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Coalition For Auto Insurance Competition
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Coalition For Auto Insurance Competition

Legislators are about to hear the call for auto insurance reform from thousands of New Jerseyans concerned and frustrated over the lack of auto insurance choices. Citizens are signing a petition from the Coalition For Auto Insurance Competition urging legislators to reform the state's antiquated and anti-competitive auto insurance laws by passing The New Jersey Automobile Insurance Competition and Choice Act. "Our surveys show that consumers overwhelmingly support legislation that will result in more companies doing business in New Jersey and giving consumers more choices," said John Friedman, chairman of the Coalition for Auto Insurance Competition. "This bill would do just that." More than 90,000 petitions are on their way to homes. Petitions are also available on the Coalition's website at www.njcaic.org. This new push builds on education efforts already undertaken by the Coalition and gives residents a means to voice their frustration over a lack of competition in the auto insurance marketplace. The Coalition points to the state's excessive regulation of auto insurance as the culprit behind the lack of sufficient auto insurance choice and competition. "Four out of the six largest insurers in America already do not do business in New Jersey and when State Farm, the state's largest auto insurer, completes its withdrawal currently in process, that number will increase to five out of six," said Friedman. The latest figures show New Jersey has 47 percent fewer companies selling auto insurance than Illinois and more than a third fewer than neighboring New York and Pennsylvania. More than 20 auto insurance companies have left New Jersey in the past ten years. "Having to operate under the state's restrictive and difficult regulatory regime where insurers are told what products to sell, to whom they must sell to and how much to change, companies will lack an incentive to remain and invest in New Jersey," continued Friedman. "We need a regulatory system that promotes competition, encourages companies to sell auto insurance in New Jersey, and creates a stable market that offers more choices for consumers." The New Jersey Auto Insurance Competition and Choice Act outlines reforms to attract more auto insurers to New Jersey by permitting companies to use industry-accepted standard underwriting methods already used in nearly every state. The Coalition welcomes the participation of consumers, businesses, and associations who seek to work together to bring about meaningful and responsible auto insurance reform. Members include the National Association of Independent Insurers, Insurance Council of New Jersey, American Insurance Association, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Independent Insurance Agents of New Jersey, Citizens for a Sound Economy, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, New Jersey Association of REALTORS, Professional Insurance Agents of New Jersey, New Jersey Food Council, New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, NJ SEED (Society for Environmental, Economic Development), Somerset County Chamber of Commerce and the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey. CONTACT: Winning Strategies Ernie Landante, 973/799-0200 URL: http://www.businesswire.com

09/03/2002
Coalition For Auto Insurance Competition
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Coalition For Auto Insurance Competition

"Your auto insurance policy will be not renewed." Every day for the next two years, hundreds of New Jersey drivers will receive the message that their auto insurer will not renew their coverage. And unless state legislators act quickly, these drivers will find they have few places to turn in this market bereft of consumer choice. Starting in September, State Farm Indemnity will send out notices to the owners of four thousand cars every month informing them that their auto insurance coverage will not be renewed, as part of the order governing State Farm Indemnity's withdrawal from the New Jersey market. The remaining State Farm Indemnity auto policies are scheduled to be non-renewed sometime after 2005. An additional 20,000 policy holders of the Robert Plan will get that same nonrenewal message this fall. And several other insurers are already over their capacity and have previously received permission from the Department of Banking and Insurance to stop writing new policies because of their financial condition. "Thousands of drivers will soon face the ugly truth about auto insurance in New Jersey," said John Friedman, chairman of the Coalition for Auto Insurance Competition. "Excessive regulation has forced more than two dozen insurance companies to flee New Jersey, leaving drivers with insufficient choice and options." To complicate matters, the ability of New Jersey's few remaining insurers to handle the influx of policies is in doubt. "One of New Jersey's other major insurers, New Jersey Manufacturers, has reported that it is already swamped with calls from drivers desperately trying to find coverage, and not a single State Farm Indemnity or Robert Plan policyholder has received the nonrenewal letter," continued Friedman. "Of the remaining insurance companies, 18 percent are exempt from the take-all-comers law because of their financial condition and are not accepting new customers. This underscores the immediate need to address how the state regulates the auto industry." The Coalition for Auto Insurance Competition has been working to educate New Jersey drivers and policy makers to prevent an unprecedented statewide auto insurance crisis precipitated by the deterioration of the financial health of New Jersey's auto insurance industry. It points to the state's excessive regulation of auto insurance as the culprit behind the lack of sufficient auto insurance choice and competition. "Having to operate under the state's restrictive and difficult regulatory regime where insurers are told what products to sell, to whom they must sell to and how much to change, companies will lack an incentive to remain and invest in New Jersey," continued Friedman. "We need a regulatory system that promotes competition, encourages companies to sell auto insurance in New Jersey, and creates a stable market that offers more choices for consumers." The Coalition is calling for passage and enactment of the New Jersey Auto Insurance Competition and Choice Act (A-2625), sponsored by Assemblyman Lou Greenwald. The legislation outlines reforms that will attract more auto insurers to New Jersey by permitting companies to use industry-accepted standard underwriting methods already used in nearly every state. It also adjusts the low ceiling on company profits to permit a reasonable rate of return. "Until reforms are made that promote greater consumer choice and industry competition, insurers will continue to lack the incentive to grow and invest capital in New Jersey, leaving drivers in a lurch," said Friedman. "Unfortunately, it seems that many of the states' leaders are content to avoid this issue until the market collapses." The latest figures show New Jersey has 47 percent fewer companies selling auto insurance than Illinois and more than a third fewer than neighboring New York and Pennsylvania. More than twenty auto insurance companies have left New Jersey in the past ten years, and two have left in the last year. The Coalition welcomes the participation of consumers, businesses, and associations who seek to work together to bring about meaningful and responsible auto insurance reform. Members include the National Association of Independent Insurers, Insurance Council of New Jersey, American Insurance Association, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Independent Insurance Agents of New Jersey, Citizens for a Sound Economy, National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, New Jersey Association of REALTORS, Professional Insurance Agents of New Jersey, New Jersey Food Council, New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, NJ SEED (Society for Environmental, Economic Development), Somerset County Chamber of Commerce and the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.

