HERALD IGNORES BALLOTS, DECLARES BUSH WINNER. The Miami Herald declared that George W. Bush won the election just like five US Supreme Court justices said he did, even as the newspaper's accountants continued to count ballots showing Al Gore almost certainly outpaced the Republican candidate in Florida. In its widely quoted first-day story on April 4, the Herald portrayed Bush as the winner in Florida by as many as 1,665 votes, after the newspaper's accountants tallied 64,000 "undervoted" ballots, using the most generous standards (ironically, the standards Gore's lawyers sought). Furthering the irony, if only clean punches were accepted, as the Republicans sought, Gore would have won by 3 votes. But those totals did not include Gore's gains in Palm Beach, Broward, Volusia and 139 precincts of Miami-Dade, where canvassing boards had already reviewed ballots when the US Supreme Court stopped the recount, although those totals were not reflected in Bush's official 537-vote winning margin.
If all canvassing boards in all 67 of Florida's counties examined all "damaged or defective" ballots that cannot be tabulated by machine, as state law requires, the Herald admitted deep in the April 4 story, Gore clearly would have won the election by 299-393 votes, depending on whether the canvassers counted dimples. Only under the strictest "clean punch" standards would Bush have won by 351 votes, the newspaper found.
Then, in a follow-up story April 5, the Herald acknowledged that Gore could have gained 1,475 votes in Palm Beach County and 1,081 votes in Broward County if various marks for president recorded on the ballots were counted. "Had the Broward and Palm Beach canvassing boards used the loosest standard in judging ballots ... Gore almost certainly would have won," the Herald reported. That tally also excluded cleanly punched ballots in Broward that showed a net gain of 534 votes for Gore, where Broward election officials aren't sure if the ballots were read during the machine count.
In its third-day story, the Herald found "a net gain of at least 210 votes for Gore" from smudged ballots in two Florida counties &endash; Orange and St. Lucia &endash;- that were not read by optical scanners. Even this new disclosure was buried in the 22nd paragraph of the story, Robert Parry of Consortiumnews.com noted.
According to the Herald, Gore gained 319 votes from optical ballots - more than enough to overcome Bush's 154 vote lead as determined by the Florida Supreme Court. "If the 'scanner' principle is extended to punch-card counters -- which is perfectly obvious as a matter of legal analysis -- then Gore gains another 1,004 votes" from damaged punch cards, Bob Fertik of Democrats.com said.
Adding to the confusion, the New York Times also noted that hundreds of undervote ballots in Florida apparently disappeared before the unofficial newspaper recounts could be conducted. "In Orange County, for example, officials reported in November that they had found 966 ballots with no discernible vote for president," the Times reported April 5. "But when the newspapers went back to recount those undervotes, the county could only produce 639 such ballots. In Miami-Dade County, the discrepancy was 106 ballots; in Pasco 64." The Times is part of a different group of newspapers conducting their own recount in Florida. That tally is expected to be finished in about a month.
TOP-PAID CEO'S LAG IN RESULTS. High-priced executive compensation plans reward past performance more than sustained business success, a new report finds. "CEOs justify their pay packages by saying they generate tremendous wealth for shareholders. But it's a myth that CEOs are paid for excellence. Typically, their companies don't deliver excellence," says Scott Klinger, co-director of the Responsible Wealth project at United for a Fair Economy and author of "The Bigger They Come, The Harder They Fall." "Companies with more limited wage gaps are actually better bets for shareholders."
In six out of the seven one-year time periods following a CEO's appearance on the top ten list of highest-compensated execs, at least half the companies under-performed the S&P 500. In 40% of the cases, the companies trailed the S&P 500 by more than 15 percentage points.
Stock performance of companies with the CEOs rated number one in each year is even more dismal. If someone had invested $10,000 in the company with the highest paid CEO on December 31, 1993, held it for a year, then sold it to buy stock in the next year's pay leader and so on, by the end of 1999, the $10,000 investment would have eroded to $3,584. A $10,000 investment in the S&P 500 over the same period would have grown to $32,300, more than nine times the pay leaders' portfolio. "When Business Week releases their list of the ten companies with the highest paid CEOs for 2000, that would be a good list of stocks to sell short," says Klinger.
