Multinational Monitor

NOV/DEC 2006
VOL 27 NO. 6


J'Accuse: The 10 Worst Corporations of 2007
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

Meet the War Profiteers
by Charlie Cray

Multinationals to China: No New
Labor Rights

by Jeremy Brecher, Brendan Smith and
Tim Costello

Wall Street Rallies for Bush - And Seeks Payback
by Andrew Wheat


King Coal's Dark Reign
An Interview with
Jeff Goodell


Behind the Lines

(No) Shame On the Street

The Front
Rural Bank Window Closed - Feudalism in Pakistan

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Book Note
Capitalism 3.0 - A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons

Names In the News


Names in the News

Chamber of Electioneering

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its affiliated Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) failed to report millions in taxable spending from 2000 to 2004 intended to influence state-level attorney general and supreme court races and federal races around the country, according to a Public Citizen complaint filed in October with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Public Citizen also asked the IRS to investigate whether the U.S. Chamber and ILR, which are two separate legal entities, combined funds in a shared bank account to hide accurate reporting of investment or interest income for tax avoidance.

Court records, internal corporate documents and media reports indicate that the Chamber and the ILR engaged in a massive campaign to affect the outcome of state and federal races through direct expenditures and grants made to organizations that carried out the Chamber’s wishes, according to the Public Citizen complaint.

“The Chamber is playing an elaborate shell game to conceal its gambit to stack the courts with hand-picked pro-corporate judges,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “The IRS should promptly investigate its dubious tax reports and address any abuses that it finds.”

Despite its own assertions of millions of dollars spent on electioneering, the Chamber and ILR failed to report any political spending from 2000 to 2003. U.S. tax law requires such reporting.

In 2000, the Chamber claimed it spent $6 million on judicial races and took credit for winning 15 out of 17 state supreme court contests. In 2002, the Chamber said it planned to spend $40 million on political campaigns, divided equally between congressional and state-level attorneys general and judicial races. None of these activities were reported on their tax returns from 2000 to 2003.

For 2004, the first year since at least 2000 that the Chamber and the ILR reported political expenditures, Public Citizen argues both organizations may have underreported their spending. They reported a combined $18 million, but the day after the November elections, Chamber President Thomas Donohue claimed the group had spent up to $30 million in races around the country.

Corporate Manslaughter

A new offense of corporate manslaughter will make it easier to prosecute companies for fatal accidents in the United Kingdom.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill, which was drafted following a series of rail crashes and has now received its second hearing in the House of Commons, could lead to big fines for corporations whose management failings result in the death of a worker.

“While it is possible to bring manslaughter actions against a company under current laws, in practice it can prove very difficult, particularly with large corporations, because it requires proof that an individual at the top was guilty of gross negligence,” says UK white collar lawyer Steffan Groch. “This new bill will be a more effective way of holding organizations to account.”

Since 1992, only seven organizations have been convicted of gross negligence manslaughter, despite the fact that the Health and Safety Executive believes 70 percent of work-related deaths are preventable.

While the UK’s record has improved, there were 220 fatal injuries to workers in 2004/5 and the total cost of accidents and work-related ill health in the UK is estimated at more than $35 billion a year.

“The new bill will target companies, not individuals, and will create a new offense where serious strategic management failings have led to death,” Groch says. “It is likely to result in around 10 to 13 prosecutions each year.”

Preventable Coal Deaths

Almost every single one of the 320 workers killed in U.S. coal mines in the last decade didn’t have to die, according to a six-month investigation of coal mine safety in the United States by the Charleston Gazette.

Nearly nine of every 10 fatal coal-mining accidents in the last decade could have been avoided if existing regulations had been followed, the report found.  

The Gazette analysis found:

  • Mine operators were faulted for not performing — or incorrectly performing — required safety checks in nearly one-fourth of the mining deaths between 1996 and 2005.
  • More than one-quarter of the fatal accidents involved mining equipment that operators had not maintained in safe working condition.
  • Mine operators violated roof control, mine ventilation or other required safety plans in 21 percent of the coal-mining deaths examined.
  • Mine managers did not train or provided inadequate training to miners in more than 20 percent of those accidents.

“We haven’t invented new ways to kill people,” says mine safety advocate Davitt McAteer, who ran the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) during the Clinton administration. “People are dying because we haven’t kept up with particular statutes and rules.”

Richard Stickler, a longtime coal operator appointed last month by President Bush to run MSHA, agrees.

“I believe most of the accidents that have occurred in my memory happened because the law and regulations were not followed,” Stickler said in 2006.

- Russell Mokhiber


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