy to investigate the election process.

JIM MUNDY, PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT COMMISSION: When we made the quantum leap to media campaigns in judicial elections, we lost perspective. And now you see contributions of a $1,000, $2,000, $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, $25,000. I think that changes the whole ballgame now.

BILL MOYERS: It takes over a million dollars these days to get elected to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, and there are no limits on how much an individual can give. This group, a business lobby, is raising money to bankroll candidates for the court.

BILL COOK, PRES., PENNSYLVANIANS FOR EFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT: We actually got involved in judge campaigns back in 1989. And we realized from our old Civics 101 that there are three stools of government. One is the executive, obviously, the legislature, both of which we play very well in. And in Pennsylvania, the odd-numbered years are the judicial elections. In ’93, ’95 and ’97 we got involved in Supreme Court campaigns.

BILL MOYERS: Having fared well with the state legislature, Bill Cook’s outfit is now determined to elect a state Supreme Court which would be sympathetic to business interests.

BILL COOK: And there are issues that we want the legislature to pass, that we want the governor to sign into law. And we would certainly like to have justices find those issues constitutional when they come before them.

BILL MOYERS: The perception that special interests are buying favor with judges prompted the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to conduct a public opinion poll.

JIM MUNDY, PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT COMMISSION: What we found is that people believe that money buys judicial favor. Eighty-nine percent believe that most of the time, some of the time, or all of the time judicial decisions are affected by monetary contributions. If we had no other data than that, we would know we had a problem.

BILL MOYERS: The concern that each of you express was in particular about campaign contributions to judicial races. Why do you see that as a threat to independence and neutrality?

JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, U.S. SUPREME COURT: In part, it’s because the campaign process itself does not easily adapt to judicial selection. Democracy is raucous, hurly-burly, rough-and-tumble. This is a difficult world for a jurist, a scholarly, detached neutral person to operate within.

Now, when you add the component of this mad scramble to raise money and to spend money, it becomes even worse for the obvious reason that we’re concerned that there will be either the perception or the reality that judicial independence is undermined.

JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER, U.S. SUPREME COURT: And independence doesn’t mean you decide the way you want. Independence means you decide according to the law and the facts. Law and the facts do not include deciding according to campaign contributions. And if that’s what people think, that threatens the institution of the judiciary. To threaten the institution is to threaten fair administration of justice and protection of liberty.

BILL MOYERS: New Orleans, Louisiana. In the city they call “The Big Easy,” money has been known to buy elections. And that’s exactly what’s got a lot of people worried that justice, too, might be up for sale.

ANNOUNCER: For 25 years, Chief Justice Pascal Calogero has set the standard for what a judge should be-

BILL MOYERS: Up for reelection last year, the chief justice of the Louisiana supreme court was targeted by a business group, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, known as LABI. They considered his voting record on the court anti-business.

GINGER SAWYER, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, LABI: We don’t pick our opponents lightly when we make selections of people to target for replacing on the bench. The primary way to make the selection was tracking all the decisions the Supreme Court has made over the last 25 years. So we drew from the 25-year history 50 cases and determined how each one of the judges had voted on the merits of those cases.

Chief Justice Pascal Calogero had a 3 percent voting record. Now, that’s totally unacceptable, to the business community’s way of thinking.

CHIEF JUSTICE PASCAL CALOGERO: I’ve cast 50,000 votes in 25 years on this court. If you want to go back and look at and pick and choose the cases in which you think that a given vote was wrong or indicated a leaning of some sort, it’s very easy.

GINGER SAWYER: He complained that she had hand-picked the issues. Well, certainly I hand-picked the issues. Was I going to let him pick the issues?

BILL MOYERS: LABI had the money. Now all they needed was someone to spend it on.

GINGER SAWYER: The first thing is to find a good candidate. And we really worked for a long time to find Chuck Cusimano. He had been in the legislature. He was a sitting judge in Jefferson Parish. He was an aggressive, vibrant candidate.

