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Social, and Political, Security
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Social, and Political, Security

BY Juliet Eilperin

It seems that every week another political debate erupts over the future of Social Security. Yesterday, it was the partial privatization of the retirement system that prompted a war of words, as two dueling groups are pushing to put lawmakers on the record before the Nov. 5 election. While Democratic congressional leaders are pressuring candidates to oppose creation of individual savings accounts, several GOP interest groups want them to support it, even though, in the face of a plummeting stock market, GOP strategists have quietly urged candidates to play down privatization. A new nonprofit group, Social Security Choice.Org, is launching a $ 500,000 advertising campaign to promote the accounts. Funded by groups including Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens for a Sound Economy, National Taxpayers Union and 60 Plus, it has already signed up 20 congressional candidates who back such a plan. President Bob Costello said the group was gearing up for next year's legislative fight over Social Security. But Democrats are not standing idly by. Yesterday, House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) attacked Costello's group on the floor by name, saying "a coalition of right-wing organizations" is having GOP candidates sign their pledge "in order to give them cover on the issue of privatizing Social Security." Gephardt and Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) will offer a counterpledge at a news conference today with the Campaign for America's Future. It, unsurprisingly, would commit candidates to oppose individual accounts. Gephardt called for a vote on privatization before leaving for the year. "Let's conduct a free and fair debate in the open, in the sunshine, in the public about the consequences that will be caused by the privatization of Social Security."

10/09/2002
The Stranglehold on American Commerce
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Press Release

The Stranglehold on American Commerce

"We now have a new dock boss. His name is George W. Bush. Will the workers listen to Boy George? I don't know." Richard Mead President, Local 10 San FranciscoQuoted in the New York Times

10/09/2002
Staffer Masks Diamond Ring in Dinner Mints
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Staffer Masks Diamond Ring in Dinner Mints

BY Crystal Bozek

Love must be in the air in the Cannon Building office of Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-Colo.). Three staffers have gotten engaged in the past year, one last month, making the subject of wedding plans a hot topic by the water cooler. Two years after meeting at a bar through mutual friends, Schaffer's legislative assistant, Aaron Johnson, 24, decided it was time to propose to Laura Hauck, 23. "I had told him I kind of wanted to get engaged before two years went by," said Hauck, a Wilmington, Del., native who works for Settlement Planning Associates in Rosslyn, Va. "There were two weeks left before the two years were up, and the last week my parents were visiting," Hauck said. "It was this past weekend or nothing." Even Johnson's co-workers teased him about proposing. "He was always talking about her and we were like, 'Will you just shut up and ask her to marry you already?'" said Brandi Graham, Schaffer's chief of staff. Johnson, a Colorado native, invited Hauck to dinner at his apartment, and she was surprised to see what he had in store for her. "He set up a tent and hung up glow-in-the-dark stars," Hauck said. After dinner of fondue, s'mores and wine, Johnson pulled out a tin of dinner mints and offered her one. "He told me the only thing that would top off the night would be a dinner mint. I was exhausted and I really didn't want one. I wanted to go home, but then he kept telling me how good they were and how much I would enjoy it," Hauck said, laughing. When she opened the tin, she saw the diamond ring. Then, he asked her to marry him. Chief of Staff Graham, 29, also has a romantic tale to tell about her engagement to Shawn Pensoneau, 33, who works for the International Air Transport Association. After five years of dating, Pensoneau took Graham to their favorite spot on North Carolina's Outer Banks for her birthday on Aug. 10. He wanted to propose to her where two currents, warm and cold, come together. Thanks to their pets, it just didn't work out that way. "A guy that looked like Tony Soprano got out of his car when we were standing there and started asking about our dogs. The guy just wouldn't leave him alone. Then all these fishermen pulled in and the dogs were going to get caught in their lines," Graham said. So, they left the perfect spot without a proposal. Pensoneau ended up proposing later that night on the beach, under the stars. Graham admits she doesn't quite remember how it happened because she was too shocked. They plan to marry next August in Colorado, when Congress is not in session. "We know we've been working too long on the Hill when we plan our wedding by the congressional calendar," Graham said. Erika Lestelle, 24, a legislative assistant for Schaffer, and Heath Heikkila, 24, who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, met while in college in Washington state. She was the president of the college Republican club, and he was visiting to speak on behalf of Citizens for a Sound Economy. "Our first date was at a political convention," Lestelle said. He proposed to her at the Dumbarton Oaks gardens in Georgetown, surrounded by daffodils, her favorite flower. "I knew it was coming because he brought a gym bag with us," Lestelle said. "He pulled a bouquet of daffodils out of the bag and on one stem was a ring." They will also live by the congressional calendar, marrying after the November elections back in Washington state.