09/03/2002
Have Gov't Antitrust Actions Made Airlines' Woes Worse
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Have Gov't Antitrust Actions Made Airlines' Woes Worse

BY Joseph Gointo

What hurts consumers more, a merger or a bankruptcy? That's what some are asking after financial woes at US Airways and United Airlines. The two carriers scrapped a merger last summer after the Justice Department threatened to sue. It's hard to imagine now, but at the time Washington frettedthe combined carrier would be too dominant. Dozens of lawmakers complained that deal would hurt constituents. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., for one, said it would mean a cutback in flights to New York, especially daily service from Washington's Dulles International to upstate cities. But times have changed. US Airways is bankrupt. It's cut more than 30% of its schedule. United, veering toward Chapter 11, has slashed flights by 20% andlaid off thousands. And flights between Dulles and upstate New York? United has cut daily departures to Albany from nine to four, to Syracuse from nine to three, and to Rochester from 11 to four. More cuts may be coming. Should Have Merged That has some asking if Justice was wrong to block the deal. "While the effects of Sept. 11 on airline travel cannot be underestimated . . . much of (United's and US Airways') financial turmoil could have been averted had the Bush administration allowed the two airlines to merge," said Jason Thomas, economist at Citizens for a Sound Economy. Few dispute that. But there's no consensus the Justice Department erred in opposing the deal. "The merger would have saved US Airways from the bankruptcy courts," said Richard Gritta, an industry expert at the University of Portland. "But it certainly would have done so at a price to the consumer." Experts may disagree whether Justice made the right decision. But they do agree the decision is important, because airlines are talking partnerships again. So President Bush's trustbusters must again decide whether to allow the deals or squelch them. And this time around, the airlines' finances clearly are worse, while the partnerships are more vague. Instead of merging, US Airways recently said it will "code share" with United. That will let passengers book a flight on one airline but connect to a flight on the other, all through one ticket. Northwest, Continental and Delta announced a similar pact last week. Financial Necessity The Transportation Department is reviewing both code-sharing plans. And the Justice Department may conduct its own review. In the meantime, neither agency has much to say on the subject. While the decisions await, some speculate the financial upheaval in the airline industry may mean a smoother ride through the review process than the US Airways-United deal got last year. "It is accepted by all sides, including the Department of Justice, that whena company is in financial trouble, exceptions (to antitrust rules) are made," said Nicholas Economides, an antitrust expert at New York University. The exceptions fall into a couple of categories. Both the "failing firm" and"existing assets" theories of antitrust law let otherwise anti-competitive deals proceed if one of the parties may go out of business. No one is sure whether those theories would apply to the code-sharing deals,though, since none involves actual mergers. Even if they do, the exceptions might not help. To qualify as a "failing firm," a company has to be in real danger of disappearing from the marketplace. And airlines have a long history of surviving after declaring Chapter 11. Continental has done that twice. Plus, some think the Justice Department may not consider concepts like "failing firm." Rather, it may limit a review to specific parts of the code-sharing deals that may be anti-competitive. That might mean looking at where one carrier's flights overlap with another's to see if code sharing on that route will reduce competition and boost prices. "Justice has a very narrow focus," said Luke Froeb, an economist at Vanderbilt University and an antitrust official under President Reagan. "Broader concerns . . . rarely enter into their analysis. They take it one caseat a time." Still, that can mean problems. When the US Airways-United decision was made,well before Sept. 11, the airline industry already was slumping. At the time, some analysts said a United-US Airways merger was the only way out of bankruptcy. But the contraction of the industry was not key for Bush's trustbusters at the time, many say. Creative Destruction Even if it had been, some experts argue, it's better to let firms fail even if that means short-term harm to consumers -- like the service reductions and price spikes that can happen after an airline goes broke. Economists call that "creative destruction." That idea, from Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, suggests markets must cycle through failure to achieve "perfect competition." Sick, dying firms are replaced by healthy, vibrant ones. By those terms, Justice arguably made the right choice in nixing the United-US Airways deal. "There are definitely short-run ramifications if an airline fails," Gritta said. "But ultimately the free market works. The airlines wanted deregulation. They got it. In a deregulated market, if you fail, you fail."

09/03/2002
Content of Textbooks Education Board's Job
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Content of Textbooks Education Board's Job

Textbook publishers who want to do business with the state would be wise to heed a warning from the Texas Education Agency. It warns against changing the content of textbooks because of pressure from special interest groups or individual State Board of Education members. The TEA sent a letter to all textbook publishers reminding them that proposed changes must go before the full board for approval. The State Board of Education has 250 social studies and history textbooks under review. On Nov. 15, it will determine which ones go on a list from which Texas public school districts can select. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, Citizens for a Sound Economy and several individuals indicate some publishers have been willing to alter content after the groups complained. A public process allows interested parties to express their views. Allowing certain parties to deal directly with the publishers undermines the process. Publishers want to please because Texas school districts will spend more than $344 million on books and supplementary materials. Because Texas is the second-largest textbook consumer in the nation, it drives sales in other states as well. The elected members of the SBOE, rather than special interest groups with their own agendas, should have the final say on the textbook lists.

09/03/2002
State Judges for Sale
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State Judges for Sale