WENDELL GAUTHIER, TRIAL ATTORNEY: LABI had previously elected two supreme court justices, had poured a lot of money into their campaigns, and now had determined to get rid of this chief justice who had been fair to both sides all of his life. But the business community now does not care about the credentials or the qualifications of the candidate. They care about one thing: How will you vote? Will you vote with us? And so they chose to go out and get a candidate that would be completely aligned with them.

It used to be that you didn’t attack the other candidates. That was especially true in judicial races. Nowadays, it’s attack, attack, attack. And that lays at the feet of the business community. They started the attacks, and they just- I mean, they lay it on against the chief justice.

A guy that has given his life to public service in Louisiana, been involved in no scandals and no corruption, and then to have the business community, because of greedy, motivated, selfish interests go after him- it was appalling.

BILL MOYERS: To understand what happened in this campaign to Justice Calogero, there’s a story you need to know, a story about a small town called Convent along the Mississippi River in St. James Parish.

This stretch of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is known as the “Chemical Corridor.” Seven major oil refineries and hundreds of chemical and other industrial sites make this one of the most polluted places in the nation. Locals call it “Cancer Alley.”

Governor Mike Foster, a wealthy businessman with a Cajun accent and a “good ol’ boy” style, was elected in 1995 on a platform of attracting more industry to Louisiana. In this ad in “The Wall Street Journal,” the governor proclaimed that Louisiana is “Bending over backwards” to attract new companies with promises of tax breaks and legal protection from lawsuits.

PAT MELANCON: We’ve got just about every kind of chemical plant that you can imagine here. Most of these chemicals are either known cancer-causing chemicals or they’re suspected to cause cancer in humans.

Right now, I have a father-in-law that’s dying of pancreatic cancer. I lost my mother at 57 from cancer. My neighbor died of cancer. The next-door neighbor to us, my aunt behind us, all died of cancer.

BILL MOYERS: Encouraged by Governor Foster, Shintech, a subsidiary of a Japanese company, announced plans to construct a huge $700 million polyvinyl chloride plant near Convent. The governor was delighted, and his Department of Environmental Quality quickly approved the Shintech plant. Then something unexpected happened. Residents of Convent banded together to try to stop it. GLORIA BRAXTON: We got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Now, that’s bottom line. Enough is enough!

BRENDA HUGUET: If they’d only enforce the laws that’s on the books now, we wouldn’t have all the problems we have today. But what they’re doing is overlooking the problems. Or when they do the inspections, it’s covered up.

PROF. OLIVER HOUCK, TULANE LAW SCHOOL: We have plants in Louisiana that discharge into the Mississippi River, single plants that discharge more than all of industry discharges in the state of New Jersey. We have three or four plants that outdo Ohio. I mean, we have world-class pollution here. The contamination levels that go into the Mississippi River are phenomenal. And unlike other states, we drink this river.

BILL MOYERS: Oliver Houck founded the Environmental Law Clinic at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches law. Students at the clinic often provide legal services to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. The state Supreme Court has allowed this student lawyer assistance for almost 30 years under a regulation called Rule 20.

The low-income residents of Convent could not afford to hire lawyers to fight Shintech. Instead, they turned to students at the law clinic.

PROF. OLIVER HOUCK: When Shintech came in, we raised the issue head-on. Is this environmentally just? This is a heavy-polluting plant. It’s right in the middle of a community that has already got six other plants overloading it with these same chemicals.

If you look at the levels of contaminants these people are breathing, they’re like 100 times what people breathe in the United States. They’re more than 20 times what people breathe even in the chemical corridor of Louisiana. I mean, this is just astronomically unfair.

BILL MOYERS: At first, Tulane was apprehensive about challenging a powerful corporation and a popular governor. But the Convent group persisted, and the law clinic finally decided to take on the case.

LISA JORDAN, ACTING DIRECTOR, TULANE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CLINIC: In the beginning, of course, I had thought that, well, the chances- just objectively, the chances of winning this case — as winning to them meant that the plant wouldn’t come at all — were slim, considering everything that was against us in terms of the administration. And as I started going to the meetings, just the level of conviction that they had started actually convincing me, you know, we may- we may actually have a chance here.

