By MOLLY IVINS, Columnist, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, 2/9/01
AUSTIN -- Jim Hightower, an invaluable public citizen, once suggested that politicians be forced to wear the corporate logos of their biggest donors in the fashion of NASCAR race drivers so we'd know who they'd sold out to.
Hightower once again has his eye on the shell with the pea under it when it comes to President Bush's Cabinet.
The pundit corps has been swooning over the diversity of Bush's picks -- four women, a Cuban-American, two African-Americans, a Japanese-American, a Lebanese-American, a Chinese-American and a Democrat.
President Inclusive chooses a Cabinet that looks like America. Just one catch: Every member is a corporate creature. In fact, the corporations have just taken over the government. Why hire lobbyists when your CEOs and board members are running the show? Who's left to lobby?
Until recently, Real President Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton Inc., the giant oilfield services firm that has been making money and trading with Iraq despite the sanctions through its subsidiaries Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll-Dresser Pump.
Courtesy of the Hightower newsletter, here are some of those now running the country:
* Elaine Chao (Labor): an investment banker and corporate director, former vice president of Bank of America and board member for Northwest Airlines, Dole Food, Clorox and Columbia/HCA Health Care.
* Norman Mineta (Transportation): corporate VP for Lockheed Martin; also former chairman of the House Transportation Committee, where his major contributors were the American Trucking Association, Boeing, General Electric, Greyhound, Lockheed, Northwest Airlines, UPS, Union Pacific and United Airlines.
* Paul O'Neill (Treasury): CEO of Alcoa, the aluminum giant, and previously CEO of International Paper Co. and on the boards of Eastman Kodak and Lucent Technologies.
* Gale Norton (Interior): formerly with the Mountain States Legal Foundation, an anti-environmental group funded by oil companies. Prominent member of "property rights" groups funded by Boise Cascade, DuPont and Louisiana Pacific; national chairwoman of the Coalition for Republican Environmental Advocates, funded by the American Forest Paper Association, Amoco, ARCO, the Chemical Manufacturers Association and Ford.
* John Ashcroft (attorney general): sponsor of last year's Senate bill to extend the patent on the super-profitable allergy pill Claritin, owned by the giant pharmaceutical firm Schering-Plough, which gave him $50,000 for his last Senate campaign. He also got $1.7 million from oil, chemical and paper companies that were grateful for Ashcroft's opposition to funding environmental enforcement, voting for rollback of clean water protections and letting mining companies dump cyanide and other wastes on public land.
As Hightower has observed, if you wonder why these issues didn't come up in his confirmation hearings, consider the state of the Democratic Party and the effects of campaign contributions.
* Rod Paige (Education): formerly Houston school superintendent, where he promoted corporatization. Food service went to Aramark Inc., payroll to Peoplesoft and accounting to SAP. Last year, he cut an exclusive marketing deal with Coca-Cola to put machines in the school hallways. He also brought in Primed Corp.'s Channel One, the "educational channel" that spends two out of every 10 minutes of broadcast time selling M&M/Mars, Pepsico, Reebok and Nintendo.
* Colin Powell (State): on the board of America Online and was recipient of $100,000 a speech to a list of corporations too long to believe.
* Anthony Principi (Veterans Affairs): heir to family-owned real estate company, also former president of QTC Medical Services Inc.; later with Lockheed Martin and most recently president of the airless technology firm Federal Network.
* Donald Rumsfeld (Defense): formerly CEO of General Instrument Corp. and drug giant G.D. Searle & Co., also on the boards of Asea Brown Boveri, a huge Swedish engineering firm, and the Rand Corp. Also on the advisory board of Salomon Smith Barney, the Wall Street investment firm.
* Ann Veneman (Agriculture): lawyer with a firm specializing in representing agribusiness giants and biotech corporations. On board of Calgene Inc., a subsidiary of Monsanto, the first firm to market genetically altered food. Also a participant in the International Policy Council of Agriculture, Food and Trade, a group funded by Monsanto, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Kraft and Nestle.
* Tommy Thompson (Health and Human Services): former governor of Wisconsin whose major contributors were HMOs, hospital chains, nursing homes, clinics, doctors and insurance companies. Phillip Morris gave him $72,000 in campaign contributions.
* Spencer Abraham (Energy): one-term senator from Michigan who once sponsored a bill to abolish the Energy Department. Especially active in fight over requiring greater fuel efficiency from SUVs, giving him special brownie points with the energy and the auto industries.
* Mel Martinez (HUD): no corporate connections; formerly the top manager of Orange County, Fla. That's Orlando/Disney World, and if you have visited, you know that ending urban sprawl is not his specialty.