All posts by Russell Mokhiber

Transparency International USA Morphs Into Coalition for Integrity


Corruption is an enormous, worldwide problem measured in the billions and trillions of dollars.

Yet the true cost of corruption goes far beyond mere dollars and cents.

Democracy is best served when elected officials are wholly committed to representing the public interest

When government is for sale, it destroys public trust in democratic institutions and denies people the right to accountable, responsive government and the rule of law.

Who says this?

A new group called The Coalition for Integrity.

Previously known as Transparency International USA.

Why didn’t it just stay as Transparency International USA?

Because last year, the parent group, Transparency International, stripped the USA affiliate of its title.

After Corporate Crime Reporter reported in January 2017 that Transparency International USA had been stripped of its affiliation, the head office of Transparency International in Berlin confirmed the move saying that “the disaccreditation was the recognition of differences in philosophies, strategies, and priorities between the former chapter and the Transparency International Movement.”

Transparency International USA had increasingly been seen in the United States as a corporate front group, funded by multinational corporations — the same multinationals that corrupt the U.S. political system.

Its million dollar a year budget was sustained by contributions from Bechtel Corporation, Deloitte, Google, Pfizer  ($50,000 or more), Citigroup, ExxonMobil, Fluor, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Marsh & McLennan, PepsiCo, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Raytheon, Realogy, Tyco ($25,000–$49,999), and Freeport-McMoRan and Johnson & Johnson (up to $24,999).

It yearly gave its annual corporate leadership award to one of its big corporate funders.

In 2016, the award went to Bechtel.

Its board of directors was dominated by corporate lawyers, many of whom defend companies from charges of foreign bribery.

Other than the name change from Transparency International USA to the Coalition for Integrity, it’s unclear whether or not anything has changed.

It appears that the Coalition is still a corporate front group.

The Coalition’s board of directors is dominated by corporate lawyers and lobbyists, including Covington partner Lanny Breuer, Bechtel general counsel Michael Bailey, Cadwalader partner Peter Clark, Steptoe & Johnson partner Lucinda Low, Paul Weiss partner Mark Mendelsohn, Fairfax Group president Michael Hershman and Weil Gotshal partner Steven Tyrrell.

When asked for comment for this article, Claudia Dumas, the former CEO of Transparency International USA and the current CEO of the Coalition for Integrity, wrote “we are not available for an interview at the present time.”

Among the Coalition for Integrity’s current donors – Bechtel Corporation, Citigroup, Deloitte, Fluor Corporation, GE Corporation, Google, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, Navigant Consulting, PepsiCo, Pfizer, and Raytheon, as well as various corporate legal defense and lobbying firms.

“The board of the Coalition for Integrity is dominated by fraudster-defense law firms, corporate lawyers, and professional lobbyists,” Patrick Burns of Taxpayers Against Fraud told Corporate Crime Reporter. “Are there any whistleblowers on there? Any fraud-fighting law firms?  Anyone whose public life has been famously dedicated to getting corporate money out of government?”

“The mandate of the Coalition for Integrity is enormous – to lead the effort at home and abroad to shine a light on corrupt practices and build coalitions to curb corruption and promote integrity in government and business – but its budget is quite small – about a million dollars a year,” Burns said.

“When the patch does not fit the hole and when the donors and leadership seem a bit at odds with the mission statement, it’s a fair question to ask.

“What’s going on?”

“Who does this organization represent?  What do they do?”

“Words like transparency and accountability pepper the web site, but it’s not clear what those terms mean.”

“Is the Coalition for Integrity pushing for more enforcement resources for the Civil Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, or for mandatory exclusions for culpable individuals in large companies engaged in fraud against the American people?” Burns asked.

“Is it working for mandatory treble damage fines, and claw backs of bonuses and stock options for culpable executives?”

“Is it working for stronger corporate integrity agreements that require incentivized integrity programs within fraudster companies as a condition of settling past fraud and bribery charges?”

“Or is this actually a coalition of big companies funding blue lights, smoke, and mirrors?”

“I am generally skeptical of corporate compliance programs,” Burns said.

“Too often companies are looking instead for compliant officers – people who work with corporate management to ferret out whistleblowers and speed their isolation, humiliation, and termination.”

“Do any of the corporate sponsors of this organization have a different way of doing business?”

“That’s a genuine question.”

“Among the dozen billion-dollar companies funding the Coalition for Integrity, is there even one that offers a million-dollar award for internal whistleblowing?”

“Is there even one that has promoted that internal whistleblower to a higher management position?”

“I think not.”

“These big companies routinely pay million dollar awards to executives that come up with complex billing schemes that defraud the government and the public, but I know of no company that pays a million dollar award to an internal whistleblower who comes forward to internally report a fraud against the government.”

“And yet, if such an award was triggered for any fraud over $2 million, the company would normally face double damages rather than treble, which means the company would actually save a million dollars by paying an internal whistleblower a million dollars.”

“That’s good business – provided you actually are trying to stop fraud by encouraging integrity and transparency rather than paper over the fraud.”

“Which brings me back to the goal, both of the organization and its donors.”

“I notice that the Coalition for Integrity has something they call ‘The Corporate Forum’ which is “. . .designed to provide the Coalition’s corporate supporters. . . with an opportunity to have an exchange on emerging global issues and benchmark programs and practices with peers. At the Forum, senior compliance counsel and ethics officers are updated on notable new cases and developments, listen to briefings by agency officials, engage in in-depth exchanges on approaches to complex compliance challenges, exchange practical advice and recommendations, and receive updates on anti-corruption initiatives of importance to the private sector.”

“Read that slowly.  What’s that sound like to you?  Are these folks looking for transparency and accountability?  Are they trying to encourage integrity? Or is this a meeting of defense lawyers employed by companies under investigation for fraud and bribery who are trying to figure out the edge of the law, and the weaknesses inherent to the current enforcement structure and paradigm so they can slip the noose now and in the future?”

“Find out how these companies treat internal whistleblowers, and you will have your answer.”

“Are these companies offering big cash awards and promotions for standing up and speaking up with integrity, or is it the old isolate, humiliate, and terminate that we have seen so often before?”

“As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections

Medicare for All is politically viable in 2018.

That’s according to a new report from Alex Panagiotopoulos and Kingston Creative.

The report is titled – Is Medicare for All Politically Viable? A Guide to 561 Congressional Candidates.

The report finds that of the 561 Democratic candidates running for the House of Representatives in 2018, 271 of them support Medicare for All or single payer. That’s 48 percent.

Of the 192 Democrats currently in the House, 121 have signed on to HR 676, the single payer bill in the House and 71 have not. That’s 63 percent.

“People don’t want to be that person who is out on single payer island with something that is not politically viable, not popular,” Panagiotopoulos told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week. “I want to show that single payer is part of the mainstream. Two-thirds of the Democrats in the House already support it. You are pretty much on the minority side if you are not supporting Medicare for All at this point.”

About two thirds of the Democrats in the House support it, but only half of the non incumbent candidates support it. How do you explain that difference?

“That’s hard to explain. Part of it is that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has been clear that they prefer their candidates not support Medicare for All. A lot of candidates who think you need money and DCCC support to win – that’s definitely shading some people to have cagey, vague language. They are hoping for DCCC support.”

You also asked the question – if you favor single payer, can you raise money?

“The Medicare for All candidates and non Medicare for All candidates raised pretty similar amounts of money. Pro Medicare for All candidates have raised $55 million and spent $21 million. The non Medicare for All candidates have raised $70 million and spent $23 million.”

“Four of the top five fundraisers in the country support Medicare for All. Randy Bryce, Andy Thorburn, Gilbert Cisneros and Daniel Koh have all raised over $1 million each.”

What did you find for swing districts?

“I went by the Cook Political Report. There were 23 likely or leaning Democratic districts. In those 23 districts, there are 51 Democratic candidates — 27 of them support Medicare for All, 24 do not.”

