When Republicans took over Congress in 1994, they pledged to run government like a business. Unfortunately, that business turned out to be Enron.
The 109th Congress set a new mark as the laziest in history. It worked only 242 days over two years, shaving nearly two weeks off the previous record of 254 days put in by the notorious 80th Congress that Harry Truman reviled as "do nothing" in his 1948 campaign for president. If Truman had seen the 109th, he would probably apologize to the 80th Congress, said Norman Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute and co-author of The Broken Branch, a book that argues that Congress is increasingly dysfunctional. "I would say the 109th went out of town not with a bang but with a whimper, but that would be an insult to whimperers everywhere," he said in the Austin American-Statesman (12/10).
Indeed, Scott Shepard of Cox News noted that the 80th Congress passed the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt war-ravaged Europe; the National Security Act, which created the CIA; and the Clean Water Act, which remains the primary federal law governing water pollution.
In contrast, the 109th Congress created a Medicare prescription drug plan but prohibited the government from negotiating lower drug prices. It authorized, but did not fund, the building of a 700-mile fence along parts of the US-Mexico border. And it passed a Military Commissions Act, which sets up special military courts for suspected terrorists and restricts basic constitutional rights such as habeas corpus and other judicial review; even the bill's supporters admit the law is unconstitutional. And the GOP Congress left undone nine of the 11 annual appropriations bills required to finance government agencies. Instead, before leaving town, Congress adopted "continuing resolutions," which keep funding at current levels and left the Democratic Congress to finish appropriations for the year that started in October.
Congress failed to complete a comprehensive immigration reform bill that Bush and a bipartisan majority of senators supported. It did not enact sweeping ethics reforms even after the resignations of GOP Reps. Tom DeLay of Texas, Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California, Bob Ney of Ohio and Mark Foley of Florida, among at least 19 legislators who reportedly are under federal investigation, according to TPMMuckraker.com.
"The 109th Congress vies for the title of the all-time-worst Congress," said Thomas Mann, political analyst at the Brookings Institution and co-author with Ornstein of The Broken Branch. "It spent little time in session; it failed to pass budget resolutions and appropriations bills; there was no serious oversight of the disaster in Iraq; there were no major substantive policy achievements; and corrupt members were forced from Congress."
Dems got another sweet win in the West Texas 23rd District runoff (12/12) when former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D), who lost his seat in the Tom DeLay ordered gerrymandering in 2004, beat 7-term Rep. Henry Bonilla (R) with 54.3% after federal courts ordered a new map. Dems have a 233-201 majority, a 30-seat pickup with Florida's 13th District still undecided due to voting irregularities.
OREGON EYES HEALTH PLAN: In Oregon, where Democrats retook the state House for the first time in 16 years and will control state government come January, lawmakers are looking at a universal healthcare program that could serve as a model for legislation on the federal level. A Senate commission has endorsed the framework for a universal health care plan for Oregon, the Portland Oregonian reported (12/9). The draft bill lacks details, such as costs, but the plan would give every Oregonian a health card that could be used to buy a complete health care package -- including dental, mental health and vision coverage -- for less than most businesses and individuals now pay. In addition to the goal of expanding access, the plan includes features to control costs and improve quality. The commission includes four state senators and 17 business and health industry representatives. Doctors and hospitals worry that the new system will bring lower payments for their services. Insurers and businesses worry that they'll bear the brunt of costs for change. But they all want to push forward with a comprehensive plan, Maribeth Healey, executive director of Oregonians for Health Security, told the Oregonian.
The plan would require all employers and individuals to contribute money to a common pool called the Oregon Health Care Trust Fund. Residents who earn less than 250% of the poverty level would not have to pay. The fund also would include public employee and federal Medicaid contributions. The plan would collect money, possibly a payroll tax, from businesses. Large companies with self-insurance plans would have their contributions reimbursed. A Health Care Trust Fund board, appointed by the governor, would adopt regulations and administer the trust. Businesses and individuals could choose health plans, which would be paid through the trust with rates set by the trust commission. The plan would cover all Oregonians, including the more than 600,000 who now lack health insurance. Individuals who choose not to participate in the plan would lose their personal state income tax deduction.