PAT MELANCON: We have come together here in the face of a terrible evil, the pollution, contamination, and destruction of the only environment we have.

LISA JORDAN: Pat is extremely smart, extremely savvy. She thinks like a lawyer.

PAT MELANCON: We filed an environmental justice petition. We have also filed a Title 6 administrative complaint, which is a civil rights complaint. And there are perhaps more actions that are going to be filed.

BILL MOYERS: While the students were teaching their clients about the law, the Convent folks were giving the students a lesson in the real world of Louisiana politics.

LISA JORDAN: You always hear that a committed group of individuals can accomplish anything. And I’d always heard it but, you know, if you don’t have the personal experience, you think “Right.” And they did. I mean this group accomplished something that no one would ever have given them any chance of accomplishing when this first started, including myself.

PAT MELANCON: Shintech will not locate in St. James Parish!

BILL MOYERS: In 1997, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled in favor of the Convent residents, saying the proposed Shintech factory failed to meet air pollution standards.

PROF. OLIVER HOUCK: Shintech is a great victory, a huge victory. I mean it’s a big win. But the Governor’s is not about winning like that. The Governor’s about making sure that the clinic doesn’t get in the way of anything he proposes again. It’s revenge time.

GOV. MIKE FOSTER: [COURTESY LOUISIANA PUBLIC BROADCASTING] I can tell you this. I’m going to look differently at Tulane from a perspective of being- of having major tax breaks. If what they’re going to do is support a bunch of vigilantes out there, they can make their own law.

PROF. OLIVER HOUCK: So he came down here to New Orleans, and he told, among other things, the Chamber of Commerce and our alumni not to contribute money to Tulane. He went to the state legislature and threatened to introduce legislation to eliminate Tulane’s tax exemptions.

If we don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. They knew that. If they can get us out of the game, it doesn’t matter if there’s environmental law. It’ll just never be applied to them. So this is sweet. They don’t have to go to Congress and repeal any law. All they have to do is repeal us.

BILL MOYERS: The governor and his allies did not want the Tulane Law Clinic to stop another Shintech. To restrain the students, they had to convince the State Supreme Court to change Rule 20. Which brings us back to Chief Justice Calogero. The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry sent a letter to the chief justice asking him to revise Rule 20 to restrict the Tulane students. The environmental clinic, they said, is “bad for business.”

This put Chief Justice Calogero in an awkward position. He had long supported Rule 20. Back in 1993, when a state agency asked him to change the rule, he refused. But now Calogero was running for reelection under pressure from a well-financed challenger. The Chief Justice desperately needed to prove that he, too, was good for business.

PROF. OLIVER HOUCK: So Calogero was facing his political future. And he can’t sit on it anymore. He’s got to rule.

BILL MOYERS: And rule he did, this time in favor of changing Rule 20. The court required that a group must prove that 75 percent of its members are indigent and provide evidence that they are living below the poverty line. The effect was to sharply restrict the ability of the Tulane Law Clinic to help citizens take on environmental cases like Shintech. The Governor praised Calogero’s Supreme Court for changing Rule 20.

PAT MELANCON: We don’t have our access to courts because Rule 20 has made sure the modifications that made sure we can’t have access. And so the working poor in this community and in this state do not have equal access to the law and the protections of the law.

PROF. OLIVER HOUCK: The week he cuts the deal — he’s a Democrat — 29, I believe, members of the New Orleans business community, leading Republicans, endorse the Democrat. Could be a coincidence…

BILL MOYERS: Now the money started flowing from business leaders and corporate defense lawyers, including the attorneys who represented Shintech. In the end, Calogero raised over a million dollars and beat Cusimano by a comfortable margin.

PROF. BILL QUIGLEY, LOYOLA SCHOOL OF LAW, NEW ORLEANS: The Louisiana Supreme Court commissioned a poll about confidence in the judiciary, and they asked people, “Did politics play a role in the judiciary in Louisiana?” And the response was not “Yes” or “No.” The first response was laughter because everybody knows that in Louisiana, certainly politics plays a role.

