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Public Statements

False Advertisement by Special Interest Groups

By:
Date:
Location: Washington DC

FALSE ADVERTISEMENT BY SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS

Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I have to admit that I do not read the New York Times cover to cover each day. But from time to time, items in that paper do catch my attention. For instance, when a group runs a full-page advertisement, one cannot help but at least glance at the ad.

A couple weeks ago, one such advertisement caught my attention. It was a full-page advertisement placed in the New York Times by two special interest groups: the Natural Resources Defense Council and Moveon.org. These two special interest groups are especially vocal and devoted solely to disparaging the environmental record of the Bush administration.
I have an enlarged version of that advertisement that ran in the New York Times. It is chart 1. As you can see, it states, in large print: "First Arsenic, Now Mercury." It has pictures of President Bush alongside a powerplant billowing with smoke. The ad makes such claims as: the President's policies are the source for mercury contamination in fish and that the President is simply following the wishes of industry contributors. The ad makes direct statements such as: "So why is President Bush trying to weaken controls on mercury pollution?"

I am chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, so this ad was of particular interest to me for at least a couple reasons. To anyone reading this advertisement, the reader would naturally assume there must be some already existing controls on mercury emissions from powerplants because the ad explicitly claims that President Bush is trying to
weaken those controls.

How can you weaken controls if there are no controls to start with? So it is assuming there are controls existing. This claim is completely false. I believe this chart demonstrates that. The NRDC's lobbying claim is that the President is weakening controls on mercury emissions from powerplants. The facts, however, are very different.

On December 15, 2003, this President proposed the first ever controls on mercury emissions from utilities. Now, keep in mind, there were no controls before, none whatsoever. How can you weaken controls if there are no controls there?
The Clinton administration had 8 years to propose such controls and did not. In nearly 3,000 days as EPA Administrator, how many mercury regulations on powerplants did former EPA Administrator Carol Browner issue? Zero. Instead, in the last month of the eighth year of the Clinton administration, Carol Browner deftly handed a regulatory lemon to the Bush administration that she was unwilling to impose during the Clinton administration. What a courageous move.

I am very proud that President Bush and his EPA Administrator, Mike Leavitt, have shown leadership where President Clinton and Carol Browner fumbled and failed. In fact, Administrator Leavitt testified before the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air in a hearing on April 1, 2004. In questioning, the Administrator ably drew the line between fact and fiction regarding the President's proposals regulating mercury from powerplants. I want to read to you one of his quotes. The Administrator explained:

One fiction is that the EPA does not view mercury as a toxin. The fact is mercury is a toxin and it needs to be reduced. Another fiction is that somehow the agency is seeking the Administration to roll back standards. The fact is there has never been a standard, this will be the first time that we will have regulated mercury from power plants in our Nation's history and we want to do it right.

Now, that is what Administrator Leavitt said, reemphasizing there has been no regulation on mercury.

Why shouldn't we propose the right mercury rule based on sound science? There are no existing control standards for utility mercury emissions, so how can President Bush weaken a control standard for mercury that does not exist? That simply does not make sense.

The NRDC has been a prominent national special interest group for many years. So why would the NRDC run such an ad that is completely false? I believe the answer to that question leads me to the second reason this ad was of particular interest to me.

I had this advertisement enlarged to highlight one particular part of it. Keep in mind, this was a full-page ad that cost, as I understand it, around $110,000 for 1 day.

This is what was on the bottom, if you will notice the perforated block at the end of the full-page ad circled in red. I especially wanted to highlight this portion of the ad pictured on the chart because this block is the reason why this ad ran.
This perforated block is a contribution form. The contribution form states:

Yes, I want to join the Natural Resources Defense Council and help thwart President Bush's plan to weaken controls on toxic mercury.
This is the most important part:
Here is my tax deductible gift of $ [blank].
The form further states to "make your check payable to the NRDC and mail it to the NRDC mercury campaign."

I believe it is bad enough to run a false advertisement, but to solicit charitable contributions based on that false advertisement is especially troubling. The New York Times is widely distributed in my home State of Oklahoma, as it is throughout the rest of the country. It would be very disturbing to learn that based on a false ad, people are scared into contributing.

For the past several years, my State of Oklahoma has been rated in the top 25 percent of States for charitable contributions per gross income. It would greatly trouble me if even one of these contributors was misled by any charitable solicitation.
The Council for Better Business Bureaus, a national organization, compiles a Wise Giving Alliance report authorizing a seal of approval to charities that meet the organization's standards. One of the standards the council has established to measure charities deals with solicitations by those charities. Part C of those standards states the following:

1. Solicitations and informational materials, distributed by any means, shall be accurate, truthful and not misleading, both in whole and in part.