“There are 23 toss up districts. NY 19 is a toss up district. There are 80 total Democratic candidates in those 23 toss up districts — 33 support Medicare for All, 47 do not.”

“There are 48 likely or leaning Republican districts. There are 150 total Democratic  candidates. And 75 support it and 75 do not.”

Do you have health insurance?

“No.”

How long has it been since you haven’t had insurance?

“Five years now.”

Have you checked into Obamacare?

“As small business owners, we don’t make a lot of money. We make a little too much to qualify for any subsidies. Income is variable. One of the things we have run into when we talk to centrists liberals, especially people in the tech world, they will say things like – if the Obamacare website were better, then it would have been easier for you to navigate and you would have had health insurance.”

“There is no website that would have made it possible for us to afford healthcare.”

How much were the premiums?

“The premiums ranged from between $200 to $400 a month. But the deductibles were so high. A $10,000 deductible is a lot of money. And beyond that there is no guarantee that the procedures we needed would be covered. And even if something happens and you go to hospital and you have insurance, there is no guarantee that the hospital is in network.”

What about catastrophic insurance?

“That’s what we are talking about. The hospital is obligated to treat you regardless of your ability to pay. So, this system doesn’t make sense.”

Was your motivation here personal?

“Totally. What’s in it for me? That’s the question. I don’t want to speak for everybody, but I know that there is definitely a profile of a Democrat that doesn’t see what the big deal is about Medicare for All and doesn’t understand why I’m a one issue voter. There is a profile. It’s a member of the professional managerial class who has insurance, who is comfortable and is very into respectability politics and coming together and always moving to the right. I was radicalized by starting a business and seeing how hard it is to get ahead and how little of a safety net there is.”

“If we weren’t running the business and experiencing this, it would be harder to see the need for Medicare for All.”

Was part of it that you worked eight years in the healthcare industry?

“Yes. Seeing a community hospital system with a total budget of $200 million a year and they spend a million dollars a year on marketing. The marketing isn’t to keep people healthy and to keep people out of the hospital. The marketing is to get people to get knee replacement surgery and drive people into the most profitable procedures. That inside experience solidified it for me. And also on the community hospital level, seeing the bailouts. They are really struggling to keep the lights on in community hospitals. They are being forced into this position of pushing the most profitable procedures. They need constant bailouts to keep the lights on and pay employees.”

“Yes, seeing that firsthand definitely shaped my view on this.”

Don Blankenship on Humility and the Limits of Free Speech in West Virginia

Photo by Brianhayden1980 | CC BY 2.0

I was sitting at home in West Virginia tonight when a call came in from the U.S. Senate campaign for Don Blankenship.

The campaign wanted to know if I wanted to participate in a phone call town hall with Don.

Sure, why not.

The man in charge of the town hall – a man Don referred to as Greg – said if I wanted to ask Don a question I should punch in star three on my phone.

I punched in star three and waited my turn.

During his opening remarks, Don laid out his conservative credentials – NRA member, pro-life, tough on liberals, on immigration illegal means illegal, drug test teachers, put America first and West Virginia first.

And he took all kinds of calls from around the state – from a father whose kids were dealing with heroin and opioids, from a man who was complaining about high utility bills, from another man who complained about liberals wanting to take away our guns.

Don was gracious and even-tempered.

My notes indicate he even railed against “the corporations.”

People were given ample time to ask their questions – one man went on for a couple of minutes before Don interjected to answer.

How democratic, I thought.

Here was Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy, a man convicted of a federal crime that led to the deaths of 29 miners at the Upper Big Branch mine in 2010, a man who spent a year in jail for his crime, taking questions from random citizens from around the state. And letting them ask their questions, listening and actually answering the questions.

The question I wanted to ask was – Don do you actually think you can pull the wool over the eyes of West Virginians and win a Senate seat from West Virginia – the scene of the crime?

I actually think he can, because the Democrats are likely to nominate the corporatist Joe Manchin. And it’s very difficult in a red state, in the age of Trump, for a corporate Democrat to defeat a corporate Republican – even if the Republican is multimillionaire CEO convicted of a crime connected to the deaths of 29 miners.