BY Michael Scherer

For months District Judge Jim Parsons, a candidate for the Texas Supreme Court, has spent his free time dialing for dollars. In a state primed for political change by an influx of Latino voters, he is one of five Democratic candidates who hope well-placed campaign spending will help break the Republican Party's lock on the high court. But to compete he must first beg for thousands of dollars from the very lawyers and litigants whose fortunes are determined by judges just like him. "I'm sitting here right now, looking at a notebook where I have all the towns broken down and the lawyers listed," Parsons said woefully on a recent afternoon devoted to fundraising. Each name demanded a phone call. And each phone call required a careful dance. Unlike a politician, Parsons cannot promise political favors in exchange for campaign lucre. He cannot predict his rulings on any future cases. But because of a June ruling by the US Supreme Court, his donors may soon expect more. In a divided decision, the court removed barriers that have historically kept Parsons and his fellow candidates from taking public positions on political disputes. Judges and lawyers have traditionally held that such public discussion of issues like abortion or the death penalty might hamper judges from deciding each case on its own merits. The ruling is likely to exacerbate a crisis of credibility already gripping many of the thirty-nine states that elect appellate judges. In 2000, direct contributions to state Supreme Court campaigns rocketed nationally to $ 45.6 million, a 61 percent increase over the previous peak in 1998 and twice as much as in 1994. The flood of money is driven by a fierce battle over judicial philosophy that has pitted trial lawyers, consumer advocates and unions against corporations, their attorneys and their trade associations. In recent years, the corporate interests have gained the upper hand thanks in part to a vast investment in voter education campaigns that skirt disclosure rules, while hammering away at the idea of impartial legal review. "I'm just overwhelmed that judicial races have been politicized to this extent," said Parsons, fully expecting that business groups would mount an independent campaign against him, one that could dwarf his lawyer-by-lawyer fundraising. The politicization has already tainted public opinion of the judiciary. Three out of four Americans now believe that the need to raise campaign cash compromises the impartiality of elected judges, according to a poll released in August by the American Bar Association. Even lawyers and judges have begun to hold their noses. A poll sponsored in 1999 by the Texas Supreme Court found that 79 percent of the state's lawyers and 48 percent of its judges think campaign contributions have a significant impact on judicial decisions. This fall, the stage is set for state Supreme Court races in thirty-three states that will be even more costly and possibly more harmful to the judiciary's public face. Major corporations working through the US Chamber of Commerce plan to raise as much as $ 25 million in undisclosed contributions, more than twice what the group raised in 2000. The companies' interests are clear: They seek to shift the makeup of state courts to judges who are much less likely to uphold costly product liability and personal injury verdicts, and in some cases environmental regulations. Jim Wootton, the head of the chamber's judicial campaign, has warned both supporters and opponents to expect an unprecedented election season. "There will be a significant expansion of our level of activity," he told a group of supporters last year. This will likely mean costly and bitter elections in states like Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, Mississippi, Alabama and Idaho, where the voters' decisions could alter the courts' ideological makeup. Other business groups plan to enter the maw as well, including the Business Roundtable, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Judicial Evaluation Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy, a nonprofit funded largely by David Koch, co-owner of the energy giant Koch Industries. State Democratic parties, unions and trial-lawyer groups are preparing their own state campaigns in response, though they appear to be far behind in both fundraising and national coordination. "I think we are playing some catch-up here," said Steve Rosenthal, the political director of the AFL-CIO. "It's something we think is a real threat and a challenge to working people." These expectations bode poorly for reformers who have been trying to curb the ever-increasing politicization of the one branch of government designed for political independence. In January, the American Bar Association endorsed public financing of campaigns as one way to lessen the political pressures. "There is an undermining of faith in the impartiality of the judiciary," says Bob Hirshon, the ABA's outgoing president, who called the recent Supreme Court decision a "Pandora's box." "Checks and balances are at risk of being eliminated at the state level." In recent years, the single greatest wild card in judicial races has been the influx of anonymous spending beyond the direct control of candidates. Stealing a page from recent presidential elections, groups like the Chamber of Commerce have purchased "issue advertising," often in the form of televised attack ads that do not explicitly endorse a candidate with terms like "vote for" or "elect." This technique, which has also been used by the state Democratic and Republican parties, insulates donors from disclosure, allowing for nastier, more underhanded tactics. In 2000 such issue ads used dubious readings of the record to accuse judges of coddling pedophiles, accepting bribes for rulings or secretly harboring gay-rights agendas. A study by the Brennan Center for Justice, which reviewed the nation's seventy-five largest television markets, found that the chamber and other business groups purchased two-thirds of the independent group-sponsored ads in the 2000 judicial races. A full 80 percent of the group ads attacked judicial candidates, compared with only 18 percent of the ads purchased by candidates. The backers of these spots remained nameless until last September, when internal documents from the chamber were leaked to the Wall Street Journal, naming Home Depot, Wal-Mart, DaimlerChrysler and the American Council of Life Insurers as $ 1 million donors. In at least two cases, the vicious tone of the ads backfired with voters, helping elect the chamber's opponents in Ohio and Mississippi. But such setbacks are minimal compared with the success business interests have had since corporations began using judicial elections to achieve their legislative ends. Elected Supreme Courts in Texas, Idaho, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Alabama have all shifted over the past decade to favor business interests following costly campaigns. In some cases, the new courts have proceeded to overturn established legal precedent in areas deemed crucial to corporate interests, like arbitration law and the limitation of jury awards. "The business community is not always successful, but on balance it is batting over .500," said Anthony Champagne, a professor of government and politics at the University of Texas, Dallas. "The trial lawyers and the unions don't seem to have come close to effectively mobilizing against them." These successes have encouraged the business lobby to expand its involvement. An in-house study commissioned last year by the Business Roundtable, a Washington lobbying group of corporate CEOs, concluded that corporations could benefit from even greater coordination on judicial elections. As a result, the Roundtable will join in the US Chamber's effort this year, recruiting Morgan Stanley, Household International and the Dutch insurance juggernaut AEGON to contribute to the 2002 campaign. Home Depot and Mass Mutual are also giving to the chamber, according to the National Journal, a charge the companies will neither confirm nor deny. "We're not just focused on electioneering," explains Jeanne de Cervens, the director of government relations for AEGON, which owns such brands as Transamerica and Monumental Life. "It's an overall effort, a comprehensive effort." By far the single biggest issue driving the massive spending is "tort reform," a catchall term that generally involves new limits on the amount a jury can award victims in product liability or personal injury cases. Over the past decade, manufacturers, retailers and insurance companies have successfully ushered dozens of tort reform laws through state legislatures, but the courts in thirty-two states have held portions of those laws unconstitutional. Enraged corporate leaders have labeled the judges "activists," rejected their judicial reasoning out of hand and threatened them with costly, knock-down, drag-out re-election campaigns. That is exactly what happened in Ohio in 2000, when the US Chamber and Ohio state chamber of commerce went after Justice Alice Robie Resnick in one of the most divisive judicial elections on record. Resnick, an incumbent Democrat, had written a 4-to-3 opinion that struck down a tort reform bill passed by the state's Republican legislature and signed into law by a Republican governor. Two Republican Supreme Court judges and one Democrat concurred with Resnick's opinion, which noted that the court had already ruled much of the law unconstitutional in a prior version. But business groups nonetheless vowed retribution. Both chambers designed television spots that bordered on character assassination. One by the state chamber portrayed Resnick as lady justice holding a scale showered by money from trial lawyers. The voiceover accused her of reversing a ruling on behalf of a contributor, an accusation later debunked by state newspapers. (With deft irony, the ad ended by asking "Is Justice for Sale in Ohio?" though its financial backers never identified themselves.) Buoyed by voter displeasure with the ads, Resnick won by a wide margin, preserving for the moment the 4-to-3 ideological majority on the court. But the victory may be temporary. This year Ohio will have at least two seats up for election, and observers are predicting a repeat battle. Fundraising has already outstripped past records, with the four candidates raising more than $ 1.9 million in the primary alone, far more than was raised in the entire 1996 judicial election. "The Supreme Court is the only real battle where