Letters

Week of June 20, 2001

The answer? I'm not so hypocritical as to say unequivocally that I know the answer. Yet I believe a part of the solution can be found in parental involvement in the education of their children about sex, including abstinence.

Ultimately, the choice about sex, as well as abortion, is up to each individual, regardless of how I personally feel about the situation. However, I believe that all options should be discussed openly with the woman, as well as anyone she decides should be involved in the final outcome of whatever she does.
Heather Tucker
St. PetersPower Player
Proponents of deregulation are already in a "say anything" mode:Your story on the looming danger of electric-utility deregulation in Missouri made a good start toward a public debate on this critical issue [Chris Lawton, "Power Play," RFT, June 13].

The article cited a Missouri Alliance for Campaign Reform study, which I authored, that examined campaign contributions by the utility industry to members of the state Legislature. One of the key findings of that study is that the industry "targets" its giving to members of the General Assembly most likely to be able to do them some good. Members of the House Utilities Regulation Committee get far more than their House colleagues from the industry, as do sponsors of industry-friendly bills and members of party leadership.

The chair of the committee, Rep. Carol Jean Mays, receives even more than her fellow committee members. The figure cited in the article was that Mays received over five times as much from utility sources in the last election as did her average House colleague.

Mays responded angrily, "It's totally ridiculous. If he [Harvey] had bothered to read my contribution list, he would have discovered that the utilities were not a large part of that donation list...." The problem is, in preparing our report, I did exactly that. I looked in detail at utility contributions over the last three election cycles (six years), with special attention to the full contributor lists of all of the key players, especially Mays.

The single figure quoted in the article barely scratches the surface of Mays' intimate political and financial connection to the industry she's charged with regulating. Over the six-year/three-election period we examined, Mays has taken over $8,400 in contributions from industry sources, well over four times the amount given to the average House member. She received more money from the utility companies last year, and in the six-year/three-election period, than any other House member.

As to the notion that these industry funds aren't a significant share of her total contributions, the facts show otherwise. Mays tends to be far more dependent on the utilities for her total campaign budget than is the average representative. While the average House member got only 4 percent of his/her year 2000 funds from the industry, Mays got 10.7 percent of hers from utility sources. That makes her over two-and-a-half times as dependent on the industry's money as the average representative. By both standards typically used in evaluating campaign contributions, total dollars and share of total budget, Mays' financial relationship with the utility industry goes far, far beyond the norm.

Beyond correcting the obvious misstatements of fact in Mays' comments, I think there are two important points here. First, by her long-term, unhealthily close relationship to an industry she's supposed to oversee on behalf of Missouri voters, Mays has made herself a walking visual aid for systemic campaign-finance reform. When a legislator we trust to regulate an industry can be this unusually dependent on that industry for her campaign resources, there's something fundamentally wrong.

Second, Mays' angry but inaccurate comments in your article serve to demonstrate that the proponents of Ameren-sponsored deregulation are already in "say anything" mode in the utilities restructuring debate. Deregulation failed in California not because of the peculiarities of that state's legislation or market but because it's a fundamentally unsound idea: the ideological drive to impose a market philosophy on a service or commodity that, for a variety of reasons, inherently doesn't lend itself to market treatment. In the face of this fact, Sen. Peter Kinder, Rep. Mays and the other spokespeople for the utility industry are going to need to take a really creative approach to the truth in order to get their collective way. Mays' outburst in your article was just an early example of a trend for which your readers should be watching.
Patrick Harvey
Hazelwood Buffalo Thrill
I admire Ivy's writing and thinking:Could you please communicate to Ivy Schroeder, who doesn't have an e-mail address listed, how much I enjoy her thoughtful and astute reviews in the Riverfront Times? I realize I may be the only person in Buffalo, N.Y., who reads her prose, so I thought I should let you (and her) know that I very much admire her lucid writing style and her equally crystalline thinking process.

Reine Hauser
via the Internet

Do Us a Favor
Testing is just one measure of performance: I am a teacher in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, and I was shocked after reading the letter by Lisa Payne-Naeger, a member of the Francis Howell school board ["Letters," RFT, June 6]. The tone of her letter, which called for a more "balanced" view of standardized testing, is really an antagonistic attack (for lack of a better word) on the state of public education, and how it will all be fixed with standardized tests! I am ever so grateful that our school-board members are more supportive partners in the educational process than she appears to be.

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