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In Action

Win, Lose, or Draw? The Elections and Consumers
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Press Release

Win, Lose, or Draw? The Elections and Consumers

The 2002 mid-term elections were critical for consumers on a number of issues. While Republicans were of course unchallenged in the executive branch, the battle for control of the legislature has been fierce and the Republican victory has wide ranging implications for a number of policies. With the help of activists across the nation, CSE saw the elections as an opportunity to educate voters and politicians on important questions that affect consumers. With both houses of Congress now controlled by Republicans, the policy agenda may shift in the next two years. Changes may not be dramatic, however, because Democrats have such procedural tactics as the filibuster to temper policies in the Senate.

11/06/2002
In the End, the Issues Matter
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Press Release

In the End, the Issues Matter

The pundits dubbed this election the “Seinfeld Election.” The so-called “experts” couldn’t detect an overriding national theme. The journalists and consultants decided that issues weren’t important in this election. Instead it would come down to “turnout.” Which party or which candidate could best rally their supporters to show up and vote would win.

11/06/2002
CSE Takes to the Air in Alabama
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Press Release

CSE Takes to the Air in Alabama

CSE is mobilizing voters across the country to fight for lower taxes, less government, and more freedom.As part of this effort, CSE is taking action in Alabama to educate voters on "Double Dipping," the practice by some office holders in the state of simultaneously taking multiple salaries and pensions from the state government. To listen to the CSE radio ad, click here. The ad will play in State Representative District 62 on WTXT, WZBQ, WRTR, WACT, WTID, WLXY, and WDGM.

11/05/2002
CSE Mobilizes Voters in New Hampshire
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Press Release

CSE Mobilizes Voters in New Hampshire

11/05/2002
CSE Connects Directly with Over 1.7 Million Voters
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Press Release

CSE Connects Directly with Over 1.7 Million Voters

As voters go to the polls today, it is likely they’ve heard from Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). That’s because CSE is wrapping up a massive voter education and Get Out the Vote drive in ten battleground states. This election, CSE and Oregon CSE PAC directly reached over 1.7 million individual voters with direct mail, telephone calls, and house visits. Millions more were reached indirectly through a paid radio, newspaper, and television media campaign.

11/05/2002
CSE Mobilizes Voters in South Dakota
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Press Release

CSE Mobilizes Voters in South Dakota

Citizens for a Sound Economy, a national grassroots member organization, is executing an integrated telephone and email campaign to get the truth out about Senate candidate Tim Johnson. The CSE educational campaign emphasizes Senator Johnson’s votes to undermine U.S. energy security. Tim Johnson wants the U.S. to rely on unproven alternative energy sources to power our economy, instead of exploring for new sources of North American oil.

11/04/2002
Standing Up Against America
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Standing Up Against America