you really have an opportunity to change the philosophical makeup of a body," said Roger Geiger, the Ohio director of the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation's largest small-business lobby. "You will see a much more galvanized business community." Such a prospect worries judges like Resnick, who blame business groups for bringing a new level of cynicism to the judicial races. "They still believe money buys these elections, and they want to control the Supreme Court," she said. The prospect also concerns Richard Mason, the director of the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers. Despite the promise of six- or seven-figure campaign sums from the state's trial lawyers, Mason expects to be outgunned by another influx of anonymous campaign spending filtered through business groups. "We really are talking about whether we want elections to be decided by people out in the open or corporations in secret," he said. Meanwhile, in other states, business groups have targeted Supreme Courts for another politically charged reason: environmental regulations. John Echeverria, the director of the Environmental Policy Project at Georgetown University, has tracked environmentally explosive races in Oregon, Washington, Louisiana, Michigan and others. He points to the 2000 Idaho Supreme Court race as a prime example. The race began in 1999, when Justice Cathy Silak, a Democrat, wrote a 3-to-2 decision that upheld the federal government's rights to control the water in certain designated wilderness areas. Even though Silak had ruled against the federal government in other water-rights cases, the state's mining companies, real estate interests and newspapers lambasted her opinion as political fiat. The Idaho Statesman editorialized, "There is one quick-fix solution available to voters: elect a new supreme court Justice." In the campaign that followed, Republican leaders hammered home the water-rights theme, telling voters to turn out Silak or they would end up "pretty dry." The Idaho Christian Coalition joined the campaign, polling candidates about their belief in evolution and stand on abortion. Allied groups ran advertisements that warned voters of the possibility that Silak might endorse same-sex marriage and partial-birth abortion. A secretive North Carolina outfit conducted a push poll that asked voters whether they "support the move by the courts to transfer control over Idaho water rights to the federal government." In the primary, voters turned Silak out of office by a nearly 20 percent margin. Months later, when mining companies, a paper manufacturer and several municipal bodies filed for a rehearing of the water-rights case, another justice, Linda Copple Trout, reversed her stand, bringing the court's opinion with her. Though she had first ruled with Silak, Trout said her change of mind benefited from the "opportunity to further examine the federal reserved rights doctrine." She also happens to be running for re-election this year. For Echeverria, the Idaho experience shows the effectiveness of business spending on judicial races. "Special interests figured out that you can get more bang for your buck in state judicial elections," says Echeverria. No company has embraced this philosophy more than Koch Industries, the nation's second-largest privately held company and the culprit responsible for the largest civil fine ever imposed on a corporation under federal environmental laws. (The company paid $ 30 million in penalties for more than 300 oil spills from Koch facilities.) Koch has long been a sponsor of lavish "educational" junkets for state and federal judges, and its reach can be traced to many of the most contentious state judicial elections. But more often than not, company executive involvement is shielded behind front groups with misleading names, like Citizens for a Sound Economy. This Koch-backed group campaigned in 2000 for business-supported judges in at least four states, distributing more than a million voter guides, lawn signs and pieces of direct mail that railed against the contributions of trial lawyers. Asked about the group's plans for 2002, spokesman Marty Reiser said, "We will absolutely be involved." That involvement will likely include the work of an obscure Oklahoma company called Sequoyah Information Systems, which produces "evaluations" of judicial performance that brand judges as pro- or antibusiness based on a selection of their past rulings. Founded by Marc Nuttle, a conservative activist who ran Pat Robertson's 1988 presidential campaign, the group makes sure its evaluations grab headlines wherever they are released, most recently causing a splash in Pennsylvania, where an evaluation condemned the losing Democratic candidate as a potential liability to the state's economy. Through much of the late 1990s the surveys were produced with the help of two other political operatives: Ron Howell, a former Koch executive and lobbyist, and the political consulting firm run by Tom Cole, the former chief of staff for the Republican National Committee. The US Chamber has since adopted Sequoyah's tactics. Last year the organization hired Cole as a senior adviser for its tort reform campaign. (Both he and Nuttle have since announced their intention to run against each other for Representative J.C. Watts's Oklahoma Congressional seat.) The chamber also began working with another front group, called the Judicial Evaluation Institute, which plans to commission more studies from Sequoyah this fall. John McMackin Jr., a legal adviser to the institute who has lobbied on behalf of asbestos defendants, said the group plans many more surveys. "As the chamber becomes more active in this area," he said, "we supply them with all their evaluations." McMackin said JEI's board included the Denver-based real estate entrepreneur Paul Ogle, former Clinton aide Greg Lawler and J. Frederic Rench, a trustee of the Heritage Foundation. McMackin would not disclose the group's funders. For some donors, he said, disclosure "inhibits them." Lack of financial disclosures will likely dog judicial elections for years to come. In April a federal court ruled that the US Chamber did not need to disclose the financial backers of its television ads during the 2000 judicial races in Mississippi. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals relied on legal precedent that allows regulation of issue ads only when they use explicit words like "vote for." "We recognize that the result we reach in this case may be counterintuitive to a common sense understanding of the message conveyed by the television political advertisements at issue," the court wrote in its unanimous decision. "Nevertheless, the result is compelled by the First Amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court." Federal campaign finance reform, which is on fast track for judicial review later this year, could clear up this legal muddle. Under the law signed in March by President George W. Bush, independent expenditures in federal races will be regulated in the weeks leading up to an election. If the courts approve the law, reformers hope to propose similar regulations on state judicial races. Roy Schotland, a law professor at Georgetown University who has closely studied judicial elections, believes that even if the courts continue to reject such regulation, disclosure requirements could pass constitutional muster if they were narrowly tailored to large contributions specifically for judicial elections. Schotland has also proposed limits on the amounts that one law firm can give to an election, which would help deal with excesses of suspiciously generous donations by members of big law firms. "There are major firms in some states, where they will have a Republican night and a Democratic night," Schotland said. In North Carolina, advocates are optimistic that the state legislature will adopt a public financing system for appellate court races and a new government-sponsored voter guide. Candidates would receive public funds, raised from general taxes and lawyer fees, if they agree to limit their own fundraising. If passed, the bill could prove the first success since the American Bar Association began supporting public financing, which might encourage qualified candidates who don't want to join the money chase. Similar changes have been frustrated in Wisconsin, Illinois and Texas, though reformers in each state remain optimistic. "You never want to jinx yourself," said Chris Heagarty, executive director of the North Carolina Center for Voter Education. "But we've got a 50-50 shot on this." Nonetheless, the North Carolina bill, in its current draft form, would do little to regulate or restrict independent expenditures. For two years now, Schotland has helped to gather Supreme Court justices who have been meeting under the auspices of the National Center for State Courts to explore other possible reforms. The judges have discussed extending term limits, eliminating partisan elections and establishing independent review boards. The latter plan has recently been adopted by the Louisiana Supreme Court, which set up a board to monitor judicial campaign activity. As an officially sanctioned watchdog, the group is empowered to speak out against unscrupulous campaign tactics, battling free speech with more speech. Other groups are working to do away with judicial elections altogether, though they face a steep battle in convincing citizens to give up their vote in favor of judicial appointment by elected officials, or merit selection. "No state has moved from popular selection to merit selection in over ten years," said Seth Andersen, the ABA's project manager for judicial independence. (The most recent attempt at dissolving judicial elections, during the 2000 elections in Florida, lost by a margin of 2 to 1.) "I think we have to recognize that people want to elect," said the Texas candidate Parsons, though he had no immediate solution to the skyrocketing amounts of money. "The same people that are pouring millions of dollars into races don't want to change it, because they are winning." That leaves judges like Parsons with his list of lawyers to call and difficult decisions about how to navigate the murky world of political speech while remaining impartial enough to hear future cases without prejudice. Parsons is not optimistic. "I'm afraid that justice is still for sale in Texas and other states," he said. "It's just that there are different sellers and different buyers." And with that he went back to making his phone calls.