Among other findings, "The Bigger They Come" indicates that it is not shareholders alone who should worry about escalating pay packages for executives. In each of the years between 1994 and 1999, at least 50% of the companies announced significant layoffs within three years of the CEO appearing on the Business Week top ten list.
Responsible Wealth has filed shareholder resolutions related to executive compensation at Disney, Fleet, Citigroup, Raytheon, Household International, Exxon Mobil, and AT&T. The resolutions urge companies to link CEO pay to improved performance in customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, or performance on social issues such as predatory lending. See www.responsiblewealth.org.
GRANNY D CELEBRATES CAMPAIGN REFORM. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis., knocked off Doris "Granny D" Haddock's trademark straw hat while hugging her in a hallway outside the Senate chamber March 29 as they celebrated the defeat of the last attempt to derail the McCain-Feingold bill to outlaw huge corporate campaign contributions to political parties (soft money).
"Hurray!" Granny D exclaimed, raising her arms high in a victory cry outside the Senate building, her nine-day marathon walk around the Capitol and its grounds finally over. With half a dozen supporters and her "Campaign Finance Reform" banner unfurled, she left the Capitol to cries of "Go, Granny" from a long line of tourists waiting to get into the Capitol building.
"I think the people who called or wrote to their senators are the real heroes of this victory," she said after the bill was approved 59-41 on April 2. "Silence was our enemy. The people called in such numbers that they jammed the Capitol switchboard every day toward the end. That's what did it --that's what brought around the wavering senators, I am certain."
Haddock, 91, a retired secretary from Dublin, N.H., walked 3,200 miles across the country in 1999-2000 to call attention to the need for campaign finance reform. Since then she has been arrested twice on misdemeanor charges of demonstrating in the US Capitol. Her book, Granny D: Walking Across America in My Ninetieth Year, was due out in April. See her web site at www.grannyd.com.
BANKRUPTCY TARGETS HOMES. States' rights took another hit in the bankruptcy deform bill that is being finalized in Congress, the New York Times noted April 6. The bill would close a loophole that allows states such as Florida, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas to exempt homesteads from foreclosure to satisfy debts. A Senate amendment would cap the amount of home equity that could be shielded from creditors at $125,000. That means that a debtor with a home worth more than $125,000 could be forced to sell it to pay credit card debts. George W. Bush was a passionate defender of the unlimited homestead exemption when he was governor of Texas, where the homestead protection is sacred, dating back to the Texas' populist origins. In 1998, he said that any effort by Washington to end the unlimited exemption "would be a clear violation of states' rights." Texas Democrats urged Bush to be ready to veto the bill if it capped the exemption. Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, one of the bankruptcy bill's main backers who is up for election next year, also could come in for criticism if the bankruptcy bill caps the state exemption.
BUSH TANKS IN POLL. The more the public sees of George W. Bush, the less they like. As of late March, after two months in office, Bush's job rating has slipped to 49% positive and 38% negative, with 13% of the public still undecided about his performance. Since The Harris Poll began asking this question in 1964, no other president at an equivalent point in his first term has had such a low positive standing.
FREE TRADE SUMMIT PROTESTS. Labor rights activists, environmentalists and students plan to gather at Quebec City April 22 despite efforts to keep them away from the summit. The protesters complain that extending the North American free-trade zone from Canada to Argentina will result in lower wages and weaker anti-pollution laws in the 34 Latin America and Caribbean nations working to be included in a free trade pact.
Canadian immigration officials have said they will turn US citizens away at the border if they are deemed likely to try to disrupt the summit. A Canada Customs spokeswoman told the Buffalo News that those who intend to protest peacefully in Quebec City will not be turned away simply because an inspector spots a banner in their vehicle. But protesters with criminal records or without proof of citizenship will be turned away at the border.
As many as 5,000 police officers will be stationed in Quebec to prevent a repeat of the disruption in Seattle when that city hosted the World Trade Organization in November 1999.
Trade officials met in Buenos Aires, Argentina, April 6-7, guarded by heavily armed police backed by armored cars and police dogs on blockaded streets as Argentine labor, environmental and human rights activists protested the secrecy in the negotiating process of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The trade officials voted down a proposal from the Canadian delegation to make the FTAA negotiating document public.
