Ohio Increases Corporate Power

The Ohio Senate has sent Gov. Bob Taft a largely overlooked "stealth" bill that reduces public oversight and legal liability of corporate officials. HB 78, promoted as a way to modernize "antiquated regulations," quietly sailed through the House before Ohio labor, environmental and economic justice advocates were alerted. They called it a "sweeping bill that relaxes the overall rules governing what Ohio-chartered corporations can do at the expense of citizens, consumers and shareholders. It is a further step away from democratic control by the people and their elected representatives."

The Ohio Committee on Corporations, Law and Democracy said HB 78 is flawed because it:

The bill is the first major revision of Ohio's corporation code since 1955, and many of its provisions come from the State of Delaware, which for decades has been a safe refuge for corporations seeking the lowest level of accountability to citizens and public officials, said Mike Ferner of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in Toledo. "With passage of HB 78, Ohio has joined a race to the bottom that only corporations will win."

"The Ohio Senate's vote represents another step in the radical reversal by our state legislature to keep corporations under the authority of we the people. This bill will give corporations more powers to govern themselves instead of being held accountable by the public," said Greg Coleridge of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee.

Promoted as simple "housekeeping" legislation to update Ohio's business climate, HB 78 quietly passed the Ohio House 94 to1. The bill now goes to Governor Taft for his signature.

The Ohio Committee on Corporations, Law and Democracy is a group of citizens concerned with the growing power of corporations to govern, and the dangers this poses to democracy in the state and nation. Earlier this year, the group published Citizens over Corporations, a booklet detailing the history of the relationship between citizens, corporations and democracy in Ohio. For more information, contact Terry Lodge of Toledo, phone 419-255-7552.

INTEGRITY IS EXPENDABLE. CBS News, which used to boast of journalistic icons such as Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, will soon come under the thumb of Sumner Redstone, the Viacom chairman who is taking over CBS. Last month in China for the celebration of 50 years of communist rule, Redstone signalled what to expect of multinational telecommunications conglomerates in the New World Order as he advised international news organizations to avoid offending governments. "Journalistic integrity must prevail in the final analysis,'' he said. "But that doesn't mean that journalistic integrity should be exercised in a way that is unnecessarily offensive to the countries in which you operate.'' Redstone joins News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch in toadying to the sensitivities of Chinese government officials who control what more than a billion pairs of eyes will see in the enormous emerging market of mainland China. Murdoch dropped the BBC from his satellite broadcasts into China in 1994 after Chinese officials objected to a BBC program about Mao Tse-tung. As Russ Baker noted in the Los Angeles Times, Murdoch also canceled a book by former Hong Kong Gov. Chris Patten that was critical of the Chinese leadership, which was to have been published by his HarperCollins unit. And he gave a huge contract to Deng Xiaoping's daughter for a fawning and historically problematic portrait of her father while Murdoch was looking to expand his broadcasting operations in China.

SANTA MONICA BANS ATM CHARGES. Santa Monica, California, on Oct. 12 became the first city in the nation to ban ATM surcharges. Iowa and Connecticut currently bar ATM surcharges, but, in both cases, the bans are the result of orders issued by the state banking regulators. Surcharges disadvantage small banks and credit unions, because, with few ATMs, their customers rely more heavily on ATMs operated by other banks. Although large banks contend that surcharges are needed to cover the cost of the machines, these costs are already covered by a bank-to-bank interchange fee. Increasing numbers of policymakers believe that legislation is needed to ensure that all financial institutions have fair access to this infrastructure at equal rates. Congress, more than half the states, and several cities have considered bills banning surcharges in the last three years. Measures are under consideration in several other California communities, including the cities of Berkeley and Los Angeles and the counties of Santa Cruz and Santa Clara. Surcharges will be the subject of a San Francisco ballot referendum in November. For more information on ATM surcharges, contact the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, phone 612-379-3815 or see (www.newrules.org/ebulletins.html)

NO GREEN FOR BOCK. Audie Bock, who became the first and only Green legislator in the country when she won a seat in the California Assembly in an upset of a veteran Democratic politician, has changed her party registration to "decline to state," reportedly in an effort to avoid a primary opponent next year. She also fired her top aide and at least two other employees, according to the Oakland Tribune. At least eight candidates are lining up for the Democratic primary in the district. The Green Party of Alameda County, in a prepared statement, said it was sad that "Audie won't party" but noted, "The Green Party of California has been growing, and will continue to grow, because people support its values of social justice, ecological sustainability, grassroots democracy, non-violence, and economic equity."

ANTI-FRANKENFOODS CAMPAIGN. A coalition of New England environmental groups has started a nationwide consumer campaign to get natural food and commercial companies to pledge not to use genetically engineered ingredients in their products. The Earth Action Campaign hopes to generate hundreds of letters to selected companies every week, followed by personal calls to the CEOs. For information, write Earth Action, 35 Asticou Rd., Jamaica Plain MA 02130; call 617-522-9605; or email earthaction@cqs.com.

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