Names in the News

Tobacco's Purchasing Power

THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY is buying its way out of troublesome legislation, charges a November 1993 Public Citizen study. According to the report, contributions from the tobacco industry have a significant impact on the way members of Congress have voted on recent anti-tobacco legislation.

 The tobacco industry contributed nearly $2.5 million between 1991 and 1992 to members of Congress, the study found. The largest single contributor was R.J. Reynolds, which donated $852,363 during that period.

 "The fact that tobacco money buys pro-tobacco results is clear, consistent and undeniable," says Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group. Public Citizen estimates that tobacco kills 500,000 people a year in the United States, making it the leading cause of preventable death.

 The report, Contributing to Death: The Influence of Tobacco Money on the U.S. Congress, found that the more money members of the House and Senate received from tobacco interests, the less likely they were to support a federal tax increase on cigarettes during the 1992-93 legislative session. Fewer than 9 percent of House members who received the most tobacco money co- sponsored tobacco control measures during the 1992-93 legislative session. However, 40 percent of those who received the smallest amount of tobacco money supported tobacco control legislation. In the Senate, 8 percent of members who received the most tobacco money supported tobacco control measures during the 1992-93 legislative session. Of those receiving the smallest amount of tobacco money, 36 percent supported tobacco control legislation.


Testifying Against Rockwell

THE 23 COLORADO GRAND JURORS who created an uproar last year when they defied their prosecutor and went public with allegations of corporate crime and prosecutorial misconduct related to the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility near Denver, Colorado will most likely testify before John Dingell's, D- Michigan, House Committee on Energy and Commerce in January 1994.

 Dingell's Oversight Subcommittee is currently wrestling with the question of whether to grant the grand jurors immunity for discussing confidential deliberations. A grand jury has never testified before Congress about grand jury proceedings.

 In March 1992, Rockwell International pleaded guilty to environmental crimes in connection with the company's operation of the Rocky Flats. The company was fined $18.5 million - the largest amount ever imposed in a hazardous waste case.

 Federal officials charged that Rockwell illegally stored and treated hazardous wastes generated during the production of plutonium "triggers" and other components of nuclear weapons at Rocky Flats. Federal officials also charged that the company improperly and illegally discharged wastes through its sewage treatment plant, creating the potential for contamination by runoff to a reservoir used for drinking water.

 Following the plea agreement, newspaper articles quoted unnamed members of the special grand jury who, apparently in violation of their oath of secrecy, discussed the investigation and their deliberations. A person who knowingly violates the grand jury secrecy law can be prosecuted for contempt of court.

 Grand jurors told a Denver newspaper that they wanted to indict employees of the Department of Energy and Rockwell International, but the U.S. Attorney refused to approve the indictments the jury drafted.

 In October 1993, the Justice Department announced that it would take no action in connection with the grand jury leaks.


Attwoods Dumped

THE STATE OF KENTUCKY has turned down a landfill application submitted by Attwoods Environmental, an international waste disposal company, on the basis of the company's environmental record. Now the company is fighting with the state over a background report which details the company's alleged improper business practices in other states.

 In November, the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet (NREPC) announced that it planned to deny the landfill application submitted by Attwoods and its partner Bituminous Resources Inc. According to a NREPC background report, Bituminous had "misrepresented, omitted and concealed facts in its application and for certain of its key personnel."

 "The number of employees of Attwoods' subsidiaries indicted in different jurisdictions for involvement in illegal acts and over-billing schemes are too numerous to be random acts by rogue or disgruntled employees," the NREPC report said. "One also notes that many of the employees indicted in the past year are high-level, white-collar, management personnel."

 This is the first time since Kentucky passed a 1991 law requiring background checks on landfill owners and operators that regulators have denied a permit.

Attwoods Environmental is a British company with international operations in waste disposal and sand and gravel. Bituminous is owned jointly by prominent Western Kentucky coal operator Don Bowles and Attwoods.

 The NREPC report said "it is not probable Bituminous has the willingness or ability to operate a waste facility in a lawful manner."

 Bruce Cryder, counsel for Attwoods, blasted the report in a letter to NREPC officials stating that it is "replete with inaccuracies, misrepresentations, half-truths and innuendo."

 Attwoods has filed a lawsuit in a Kentucky court against the NREPC, asking that the report be removed from the public record until the company can respond.

 The NREPC report lists indictments and ongoing grand jury investigations into Attwoods' business activities in New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, and Florida. In October 1993, the state of New Jersey ordered Attwoods to cease doing business in the state as of November 30, 1993 because of a recurrent pattern of violations by the company. Attwoods has appealed the state's order.

 - Ben Lilliston