CFGA August 2007 Newsletter
Citizens for Government Accountability (CFGA) August 2007
Keeping you informed with the facts you should know.
Mid-East War Equals Big Corporate Profits at Soldiers, and Taxpayer’s Expense
Recently the U.S. Congress has been trying to find a quick exit out of the Iraq war. Unfortunately no one, democrat or republican, ever had a plan to win the war. The high level of corporate involvement over our mighty military has precluded that. A long lasting military conflict is much more profitable to those who hold military contracts and fund both political parties than a quick military victory. The true cost of this corporate run military action is far greater that the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars going to those corporations holding military contracts. Countless soldiers have died or been wounded. U.S. credibility around the world is at an all-time low. Understandably a Zogby poll taken in mid-July of 2007 showed congress’s approval rating at the lowest in history at 14%.
Unfortunately the mass media in this country is now corporate owned as well. They spend more time giving coverage to Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith than trying to uncover facts to hold politicians, corporations, both political parties and Wall Street responsible to the public they serve. Today’s media is more likely to report the political or corporate spin handed to them than to do a Woodward and Bernstein Watergate style investigation into corporate/ political corruption. The handful of true investigative reporters that still know how to do this kind of reporting that best serves the public have all been relegated to magazines and blog sites that the majority of Americans never read. One such example of fine reporting on the Iraq war- U.S. corporate connection was reported in of all places Vanity Fair magazine, March 2007, by investigative reporters Donald Bartlett and James Steele. This story covered corporate giant SAIC and it’s government contracts. It was also aired on PBS’ Expose’ newsmagazine.
If the mass media in this country had been doing a Watergate style of investigation of politics during the 1990’s of the Clinton Administration instead of Monica-gate and all the others that came before her, then we would not be in this position today. The facts are that the top 14 oil companies were allowed to merge into 5 companies between 1995 and 2000, for the sole purpose of better controlling the refining and distribution of oil. We have all felt the full impact of this, especially after Dick Cheney’s energy commission of 2001. All this made possible by un-regulated corporate mergers during the Clinton years. During this same period, the Clinton Administration re-shaped the military by out-sourcing everything but the fighting. Halliburton hired Dick Cheney away from the U.S. State Department for one purpose; to garner as many defense contracts as possible. And he did. SAIC hired so many ex-generals that they bragged openly they had enough generals to start and fight their own war. And they have. Chief U.N. Iraqi Arms inspector, David Kay, was/is a former high level SAIC employee. SAIC employees 44,000 people, half of which have top-level U.S. Military clearance. The corporate owned media barely covered any of this. Instead they were filling the airways with the soap opera of Bill, Hillary, Al, Monica, Jennifer Flowers, and Whitewater.
The real problem is the majority of people who vote are so adamant that the political party they identify most with is better than the other party. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly, most people blame only Bush and Cheney for high gas prices and the Iraq war. It is sad because with the majority of people believing this we are doomed to continue down the same path of bad politics, only changing parties in power, but never addressing the real problem. President Dwight Eisenhower warned in a public speech of the dangers that a large corporate presence in politics and our military would lead to. We did not heed his warning, and we have been feeling the consequences the past decade. If we as citizen voters continue down this same path then we will continually be treated by politicians in the same manner. In the words of the famous circus and side-showman P.T. Barnum, ‘there’s a sucker born every minute just waiting to be taken advantage of.’
One side note: V.P. Dick Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, announced in the spring of 2007 it was moving it’s headquarters from Houston, Texas to the mid-east country of Dubai. It did so to avoid paying taxes associated with all their U.S. Government contracts. Shouldn’t there be a law against that? If not, maybe we all should move our address to Dubai to legally avoid paying our taxes that fund their government contracts.
Update: Occupational Tax/ Bonus Pay
In January of this year C.F.G.A. Director Pete Van presented Judge-Executive Jody Jenkins and the magistrates of the fiscal court the petition containing 1,400 signatures against the occupational tax and the bonus pay given to the three ladies in the Judge-Executive’s office associated with the tax. Only Magistrate Joe Clements has had the courage and good sense to vote against the tax, and the bonus pay that has slipped through each year on the county budget. The bonus pay has not been voted on as a separate item as it should be. As reported in our May newsletter, this extra pay associated with the tax has grown from $18,000/year to over $19,000. In contrast, it is nearly equal to the annual cost of living increase the 98 county employees will share, of just over $20,000. Three of these 98 are the three salaried ladies who also split the $19,000 plus in extra pay. We have contacted other counties who also had to implement a similar county tax to keep their jail open. None of them hired extra people or have given extra pay to implement or collect their tax.