2. Soliciting organizations shall substantiate on request that solicitations and informational materials, distributed by any means, are accurate, truthful and not misleading in whole or in part.

The NRDC, describing itself as a charity, should substantiate this false advertisement. The President has proposed the first controls on mercury emissions from powerplants, the first ever. The Better Business Bureau should hold the NRDC accountable for their purposefully misleading statements. However, NRDC's irresponsibility is sanctionable in other manners as well.

Solicitations by charitable organizations are regulated in part by Federal statutes and case law. However, the solicitation of charitable contributions is mainly regulated by individual State law, and violations of solicitation statutes can be prosecuted under state law. Solicitation by charitable organizations is strictly regulated against fraud and misleading advertisement under the Oklahoma statutes. Oklahoma State law reads in relevant part:

Any person [or organization] who attempts to solicit any contribution as a charitable organization by means of knowingly false or misleading advertisement shall lose its status as a tax exempt organization and upon conviction be guilty of a felony.
This criminal liability extends to all officers and agents of the charity involved in the solicitation. We take this very seriously in Oklahoma. At least 40 other States have just as strict statutes against soliciting contributions by misleading advertising.

Arguably this ad by NRDC may be unlawful in as many as 40 other States that also have charitable solicitation statutes. This advertisement by the NRDC and MoveOn.org explicitly states the President is weakening mercury standards while they are trying to swindle contributions from people all across the country who may see this advertisement. I don't know what else this ad represents, but specifically NRDC, which describes itself as a charitable organization on its Web site, soliciting contributions by making knowingly false statements to cheat people out of contributions-in Oklahoma, that could make you a felon.

The most shocking part of this is not even that NRDC is running a completely false ad or NRDC is running a completely false ad simply to fleece people for contributions; the most shocking part is the American taxpayer subsidizes the NRDC hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to conduct this type of activity. Public IRS records for the last several years demonstrate NRDC regularly receives thousands of Federal grant dollars each year. In 2002, the NRDC received more than a half million dollars in government grants. In 2003, the NRDC was additionally awarded more than half a million dollars again in government grants. The cycle continues year after year after year.