If the bill passes, Oregonians likely would not see health cards before 2009.
PINOCHET GAVE DICTATORS BAD NAME: When Augusto Pinochet died on 12/10 at age 91, a Bush White House spokesman said his dictatorship in Chile "represented one of the most difficult periods in that nation's history. Our thoughts today are with the victims of his reign and their families." Pinochet, a general who was then chief of staff of the Chilean armed forces, overthrew the elected socialist government of Salvador Allende in 1973 with the assistance of the CIA. Then he set up a secret police network that hunted down dissidents, executed at least 3,197 leftists and labor activists and tortured 29,000 while another thousand disappeared with no trace. Hundreds of thousands were sent into political or economic exile. In league with other right-wing dictators in South America, Pinochet set up Operation Condor to pursue dissidents across the globe, with at least some cooperation by the CIA. Among the assassinations Pinochet authorized was Orlando Letelier, a former defense minister in Allende's government, who was blown up by a car bomb in Washington, D.C., in September 1976. Also killed in the bombing was Ronni Moffitt, an American citizen and an associate of Letelier's at the Institute for Policy Studies.
In 1978, Michael Townley, a former CIA employee, was convicted in the US of placing the bomb on Letelier's car for DINA, the Chilean secret police. The US government under Jimmy Carter tried to extradite other terrorists involved in the assassination. But after Ronald Reagan's inauguration, the extradition efforts were abandoned, the US re-established military ties and supported loans to Chile as UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick (who died 12/7 at age 80) visited Pinochet, pursuing her doctrine that it was OK for the US to support repressive dictatorships because "authoritarian regimes" (like Pinochet or Iraq's strongman Saddam Hussein) were capable of evolving peacefully toward democracy, whereas "totalitarian states" -- such as the Soviet Union, Nicaragua or Cuba -- were incapable of such change.
Right wingers often credit Pinochet with steering Chile's economy back to the free market after Allende's efforts to nationalize industry, but Marc Cooper noted, the "shock therapy" nostrums prescribed by Milton Friedman pushed Chile to the brink of bankruptcy and caused the first public rebellions against the regime in 1983, motivated as much by hunger as political rage. Pinochet tried to validate his rule with a 1988 plebiscite, but got only 43% support. He finally stepped down as president in 1990, but remained head of the army until 1998. He gave up that position only after naming himself senator-for-life with immunity from prosecution under the terms of a military-written constitution.
While he was on a trip to Britain in 1998, crusading judges in Spain forced his arrest on charges of murdering and torturing Spanish citizens in Chile. He was returned to Chile and stripped of immunity. Legal actions gathered momentum in the two years before his death, as several of his key subordinates were imprisoned, but his failing health helped him avoid trials in hundreds of court cases filed against him. Even his defenders were stunned when investigators found that millions of dollars, apparently stolen from Chile, were secretly deposited in his name in foreign banks, including the Riggs Bank in Washington. In October, Chilean investigators announced the discovery of 10 tons of gold, worth an estimated $160 million, in Pinochet's name in a Hong Kong bank.
A couple weeks after the Letelier assassination, a Cubana airliner was brought down by anti-Castro Cubans, killing 73 passengers. Luis Posada Carilles, a Cuban-born Venezuelan national who was said to be involved in Operation Condor and may have played a role in the Letelier bombing, was alleged to be responsible for the Cubana bombing. Now he is being held by US authorities on an immigration violation, but the Bush administration refuses to extradite Posada to Venezuela, where the bombing occurred, much less send him to Cuba, where he has admitted being part of a plot to bomb tourist hotels.
IMMIGRANTS PAY THEIR WAY IN TEXAS: While many "reform" activists claim that undocumented immigrants are a drain on taxpayers, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn reported in December that undocumented immigrants in Texas produced $1.58 bln in state revenues, which exceeded the $1.16 bln in state services they received. Undocumented immigrants were responsible for $17.7 bln of the gross state product, she said, in what was billed as the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of undocumented immigrants on a state's budget and economy. The findings contradict two recent reports, "The Cost of Illegal Immigration to Texans" by the Federation for American Immigration Reform and "Costs of Federally Mandated Services to Undocumented Immigrants in Colorado" by the Bell Policy Center. Both claimed immigrant costs exceed revenue. The Texas comptroller's study noted that local governments bore the burden of $1.44 bln in uncompensated health care costs and local law enforcement costs not paid for by the state, while immigrants paid more than $513 million in local taxes. (A national health program would take care of that gap.) Texas is believed to have between 1.4 mln and 1.6 mln undocumented immigrants, approximately 14% of the undocumented in the US, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. See www.window.state.tx.us.
McCAIN HIRES DIRTY TRICKSTER: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) signaled that he has put his principles in a blind trust while he pursues the Republican presidential nomination. Matt Stoller of MyDD.com noted that McCain hired as his campaign manager Terry Nelson, an unindicted co-conspirator in the TRMPAC scandal that led to the downfall of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Nelson was a key point of contact between DeLay and the Republican National Committee. Nelson was James Tobin's boss during the 2002 New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal, for which Tobin was convicted. Nelson also worked at the head of opposition research for the National Republican Congressional Committee this cycle, where robocalls from Republicans pretending to be Democrats were the norm all over the country. Nelson also produced the racist bimbo ad against Harold Ford (D) in the Tennessee Senate race.
MOVING BACK UP: Dems are wondering what to do with Rep. Bill Jefferson (D-La.) now that his New Orleans constituents re-elected him with 57% of the vote in a 12/9 runoff despite reports that the FBI is investigating him on bribery allegations involving business dealings in Africa. House Dem leaders yanked Jefferson off the Ways & Means Committee in June after the disclosure that the FBI found $90,000 in his freezer. The Washington Post reported (12/12) that House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi is likely to place him on a lower-profile committee and hope the controversy dies down. An indictment has been delayed because of a protracted legal battle over documents the FBI seized from Jefferson's office in May, the Post reported.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported (12/10) that Jefferson may have benefited from widespread post-Katrina disgust with the federal power structure. "Under one theory, if the national government could fumble the region's recovery so badly, its lawyers also could be targeting Jefferson wrongly," Michelle Krupa and Frank Donze wrote. Jefferson narrowly won with 51% in predominantly black Orleans Parish, but carried 71% in predominantly white and suburban Jefferson Parish, where Sheriff Harry Lee launched an 11th-hour barrage of criticism against Carter for her repudiation of law enforcement officers' decision to stop black people on the east bank of Orleans Parish from crossing the Crescent City Connection to flee Katrina's floodwaters.
MONT. GOP GIVES ED FOE CHAIR: Republicans, who control the Montana state House by one vote, are giving the House Education Committee chair to the Legislature's only third-party member, Rick Jore, a Constitution Party lawmaker who opposes more money for public schools. The rare appointment of a third-party member to chair a committee -- especially in his first session after a six-year hiatus from politics -- comes as the GOP courts Jore in the chamber they control by a slim 50-49 margin. Jore, a Republican legislator in the 1990s before switching parties, told the Associated Press (12/7) he never asked for the chairmanship. He wants to abolish compulsory school attendance but promised to be "respectful of every viewpoint and all witnesses that come before" his committee. Republican leaders dismissed the criticism of Montana educators. "I don't recall the education community supporting the speaker, or myself either," said House Republican leader Mike Lange of Billings. "They didn't win. That's the bottom line. If they want to control the committee, my recommendation to them is to be better at campaigning than they were. We owe them no explanation whatsoever."
GOP SNUBS FARMERS: The US Senate rejected $4.8 billion in disaster aid for US farmers and ranchers (12/5), despite pleas that tens of thousands of producers could go broke without help. Budget Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) derailed the package by objecting that it violated spending limits. Senators voted 57-37 to exempt it but 60 votes are needed under Senate rules, so the package failed, Reuters reported. Advocates vowed to try again next year, when Dems control Congress, but the White House has threatened to veto disaster aid. Jonathan Singer of MyDD.com noted (12/5) that Dems have not carried the farming states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas in presidential races since Lyndon Johnson's landslide of 1964. But the Dakotas continued their habit of sending Dems to Congress, Nebraska re-elected Sen. Ben Nelson (D) with 64% and Kansas re-elected its Democratic governor and replaced an incumbent attorney general and a congressman, both GOP, with Democrats. "Democrats have a real chance to show voters in the region that it is President Bush who is standing in the way of farmers receiving disaster relief," he said, adding that "forcing the Republicans to play defense in a Kansas or North Dakota makes it that much more difficult for the Republican presidential nominee to emerge victorious on Nov. 4, 2008."