These are your tax dollars. Help make your elected officials more accountable with our taxes. Call Judge Jenkins (389-1081), his brother-in-law Magistrate Jerri Floyd, Magistrates Chuck Voss, Joe Wells, and Terry Rodgers, and tell them to re-think this issue of bonus pay for salaried employees in the Judge’s office. Tell them to vote with Joe Clements, and stop wasting your tax dollars.
Further updates on this issue will be in upcoming newsletters.
Union County Hooked on Pork Barrel Spending
Many Union County residents wonder how much many of the large buildings built in recent years have cost them. Local politicians try and claim that it cost local residents nothing, as the money came mostly from state grants. Actually state grants are state tax dollars coming back to the county.
Many people state ‘that if politicians are going to waste my taxes they might as well do it here.’ The only problem with that line of thinking is it always costs more in county tax dollars to maintain these larger structures once built. Many may argue the true need for some of these project’s actual existence, and that the money spent could be better used on other things that serve more people in the community or state. (i.e. lower taxes, affordable health insurance). One thing is evident, like it or not, local politicians have Union County taxpayers hooked on pork spending like a drug dealer has and addict hooked on drugs. Most all of these projects are initially partly funded by state taxpayer dollars. This keeps other local elected officials, mayors, magistrates, etc., continually pleading and deal making with our state representative and senator for more money to pay off the remainder of the project, or in some cases the loan amount, in order to keep from raising county taxes further. What is even worse; several of these structures have politician’s names on them. Regardless of the need for the structure, in no situation should an elected official past or present have their name on a structure built and funded with taxpayer dollars.
The following projects are some we have gathered information on via the Kentucky Open Records Act from the Governors Office for Local Development, State Auditors Office, Cabinet for Economic Development, Kentucky Association of Counties (KACO).
- HERRON TECH. CENTER - $1,050,000.
- OFFICERS CLUB/ VEATCH MUSEUM - $1,390,000.
- JOHN ARNOLD ARENA(@fairgrounds) - $1,590,000
- JAIL STUDY (3 jail drawing/designs) - $650,000.
- MORGANFIELD AMPITHEATHER - $255,000+
- STURGIS AMPITHEATHER(current unused) - $175,000.
- BRECKINRIDGE GOLFCOURSE - $50,000
- STURGIS GOLFCOURSE (ELKWOOD) - $61,259.
- LIBRARY EXPANSION - $1,600,000. (library has $500,000. debt w/KACO)
- SPEC. BUILDING (10yrs old unused) - $1,000,000.
- CONNECT GRADD (U/C part) - $200,000. (plus debt of KIA loan of $24,458.40)
Taxpayers fund area Judge-Exectuve trip to Czech Republic
While most citizens were busy working and trying to figure out where they could afford to go on vacation with the high cost of gas, elected officials of yet another arm of government (GRADD) were already spending some of our hard earned tax dollars on a trip to the Czech Republic. The trip was taken from June 14th – 22nd, and was in regards to the Owensboro – Olomouc Kraj, Czech Republic sister city exchange visit. In recent years GRADD has become involved in the exchange visit and therefore the seven judge-executives of the counties that comprise GRADD were offered this trip. Only the judge-executives of Davies, Henderson, and Union Counties and their wives went. The $1,200 per person airfare for the judge-executives and GRADD directors was paid for by GRADD, which is funded by city and county tax funds. The wives had to pay their own airfare. We spoke with other judge-executives who declined the trip. They told us they declined the trip because they felt amongst other things taxpayers would not appreciate them taking such a trip at taxpayer expense.
Once in the Czech Republic, the Olomouc Kraj Regional Council paid for the hotel, transportation, and meals. The purpose of the trip was to view the region and the signing of a three page agreement between Davies County Judge-Executive / GRADD Chairman Mr. Reid Haire, and Olomouc region Governor Ivan Kosatik. The document was provided to us, along with the trip itinerary, as part of our open records request to GRADD. The document states it is set forth between the regions being, “Desirous of supporting and strengthening opportunities towards mutually beneficial practical exchange programs in all spheres of human activities in which the parties find a common interest.”
The following is an overview of the trip itinerary given to us by GRADD:
- June 14th: flight from Evansville, In.
- June 15th: transport to city of Olomouc.
- June 16th: Olomouc sightseeing, journey to Jeseniky mountains.
- June 17th: tourist program in Jeseniky, trying a treatment bath at Priessnitz Spa, return to Olomouc.
- June 18th: signing of agreement, discussions, official lunch
- June 19th: visit University, lunch, informal goodbye dinner.
- June 20th: transport to Praha, time on your own.
- June 21st: breakfast in Praha. June 22nd: fly home.
Our conclusion: It all sounds like a great ‘working’ vacation, the kind you hear about our U.S. Senators and Representatives taking at our expense, and now county judge-executives. At least it is nice to know how some of our tax dollars are being spent.
(all information was taken directly from information received via our open records request to GRADD – Owensboro, Kentucky)