10/09/2002
It’s Raining Special Interest Politics
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Press Release

It’s Raining Special Interest Politics

This Week- The major action for this week in both the House and Senate will be the joint resolution as requested by President Bush to allow the use of force on Iraq. The House expects the resolution to take up to 20 hours of debate. In addition to this resolution the House will also be considering dozens of suspension bills. They also may consider a bill to help investors by allowing them to write off more of their stock market losses and giving them more flexibility to manage their retirement savings.

10/08/2002
Political Economy: Trial Lawyers and Terrorism Insurance
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Press Release

Political Economy: Trial Lawyers and Terrorism Insurance

As the preferred client of the Democratic Party, the plaintiff’s bar has vetoed any terrorism insurance legislation that does not allow for punitive damage awards. Its obstinacy has angered many Republicans and the business community writ large, which believe federally-backed terrorism reinsurance would be a tonic to the weak economy. Last week, President Bush demanded that Congress come together to reach a compromise and blamed trial lawyers for the impasse, quoting typical anti-plaintiff sloganeering, including a suggestion that trial lawyers “have never seen a disaster that didn’t justify a lawsuit.”

10/08/2002
Looking for Leaders
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Press Release

Looking for Leaders

With less than a month to go before the mid-term elections voters have told the pollsters they want our elected leaders, particularly President Bush, to pay more attention to the economy. They have a point. The stock market continues to fall – now having lost $7.5 trillion in paper wealth. Unemployment has risen, corporate profits have dropped and consumer confidence looks shaky. Only 40 percent of Americans now see the economy as “good,” down from 85 percent just two years ago. In fact, 56 percent now say the economy is in bad shape – the lowest rating since 1993. Less than 15 percent of Americans believe the economy is getting better and 39 percent believe the economy is getting worse.

10/08/2002
A Legacy of Spending
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Press Release

A Legacy of Spending

With the Bush administration’s sights trained on Iraq, problems on the home front remain to be addressed. Wall Street is hitting 15-year lows, corporate scandals have jarred investor confidence, and a weak market has Americans worried about job security. In Washington, Congress continues its spending spree as members race to finalize spending bills before the November election. Surpluses are a thing of the past, with the federal deficit pushing $160 billion and counting. A recent poll found a majority of Americans have serious concerns about the U.S. economy and believe that heightened foreign policy concerns have come at the expense of sound economic policies here at home.

10/08/2002
Consumers File Amicus Brief With NAFTA Opposing Canadian Softwood Lumber Duties
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Consumers File Amicus Brief With NAFTA Opposing Canadian Softwood Lumber Duties

* Brief asks NAFTA to remand U.S. International Trade Commission decision on threat of injury to U.S. producers from Canadian imports * 27 percent countervail and antidumping duties unfairly price potential homeowners out of the housing market WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- A friend-of-the-court brief was filed yesterday on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders and the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association urging a North American Free Trade Agreement bi-national panel to reject 27 percent duties resulting from a U.S. International Trade Commissions (ITC) finding of "threat of material injury" to U.S. lumber producers from Canadian softwood lumber imports. Last May, the ITC found that a potential threat existed, even though it found no evidence of an actual injury to U.S. industry. It approved 27 percent Commerce Department duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports, which went into effect later that month. Yesterday's brief, filed on behalf of two members of the American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH), an 18 member Alliance of U.S. lumber consumers and free trade advocates who comprise more than 95 percent of domestic and imported lumber consumption, is the only way consumers can be heard on this trade issue, according to an ACAH spokesperson. "The brief represents lumber dealers, home builders and other industries that rely on Canadian lumber -- from all regions of the country -- representing the broad cross section of Americans who are being harmed by what amounts to a 27 percent federal sales tax imposed on lumber," said Susan Petniunas, spokesperson for the ACAH. "It is unfortunate that trade laws do not allow consumers direct participation on an equal basis with industry in disputes like this. After all, consumers are the ones who end up paying the cost in higher prices, just to benefit a few U.S. companies." The brief includes extensive documentation that there is little overlapping among U.S. produced timber species and those imported from Canada, and that Canadian softwood lumber is not an adequate substitute for U. S. southern yellow pine in most of its uses. Each type of lumber has distinct properties, functions and applications that can make it a poor substitute for other species, homebuilders and lumber dealers testified before the ITC. Most lumber produced in the U.S. is southern yellow pine. In Canada, most timber harvested is spruce pine fir. The U.S. relies on imported lumber to meet about 30 percent of its needs. "If the entire 27 percent duties are passed on to U.S. consumers, they could add as much as $1,000 to the cost of a new home, and price as many as 300,000 families out of the housing market," Petniunas said. "These potential home buyers would not able to qualify for mortgages," she added. "And while $1,000 may not sound like much to some people, for many first-time homeowners and seniors seeking to reduce their housing costs in retirement, it can make the difference between being able to buy a home or not," she said. The Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, led by International Paper, Potlatch, Plum Creek, Sierra Pacific, Temple Inland, and southern landowners, filed petitions alleging that they have been harmed by Canadian softwood lumber imports and asking for countervailing and antidumping duties. More than 100 members of the U.S. House and Senate have signed resolutions or written letters to President George W. Bush over the past year, indicating their support for free trade in lumber, and urging no new taxes or penalties on consumers. Approximately six million U.S. workers are involved in lumber- consuming businesses, including homebuilders, remodelers, lumber dealers, and such industries as window and bed makers. U.S. workers for lumber-consuming industries outnumber lumber-producing workers by 30 to 1. ACAH members include American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, Catamount Pellet Fuel Corporation, CHEP International, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Consumers for World Trade, Free Trade Lumber Council, Fremont Forest Group Corporation, The Home Depot, International Mass Retail Association, International Sleep Products Association, Leggett & Platt Inc., Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, Manufactured Housing Institute, National Association of Home Builders, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, National Retail Federation, and the United States Hispanic Contractors Association. http://www.acah.org