BY Robert S. McIntyre

EVERYBODY'S ANNOYED AT BIG AMERICAN CORPORATIONS that renounce their citizenship and move to Bermuda to avoid taxes. The public heat has forced even most Republican politicians to feign outrage. In recent months, PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting abandoned its plan to incorporate in Bermuda, as did the Stanley Works, the poster child for unpatriotic corporate behavior. Who could defend this disreputable practice? Well, it turns out that quite a few people are weird enough, or have been paid enough, to have done so. On Aug. 29, a collection of right-wing ideologues sent a letter of praise to House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) for introducing legislation generally calling for more offshore tax abuses. But the group expressed such deep concern that Thomas felt forced to take a small step to address the specific Bermuda loophole -- albeit temporarily. According to the right-wingers, even briefly creating "barriers against companies that wish to re-charter" is "misguided" and would "undermine economic growth." Who signed this astonishing endorsement of unpatriotic corporate behavior? Representatives for 30 Republican groups, including the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, Citizens Against Government Waste, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the National Taxpayers Union, Paul Weyrich's Christian-right Coalitions for America and, of course, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. These guys ought to consider changing their names. How about the Coalitions Against America? Or Citizens for an Insane Economy? Or in Norquist's case, Bermudians for Tax Reform? Not surprisingly, the unpatriotic expatriating companies themselves are also waging a fierce battle to keep their tax shelter. The former Andersen Consulting, for example, which renamed itself Accenture as part of its Bermuda tax dodging, has hired big-time GOP political consultant (and Bush family confidant) Charlie Black, the disgraced almost -- House Speaker Bob Livingston (R-La.), former Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) of the Keating Five and Ken Duberstein, chief of staff in the Reagan White House. The notorious Tyco International has persuaded the previously honorable Bob Dole to defend its Bermuda tax abuses. Former House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer of PricewaterhouseCoopers is flacking for two Houston oil companies that have renounced their U.S. citizenship. In defense of the indefensible, the lobbyists offer two contradictory arguments. The funniest claim is that tax avoidance wasn't why the companies moved offshore -- merely "a minor factor," as Livingston put it on behalf of Accenture. Actually, he asserts, Accenture's European partners suddenly decided they couldn't stand being headquartered in the United States, while the American partners were adamant that they wouldn't accept European control. "So they picked a nice island, Bermuda," Livingston told The Washington Post. Well, gee, if avoiding taxes isn't a big deal, why are the companies so upset about proposals to close their tax loophole? And if Accenture really was only seeking "neutral turf," why does its securities and Exchange Commission filing note that "Accenture Ltd is a Bermuda holding company with no material assets other than . . . shares in . . . Accenture SCA, a Luxembourg partnership"? Last time I checked, Luxembourg was in Europe. The lobbyists' second claim concedes the obvious: Avoiding taxes was indeed the only reason their clients moved offshore. Sadly, we're told, they were forced to do so because U.S. law would otherwise unfairly tax their foreign earnings -- under our "worldwide" corporate tax system. This claim is also a ridiculous falsehood. In calling our tax system "worldwide," the lobbyists conveniently ignore a huge exception to that supposed rule: U.S. taxes on foreign profits are deferred indefinitely. And in the rare cases in which companies decide to waive deferral, U.S. taxes are almost always completely offset by a credit for taxes paid to foreign governments. Rather than taxing companies on their foreign profits, we try, with insufficient success, to tax companies solely on what they earn in the United States. For their part, the multinational companies try, with considerable success, to style their U.S. profits as "foreign" in order to avoid paying taxes on their U.S. earnings. That's precisely the goal of the Bermuda shelter, as it is for a wide array of other abusive offshore tax machinations. Despite the poverty of their arguments, the lobbyists against patriotism are not without influence. Speaking for President Bush, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has swallowed the companies' bogus "worldwide taxation" complaint hook, line and sinker. So have all the Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee, along with many of the Democrats. Reporters, too, often are confused by the relentless onslaught of corporate lies. Fortunately, on this issue the general public seems smarter than our leaders and scribes. Unfortunately, that may not be enough to win the battle.

11/04/2002
Orange Incumbents Facing Challengers
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Orange Incumbents Facing Challengers

