Sunday, September 12, 2004

Healthy debate is a key to the success of our American system of government, but there are some who don't believe it is necessary.
A letter to the editor in the Springfield News-Leader this week addressed the topic of Seventh District Congressman Roy Blunt's initial refusal to debate his Democratic opponent. When I copied and pasted the letter, I unfortunately cut off the letterwriter's name, but not his message.
"Save yourself a coronary with this simple solution," the man wrote. "If you don't like Roy Blunt, don't vote for him! Usually, the proponents of such debates have only one thing in mind anyway and that is merely an attempt to make the incumbent look bad. Hopin for a mistake, a slip of the tongue, or some meeans to cast them in a bad light.
"The vast majority of voters in the 7th District are very satisfied with Roy Blunt's performance in Congress and have every intention of returning him to Washington this November. A debate of any kind will do little to change that opinion."
I certainly hope not everyone is as close-minded as that man. He is probably right about Roy Blunt's prospects in the upcoming election, but he is dead wrong about debates. These public forums are one of the ways in which voters have an opportunity to test the mettle of our representatives and those who would like to replace them.
Roy Blunt was quite rightly challenged about his numerous votes in favor of cigarette maker Phillip Morris. Unquestionably, Blunt made a dead-of-night attempt to slip in legislation favorable to Phillip Morris in the bill that created the Homeland Security Department, the kind of bill that should have been immune to such tomfoolery.
Even Dennis Hastert, a man who has never met a lobbyist he didn't like, thought Blunt had gone too far and hastily removed Blunt's amendment.
When you add to Blunt's amendment, the fact that he recently married a Phillip Morris lobbyist, his son works for Phillip Morris, and the company donated a sizable amount of money to his son Matthew's races in Missouri and you have the kind of hard-hitting question that should be asked at a debate and should be asked (but hasn't been) by the Joplin Globe and our other area newspapers. It should be mentioned that Blunt finally agreed to debate his opponents and did so Saturday in Springfield during the last day of the annual Missouri Press Association Convention.
It is also time these newspapers followed up on the story the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran today on the contributions Matt Blunt has received in his campaign for governor. According to the article, no occupation is listed for more than 150 donors to the Blunt campaign, a violation of Missouri election laws. Supposedly, Blunt is trying to find out what the occupations are. He seems to be the only candidate who is having this kind of difficulty.
It is vital that we know how the donors are connected so we can see who is trying to influence elections and why. A few years back, I did a story on a state representative race in which a number of donors were listed as housewives or government consultants. I cross-checked these people with the registered lobbyist list for the state of Missouri and found more than a dozen matches.
Another state representative, who had spent years as a champion of the small,independent farmer, suddenly became an outspoken proponent of large hog-farming operations. It turns out he was receiving considerable money from executives and employees of one of these businesses.
I have had one elected official after another tell me that their vote cannot be bought just because they accept a campaign contribution from someone. I have rarely doubted their sincerity. What the money buys is access and that can be just as important.
The common, everyday citizen does not have a lobbyist in Jefferson City or in Washington. Full disclosure is one way in which we can keep tabs on our elected officials.
The York, PA newspaper reported in August that La-Z-Boy, which has a plant in Neosho, is lahing off 645 employees and closing three plants in Pennsylvania and idling one in Ohio The company had reported a loss of $3.5 million or seven cents a share in the quarter that ended July 26. Apparently, some of the jobs are going to be outsourced, according to published sources.
O'Sullivan Industries is scheduled to discuss its fourth quarter and year-end results in a conference call Monday.
The Neosho Daily News reported last week that Neidra DePuy pleaded no contest to a felony charge of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance. She was sentenced to four years of supervised probation and will have to perform 80 hours of community service.
Dr. Jeffrey Wool, facing the same felony charge, is scheduled to appear Friday in Newton County Circuit Court.
I can't help wonder why the Daily and the Globe have not checked into the five malpractice lawsuits filed in Jasper County Circuit Court against Wool, Ms. DePuy, and John Doe Pharmaceutical Companies among other defendants. It would appear that the information contained in those lawsuits could contribute to a better understanding of this case. I would much prefer that to the information we are being spoon fed by the prosecutor's office and the Newton County Sheriff's Department.

No comments: