News Release Archive - 2008

The Trouble with Eric Holder

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Media reports indicate that President-elect Obama will be nominating Eric Holder, a former Clinton administration official, as attorney general.

The following are available for interviews:

JOHN NICHOLS
A columnist with The Nation magazine, Nichols just wrote the piece “The Trouble With Eric Holder.”

The piece states that “Holder was part of the legal team that in 2005 developed strategies for securing re-authorization of the Patriot Act.”

MARIO MURILLO
Murillo just wrote the piece “Human Rights Contradictions Evident With Obama’s Attorney General Pick: Holder’s Links to Chiquita Brands International Not a Good Sign for Justice for the Victims of Paramilitary Terror.”

Murillo is associate professor of communication at Hofstra University in New York and the author of Colombia and the United States: War, Unrest and Destabilization. He is currently living in Colombia, finishing another book.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

To Generate Revenue, Tax the Casino

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CHUCK COLLINS
Collins is senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he coordinates the Working Group on Extreme Inequality. He wrote the piece “A Fair Plan to Pay for Economic Recovery,” which states: “The corporations that rigged the casino economy and the wealthy CEOs and investors that profited at everyone else’s expense should bear the recovery costs, not our kids and grandchildren.”

Among Collins’ specific proposals:
“Institute a Financial Transactions Tax. Congress should levy a tax on financial transactions such as sale and purchase of stock and more exotic transactions such as credit default swaps, options, and futures. The UK has a modest financial transaction tax of 0.25 percent, a penny on every $4 invested. This is negligible for a long-term investor, but imposes a cost on the fast-buck flippers. Estimated annual revenue: $100 billion. …

“Eliminate the Tax Preference for Capital Gains. Wealth extracted from Wall Street windfalls will pay out income for years to come. There’s no economic reason for taxing income from corporate dividends and capital gains at 15 percent while taxing income from actual work at 35 percent. Taxing wealth and work at the same rates would generate $95 billion a year in revenue. …

“Eliminate Taxpayer Subsidies for Excessive CEO Pay. Five loopholes that benefit top executives should be abolished. These include eliminating offshore deferred compensation, capping the tax deductibility of excessive pay and eliminating double standards for stock option accounting. Closing these tax loopholes would generate $20 billion a year. …

“Close Offshore Corporate Tax Havens. Congress should prevent corporations from playing games by claiming expenses in the United States and profits in countries that don’t collect taxes. According to the Government Accountability Office, two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no corporate income tax between 1998 and 2005. Closing this loophole would generate over $100 billion.”

Collins’ books include Robin Hood Was Right and, with William H. Gates Sr., Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Anti-War Candidate, Pro-War Cabinet?

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“I don’t want to just end the war; I want to end the mindset that got us into war.”
— Barack Obama
Feb. 19, 2008

ROBERT PARRY
Parry is editor of ConsortiumNews.com, a reader-supported investigative webpage. His recent pieces include “The Danger of Keeping Robert Gates” and “Obama Risks Clinton-Era Mistakes,” which states: “After a masterful campaign, Barack Obama seems headed toward some fateful mistakes as he assembles his administration by heeding the advice of Washington’s Democratic insider community, a collective group that represents little ‘change you can believe in.’ …”

Parry’s books include Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.

ROBERT NAIMAN
Naiman is senior policy analyst and national coordinator at Just Foreign Policy. He recently wrote the piece “For Middle East Peace, Dennis Ross Is Not the Change We Seek.”

STEPHEN ZUNES
Professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus, Zunes has written numerous pieces on Obama’s foreign policy.
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SAM HUSSEINI
Communications director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, Husseini said today: “‘Diversity’ is now often being twisted into a euphemism for Obama including Republicans in his Cabinet. While Obama repeatedly referenced his 2002 speech against the invasion of Iraq during the campaign as evidence of the flawed judgment of others, he is now reportedly considering numerous individuals who supported the invasion and/or made false claims about Iraq to fill high-level foreign policy positions.

“In fact, it looks like there will be little diversity on this critical count. Obama has already chosen Biden, who voted for war and enabled it in many ways, and Rahm Emanuel, who pushed for it. Meanwhile, 23 senators and 133 House members who voted against the war — and countless other notable individuals who spoke out against it and the dubious claims leading to war — are apparently not even being considered for these crucial positions.”
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Background: Here are some claims by named and possible officials in an Obama administration:

JOSEPH BIDEN: Voted in 2002 to authorize the invasion of Iraq. In his floor speech at the time he claimed: “[Saddam Hussein] possesses chemical and biological weapons and is seeking nuclear weapons.” As then-chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he oversaw hearings which excluded former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter and other individuals who where highly critical of claims regarding Iraq’s alleged possessions of weapons of mass destruction. See: “Biden: What Kind of Foreign Policy ‘Experience’?