VOTERS NIX WAL-MART TAX BREAK. Voters in the Galena, Ill., April 3 rejected a $1.5 million sales-tax rebate demanded by retail giant Wal-Mart to build a "supercenter" on the outskirts of town. The referendum was voted down 57-43% in a victory for the historically minded community. A Wal-Mart spokesman on April 5 told the Dubuque, Iowa, Telegraph-Herald the company will not build the planned supercenter in Galena.
HOROWITZ STIFFS CAMPUS NEWSPAPER. David Horowitz, the former leftist turned right-wing darling who has been placing ads in university newspapers denouncing the idea of slavery reparations, then reaps further publicity when he denounces papers that do not accept his ads, announced he won't pay Princeton University's student newspaper the $1,007.50 it charged for his full-page ad because the editors explained their decision -- and denounced his ad -- in the same edition, the Trenton, N.J., Times reported April 7. The newspaper planned to donate the proceeds to the Trenton chapter of the National Urban League -- a nonprofit agency that promotes racial understanding. But Horowitz, who apparently believes free speech is only reserved for advertisers, in a statement through his spokesman called the editorial that appeared in The Daily Princetonian "intellectually dishonest and psychologically sick," the Times reported. The advertisement, titled "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery is a Bad Idea -- and Racist Too," suggests, in part, that black Americans owe the United States more than it owes them.
Daniel Stephens, the newspaper's editor, declined comment on Horowitz's move to withhold payment for the ad, but Salih Omar Eissa, president of Princeton's Black Student Union, dismissed Horowitz's latest action as that of a sore loser. "I think it's a testament to his lack of sophistication. I think he's angry now because he played a dirty game and he still lost," Eissa said. "I'm personally very pleased with the way (The Princetonian) handled it. They really exposed his ignorance and hopefully, if they get their money, they'll be able to do good with it, like they want."
VOTING REFORMS ADVANCE. Legislation has been introduced on instant runoff voting in a dozen states and in Congress, while bills allowing proportional voting systems have been put forward in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois and Congress -- including a new version of the Voters' Choice Act to restore to states the right to use proportional voting systems, according to Rob Richie of the Center for Voting and Democracy (fairvote.org). A bill that would enact instant runoff voting for most major offices in the state of Washington has passed one Senate committee. California's speaker of the state assembly has introduced legislation to adopt IRV to fill state legislative and federal vacancy elections. A bill in New Mexico lost by a narrow margin in the House, while Vermont's bill is co-sponsored by a third of the Senate and has the support of state branches of PIRG, Common Cause, the Grange and League of Women Voters. IRV advocates in Alaska are now focused on an IRV measure that is set for the November 2002 statewide ballot. Georgia considered legislation on cumulative voting and choice voting, while in Alabama, HB 660 would allow cumulative voting in certain elections including members of the county commission, board of education, or municipal governing bodies. In Illinois, there is bipartisan support for a constitutional amendment that would restore cumulative voting in three-member districts to the Illinois House. The city council in Austin, Texas, is considering placing instant runoff voting for city council races on the ballot later this year.
Federal bills include HR 57, which would establish a commission to consider a full range of electoral reforms, including instant runoff voting and proportional representation; HR 506, which would create a commission to analyze the size of Congress and how it is elected; and HR 1189, the Voters' Choice Act, which would would allow states to use proportional voting methods in congressional races and express a sense of Congress that states should adopt instant runoff voting to allocate electoral votes in presidential elections. A major pro-democracy conference is planned for Philadelphia on June 29 to July 1, including a town hall meeting with John Anderson, president of the center.
SENATOR CHARGES $100M LOCKHEED SCAM. Lockheed Martin Space Systems has created fictitious losses on the sale of some defense facilities in a scheme to reap tens of millions of dollars in windfall profits at taxpayers' expense, Sen. Thomas Harkin, D-Iowa, alleges. In a letter to the Defense Department and an interview with USA Today, published April 9, Harkin accused the space systems unit of Lockheed Martin Corp. of using "an apparent accounting trick" in an attempt to gouge taxpayers of perhaps $100 million. He cited three confidential reports done by Pentagon auditors. Lockheed Martin, the nation's largest defense contractor, said its actions are proper, but there is "an honest disagreement" between Pentagon auditors and the company over accounting methods.