BY Rob Shapard

HILLSBOROUGH - Two Republican candidates and a Libertarian are seeking to unseat three well-established Democrat incumbents on the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Three commissioners' seats are up for re-election, with incumbents Alice Gordon, Steve Halkiotis and Barry Jacobs running, along with Republican challengers Jamie Daniel and Robin Staudt and Libertarian Seth Fehrs. Daniel and Staudt, making their first bids for elected office, have focused in part on local taxes, saying they would not support future increases in the county's property-tax rate. The incumbents have said they're also concerned about taxes, pointing to their decision in the 2001-02 budget to defer some capital projects, not give employees cost-of-living increases this year and enact a six-month hiring freeze. The commissioners raised property taxes for this year by 2.5 cents per $ 100, with about two cents going to cover debt from the 1997 bonds. County Manager John Link had recommended an increase of 4.5 cents. Jamie Daniel Daniel, 30, lives on Sinai Circle near Hillsborough with his wife and three children, and he works at Duke University as a computer-programming consultant. Before moving to Orange about three years ago, he spent eight years in the U.S. Army as a member of the U.S. Army Band. He grew up near Beckley, W.Va. "I'm just a down-home coal miner's son from West Virginia," Daniel said Saturday. "I say it like it is." Daniel said he wants leaders to do more to tap into resources already in the county, promote more economic development and look for wasteful spending. "I would not vote to raise taxes in any way, shape or form," Daniel said. "I would like to see the line held on taxes, or to lower taxes. If you lower taxes and put more money in people's pockets, they're going to spend more. "I'd like to continue the education support in this county," he said. "We have the most well-educated population in the state, and I'd like to keep that support up. One of the things I would like to change is to bring a new perspective to it, because I think sometimes people equate support with taxes." As an example of supporting schools in ways other than with more funding, Daniel said leaders should help elderly residents come into the schools as volunteers to read to the students, using the existing transportation services in the county. Asked to name a defining moment in his life, Daniel described the death of one of his grandmothers in West Virginia. She was diagnosed with cancer and went from being perhaps the strongest person he knew to very weak. When she died, about 500 people attended her funeral, and it made Daniel think, "You need to do the best you can, live your life the best way you know how, never waste a minute," he said. Seth Fehrs Fehrs, 40, lives on Woodland Park Drive in Hillsborough with his wife and son, and he works at Duke University Medical Center in programming and database design. He grew up in New York and has lived in the county for about six years. He graduated from Duke with an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering. Fehrs could not be reached for comment on Saturday afternoon. In the information he submitted for The Herald-Sun's Votebook, he described himself as economically conservative but socially liberal. He ranked himself at 2, on a political scale ranging from 1 (extremely conservative) to 9 (extremely liberal). He stated that his top priorities would be "relieving the tax burden for rural home owners and farmers," keeping the budget balanced and focusing on efficiency in the county government. "I believe people minding their own business should be left alone, or to 'live and let live,' " Fehrs stated. "I tend to prefer the privatization of most government services, but given that we have things like public schools, I'd like to see them run as efficiently as possible." He contended that neither Republicans nor Democrats are "serious" about limiting the size of government, and that the county commissioners should pay only for countywide services, such as schools and the Sheriff's Office. Alice Gordon Gordon, 65, lives on Edgewood Drive south of Chapel Hill with her husband. She grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and came to Chapel Hill in 1972 with a doctorate in psychology from Stanford. She's retired as a research psychologist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC. Gordon is running for her fourth four-year term. She was commissioners chairwoman in 1999, and she has focused on issues like transportation and schools, serving on groups including the Schools and Land Use Councils, the board of the Triangle Transit Authority and the Transportation Advisory Committee of the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization. She is stressing her support for schools, inclusive county government, environmental protection and county programs like Lands Legacy, through which the county has purchased conservation easements and several hundred acres for parks and open space. She's eager for the county, towns and school boards to agree on the proposed adequate public facilities ordinance for schools to prevent overcrowding in the schools. The various boards may vote on that ordinance in the coming weeks. It would link the rate of residential development with the availability of classroom space in local schools. If a proposed development were expected to push schools beyond their capacity for students, then the project would be deferred until new classroom space is available. Gordon said a defining moment was when she decided 12 years ago to run for county commissioner, after serving as chairwoman of the county Planning Board and president of the city school district's PTA Council. "It's not the defining moment of my life, but it certainly was an important moment," she said, since she was able to take her interest in schools and land use to the next level. "If I was going to go on to contribute to the community, the commission was the