10/08/2002
Consumers File Amicus Brief With NAFTA Opposing Canadian Softwood Lumber Duties
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Consumers File Amicus Brief With NAFTA Opposing Canadian Softwood Lumber Duties

A friend-of-the-court brief was filed yesterday on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders and the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association urging a North American Free Trade Agreement bi-national panel to reject 27 percent duties resulting from a U.S. International Trade Commissions (ITC) finding of "threat of material injury" to U.S. lumber producers from Canadian softwood lumber imports. Last May, the ITC found that a potential threat existed, even though it found no evidence of an actual injury to U.S. industry. It approved 27 percent Commerce Department duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports, which went into effect later that month. Yesterday's brief, filed on behalf of two members of the American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH), an 18 member Alliance of U.S. lumber consumers and free trade advocates who comprise more than 95 percent of domestic and imported lumber consumption, is the only way consumers can be heard on this trade issue, according to an ACAH spokesperson. "The brief represents lumber dealers, home builders and other industries that rely on Canadian lumber -- from all regions of the country -- representing the broad cross section of Americans who are being harmed by what amounts to a 27 percent federal sales tax imposed on lumber," said Susan Petniunas, spokesperson for the ACAH. "It is unfortunate that trade laws do not allow consumers direct participation on an equal basis with industry in disputes like this. After all, consumers are the ones who end up paying the cost in higher prices, just to benefit a few U.S. companies." The brief includes extensive documentation that there is little overlapping among U.S. produced timber species and those imported from Canada, and that Canadian softwood lumber is not an adequate substitute for U. S. southern yellow pine in most of its uses. Each type of lumber has distinct properties, functions and applications that can make it a poor substitute for other species, homebuilders and lumber dealers testified before the ITC. Most lumber produced in the U.S. is southern yellow pine. In Canada, most timber harvested is spruce pine fir. The U.S. relies on imported lumber to meet about 30 percent of its needs. "If the entire 27 percent duties are passed on to U.S. consumers, they could add as much as $1,000 to the cost of a new home, and price as many as 300,000 families out of the housing market," Petniunas said. "These potential home buyers would not able to qualify for mortgages," she added. "And while $1,000 may not sound like much to some people, for many first-time homeowners and seniors seeking to reduce their housing costs in retirement, it can make the difference between being able to buy a home or not," she said. The Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, led by International Paper, Potlatch, Plum Creek, Sierra Pacific, Temple Inland, and southern landowners, filed petitions alleging that they have been harmed by Canadian softwood lumber imports and asking for countervailing and antidumping duties. More than 100 members of the U.S. House and Senate have signed resolutions or written letters to President George W. Bush over the past year, indicating their support for free trade in lumber, and urging no new taxes or penalties on consumers. Approximately six million U.S. workers are involved in lumber- consuming businesses, including homebuilders, remodelers, lumber dealers, and such industries as window and bed makers. U.S. workers for lumber-consuming industries outnumber lumber-producing workers by 30 to 1. ACAH members include American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, Catamount Pellet Fuel Corporation, CHEP International, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Consumers for World Trade, Free Trade Lumber Council, Fremont Forest Group Corporation, The Home Depot, International Mass Retail Association, International Sleep Products Association, Leggett & Platt Inc., Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, Manufactured Housing Institute, National Association of Home Builders, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, National Retail Federation, and the United States Hispanic Contractors Association. http://www.acah.org

10/08/2002
Letter to Conferees Regarding the Comprehensive Energy Bill
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Press Release

Letter to Conferees Regarding the Comprehensive Energy Bill

Dear Member of Congress:

10/07/2002

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