Byron points to this article about "Smokey Joe" Barton and his efforts to exempt a couple of cement plants from stricter EPA rules. I'll leave most of the story for you to read - it's worth your while - but I want to take a look at the money involved.
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton's push to exempt Ellis County from the toughest smog rules could directly benefit two corporations linked to Barton campaign donations – corporations now seeking state permits to boost allowed emissions of smog-causing pollution.
Mr. Barton's effort, if successful, would help cement makers Holcim (U.S.) Inc. and Texas Industries Inc. avoid stricter permit requirements and possibly much higher pollution-control costs that would come if Ellis County is designated a smog-violation area, documents and interviews show.
Mr. Barton, R-Ennis, has been working for at least five months to block that listing, saying it is not scientifically justified or economically sensible. The Environmental Protection Agency, which has backed including Ellis County and its heavy industries, is to decide on nationwide listings by April 15.
The EPA's final ruling will determine whether Holcim and TXI must meet the lesser environmental requirements that now apply in Ellis County or the tougher ones that would come with a smog-violator designation, according to a technical review prepared by the EPA.
The ruling would affect any Ellis County industry that seeks an air-pollution permit in the future.
Although most of Ellis County is rural, it is North Texas' center of heavy industry, accounting for about 40 percent of the region's industrial emissions. Altogether, 94 percent of Ellis County's industrial emissions come from a half-dozen cement, manufacturing, energy or waste-disposal corporations whose political action committees have contributed to Mr. Barton's campaigns, a Dallas Morning News comparison of Texas environmental records and federal campaign files shows.
Their donations to Mr. Barton since the 1998 election cycle total $74,500, according to Federal Election Commission reports. That includes $26,500 in either PAC or individual donations from TXI executives and $6,500 from Holcim's PAC.
Mr. Barton also got $27,500 during that period from cement industry PACs to which Holcim's or TXI's political committees donated.
Mr. Barton, a nine-term congressman and the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement that campaign donations from Ellis County industries played no role in his drive to limit smog rules there. Spokesmen for Holcim and TXI also denied any link and said they haven't discussed their permits with Mr. Barton.
"There is no amount of money that any group, corporation or individual could contribute that would influence any of my votes on any subject at any time," Mr. Barton said in his statement.
"It is completely absurd to suggest that I would allow any campaign donation whatsoever to impact my ability to ensure that my own children and grandchildren are breathing the cleanest possible air," he said.
I've brought this point up before, and I'll say it again: If what Barton says is really true, then why should any rational, profit-maximizing, accountable-to-the-shareholders corporation give him money? If he's going to vote their way anyway, isn't it just a waste of their funds? You could make a case for their generosity if he were going to be in a close election with an opponent who is sure to vote against them and the marginal value of their donations could help him win, but he's in a strongly Republican district and he's got a million dollars more than Morris Meyer does. So what's the point? How else can their contributions be explained?
I think there's only one conclusion that you can draw, and that's that Holcim and TXI expect to benefit from their donations. Whether you believe that's of consequence or not is the real question.Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 23, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack