Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reader Comment – 10-14-08

A reader, ThomKay, took exception to the blog I wrote early yesterday where I wrote that a recent letter to Congress was ‘nothing but a fund raising publicity stunt’. Though I did partially retract that comment in a later blog when I learned that there were serious discussions of a post-election session of Congress, his comments do deserve consideration and a reply. I’ll look at each of his three points in turn. Donations ThomKay writes “You think people donate their own money because they like the letters we write? Donors care about results, and that's what all of these groups are working towards.” Fund raising certainly is more prosperous if you can show results, everybody likes a winner. Lacking results, a good fight is the next best thing and an honest effort will keep the base activated. That is what I thought this letter to Congress was; an effort to show the base that these organizations were still working this issue even when Congress obviously isn’t. I certainly was not involved in the discussions that led to the issuance of these letters, so I do not know the motivation behind them. All I can do is report what it looks like to me. A letter that appears to be completely ineffective politically probably has other motives. Fund raising is a legitimate objective for these organizations. I probably should have omitted the word ‘stunt’ from my original post. 90% of Congress Will Return ThomKay writes “’This’ congress is going to be about 90% the same as next congress. We have to continue our fight through recess if we're going to get these provisions passed by next October.” I think that the 90% figure may be a little high this year, but the point is legitimate that most of those letters are going to people who will be in Congress next year. The only problem is that the memory of politicians is exceedingly short. Letters going out now, just before the election will be ancient history by the time the next Congress gets together in January. Politically, this is a meaningless exercise at this time. The Blame Game ThomKay writes “The letter does not blame Republicans or Democrats. It doesn't emphasize fault at all. Its emphasis is on the importance of passing the provisions.” I’ll bite the bullet here and admit that I blew it. My blog posting clearly implies that these organizations blame the Republicans and the industry for opposing HR 5577 this year. Since I haven’t actually seen the letter and the article did not quote anyone from the organizations in assigning that blame that inference is unfair. I apologize. An Ineffective Response I do stand by the original intent of my blog posting. This letter (again, I have not actually seen it) appears to be an ineffective and ill timed attempt at supporting what I believe is a crucial piece of legislation. While I do not agree with all of the provisions, I think that HR 5577 was a well-crafted, politically-possible solution to the problems inherent in the CFATS authorizing legislation. This is the type bill that should have been passed two years ago. Where was this letter back in July when this bill was bleeding to death waiting for action by the Energy and Commerce Committee? Where was this letter when Speaker Pelosi granted extension after extension? Senator Collins (R,ME) was petitioned by a 10,000 card campaign to support this bill (see: “”), where were the cards for Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Dingell asking them to bring the bill to a floor vote? If I missed any of those, I greatly apologize. I certainly would have given them what little publicity I can manage. While I am criticizing the effectiveness of the effort, I believe that we want essentially the same thing. I think that the chemical industry needs this bill, whether they like it or not. I want to see security at high-risk chemical facilities increased before we have the terroristic equivalent of Bhopal here in this country. Moving Forward If Congress does come back into session after the election, I think that the groups that were involved in this letter need to be aggressively and proactively involved in bringing HR 5577 to a floor vote. The ‘opposition of industry and DHS’ will be at its weakest then. Honest politicians will be less beholden to special interests and many of those retiring (voluntarily or otherwise) can be convinced to do something for the good of the country. DHS will be more interested in getting a smooth transition started than fighting a final battle. A Personal Point ThomKay writes “I get that you're a former, and hope to be a future, industry employee.” Yes, I am a former chemical industry employee and that does color my opinion as does my former membership in some environmental organizations. I have no plans to return to direct employment in the chemical industry, so I do not need to curry favor with anyone in the industry. Anyone that knows me personally knows that I have always spoken my mind; I always will. But I do accept that others will disagree, and I will always listen to opposing ideas. And my opinions can and do change. Please keep the responses coming.

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