HILLARY CLINTON: Voted for the 2002 authorization for the Iraq war. In her 2002 floor speech, she stated that “intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program.” (Oct. 10, 2002)

RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Was ambassador to the United Nations toward the end of the Clinton administration. Claimed shortly after Colin Powell’s speech to the UN: “It was a masterful job of diplomacy by Colin Powell and his colleagues, and it does not require a second vote to go to war. … Saddam is the most dangerous government leader in the world today, he poses a threat to the region, he could pose a larger threat if he got weapons of mass destruction deployed, and we have a legitimate right to take action.” (MSNBC, Jan. 23, 2003)

DENNIS ROSS: Mideast envoy during the Clinton administration, he made numerous appearances on Fox News Channel during the build-up for the Iraq invasion pressing for war, for example: “And the fact is that [Hussein] felt he was able to continue to pursue weapons of mass destruction, even while all of the resolutions demanding his disarmament were put into play, and you had inspectors on the ground.” (Fox News Channel, Dec. 22, 2002)

JOHN KERRY: Voted for the 2002 authorization for the Iraq war. Stated at the time: “Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclear weapons when most nations don’t even try? … According to intelligence, Iraq has chemical and biological weapons … Iraq is developing unmanned aerial vehicles capable of delivering chemical and biological warfare agents…” (Oct. 9, 2002)

SUSAN RICE: Assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration. Before the invasion of Iraq, she claimed: “I think he [then Secretary of State Colin Powell] has proved that Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them, and I don’t think many informed people doubted that.” (NPR, Feb. 6, 2003)

BILL RICHARDSON: Was ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration in the late 1990s during which time he claimed Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction: “We think this man is a threat to the international community, and he threatens a lot of the neighbors in his region and future generations there with anthrax and VX.” (Feb. 11, 1998)

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Global Activists on Economic Summit

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As the G-20 convenes in Washington, D.C. this weekend to discuss the global financial system, grassroots activists working on poverty and other issues will be in D.C. and available for interviews.

Many are organizing protests and educational events in the coming days. Events in D.C. this weekend are listed online.

The following activists just arrived in the U.S. and will be here until early next week:

LIDY NACPIL
NJOKI NJEHU
Based in the Philippines, Nacpil is coordinator of the Jubilee South-Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development. Njehu is co-coordinator of Africa Jubilee South, based in Nairobi, Kenya. The Jubilee movement calls for the canceling of onerous debt that poor nations owe to major Western banks and institutions like the International Monetary Fund.

Nacpil said today: “The financial crisis has certainly had a detrimental impact on many in the U.S. and Europe, but it’s important to see that the current financial system has been devastating to many around the world and fundamental changes are needed.”

KUMI NAIDOO
Based in South Africa, Naidoo is co-chair of the Global Call for Action Against Poverty. He said today: “We need to see some moral courage from our leaders now. There is a storm ahead for millions of people already living in abject poverty. Servicing debts in the current climate is crippling fragile economies, leading to increased hunger, child labor as well as more domestic and community violence. We need to see the same urgency now that leaders demonstrated when it came to rescuing the banks just weeks ago.”

Scores of nonprofit groups have signed a statement on the “Global Summit” and a statement outlining “New Principles and Rules to Build an Economic System that Works for People and the Planet.” See Choike, an extensive portal on Global South civil societies.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Election Lessons

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HARVEY WASSERMAN
Wasserman is co-author of the books What Happened in Ohio? and As Goes Ohio. He said today: “The primary election protection lesson of the 2008 election is that the entire nation must convert to universal automatic voter registration and universal hand-counted paper ballots as soon as possible. Even with thousands of election protection volunteers in the field, there were clear efforts to disenfranchise millions of Americans and to steal vote counts. All Americans must be automatically registered when they turn 18. Electronic voting machines must be scrapped. Voting opportunities must be expanded.”

MATTHEW SEGAL
Segal is the founder and executive director of the Student Association for Voter Empowerment. He said today: “Whereas in the past someone would have to physically hang flyers around campus in order to spread misinformation, we are now seeing these sinister acts conducted through mobile phones and online mechanisms — these exponentially increase deceptive voting practices. Because campaigns and the political parties use text messaging so frequently, false statements from mobile phones look incredibly real and create massive confusion. If the statements are not repudiated in time, they might even disenfranchise people. And because young voters, who are often new voters, are sometimes unclear as to the ambiguous voting laws in their states, such messages have a disproportionately negative impact on youth.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Auto Bailout

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SUSAN STEIGERWALT
A practicing physician in Detroit and past president of Physicians for a National Health Program, Steigerwalt said today: “The auto industry would be saving a huge amount of money and would not be in such dire straits if we had a single-payer healthcare system. The same is true for many industries and our country as a whole.”