The Environment and Public Works Committee has oversight jurisdiction over several Federal agencies. I believe my committee has the obligation to ensure Federal funds allocated to these agencies are used responsibly.
One agency in particular under the jurisdiction of the committee I chair, the Committee on the Environment and Public Works, is the Environmental Protection Agency. The committee has the responsibility to assure American taxpayers their money is going toward accomplishing the EPA's mission of protecting human health and the environment.
On March 3, my committee held its first hearing into the matter in which EPA allocates grants each year. The EPA is a granting agency, allocating more than half of its $8 billion annual budget in grants to State, local, tribal governments, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and a variety of other recipients. I announced at the hearing the committee was going to take its oversight responsibilities seriously in regard to grants management, and I intend to take this responsibility seriously until real changes are made in grants management.
The committee heard testimony of problems with grants management. I am confident we will begin to make real changes with the leadership of the Bush administration and Administrator Leavitt.
However, the NRDC, for example, has made it a matter of doing business to apply for Federal grant awards that I believe help subsidize it to run ads such as this one. It costs more than $110,000 a day to run a full-page ad in the New York Times. The NRDC and MoveOn.org are spending thousands of dollars to purposely misrepresent the Bush environmental record and scare people into contributing based on those false representations.
I am announcing that I am sending letters today to the two largest judicial jurisdictions in Oklahoma and requesting those district attorneys to investigate the legality of this advertisement in Oklahoma. I am also sending a letter to the Better Business Bureau requesting that organization to more carefully consider this false advertisement in their rating of the NRDC in awarding their Wise Giving Alliance seal and ask that it formally request NRDC to substantiate its baseless claim.
I ask unanimous consent that all three letters be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
U.S. SENATE, COMMITTEE ON
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS,
Washington, DC, April 21, 2004.
Hon. TIM HARRIS,
District Attorney, Tulsa County Courthouse,
Tulsa, OK.
DEAR TIM: I am writing to bring to your attention an advertisement that ran in the New York Times on March 26, 2004. A copy of this advertisement is attached to this letter. I wanted to highlight issues of concern to me in this advertisement. The New York Times is widely distributed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, throughout Oklahoma, and the rest of the country. This advertisement makes claims that due to President Bush's policies concerning environmental protection specifically concerned regulations on mercury emissions from public utilities, more toxic mercury will be emitted into the air. It pictures President Bush next to a picture of a power plant billowing with smoke, and specifically solicits contributions to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a IRS designated 501©(3) organization, to "help thwart President Bush's plan to weaken controls on toxic mercury."
As you are aware, I am Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, so this advertisement was of particular interest to me. One of the issues before this Congress is regulation emissions from power plants. President Bush has proposed the first controls on toxic mercury emissions from utilities. Currently there are no existing controls on mercury emissions from utilities. The Clinton Administration had eight years to propose such controls and did not. I believe NRDC's claim that President Bush is trying to weaken control on mercury pollution is completely false and simply an effort to raise contributions.
It is irresponsible enough that NRDC runs false advertising, however, it is also attempting to solicit contributions as a 501©(3) and self-described charitable organization.
I understand that there are federal statues governing charitable solicitations, but I also know that Oklahoma state statutes address perceived false solicitation by a charitable organization under The Oklahoma Solicitation of Charitable Contributions Act (18 Okl.St.Ann. § 552.1 et seq). What I find particularly interesting is the penalties section of the Act stating the following:
"Any person who solicits or attempts to solicit any contribution as a charitable organization or for a charitable purpose by means of knowingly false or misleading representation, advertisement or promise or any person violating the provisions of this act, including the filing of false information hereunder, shall lose its status as a tax-exempt organization, and shall be taxed in the same manner and at the same rate as any other corporation, and shall upon conviction be guilty of a felony punishable by a fine not to exceed One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) or by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for not more than two (2) years, or by both such fine and imprisonment, and every officer or agent of a charitable organization who authorizes or conducts illegal solicitations shall be jointly and severally liable for such fine." (18 Okl.St.Ann. § 552.18).
I know that your office is continually engaged in prosecuting hundreds of felony cases each year with tremendous success. As a resident of your jurisdiction, I appreciate the work of your office. Any attention that your office could provide to this matter would be greatly appreciated. I intend to highlight the irresponsible activities, like the enclosed advertisement, by groups like NRDC that the federal government subsidizes with hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in grants and other financial assistance each year.
Thank you again for your attention to this matter.
Sincerely,
JAMES M. INHOFE,
Chairman.
FIRST ARSENIC NOW MERCURY-GEORGE BUSH'S EPA AND THE POLITICS OF POLLUTION
America learned this week that tuna, and many other fish, can contain harmful levels of toxic mercury. Forty-five states already post warnings of mercury contamination in their lakes and streams. So why is President Bush trying to weaken controls on mercury pollution?
It's deja vu all over again. Early in his presidency, George Bush tried to allow more arsenic in drinking water. Now, he wants the EPA to let coal-fired power plants treat their mercury pollution as "non-hazardous" even though mercury threatens pregnant women and children.
The Bush administration's ploy would allow coal-fired power plants to put more mercury into the air, where it rains down on lakes and oceans, is swallowed by fish, and could wind up on your plate. Exposure to mercury can cause learning disabilities and neurological damage in kids and the developing fetus.
Guess who is praising this scheme? Coal power companies, who are big mercury polluters and big political contributors, too.
THE MERCURY MONEY TRAIL
The big mercury polluters and their trade associations are aggressive political players in Washington. Their executives and PACs are also generous political donors. It's no surprise that the Bush administration is following the industry's script for weakening mercury regulations.
Last time around, President Bush had to back down on arsenic in the face of a massive outcry from people across the political spectrum.
Let's make history repeat itself.
Tell President Bush to get serious about reducing mercury pollution. Our kids deserve no less. Let the Bush administration and the EPA hear your voice about its proposed mercury rule. Go to www.nrdc.org-NRDC, MoveOn.org, Democracy in Action.