But from the point of view of the people who had lawyers last year and can’t get lawyers next year, this is not about electoral politics. This is about justice. This is about somebody slamming the courthouse door shut, locking it and nailing it shut and excluding a large group of people from ever getting to court.

PAT MELANCON: We know that our legislature and our Governor- we’re convinced that these people are bought and paid for by the corporations that buy their campaigns and pay for their campaigns. But what we hoped was that at least we could get a fair hearing in the courts, that at least the judicial branch of government would be open to us, and we’d have equal access to the laws and the protections in the law. But instead of that happening, they’re giving all the protections to multi-national corporations, and the citizens are being shut out.

BILL MOYERS: When it comes to the most partisan, expensive, knock-down, drag-out brawls for control of a state Supreme Court, Texas is the heavyweight champion. Twenty years ago it was widely known that Democrats and personal injury lawyers owned the courts here, making Texas the lawsuit capital of the world.

In those days, there were no limits on Texas campaign contributions, and trial lawyers made enormous donations to justices on the bench, who often ruled in their favor.

TOM PHILLIPS, CHIEF JUSTICE, TEXAS SUPREME COURT: A sitting judge, he had taken contributions from a single individual as high as $120,000 and had several contributions in the $50,000-plus range from people that did a lot of business with the Texas Supreme Court.

BILL MOYERS: The Texas Medical Association spearheaded a campaign by business to take back the courts. Videos like this were widely distributed to doctors to rally the troops.

ANNOUNCER: In the early 1970s, a handful of the richest, most powerful personal injury lawyers in Texas devised a scheme to seize control of the Texas Supreme Court-

KIM ROSS, LOBBYIST, TEXAS MEDICAL ASSOC.: We aggressively organized physicians across the state to challenge the members of the court, and that was a very aggressive grass-roots campaign called Clean Slate ’88. Obviously, politics in Texas is a full-contact, no-pad sport to begin with, and judicial politics at that time even more so. And so we didn’t want them to be shy, and we didn’t want to be shy in how we conveyed it. So it was- it was anything but a soft sell.

BILL MOYERS: TEXPAC hit the Supreme Court like a Texas twister. In one year alone, 1988, five of the nine justices were swept from office, replaced by TEXPAC-supported judges.

1ST JUSTICE: I wouldn’t be on the Texas Supreme Court if it wasn’t for the help that the medical community gave me.

2ND JUSTICE: I would like to thank all of the participants of the Clean Slate Coalition.

KIM ROSS: The initial sweep surprised us and was exhilarating, of course. To have pulled it off with five out of six, you know, was exhilarating. And I think it redefined judicial politics, at least for this era.

ANNOUNCER: Who should be chief justice? Prominent Democrats endorse Republican Tom Phillips-

NARRATOR: Tom Phillips was elected as part of Clean Slate ’88, running as a Republican and a campaign finance reformer.

ANNOUNCER: And only Phillips has said no to big money with strict limits on campaign contributions.

CHIEF JUSTICE TOM PHILLIPS: When I ran for my first term, I put a voluntary limit on campaign contributions and tried very hard to get support from as broad a base of people as possible.

PROF. ANTHONY CHAMPAGNE, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Tom Phillips has a serious interest in reform, and yet he is probably the best judicial fundraiser in the world. I think he’s probably raised more money in his judicial career than any other judicial candidate. So he’s sort of caught up in a bad situation where he feels this is improper and distasteful, but the fact of the matter is, this is something that has to be done under the current system.

BILL MOYERS: Phillips was not alone in wanting reform. Justice Bob Gammage, a Democrat, found himself playing by rules he didn’t like.

BOB GAMMAGE, FORMER JUSTICE, TEXAS SUPREME COURT: As a candidate, I spent a disproportionate amount of my time on the telephone making calls, going to fund-raising events. That’s the way the system is geared.

BILL MOYERS: Like many politicians, he employed one of the most effective campaign techniques, the negative ad.

BOB GAMMAGE: The more money you have, the more you’re permitted to run positive. The less money you have, the more you have to go to the negative. I had less money than any of them. My ads were almost totally negative. I don’t like to do that, but I had no choice. I had to penetrate the media markets.