For background see: “Shifting the health insurance burden: In Canada, GM and Ford executives and other business leaders laud single-payer health insurance; in the U.S. support on the CEO level is hard to find. Why?

MARK BRENNER
Director of Labor Notes, an independent periodical on labor based in Detroit, Brenner said today: “At every turn, executives at the ‘Big Three’ have demonstrated that they will chase the quick returns instead of looking out for what’s coming down the road. When they should have been focused on hybrids or even more bold alternatives, they were pumping out SUVs and other gas-guzzlers. We can’t count on them to solve this. They are part of the problem, not the solution.

“When it comes to the auto bailout we can’t approach this piecemeal. Giving money to the same people who got us into this mess — with no strings attached and no direction from the federal government — will be a disaster. If ever there was a time to completely rethink our approach to transportation and how we create good, environmentally sustainable jobs, now is it. But we have to start from what we need, not what the auto executives or their shareholders need.

“If the government is interested in immediate relief for the auto industry, now is the time for a game-changing move on healthcare. GM spends almost $5 billion on healthcare and is responsible for the healthcare of about a million active workers, retirees, and family members. The auto industry is Exhibit A for why we need a national, single-payer healthcare system.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Obama’s “Number 1 Priority”

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“Finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There’s no better driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy … That’s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office…” — Barack Obama, Time magazine, Oct. 22, 2008

PETER BARNES
Co-author of Climate Solutions: A Citizen’s Guide and author of “Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons, Barnes just wrote the piece “How Obama can revive the economy and heal the planet,” which states: “There are many opinions about what should be part of a comprehensive energy policy, but the centerpiece nearly everyone agrees on — the great lever that will tip the whole economy toward clean energy — is a strong, descending cap on carbon emissions. If done correctly, such a cap will raise the price of polluting, spur innovation and conservation, and shift billions of dollars of private investment into new technologies for the next 40 years. But designing the cap correctly is critical; a half-baked, loophole-ridden and overly complex system will do more harm than good. The devil is in the details — and, of course, in the politics.

“The most critical details involve where to place the cap and what to do with the permits the cap will create. The simplest and most effective place to put the cap is upstream — that is, on the small number of companies that bring carbon into the economy. An upstream cap could be administered without monitoring smokestacks, without a large bureaucracy, and without favoring some companies over others. It would work for the obvious reason that, if carbon doesn’t come into the economy, it can’t go out. The declining number of permits that would be issued under the cap should then be auctioned rather than given away free — all polluters would pay, and there’d be no politically chosen winners or windfall profits. Fortunately, Obama pledged during the campaign to do just this.”

Barnes is a leading proponent of “Cap and Dividend,” which would distribute revenue generated by auctioning off pollution permits equally to all Americans, like Social Security payments or the Alaskan oil revenue system.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Toward a Green Economy

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KEVIN DANAHER
Danaher is the executive director of Global Exchange, which is co-sponsoring the Green Festival, happening at the Washington (D.C.) Convention Center this weekend. He co-edited the new book Green Festival Reader: Fresh Ideas from Agents of Change.

He said today: “There’s far more growth in the green sector of the economy. As the resources deplete, it’s more profitable to save them. We don’t need to have people like Larry Summers and Robert Rubin, who were part of creating the financial crash, leading the economy. We need to transition to a green economy, based on social justice, environmental restoration and financial sustainability. We definitely need a stimulus package, and the crucial questions are who is at the table when it is being worked out and what are the values dominating that process. … Green Festival will feature presentations as well as tangible efforts by 350 companies in areas including energy saving, green building, eco-tourism and sustainable organic food production.”
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ANTONIA JUHASZ
Author of the new book The Tyranny of Oil: The World’s Most Powerful Industry — and What We Must Do to Stop It, Juhasz will be in Washington, D.C., this weekend speaking at the Green Festival.

She offered the following advice to Obama: “Be bold. Take on Big Oil and undo the disastrously failed economic, military, energy, and deregulatory policies of the past. Big Oil has guided public policy down a disastrous road, standing as an obstacle to the fulfillment of critical social movements against war, a failing economy, and global warming. Renounce and undo the use of the U.S. military as an oil protective force beginning with immediately and unequivocally ending the Iraq war. Make the reintroduction of regulation, enforcement, and taxation of this industry — from the production, refining, marketing, transport, to the disposal of its products — a vital heart of your administration. Reintroduce the moratoriums on offshore drilling and shale oil development. Fully and finally close the ‘Enron Loophole’ and consider whether it is appropriate to trade a good as fundamental as crude on futures exchanges. Rather than ‘cap and trade’ pollution, ban it through regulation. Eliminate industry subsidies, collect royalties, implement a windfall profits tax, increase gasoline taxes, and increase corporate taxation broadly to help Americans reduce consumption of all oil products by using this money to fund a massive public works program (a la the WPA) in clean sustainable local public transportation and to fund local sustainable green energy alternatives. Reform lobbying, conflict of interest, and campaign finance laws to remove the stain of Big Oil’s money from our democracy and fully embrace the Separation of Oil and State. Lead the world by example by making diplomacy, cooperation, negotiation, and international law — not war — the center of our international energy plan.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Who is Rahm Emanuel?