DUBYA BREAKS BUSH FRANCHISE: One good thing about the Iraq Study Group report is that it should put a stop to the Bush Family Dynasty. Eleanor Clift noted at MSNBC.com (12/8) that former president George H.W. Bush broke down crying in a speech (12/4) when he recalled how his son, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, lost an election a dozen years ago and then came back to serve two successful terms. "The elder Bush has always been a softie, but this display of emotion was so over the top that it had to be about something other than Jeb's long-ago loss," Clift wrote.
Jeb's election loss turned out to be pivotal, she said, because it disrupted the plan the senior Bush had for his sons. "The family's grand design had the No. 2 son, Jeb, by far the brighter and more responsible, ascend to the presidency while George, the partying frat-boy type, settled for second best in Texas. The plan went awry when Jeb, contrary to conventional wisdom, lost in Florida, and George unexpectedly defeated Ann Richards in Texas. With the favored heir on the sidelines, the family calculus shifted. They'd go for the presidency with the son that won and not the one they wished had won.
"The son who was wrongly launched has made such a mess of things that he has ruined the family franchise. Without getting too Oedipal, it's fair to say that so many mistakes George W. Bush made are the result of his need to distinguish himself from his father and show that he's smarter and tougher." Now historians are debating whether Dubya is the worst president ever, "or just among the four or five worst."
PROGS MUSCLE DEM AGENDA: Citigroup executive Bob Rubin gave prescriptions for economic growth to the House Democratic Caucus (12/6), but David Sirota reported that Bill Clinton's former treasury secretary was peppered with questions about the loss of manufacturing jobs and trade policies by populist Democrats, according to a source at the meeting. Among the questioners were freshman Reps. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Steve Kagen (Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Nancy Boyda (Kan.), Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.) as well as veteran Reps. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), Bill Pascrell (N.J.) and George Miller (Calif.), who echoed Bill Greider's recent Nation column pointing out that when Wall Street executives like Rubin talk about intellectual property and financial services in trade agreements, everything is clear. But when they start to talk about labor provisions and the environment, it's supposedly "too controversial" and "too complicated." Sirota commented, "this is a VERY encouraging sign for progressives, especially with labor now getting even more publicly aggressive on these issues."
Change America Now (CAN) a coalition of 40 progressive organizations, is set to push the House Democrats' economic agenda. The coalition will press House and Senate members to vote for popular items such as a minimum wage increase, negotiating for lower drug prices, student loan interest-rate reductions and a repeal of tax benefits for the oil and gas industry to pay for alternative energy research. It is targeting 86 districts -- 54 Republican and 32 Democratic districts, most represented by moderates -- for press events and possibly TV advertising, according to a list obtained by The Hill. Americans United Communications Director Brad Woodhouse said the campaign would target "the walking wounded" who narrowly won re-election, mounting an offensive in targeted districts. "Democrats had a mandate for change," said Woodhouse. "Now is the time to show what that change means." Groups taking a lead role in the effort include the Campaign for America's Future, USAction, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Sierra Club and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
SHERROD DEMANDS POPULISTS: Sen.-elect Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has thrown down the gauntlet to all the Democratic presidential candidates. Asked whether he had any interest in being vice president, he told Mother Jones, "No. But anybody that runs for the president will have to go through Ohio, literally and figuratively. The Democrats need to nominate somebody that will be an economic populist, that will stand up for the middle class, that doesn't just want to increase the minimum wage but somebody that will work to put the government on the side of working families. And that means different trade policy, standing up to the drug industry, taking on the oil industry. It means showing that the Democratic Party is a progressive, populist party."