09/02/2002
9 Republicans Compete for 3 County Board Seats
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9 Republicans Compete for 3 County Board Seats

BY Vanessa Urruella Willis

Nine Republicans and one Democrat are competing in a closely-watched race for three seats on the Union Board of County Commissioners. In the Sept. 10 primary, the Republican candidates will vie for three spaces on the November ballot. Two candidates are incumbents. John Feezor, a Republican and the board chairman, chose not to run for re-election. * REPUBLICANS * Phil (Philip R.) Gilboy, 48 Gilboy, of Waxhaw, said his professional experience and civic involvement would make him a good commissioner. "Union County is a wonderful place to live," he said. "I want to see the county continue to prosper and become an even better place. I really like the values people hold in this area. They are very family oriented." Gilboy, a self-employed municipal bond trader and underwriter, has never held political office. He said he has worked with the Local Government Commission, a branch of the state treasurer's office that monitors county governments' finances statewide. "I've watched counties have their bond ratings raised and lowered, and that is knowledge and experience that I can apply as a county commissioner," he said. "Through that knowledge of financial management, I have a good idea of how successful communities operate." Gilboy said he is concerned about the demands of growth. "The county needs to do a better job of matching infrastructure needs to meet residential growth," he said. His goals include increasing sales tax revenue by promoting the historic downtown areas of Marshville, Monroe and Waxhaw. He also wants to strengthen the county's tax base by encouraging companies to relocate here. Gilboy is a member of the Union County Economic Development Commission and president of the Union County Soccer Association. * Larry Helms, 57 Helms, of Indian Trail, is running for a second term on the board. He previously was mayor of Indian Trail and a council member there. Helms is a member of the N.C. Board of Transportation and owns Larry S. Helms and Associates Insurance. "My main priorities are balanced growth, better roads, better schools and better jobs," Helms said. He said addressing those issues would improve the quality of life, help attract more corporate relocation and stimulate the job market. "My leadership on the (transportation) board will help me," he said. "We have 90-plus miles of roads paved or committed. We are almost certain that we have $33 million for U.S. 601 South earmarked, and we're going to bid the eastern part of (U.S.) 74 at the end of this year." Helms said he wants to encourage retail development to promote local shopping, but he wants commercial growth "harmonious with the surrounding area." And he wants to provide money for new schools. "I believe Union County has tremendous potential," he said. "Our county is one that, with encouragement, will be one that people truly want to live in if they live in North Carolina." * Constance J. Kelly, 46 Kelly, of Weddington, said she is a good candidate because she has an educational background and understands the needs of residents. "Never having held political office before, I'm not tied to this group, or that area," she said. "I don't have previous alliances. I'm unencumbered." Kelly is an education specialist for Union County Public Schools. "Union County is very diverse and I think that our board needs to reflect that," she said. "It's been close to 10 years since we've had a woman on the board. I believe very strongly in Union County. We have a lot to offer because we are so diverse and we can build on that." Kelly wants the board to be "proactive rather than reactive." "One of my priorities is communication enhancement with the municipalities," she said. "In talking with some mayors and residents, I heard that people hold that to be of great importance. It's something we need to continually address." Kelly said the board should work more aggressively to improve the county's infrastructure. "The problem of water, outside of the drought, is critical," she said. Kelly said the board also must work to develop Union County's economic potential: "I want to support quality economic development for commercial, retail and industrial growth to bring in businesses, but also to support and promote the businesses that have been here for a long time." * Roger Lane, 66 Lane, of Monroe, says his varied life experiences make him a strong candidate. "I was raised on a farm, I have military experience and I was a teacher for almost 30 years," he said. After retiring from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel, Lane taught history at Monroe High School. He retired in 1998. Lane has run for commissioner unsuccessfully four times before, most recently in 2000. He has never held political office, but he said he was a member of groups that lobbied legislators to widen U.S. 601 and keep radioactive waste out of Union County. "I have not wavered from my path of trying to get things accomplished," he said. "I'm kind of like a junkyard dog on someone's leg - I'm not going to give up on getting the right things done." Lane said he is most concerned about growth, schools, roads and "poor communication between commissioners and municipalities." Lane said growth is "ruining our roads system and putting us way behind on our schools. We cannot continue to bring in 1,100 students a year and only build one school. We must slow down growth until we can get our infrastructure in order." He also said he would like to bring in high tech industries and wants to work for a better relationship between county and municipal governments. "We have to look at problems as something that affects everyone in a county, not just people on one end," he said. Lane is president of Crimestoppers of Union County. He is a member of the Union County Vietnam Veterans Association and a member of the ARC of Union County's board of directors. * Jack Lawton, 40 This is Lawton's first run for political office. He lives in Marvin and is a computer consultant for Computer Science Corp. "The major goal I have is to change the makeup of the board to make a positive change for Union County," Lawton said. "I want to turn the clock back on some of the aggressive growth policies that have been put in place... I don't have conflicts of interest that current commissioners and some candidates have." Lawton worked with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for eight years as a computer consultant. That experience taught him how successful boards work, he said. Lawton