U.S. SENATE, COMMITTEE ON
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS,
Washington, DC, April 21, 2004.
Hon. WES LANE,
District Attorney, Oklahoma County Courthouse, Oklahoma City, OK.
DEAR WEST: I am writing to bring to your attention an advertisement that ran in the New York Times on March 26, 2004. A copy of this advertisement is attached to this letter. I wanted to highlight issues of concern to me in this advertisement. The New York Times is widely distributed in Oklahoma City, throughout Oklahoma, and the rest of the country. This advertisement makes claims that due to President Bush's policies concerning environmental protection specifically concerning regulations on mercury emissions from public utilities, more toxic mercury will be emitted into the air. It pictures President Bush next to a picture of a power plant billowing with smoke, and specifically solicits contributions to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a IRS designated 501©(3) organization, to "help thwart President Bush's plan to weaken controls on toxic mercury."
As you are aware, I am Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, so this advertisement was of particular interest to me. One of the being considered before this Congress is regulation on emissions from power plants. President Bush has proposed the first controls on toxic mercury emissions from utilities. Currently there are no existing controls on mercury emissions from public utilities. The Clinton Administration had eight years to propose such controls and did not. I believe NRDC's claim that President Bush is trying to weaken control on mercury pollution is completely false and simply an effort to raise contributions.
[Page S4195]
It is irresponsible enough that NRDC runs false advertising, however, it is also attempting to solicit contributions as a 501©(3) organization and self-described charitable organization.
I understand that there are federal statutes governing charitable solicitations, but I also know that Oklahoma state statues address perceived false solicitation by a charitable organization under The Oklahoma Solicitation of Charitable Contributions Act (18 Okl.St.Ann. § 552.1 et seq). What I find particularly interesting is the penalties section of the Act stating the following:
Any person who solicits or attempts to solicit any contribution as a charitable organization or for a charitable purpose by means of knowingly false or misleading representation, advertisement or promise or any person violating the provisions of this act, including the filing of false information hereunder, shall lose its status as a tax-exempt organization, and shall be taxed in the same manner and at the same rate as any other corporation, and shall upon conviction be guilty of a felony punishable by a fine not to exceed One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) or by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for not more than two (2) years, or by both such fine and imprisonment, and every officer or agent of a charitable organization who authorizes or conducts illegal solicitations shall be jointly and severally liable for such fine." (18 Okl.St.Ann. § 552.18).
I know that your office is continually engaged in prosecuting hundreds of felony cases each year with tremendous success. Any attention that your office could provide to this matter would be greatly appreciated. I intend to highlight the irresponsible activities, like the enclosed advertisement, by groups like NRDC that the federal government subsidizes with hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars by way of grants and other financial assistance each year.
Thank you again for your attention to this matter.
Sincerely,
JAMES M. INHOFE,
Chairman.

U.S. SENATE, COMMITTEE ON
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS,
Washington, DC, April 21, 2004.
Mr. Ken Hunter,
Council of Better Business Bureaus, Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA.
Dear Mr. Hunter: I am writing to bring to your attention an advertisement that ran in the New York Times on March 26, 2004. A copy of this advertisement is attached to this letter. I wanted to highlight issues of concern to me in this advertisement. The New York Times is widely distributed throughout the country. This advertisement makes claims that due to President Bush's policies concerning environmental protection specifically concerning regulations on mercury emissions from public utilities, more toxic mercury will be emitted into the air. It pictures President Bush next to a picture of a power plant billowing with smoke, and specifically solicits contributions to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a IRS designated 501©(3) organization, to "help thwart President Bush's plan to weaken controls on toxic mercury."
As Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, this advertisement was of particular interest to me. One of the issues considered before the Congress is multi-emissions legislation. On December 15, 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first controls on toxic mercury emissions from power plants. Currently there are no existing controls on mercury emissions from public utilities. I believe NRDC's claim that President Bush is trying to weaken controls on mercury pollution is completely false and simply an effort to raise contributions.
It is irresponsible enough that NRDC runs false advertising, however, it is also attempting to solicit contributions as a 501©(3) organization and self-described charitable organization.
I understand that the council for Better Business Bureaus rates charities by its Wise Giving Alliance standards requiring that solicitations be "accurate, truthful, and not misleading in whole and in part" and that charities be required to substantiate all claims. I request that the Council require the NRDC to substantiate its claims and consider this false advertisement in future ratings of this charity.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Sincerely,
JAMES M. INHOFE,
Chairman.

Mr. INHOFE. A couple years ago, I read a series of articles in the Sacramento Bee highlighting the facade of many environmental groups. The article made the point that today's environmental groups, like NRDC, are more about their own prosperity than environmental protection. I still have those articles in my office. I thought one particular quote was especially fitting.

The author wrote of environmental groups:

Competition for money and members is keen. Litigation is blood sport. Crises, real or not, is a commodity, and slogans and sound bites masquerade as scientific fact.

That quote was written in 2001. It is still more true today in 2004. But it is not something new. That quote captures the way NRDC and its cohorts have been doing business for years. They should be responsible. They should be truthful. This type of activity goes beyond what the NRDC does with Federal tax dollars, but I intend to explore what NRDC and groups like it are also publishing and the extent of the rampant false claims made by these groups the American taxpayers help to fund each year.

We are not going to allow this to continue. They are getting into the types of discretionary grants we are dealing with through the EPA and other agencies. It is shameful that it is going on. We are now in a position, with the committee I chair, to do something about it. We intend to do that.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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