HONEST ABE-AMA: The groundswell of support for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for a presidential race -- his first trip to New Hampshire in December brought 150 journalists from as far away as Australia and drew 2,000 to one event -- must be causing heartburn for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) as well as causing some sputtering that Obama isn't as progressive as people might think (see Alexander Cockburn's rant, page 18, for example). For the record, John Edwards is the most progressive populist potential candidate in the race so far and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is considering another race to push the debate to the left. But Barack has unplumbed depths of charisma, a megawatt smile and, with his relative lack of experience comes a lack of scandal and embarassing votes as well. The worst Republicans have come up with so far is that his middle name is "Hussein" (but you can be sure they're looking for more dirt -- if Hillary's operatives don't beat them to it.) As for experience, Rich Miller, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and publisher of the Capitol Fax newsletter (thecapitolfaxblog.com), noted (12/8) that Abraham Lincoln's sole governmental experience was eight years in the Illinois House and just two years in Congress, "yet he was one of our greatest presidents." Obama served seven years in the Illinois Senate and is completing his first two years as a US senator.
REP: BUSH WARNED ABOUT WEBB: Right wingers have been attacking Sen.-elect Jim Webb (D-Va.) for not showing deference to President Bush at a White House reception. According to reports, Bush sought out Webb to ask him, "How's your boy?" referring to Webb's son Jimmy, who is serving in Iraq. Webb answered, "I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," to which Bush responded, "That's not what I asked you." Webb then replied, "That's between me and my boy, Mr. President."
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said Webb was "rude," "inappropriate," and "disrespectful" to Bush's "nice gesture." The National Review's "Corner" called Webb "classless" and conservative columnist George Will labeled him "a boor."
But according to Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), Bush was told before the reception that Webb's son had a recent brush with death in Iraq and was warned to be "extra sensitive" when talking to the senator-elect, ThinkProgress.org reported 12/5.
OUTGOING FRIST OPPOSES PARTISANSHIP: Sen. Bill Frist (D-Tenn.) delivered his farewell address (12/7), urging his colleagues not to be influenced by "destructive partisanship." ThinkProgress.org noted that it was an odd statement coming from Frist, who in his four years as majority leader allowed one polarizing issue after another to divide the Senate and the nation. Among Frist's partisan ploys, he pushed a gay marriage ban in June to spark a fiery election-year debate. He pushed a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. He lumped a proposed minimum wage hike with an estate tax cut, saying "It's now or never." He bucked Bush on immigration, maneuvering toward a pre-election showdown with Democrats. A heart surgeon by training, he argued on the Senate floor that Florida doctors had erred in saying Terri Schiavo was in a "persistent vegetative state," based on his review of video footage which he spent "an hour or so looking at last night in my office." He advocated teaching "intelligent design" in public schools alongside evolution. And he threatened to rewrite Senate rules to do away with the filibuster if Democrats tried to block Bush judicial appointments.
DEADLOCK ON E-VOTE PAPER TRAIL: A federal advisory panel on 12/4 rejected a staff recommendation that states use only voting machines that produced results that could be independently verified. The panel drafting voting guidelines for the US Election Assistance Commission voted 6-6 not to adopt a proposal that would have required electronic machines used by millions of voters to produce a paper record or other independent means of checking election results, the Associated Press reported (12/5). The failed resolution, proposed by Ronald Rivest, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist and panel member, closely mirrored a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology warning that paperless electronic voting machines are vulnerable to errors and fraud and cannot be made secure. Some panel members worried that the systems with audit trails could present problems of their own, including printer errors. Others said it was unclear whether paper records could be used by voters who are blind or have other disabilities. But Rivest warned his colleagues that software errors in the paperless machines could go undetected without a way of verifying the voting results.