wants to create a comprehensive plan to examine the county's infrastructure, including water and sewer service, and health and safety issues. Other priorities include working with the school board to improve education, setting affordable taxes and "working for greater citizen control, which means bringing government back to the people." Lawton said other experiences, including Navy service and volunteer work, also have made him a good leader. * Stony Rushing, 30 Rushing of Wingate, a contract farm manager, has been active in the Republican Party but has never run for office. He was president of the Union County Republican Men's Club until he filed to run for commissioner. "My goals are to unite our county by working to solve the problems associated with growth and to be a trustworthy and respectful leader," Rushing said. Rushing said his priorities include better management of growth, school improvements and more support for public safety organizations. "I'm not against growth," he said. "I'm for managed growth. We need to manage our growth to benefit the whole county. We need to avoid extreme pressure being placed on one part of the county to provide services... Longtime residents are being asked to pay for new residents, and we need a plan that is fair to everyone." Rushing said he would work with the school board to balance funding for new schools in western Union County and school facility improvements on the eastern side. He also wants to work on a plan to provide water to all areas of the county. Finally, he wants to work with the new sheriff and rescue personnel to "make sure they have the proper equipment and personnel." Rushing is a member of the Friends of the NRA in Union County and the N.C. chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy. He also is a former Republican precinct chairman. * Hughie Sexton, 54 Sexton, in his second term on the Weddington Town Council, said his political experience makes him a good candidate. This his second run for county commissioner after an unsuccessful bid in 2000. Sexton works in The Observer's advertising department and owns Sexton Photography. He is a member of the Mecklenburg-Union Metro Planning Organization and the Business Community for Regional Transportation Solutions. He also is a past president of the Republican Men's Club, and a past district vice chairman of the N.C. Federation of Republican Men. Sexton said he believes sitting commissioners have a "pro-growth approach" that has hurt the county's resources. "Managing growth is our number one challenge," he said. "Chronic water issues are pervasive around Union County. County commissioners have expanded residential areas of Union County with their inability to abide by zoning and land use plans... There is an increasing litany of challenges for the county because of their inability to manage the county's growth and follow their own policies and procedures." Sexton said he wants to restore "open, fair and responsive government." He said, "Every citizen and taxpayer should be part of the decision-making process." Sexton said commissioners must find money to help the school board fight overcrowding. * Kevin Stewart, 41 Stewart, of Wingate, said he has leadership experience and understands residents' current and future needs. Stewart has worked for Austin Grading and Farm Service for two years. He previously worked in various emergency management positions and is a past president of the Union County Fire Rescue Association and past member of the Wingate Volunteer Fire Department. Stewart ran unsuccessfully for the Wingate Town Board in 2001. He said he wants to work for tax relief, school improvements and infrastructure upgrades. "I would like to see better tax diversification and tax relief with a balanced mix of industrial, commercial and residential growth that would lead to relief for existing home and business owners," he said. Stewart also wants to eliminate mobile classrooms and work on infrastructure, including the extension of water service. "The land is our greatest legacy because it's what we leave our children." He said commissioners need to improve their communication with municipal governments and commit to long-range planning. "Union County needs to get ahead of the curve and be more proactive," he said. "We are reactive when problems occur, but we don't do enough to be more active." * Richard Stone, 62 Stone, of New Salem, is serving his second consecutive term as a commissioner, his only political office. Stone owns Signs and Stained Glass Limited in Marshville. "My goal is to organize the county commission so that there is ... truth in government," he said. "There needs to be open communication lines from citizens to commissioners." He wants to include public comments in the main sessions of meetings and make "our boards and commissions that respond to our county commission open and more accessible." "I believe that listening is our most powerful tool," he said. "I believe we should take those items and concern ourselves with how people would react to having something in their neighborhood that they don't want, for example." Stone wants to provide money for school improvements and work as a liaison between residents and public safety officials. "I am very serious about getting children into quality classrooms and returning our teaching assistants to classrooms," he said. "In removing those assistants, we've effectively doubled the load on our teachers." * DEMOCRAT * John Parks Tarlton, 63 Tarlton, of Monroe, is the one Democrat running for a seat. He has never run for political office. "A lot of lot of people feel like a Democrat will win in Union County, and I want to be that person," he said. "The Democratic Party is not dead here." Tarlton retired in 1997 after working for Union County for 27 years. He was the county's facilities director from 1987 to 1997, and previously was general service director and emergency management coordinator. Tarlton said his priorities include restructuring water and sewer services, school improvement and better communication between the commissioners and municipalities. "We need the county to listen to the zoning and planning boards better," he said. "There has to be better work with economical boards. We don't have enough incentives to draw industry here. We need some high-tech jobs and a better industrial base." Tarlton said he also would work to improve communication between commissioners and school board members. "We need to have less mobile classrooms, better pay incentives to recruit and keep teachers," he said. He is a member of Mason Lodge 244 and a volunteer for youth baseball and softball leagues.