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CHRISTINE CEGELIS
An IT professional in the Chicago area, Cegelis ran as the Democratic nominee for Congress against longtime incumbent Henry Hyde in 2004, winning an unexpected 44 percent of the vote. After Hyde announced he would be retiring, she attempted to run again in 2006, but Emanuel — then head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — backed a Democrat less critical of the Iraq war, Tammy Duckworth, who defeated Cegelis in the primary. Duckworth ended up losing in the general election.

Cegelis said today: “Emanuel has never backed off from his initial support of the invasion of Iraq; he says even knowing everything we know now, he’d still back it. I fear that slating Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff in a sense cancels out the message from Barack Obama that the Iraq war was something we should not have fought in the first place.” See “Democratic House Officials Recruited Wealthy Conservatives.”

ALI ABUNIMAH
Currently traveling and available for a limited number of interviews, Abunimah just wrote the piece “Obama picks pro-Israel hardliner for top post.”

Abunimah is author of the book One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.
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DAVID SWANSON
Swanson is co-founder of After Downing Street and Washington director of Democrats.com, which is not affiliated with the Democratic Party. He said today: “Reuters quoted Republican strategist John Feehery happily predicting that Emanuel ‘is going to spend most of his time cracking Democratic heads, getting them to move from the left to the middle.’ It’s a reasonable prediction, because Emanuel has spent the past two years doing that on various issues, most notably Iraq. As chair of the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] in 2006, Emanuel directed campaign funding overwhelmingly to the more pro-war Democratic candidates and recruited opponents to run against promising anti-war candidates like Christine Cegelis and Jerry McNerney.

“In January 2007, as chair of the Democratic Caucus when the 110th Congress took office with the clearest anti-war mandate in national history, Emanuel spoke to the Washington Post, which reported: ‘Don’t look to Emanuel’s Democrats for solutions on Iraq. It’s Bush’s war, and as it splinters the structure of GOP power, the Democrats are waiting to pick up the pieces.’ For two full years, ‘Emanuel’s Democrats’ maintained that ending the war on Iraq would require passing legislation, when in truth they could have simply stopped funding it, a conclusion reached by a hearing chaired by Senator Russ Feingold. Their pretense that legislation was needed, allowed the Democrats to blame the war on Republican senators’ filibuster power and presidential vetoes. Those excuse may be gone now, but my concern is what we’ve learned about Emanuel’s priorities.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

A Better Election Next Time?

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ROB RICHIE
Richie is executive director of FairVote and co-author of Every Vote Equal and Whose Votes Count. He said today: “2008 was an historic election in terms of the election of the first African-American to be president and the largest number of voters at the polls in our history. But we have a long way to go to realize the promise of American democracy. In this modern age, there is no excuse for privately-owned voting machines that breed mistrust, confusing ballot designs, polling places with long lines, voter registration laws that leave nearly a third of Americans off the rolls, an Electoral College system that undercuts equality and voting methods that suppress voter choice and stifle fair representation. Amidst yesterday’s candidate races, key ballot measures showed that Americans are ready for change. Landslide majorities voted for instant runoff voting in Memphis, Tennessee, and Telluride, Colorado, early voting in Maryland and 17-year-old primary voting in Connecticut, while independent redistricting won a narrow win in California, and proportional representation barely lost to well-financed opposition in Cincinnati. I believe we will soon have an electoral reform wave reminiscent of the changes a century ago when we won direct election of U.S. senators, women’s suffrage and state changes empowering voters across the nation.”

RICK HASEN
Hasen is the William H. Hannon Distinguished Professor of Law at Loyola Law School. He said today: “The solution is to take the job of voter registration for federal elections out of the hands of third parties (and out of the hands of the counties and states) and give it to the federal government. The Constitution grants Congress wide authority over congressional elections. The next president should propose legislation to have the Census Bureau, when it conducts the 2010 census, also register all eligible voters who wish to be registered for future federal elections. High-school seniors could be signed up as well so that they would be registered to vote on their 18th birthday. When people submit change-of-address cards to the post office, election officials would also change their registration information. This change would eliminate most voter registration fraud. Government employees would not have an incentive to pad registration lists with additional people in order to keep their jobs. The system would also eliminate the need for matches between state databases, a problem that has proved so troublesome because of the bad quality of the data.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167