NEWS RELEASE



For Immediate Release: For More Information Contact:

Tuesday, June 27, 1995 Gary Ruskin (202) 296-2787

Nader Criticizes Senator Johnston as a "Tool of the Corporate Bullies and Law-Breakers"

Ralph Nader criticized Senator J. Bennett Johnston (D-LA) for the Dole-Johnston "regulatory reform" bill which would weaken American environmental, consumer, food, and workplace safeguards, and called Senator Johnston a "tool of the corporate bullies and law-breakers who wish to subvert, gut, and undercut the basic environmental, consumer, and workplace health and safety laws which protect citizens."

"Senator Johnston is a shameless purveyor of the new permissiveness -- he's trying to take the regulatory cops off the corporate beat," Nader said. "When it comes to corporate crime and violence, Senator Johnston wants to install a permanent police holiday to ensure that corporations will have a nearly unfettered ability to pollute, poison, imperil, and maim without recourse for the harmed or punishment for the guilty."

"Perhaps Senator Johnston should meet with the families of the victims of preventable tragedies, go into the factories and the mines and hospitals and speak with those who have and are suffering from the neglect of law enforcement and the absence of any law whatsoever," Nader said.

"Regulatory Reform"

The Dole-Johnston so-called "regulatory reform" bill "is probably the most savage attack on American environmental and consumer protections in the last decade," Nader said. Specifically, the Dole-Johnston bill would:

"The Dole-Johnston bill would generate much more work for lawyers, and more harm to Americans. It would bring Christmas in June for the big business lobbyists, but would leave most Americans out in the cold," Nader said.

Sally Katzen, administrator of regulatory affairs of the Office of Management and Budget, criticized the Dole-Johnston bill in a letter to Senator Dole on June 23. She wrote that "we continue to have serious concerns with S. 343, and I would recommend that the President veto it if it were presented to him in its current form."

Nader criticized Senator Johnston's record on a wide variety of issues, including international trade, consumer protection, environmental preservation, food safety, tort reform, and Congressional reform issues.

"The people of Louisiana have not been given detailed information about Senator Johnston's voting record over the years. Instead, they have been flooded with the Senator's well-financed propaganda machine that has hidden his activities for the rich and powerful against the interests and rights of working people," Nader said.

International Trade

In 1993, Senator Johnston voted for the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In 1994, Johnston voted for the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). These were two of the most important -- and the most structurally damaging -- votes to our democratic process in Congress so far this decade.

NAFTA and GATT both established foreign trade tribunals which can declare American health and safety laws as non-tariff barriers to trade, and require that America take down these laws, or pay perpetual trade sanctions. These tribunal processes are closed to the press and the public, and allow no external appeals. Documents are secret, and not subject to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

"Senator Johnston voted to sacrifice American sovereignty by empowering unelected and accountable foreign trade bureaucrats to strike-down American environmental preservation, and consumer protection laws. Senator Johnston's votes in support of NAFTA and GATT jeopardized 30 years of progress by the American consumer in areas ranging from pesticide regulation to mandated automated airbags and fuel efficiency," Nader said.



Consumer Protection and Food Safety

Senator Johnston's Senate career rating from Public Citizen is a very low 31%. And his lifetime rating from the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is a low 44%. That is the lowest lifetime rating CFA of any current Democratic member of the United States Senate.

"Senator Johnston -- a corporate legislator -- has shown little but contempt for efforts to protect consumers, and to preserve the safety of our food supply," Nader said.

The Dole-Johnston "regulatory reform" bill would repeal the famous Delaney Clause, which bans the addition of cancer-causing chemicals in food.

Senator Johnston's votes in favor of NAFTA and GATT threatens American food safety laws by opening these laws up to challenge by foreign nations. Laws vulnerable to attack include restrictions on the use of hormones such as Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), limits on food additives that cause cancer, strict food inspection standards, bans on dangerous pesticide residues such as DDT, food labeling laws, and prohibitions against food irradiation.