09/01/2002
Officials Indicted
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Officials Indicted

BY R. A. Dyer

AUSTIN--Two sitting and one former member of the State Board of Education face criminal indictments over allegations that they violated the Texas open meetings law, the Travis County attorney confirmed Friday. If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, board members David Bradley, R-Beaumont, and Joe Bernal, D-San Antonio, and former member Robert Offutt, R-San Antonio, face up to six months in jail, a $500 fine, or both. As members of the state board's finance committee, the trio helped direct investment decisions involving the $17.4 billion Permanent School Fund. The allegations stem from an Aug. 30, 2000, meeting at an Austin restaurant with three of their advisers, who also face misdemeanor charges. County Attorney Ken Oden said his 18-month investigation continues. He said a Travis County grand jury, which indicted the six Thursday, may bring additional indictments. "The grand jury will continue to hear the evidence," he said. "Basically, my goal is to bring more accountability to the management of those billions of dollars of public money that [was] entrusted to that committee." Bradley has alleged that Oden, an elected Democrat, is playing politics with the indictments. Phone calls to the other board members were not returned Friday. "I am disappointed that, after cooperating and waiting for the county attorney, that he is now -- two years later -- pursuing a false misdemeanor charge," Bradley said Friday. "I am confident that when the facts are told again, that I will be cleared of any misdeeds." The three advisers also facing indictments -- Russell Stein, Brian Borowski and Joe Alderete -- could not be reached for comment Friday. Stein was working then as a hired financial consultant to the board. Borowski and former San Antonio City Councilman Alderete acted as informal advisers. According to the indictments, the three advisers and three board members -- then a quorum of the state board's finance committee -- participated in an illegal closed meeting at a downtown Austin restaurant. The indictments parallel earlier allegations in a report by the bipartisan House General Investigating Committee. According to the report, several Texas Education Agency employees witnessed one board member dining with a financial adviser, while the other two board members dined with other advisers at a nearby table. Board members appeared to be reviewing documents related to the hiring of Permanent School Fund money managers, the employees said. The full finance committee reviewed money manager applications later that day, and the full 15-member board eventually awarded contracts based in part on committee recomendations. State Rep. Pete Gallego, chairman of the House investigating committee, said legislation vetoed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry would have created a state board investment advisory committee and mandated other reforms. "This [grand jury action] underscores that there are problems at the State Board of Education with respect to their handling of certain investments, and it underscores that it was a gross error of judgment on [Perry's] part to veto legislation that would have made some changes," said Gallego, D-Alpine. A Perry spokesman said the legislation, Senate Bill 512, had no bearing on the allegations. The spokesman said Perry vetoed the bill because of concerns about separation of power. "The governor believes that state agencies, including the State Board of Education, should abide by the state open meetings law and, he has encouraged the State Board of Education to adopt a strong ethics policy," spokesman Ray Sullivan said. The board's handling of the Permanent School Fund investments, which finance textbook purchases, has come under intense scrutiny by lawmakers, the state auditor's office and others in recent years. Despite questions about their own oversight, Bradley and Offutt have led separate reform efforts that they claim brought more -- not less -- transparency to the board's investment practices. They also raised competing allegations regarding fund oversight by Texas Education Agency employees. Peggy Venable, director of the conservative Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, said board critics want to distract attention from the efforts of board members to protect the fund during a state budget crunch. "These efforts are being engineered by several legislators who have been eyeing the $17 billion fund as a potential revenue source to pay for their overspending," Venable said.

08/31/2002
3 Indicted for Closed Meeting
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3 Indicted for Closed Meeting

BY Janet Elliot

AUSTIN - Two current members and one former member of the State Board of Education have been charged with violating the state's open meetings law. The three are accused in indictments handed up Thursday by a Travis County grand jury with conspiring to circumvent the Texas Open Meetings Act and holding a closed meeting two years ago when they met for lunch with three outside advisers at a popular Austin deli. Board members David Bradley, R-Beaumont, and Joe Bernal, D-San Antonio, along with former board member Robert Offutt, face fines of up to $ 500 and six months in jail if convicted of the misdemeanor charges. Also named in the indictments are Russell Stein of Houston, Brian Borowski of Austin and Joe Alderete of San Antonio. Bradley said Friday that he expects to be exonerated. "I am disappointed that after cooperating and waiting on the county attorney that he is now two years later pursuing a false misdemeanor charge," said Bradley, who owns a real estate and investment business in Beaumont. "I am confident that when the facts are told again that I will be cleared of any misdeed." Bernal told the San Antonio Express-News, "I adamantly deny discussing public business at lunch." Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, who represents Bradley, said "there's not a snowball's chance in hell" of any convictions. "These guys were not doing school board business in a closed meeting in a public restaurant," said Hardin. "They were having lunch." Offutt could not be reached for comment. The charges stem from an Aug. 30, 2000, lunch at Katz's Deli in Austin. Bradley, Bernal and Offutt were members of a five-person committee that made recommendations to the full 15-member board on the hiring of managers for the Permanent School Fund. About half of the fund is managed by outside investment advisers and the other half by staff of the Texas Education Agency. Three TEA employees reported the possible violation after arriving at the restaurant and observing the board members and the outside advisers seated at two nearby tables. The employees stated that they saw on both tables documents related to the hiring of external money managers. Later that day, the full finance committee screened applicants for consultant positions to invest a portion of the school fund. Wayne Meissner, an attorney for Stein, had no comment. Stein is a former adviser to the education board, hired to oversee the Permanent School Fund's private money managers. An attorney for Alderete, a publicist and former member of the San Antonio City Council, could not be reached. Austin attorney Bill Allison represents Borowski, a financial consultant who served as an informal adviser to Bradley and Offutt. Allison said the fact that prosecutors have been investigating the meeting for 18 months and waited until the statute of limitations was about to run out to seek indictments indicates their case is weak. "Little-or-no-evidence cases are filed the same way you put a bookmark in a book. Use it or lose it," said Allison. "I've had this case for two years and I don't think there is any violation at all." The education board has been at odds with the Legislature over its management of the school fund and decisions on textbooks. Allison suggested the indictments may be politically motivated, coming before the November election. Bradley faces Democrat Richard Hargrove while Bernal is unopposed for re-election. Travis County Attorney Ken Oden didn't return a call. Assistant County Attorney Jim Connolly said an investigation will continue into allegations of conflicts of interest regarding board investment decisions about the $ 17 billion school fund, which is primarily used to buy textbooks. Connolly said with billions of dollars at stake, all decisions about the school fund must be debated openly. "The purpose of the Open Meetings Act is to safeguard the public's interest in knowing how decisions are made with regard to that money," said Connolly. David Donaldson, an Austin attorney and director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said he can recall no other elected state officials being charged with violating the Open Meetings Act since it was passed in the 1970s. "I hope it sends a message to other state officials that the Open Meetings Act is a real deal," said Donaldson. However, Donaldson said that winning convictions might be difficult if the Committee on School Finance/Permanent School Fund didn't have authority to take independent action. Donaldson said lawyers for the board members could argue that the three did not constitute a quorum of the 15-member full board. Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, a conservative group that monitors the content of school textbooks and other issues, criticized the indictments. Peggy Venable, director of the group, said that the education board has been outstanding in managing the school fund. "These efforts are being engineered by several legislators who have been eyeing the $ 17 billion fund as a potential revenue source to pay for their overspending," said Venable.