place to do it." Steve Halkiotis Halkiotis, 58, lives on Franklin Road near Hillsborough with his wife. Halkiotis was chairman of the County Commissioners last year and is now vice chairman. He was first elected as a county commissioner in 1986 and is running for his fifth - and what he says likely is his last - term. Halkiotis has pointed to the construction of school space and two new senior centers in Chapel Hill and central Orange as among the efforts he wants to continue. "The kids are going to keep coming," he said Saturday. "As much as people think we're anti-development, we need to remember that we grew faster than Durham County, according to the last census." He grew up in Haverhill, Mass., and came to Chapel Hill in 1967 to earn a doctorate in Latin American history. He was a teacher and administrator in the Orange County school system and principal at Orange High School from 1981 to 1996. He currently is the school system's director of auxiliary services, which covers bus transportation, school maintenance and child nutrition. Halkiotis also is stressing his support for parks and open space, environmental protection and the concept of sustainability. He said he's concerned that the financial troubles at the state level aren't over, and that next year the numbers could look even worse for the state budget, which could lead to more cuts affecting local governments. "We had to do something," he said about the commissioners' decision this fall to add a half-cent sales tax starting Dec. 1, as authorized by the General Assembly. "Nobody wants to run around and enact additional sales taxes and this and that, but what do you do?" As for a defining moment, Halkiotis pointed to the birth of his daughter, Christon, about 24 years ago. "I think being the father of a daughter shaped and defined my whole attitude toward equal opportunities for women, a level playing field for women," he said. Barry Jacobs Jacobs, 51, lives on Moorefields Road near Hillsborough with his wife, adjacent to the historic Moorefields estate where he works as caretaker. He currently is chairman of the county commission, and he's seeking his second term. He served six years on the county Planning Board and five years on the Orange Water and Sewer Authority board. Jacobs grew up in New York and graduated from Duke University, and he is a journalist and author of works including the annual "Fan's Guide to ACC Basketball," "Coach K's Little Blue Book" and "The World According to Dean." He has been chairman of groups ranging from the Library Services Task Force to the Soccer Symposium Task Force, and was appointed to the state Commission on Smart Growth, Growth Management and Development. He said one of his goals continues to be encouraging "smart growth," which he defines as growth that acknowledges limits on natural resources and infrastructure and does minimal damage to the environment. He also points to his support for schools, social justice, collaboration with citizens and other local governments and efforts like Lands Legacy. "I'm proud of the fact that we're preserving basically one acre for every acre developed," he said. "I think that's one of our proudest achievements." As a defining moment, Jacobs referred to 1969 at Duke, his freshman year, when a group of black students took over the administration building and called for changes, such as more black professors and creation of an African-American studies program. Duke had been integrated only for a few years, and it was a time when the relatively few black students were fighting for a voice, Jacobs said. He decided to join students who blocked entrances to a building to keep protesters from being removed. "You may not fully embrace the tactic, and the situation may not be of your choosing, but sometimes you have to put yourself out on a limb and stand up for what you think is right," he said. Robin Staudt Staudt, 48, grew up near Pittsburgh and moved to Orange County about six years ago. She and her husband live on Bushy Cook Road in Efland. She currently is a homemaker and floral designer, and she owned a hairdressing business back in Pennsylvania. She has a degree in landscape design from the Community College of Allegheny County and a certificate in cosmetology from the Steel Valley Vocational and Technical School. Staudt was a delegate to the Republican state convention last year, and she is a member of the executive committee of the Orange County Republican Party, a founding member and vice president of the Regulator Republican Women's Club and member of Citizens for a Sound Economy, which has asked candidates to sign no-tax-increase pledges. Staudt's call for a "tax freeze" is featured on her campaign signs. She is pushing the theme of more economic development for the county, to take some of the tax burden off residential property owners. "In the county, there are so many people who just don't have the income to handle any more tax increases," she said. "We have to become creative for how we raise our money." Staudt supported the Hampton Pointe shopping center for Hillsborough, and she said she supports the Waterstone development along Old N.C. 86 and Interstate 40. She said she's heard a lot of concern about the water supply for central and northern Orange, and she believes the county should try to build another reservoir, using land the county owns along Seven Mile Creek. The county plans to use that land as a nature preserve, possibly with trails and limited camping. "We don't need a wildlife preserve," Staudt said. "It's an excellent place to consider having a reservoir." As a defining moment in her life, Staudt said she was shaped by her family's involvement in the community and her father's death when she was 13 and the oldest of five children. Her father had been president of the local chamber of commerce and an active Democrat, and her grandmother was an active Republican. "They taught me at a young age that it was important to be involved, that it does make a difference," she said.