BILL MOYERS: In 1995, he and Phillips formed a bipartisan alliance to reform campaign finance laws. They persuaded the legislature to pass a reform law limiting contributions to $5,000 per person. But campaign costs continued to skyrocket. Hospitals, insurance companies, banks, developers together were spending millions of dollars on Texas Supreme Court races.

CHIEF JUSTICE TOM PHILLIPS: In 1990, I had a very expensive election. I think it was $2.6 million. Had I unilaterally disarmed, I probably would be on the street today practicing law.

BILL MOYERS: While Tom Phillips stayed in the money race, Bob Gammage called it quits in 1995 after one term. The system, he says, is just too corrupt.

BOB GAMMAGE: People don’t go pour money into campaigns because they want fair and impartial treatment. They pump money into campaigns because they want things to go their way. Why else would the contributors be there? They have interests to pursue. They have agendas to pursue. In some cases, they have ideologies to pursue. They’re not just bland, benign philosophies. They want results.

BILL MOYERS: The consumer rights group Texans for Public Justice studies the impact of money on court decisions. Director Craig McDonald cites dozens of examples where campaign contributions create the appearance of impropriety.

CRAIG MCDONALD, DIR., TEXANS FOR PUBLIC JUSTICE: We would never allow umpires in a baseball game to be paid by the baseball players. Yet in Texas we allow the Supreme Court justices to be paid, if you will, from the very parties who are appearing before them to be judged.

It’s the big law firms who appear there consistently, the corporations and the corporate PACs with cases before the judges. And judges at the Supreme Court level are almost completely reliant on these sources for their seats on the bench. And there are many cases that raise your eyebrows.

BILL MOYERS: It’s a problem that troubles two U.S. Supreme Court Justices. Let me just give you some statistics from a poll conducted by the Texas state supreme court and the Texas bar association, which found that 83 percent of the public think judges are already unduly influenced by campaign contributions; 79 percent of the lawyers who appear before the judges think campaign contributions significantly influence courtroom decisions, and almost half of the justices on the court think the same thing. I mean, isn’t the verdict in from the people that they cannot trust the judicial system there anymore?

JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, U.S. SUPREME COURT: This is serious because the law commands allegiance only if it commands respect. It commands respect only if the public thinks the judges are neutral. And when you have figures like that, the judicial system is in real trouble.

BILL MOYERS: We actually talked to a lobbyist in Texas who boasted that he had succeeded in reshaping the philosophy of the Texas supreme court through an all-out political campaign and very large donations. I mean, what does that say?

JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I think it shows that if you have one group of people doing it, you’ll get another group of people doing it. And if you have “A” contributing to affect a court one way, you’ll have “B” trying the other way, and you’ll have “C” yet a third way. And pretty soon you’ll have a clash of political interests.

Now, that’s fine for a legislature. I mean, that’s one kind of a problem. But if you have that in the court system, you will then destroy confidence that the judges are deciding things on the merits. And if people lose that confidence, an awful lot is lost. They’ve got to have fair decisions.

JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, U.S. SUPREME COURT: In the political context, “fair” means somebody that will vote for the union or for the business. It can’t mean that in the judicial context or we’re in real trouble.

BILL MOYERS: What does it mean?

JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, U.S. SUPREME COURT: To begin with, we have to ask, is it fair for the electorate to try to shape the philosophy at all, without campaign contributions? Is this a proper function? I am concerned about that. I do not think that we should select judges based on a particular philosophy as opposed to temperament, commitment to judicial neutrality and commitment to other more constant values as to which there is general consensus.

BILL MOYERS: The historian Plutarch said in “The Roman Republic,” quote, “The abuse of buying and selling votes crept in, and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread to the law courts and then to the army. And finally, the Republic was subjected to the rule of emperors.”

JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, U.S. SUPREME COURT: There must be a recommitment, a rededication to the Constitution in every generation. And every generation faces a different challenge. We weren’t talking about this 30 years ago because we didn’t have money in elections. Money in elections presents us with a tremendous challenge, a tremendous problem, and we are remiss if we don’t at once address it and correct it.

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