08/31/2002
Education Officials Indicted
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Education Officials Indicted

BY R. A. Dyer

AUSTIN--Two sitting and one former member of the State Board of Education face criminal indictments over allegations that they violated the Texas open meetings law, the Travis County Attorney confirmed Friday. If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, board members David Bradley, R-Beaumont, and Joe Bernal, D-San Antonio, and former member Robert Offutt, R-San Antonio, face up to six months in jail, a $500 fine, or both. As members of the state board's finance committee, the trio helped direct investment decisions involving the $17.4 billion Permanent School Fund. The allegations stem from an Aug. 30, 2000, meeting at an Austin eatery with three of their advisers, who also face misdemeanor charges. County Attorney Ken Oden said his 18-month investigation continues. He said a Travis County grand jury, which indicted the six Thursday, may bring additional indictments. "The grand jury will continue to hear the evidence," he said. "Basically, my goal is to bring more accountability to the management of those billions of dollars of public money that [was] entrusted to that committee." Bradley has alleged that Oden, an elected Democrat, is playing politics with the indictments. Phone calls to the other board members were not returned Friday. "I am disappointed that, after cooperating and waiting for the county attorney, that he is now -- two years later -- pursuing a false misdemeanor charge," Bradley said Friday. "I am confident that when the facts are told again, that I will be cleared of any misdeeds." The three advisers also facing indictments -- Russell Stein, Brian Borowski and Joe Alderete -- could not be reached for comment Friday. Stein was working then as a hired financial consultant to the board. Borowski and former San Antonio City Councilman Alderete acted as informal advisers. According to the indictments, the three advisers and three board members -- then a quorum of the state board's finance committee -- participated in an illegal closed meeting at a downtown Austin restaurant. The indictments parallel earlier allegations in a report by the bipartisan House General Investigating Committee. According to the report, several Texas Education Agency employees witnessed one board member dining with a financial adviser, while the other two board members dined with other advisers at a nearby table. Board members appeared to be reviewing documents related to the hiring of Permanent School Fund money managers, the employees said. The full finance committee reviewed money manager applications later that day, and the full 15-member board eventually awarded contracts based in part on committee recommendations. State Rep. Pete Gallego, chairman of the House investigating committee, said legislation vetoed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry would have created a state board investment advisory committee and mandated other reforms. "This [grand jury action] underscores that there are problems at the State Board of Education with respect to their handling of certain investments, and it underscores that it was a gross error of judgment on [Perry's] part to veto legislation that would have made some changes," said Gallego, D-Alpine. A Perry spokesman said the legislation, Senate Bill 512, had no bearing on the allegations. The spokesman said Perry vetoed the bill because of concerns about separation of power. "The governor believes that state agencies, including the State Board of Education, should abide by the state open meetings law and, he has encouraged the State Board of Education to adopt a strong ethics policy," spokesman Ray Sullivan said. The board's handling of the Permanent School Fund investments, which finance textbook purchases, has come under intense scrutiny by lawmakers, the state auditor's office and others in recent years. Despite questions about their own oversight, Bradley and Offutt have led separate reform efforts that they claim brought more -- not less -- transparency to the board's investment practices. They also raised competing allegations regarding fund oversight by Texas Education Agency employees. Peggy Venable, director of the conservative Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, said board critics want to distract attention from the efforts of board members to protect the fund during a state budget crunch. "These efforts are being engineered by several legislators who have been eyeing the $17 billion fund as a potential revenue source to pay for their overspending," Venable said.

08/31/2002
Honor Father?
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Honor Father?

BY Cindy George, Anne Blythe

Many people want to honor Clarence Lightner, Raleigh's first and only black mayor, who died last month at the age of 80. But his son, Bruce Lightner, wants to make sure that any tributes are tasteful. Lightner, in his role as administrator of his father's estate, says those who wish to use the former mayor's name must contact the family first and be respectful that only weeks have passed since his death. Earlier this month, Bruce Lightner learned that the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association, a group instrumental in getting his father elected, wanted to plan a political banquet in Clarence Lightner's name. In an e-mail message to the dinner's chairwoman, he wrote that "the Lightner family has not granted you permission to honor, pay tribute, bestow posthumous award or otherwise utilize or mention my father's name in any manner whatsoever in conduction with your event." This week, Lightner said the RWCA bucked longstanding "social protocol" by overlooking the family's permission. "We have a high regard for what the organization has represented down through the years," he said. "But for the RWCA to even consider using Mayor Lightner's name for a political fund-raiser without having the presence of mind to first seek input from the family does not represent respectful diligence and planning." On The Spot: Stephen Halkiotis, a candidate for Orange County commissioner, shifted uneasily in his seat last week when a moderator at a League of Women Voters' forum in Chapel Hill tossed out an unexpected question. With North Carolina among the states with the worst obesity problems, the moderator wanted to know what county commissioners could do to battle fat. When it was Halkiotis' turn, he cast his eyes downward, then back up and offered: "One novel thing we could do is eat less." Like the the three other commission candidates at the forum, he, too, spoke about county- and school-sponsored nutrition programs. Then the truth came out. "I have to plead guilty," he said with a red face and a sheepish grin. "I had french fries today. I was in a french-fry mood, and now I feel terrible." These weren't just any french fries, either, he 'fessed up later. He got them over the line in Durham County, at a point halfway between his workplace and his wife's. He did not even "Shop Orange," as commissioners have encouraged residents to do to give the local economy a boost. ### Political Trail - Libertarian Party Candidates will hold a rally from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. today at the State Capitol in Raleigh. - North Carolina Citizens For A Sound Economy will sponsor a discussion on the state budget from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at N.C. State University's McKimmon Center at the corner of Western Boulevard and Gorman Street in Raleigh. - Linda Coleman, a Democrat seeking re-election as Wake County commissioner in District 1, will hold a meet-and-greet event from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Wingate Inn, 1542 Mechanical Blvd. in Garner.

08/31/2002

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