11/03/2002
Consumers Cheer Microsoft Settlement
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Press Release

Consumers Cheer Microsoft Settlement

Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) today saluted D.C. Circuit Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s acceptance of the settlement between Microsoft Corp. and the Dept. of Justice. CSE published two books about the litigation, and actively engaged its members and the public with a broad grassroots campaign defending consumer interests in the case. CSE’s President, Paul Beckner, commented:

11/02/2002
Voters Decide Bond Issue
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Voters Decide Bond Issue

BY Theo Helm

Every morning at 10:30, eighth-grade students at West Yadkin Elementary School file into the cafeteria - for lunch. Because the cafeteria seats about 260 and the school has about 850 students, West Yadkin has had to extend lunchtime from 10:30 a.m. to 1p.m., said Principal James Sheek. Eating that early affects students' productivity later in the day, he said. "You find that kids get hungry earlier, so you have to come up with another feeding time for them." Educators and the Yadkin County Board of Education point to that - and the six mobile units on West Yadkin's campus - as examples of why the county needs to alleviate overcrowding by passing a $20 million bond package to build two new high schools. But tension between the school board and commissioners has caused some to question what is needed. Opponents say that schools aren't growing that quickly and the county can't support the 12-cent property-tax increase to finance the bond package. Both sides have just a few days remaining to sway undecided voters before the election Tuesday. School officials say that the schools are running out of room for students. Enrollment has increased by about 100 students a year, from 4,913 during 1993-94 to 5,766 during 2000-01, and the system has 26 mobile units, school officials said. "We're running out of room," Superintendent Barbara Todd said. "The costs are going to go up and we're going to be paying more and more for mobile units." School-board members say that building and furnishing two high schools by the 2005-06 school year would cost about $27 million. The bond package would provide $20 million - the maximum amount commissioners said they would put on the ballot. The school board has $2 million saved to furnish the schools. Commissioners would have to come up with some way of raising the remaining $5 million, school officials said. If the bond package passes, the property-tax rate in the county would increase 12 cents, from 64 cents to 76 cents, for each $100 of assessed property value. If bids for the high schools came in at more than $25 million, however, the project would be stopped. Converting the middle schools would cost an additional $3 million each. The schools have a $3 million Qualified Zone Academy Bond to pay for the conversion of Starmount High School. That money must be paid back, but it is interest-free. Officials don't know where money to renovate Forbush High School would come from. Mark Gentry, the chairman of the school board, said that building two high schools is the best way to ease overcrowding. Building new middle schools or elementary schools would not alleviate crowding at the high schools, he said. School officials say that the county also needs middle schools. Yadkin County is one of four school systems in North Carolina that do not have middle schools. Each of its eight elementary schools houses students in kindergarten through eighth grade. J.P. Van Hoy, the principal of Yadkinville Elementary School, said that middle schools would offer better electives because teachers would not have to travel from school to school. "Here (electives) are only offered two or three times a week," he said. "Teachers spend too much time traveling between schools. It's not efficient." Officials say that adding to the schools is not an option because all the elementary schools - except Forbush Elementary School - are landlocked. Van Hoy said that Yadkinville, which has five mobile units, has limited expansion possibilities. "All that would be left would be parking lots or the corner of a ballfield," he said. Todd said that waiting will make building more expensive. "Because of the economic conditions, this is the very best time to do this." But tension between county commissioners and the school board, apparent in meetings leading up to the election, has surfaced. Thomas Wooten, the chairman of the county commissioners, said that problems started when the commissioners asked the school board to lower its $27 million request but the board came back and asked for the same amount. Todd agreed, but said that the school board couldn't build what was needed for less. "This is the cheapest long-term (solution)." Gentry