PRO-LIFE DEMS WIN: Pro-life Democrats, who not only oppose abortion but believe respect for life should continue after the baby is born, won seven races in the midterm elections, including Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who defeated Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). "This is tremendous victory for pro-life Democrats and a signal that the Democratic Party can no longer be considered the party of abortion," Democrats for Life of America stated. Pro-life Dems who replaced Republicans or pro-choice Dems include Heath Shuler (D), who defeated Rep. Charlie Taylor (R) in North Carolina's 11th District; Charlie Wilson (D), a state senator who took Ohio's 6th District seat with 62% of the vote after pro-choice Rep. Ted Strickland (D) ran for governor; In Indiana, Joe Donnelly (D) defeated Rep. Chris Chocola (R) with 54% in the 2nd District; Brad Ellsworth (D) defeated Rep. John Hostettler (R) with 61% in the 8th District; and Baron Hill (R) is returning to Congress in the 9th District, where he beat Rep. Mike Sodrel (R) with 49% in a three-way race; in Pennsylvania, Jason Altmire (D) defeated Rep. Melissa Hart (R) with 52% in the 4th District and Chris Carney (D) defeated Rep. Don Sherwood (R) with 53% in its 10th District. Democrats for Life of America hopes to garner bipartisan support for the Pregnant Women Support Act, the National Cord Blood Inventory Act and the Child Custody Protection Act. See www.democratsforlife.org.
Robert Novak noted (12/2) that EMILY's List, which supports pro-choice female Democrats, picked up just two of 19 Republican House seats it had targeted for defeat. In those 19 districts, EMILY's List spent $1.5 mln in independent expenditures and made $921,000 in direct contributions. It funneled a total of $241,357 to Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth in Illinois and $159,000 to State Atty. Gen. Patricia Madrid in New Mexico. Duckworth and Madrid, both narrow losers, were among the highest-profile Democratic challengers this year. In Democratic House primaries, Novak noted, EMILY's List lost four out of six competitive races.
PROG REPS URGE TRADE RIGHTS: US Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), George Miller (D-Calif.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and 26 other House members introduced legislation to protest the efforts of US-based transnational corporations, such as Microsoft, Nike, Wal-Mart and AT&T, to undermine the most basic human rights of Chinese workers and block proposed new worker rights and labor standards in a proposed new Chinese labor law. The American Chamber of Commerce in China and some of America's most-prestigious brand-name corporations are leading efforts to weaken, if not block altogether, significant worker rights and protections in China. The legislation calls upon President Bush to underscore the commitment of all Americans and the US government to support internationally-recognized worker rights. See www.laborstrategies.org.
RUMMY CONTRADICTS BUSH: We almost hate to bring it up in the Christmas season, but ThinkProgress.org noted that on Hannity and Colmes (12/11), outgoing Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld said he was removed as a direct result of the "outcome of the election." On Nov. 8, Bush said explicitly that, regardless of the outcome of the election, Rumsfeld would be replaced by Bob Gates. So Bush may have been lying when he told the press before the election that Rumsfeld or he may have been lying when he told the press after the election that he always planned on replacing Rumsfeld. Or both he and Rumsfeld may have merely been confused. Meanwhile, a CBS poll (12/11) showed approval of Bush's handling of the Iraq war has dropped to 21%, an all-time low.
WAGES UP, FED IS WORRIED: Wages for ordinary workers are finally going up after six years of stagnation. The average hourly wage for workers below management level -- everyone from school bus drivers to stockbrokers -- rose 2.8% from October 2005 to October of this year, after being adjusted for inflation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only a year ago, it was falling by 1.5%. Unfortunately, that has Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warning that the central bank might have to raise interest rates again. "One factor that we are watching carefully is labor costs," he said. "Ah yes. 'Labor costs,'" Kevin Drum noted at WashingtonMonthly.com (12/8). "We can't have those rising, can we? Not only does it get the workers all uppity, but it drains corporate treasuries and puts a crimp in CEO pay increases. That would be a disaster."
MORE PEOPLE SHOP LOCAL: A three-year-old campaign to encourage people in northwest Washington state to "Think Local First" is having a dramatic effect on spending behavior, according to a recent survey. Applied Research Northwest found that 69% of respondents in Whatcom County (Bellingham) are familiar with the Think Local First campaign and 58% are making a more deliberate effort to patronize locally owned businesses than they did before the campaign started three years ago. They survey also found that 86% of respondents are spending the same or more money at locally owned businesses than they did before the campaign. Only 12% reported spending less. The Think Local First campaign was created by Sustainable Connections, a nonprofit membership organization of 535 businesses in the city of Bellingham and surrounding Whatcom County dedicated to building an economy based on sustainable business practices. See www.newrules.org.
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