In 1991, Senator Johnston voted against tabling a Banking bill (S. 543) amendment that would have struck provisions requiring banks to provide low cost checking accounts and to cash government checks for individuals unable to afford checking or savings accounts.

Also in 1991, Johnston voted against a motion to end debate on a bill (S. 429) to ban the practice of vertical price fixing -- which is an agreement between a manufacturer and a distributor to fix prices.

Environment

Senator Johnston's record on environmental issues is abysmal. For his record between 1973 and 1994, the League of Conservation Voters has given him a rating of 23% -- less than one pro-environment vote of every four votes.

"Senator Johnston is a champion of the kind of regulatory permissiveness which brings environmental degradation and destruction. He is helping the polluters to pollute and the despoilers to despoil," Nader said.

The Dole-Johnston bill would cripple the effective Right to Know law by allowing companies to hide their release of hundreds of toxic chemicals identified as hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Dole-Johnston bill would also establish many new loopholes to prevent the enforcement of environmental rules. For example, violators of one rule could claim immunity under the Dole-Johnston bill if there exists another rule which is "contradictory."

In 1990, Senator Johnston, despite hailing from one of the most polluted states in the country, turned his back on Louisiana and voted to table important Clean Air Act Amendments (S. 1630) to require the regulation of mobile air sources of air toxics, to reduce emissions from new cars, and to restore the federal mandate to step in when states fail to carry out their responsibilities under the Clean Air Act. In 1990, Senator Johnston also voted against a motion to defeat a filibuster of legislation (S. 1224) to increase corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard for fleets of cars by 20% by 1995, and 40% by 2000.

Congressional Reform

Senator Johnston has vigorously resisted attempts to prohibit corporate and wealthy interests and lobbyists from supplying gifts of expensive meals and lavish vacations to members of Congress. In 1994, Senator Johnston joined Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) -- who is the leading Senate opponent of Congressional reform -- to propose a weakening amendment (Amendment #1674 to S. 1935) to a stringent proposed gift reform proposal. That amendment would have allowed members of Congress to continue to accept gifts of expensive meals and "charitable trips."

During the debate over his failed gift reform amendment, Senator Johnston was humiliated on the Senate floor after complaining that he would not be able to attend a charity opera ball under proposed new rules. Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) responded to Johnston's complaint: "You can go to any opera you want to. You pay for it, just like the regular people pay for it when they go to the opera."

Nader said that "Senator Johnston and many other members of Congress avail themselves of a swank and luxurious lifestyle filled with Epicurean meals and posh vacations paid for by corporate lobbyists. This is how lobbyists facilitate their influence on votes, and how the hidden income of members of Congress swells to a capacity limited only by greed and the size of the human stomach."

Senator Johnston has repeatedly voted against the partial public financing of Congressional campaigns (Kerry amendment to S.3 on 5/27/93, Kerry amendment to S.3 on 5/22/91), which would have dramatically curtailed the influence of corporate and wealthy special interest campaign contributions.

Tort Reform

On May 10, 1995 Senator Johnston voted in support of "tort reform" legislation (S. 565) which limits the authority of state judges and juries to punish corporate and individual wrongdoers. This legislation caps punitive damages in product liability lawsuits, eliminates joint liability for non-economic damages, and limits the liability for sellers by establishing a uniform negligence standard for sellers and by eliminating liability for breach of implied warranty.

"Senator Johnston's vote in support of the takeover and restriction of state tort law on products liability helped bring about a PAC-greased victory for the large corporate lobbies. It is a defeat for our nation's health, safety, and the rights of wrongfully injured Americans to hold those perpetrators who harmed them accountable in courts of law. Senator Johnston's support for abolishing or weakening various rights of injured consumers to receive fair compensation for injuries caused by dangerous products is bad for our civil justice system, it is bad for consumers, and it is bad for taxpayers," Nader said.

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