said that the tension comes from the commissioners having to balance the schools' needs with other county needs. "There's tension because we're asking for a lot," he said. Wherever the tension started, only Commissioner Brent Hunter has said that he would vote for the bonds, and Commissioner Lloyd Davis, who did not return calls for this story, voted in July against putting the bonds on the ballot. At the time, he said that the package was not specific enough and that it would be too much of a tax burden. Other commissioners will not say how they plan to vote. "I think that's a decision that the voters need to make for themselves," Commissioner Josh Baity said. "They don't need an elected official to tell them how to vote." Those in the schools don't care about the source of the tension. They just want it fixed. "I sometimes feel like it's the school board vs. the county commissioners," Sheek said. "(Schools are) kind of caught in the middle and held ransom." The numbers used by supporters and opponents of the bond package muddy the waters even more. When the school board originally looked at new high schools, it learned that it would cost about between $60million and $70 million for block-and-brick buildings. Wooten said that first figure has been a sticking point for many people. "I think that threw a lot of people into shock," he said. When the board presented its $27 million plan later, "it caused too many people to question what is the truth, what is the need. It has been a hard sell to overcome." Gentry said that the school board has tried to explain how it can build schools for less money. "But they specifically told us to sharpen our pencils. We did what they wanted us to do." The school board looked at Wilkes County where Pinnacle Architecture built four middle schools for about $37 million. Pinnacle uses steel-frame construction, which lowers the cost because construction takes less time, said Frank Williams, the president of Pinnacle. The company proposed building Yadkin's two high schools for $25 million. Some residents say they wish that the school board would be more specific regardless of the cost. Brady Wooten of Hamptonville has spoken against the bond package at several public meetings. He said he wants to know exactly what the tax rate will be and how many classrooms the schools will have. Gentry, though, says that's impossible to answer without the bond being passed, putting the project out for bids and seeing how the commissioners will come up with the additional $5million. Peggy Boose, the Yadkin County coordinator of the N.C. Citizens for a Sound Economy, has distributed 3,000 fliers raising questions about the bond, each with a drawing of the taxman holding a gun on the taxpayer. Some of the information on the flier lists a source. Some of it does not, including a statement that $20 million will not complete two high schools. "They're not stating the whole thing," Gentry said. The school board has never hidden the fact that two high schools will cost more than $20 million, he said. "That probably is a true statement, but the school board is only telling the good side of the story," Boose said. People need to know that $20 million doesn't cover everything, she said. The flier also says that the school board used money from a 1986 bond package to build a new administration building, which Todd said was not true. "None of the funds were misappropriated," she said. State money for the building became available and was lumped with money for the bond package, she said. Boose also questions the schools' growth projections. She said that enrollment has slowed the past two years to just several dozen a year. "That's not no humongous growth," she said. "We need to look at what the trend is the last two years." Todd said that it was better to look at a longer time period. "We looked at 10 years and we did an average," she said. "That's probably going to give us the history." Others say they think that the school board could expand in less expensive ways. Jimmy Fallin of the Council of Conservative Citizens said that rooms should be added to schools. "It looks like plenty of land to me." Some have said that taxpayers are shouldering the cost for illegal aliens. At a commissioners' meeting, Fallin said, "No commissioner or school-board member was elected to educate the children of South America, Brazil and Mexico." Van Hoy said he doesn't think it's a majority of people, just "a pretty vocal group of people," who blame the growth on Hispanic students. "We're going to educate everyone that comes in that door the best we can," he said. Officials agree that overcrowding won't go away if the bond package is defeated. "Obviously, there is a need," Baity said. "Whether the school bond passes or fails, that need is going to have to be addressed."

11/02/2002

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