A new poll shows Blankenship is in second place (27 percent) in the May 8 Republican primary, gaining on Congressman Evan Jenkins (29 percent) who is in the lead, with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey trailing in third place at 19 percent.

But before asking my question, I opened with what was on my mind at that moment when Greg said – up next, Russell in Berkeley Springs.

“Hey Don,” I said.

“Hey,” Don said.

“Do you understand the term humility?” I asked.

“Yes,” Don responded.

“What does it mean to you?” I asked.

“Well, it means when you are put in a position of power that gives you more power than you should have, you need to remember to be humble,” Don said. “And when you are in a situation, some of the situations I’ve been in, it will create a lot of humility.”

“The reason I raise it is because you have been convicted – ” I started to say.

But then Greg cut me off and said – next Don we have Joy from Charleston who has a question about the economy.

 

Labor History in Real Time

I love West Virginia. I love the people, the mountains, and the history of a people not dependent on the corporate state. Yes, Virginia—there is a history of West Virginia not dependent on the corporate state.

The early northern European settlers here were self-sufficient agrarians— hunting, fishing, foraging, farming, and making their own rye whiskey for drinking and for currency—before they were seduced by wine-sipping East Coast elites into becoming wage slaves to the timber and coal corporations.

This self-sufficiency lived on in some ways until only two or three generations ago, when families still spent only about $500 a year in the cash economy. (To learn about the fallout from the eventual corporate transformation of West Virginia in some greater historical detail, see Steven Stoll’s Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia and then, of course, the classics from the late great West Virginian Joe Bageant—including Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir and Deer Hunting with Jesus.)

Liberal Democrats, attracted to the natural beauty of the state, come here to get away from the hustle and bustle of Baltimore and Washington, but are shocked, shocked by the “backwardness”—by which they mean people who disagree with them on guns, gays, gender, abortion, race, religion, or immigration. And these same liberal Democrats are generally intolerant of anyone who mildly suggests that they might be wrong.

When I suggested in early 2016 that Trump had a good chance to win the election against the corporate militarist Hillary, a number of liberal Democrats I know angrily informed me that I was stupid and ignorant, that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and that I should be ashamed to support Trump. (I didn’t support Trump—I just wasn’t going to support Hillary and was describing a surge of enthusiasm for Trump in my home state.) A group of us here in West Virginia have spent a good deal of time over the past thirty years organizing against the corporate-controlled Democrats and Republicans, working for an independent political movement outside any party structure. That hasn’t happened—yet. But something is happening in West Virginia. And the question is, will it end with the recent triumphant teachers’ strike?

The Republican legislature and the Republican governor—Jim Justice, the state’s only billionaire—have just cut a deal to end the historic strike, giving the teachers a 5 percent pay raise and shielding them from any premium increases in their health insurance through next year—to be paid for, Republican leaders say, by cuts to other programs. That raise would not have happened without the teachers flooding the Capitol building in Charleston for two weeks. It was an impressive surge of energy that seemingly came out of nowhere and closed down all fifty-five county school systems for nine days.

And there was little doubt that it was a straight-out political struggle between the teachers and the corporate legislature. In fact, the first day students and teachers were back in school Governor Justice was on statewide radio admitting that as a condition of giving the teachers the 5 percent raise, he had to commit to the Speaker of the House to sign natural gas industry legislation, called the co-tenancy bill, that would allow a gas company to drill for gas on a parcel where it secured the rights from 75 percent of the mineral holders. Current law requires permission from 100 percent of mineral owners before you drill. The reduced drilling threshold represents, in practice, a license to steal for any developer that can buy up enough rights. But that was the deal.

This boondoggle, together with the cuts to Medicaid that some of the legislature’s leaders are seeking in order to fund the teachers’ pay hike, drives home the need for continued grassroots resistance to corporate rule in West Virginia. The question on the ground is whether the teachers’ strike is going to energize a political movement to overthrow the state’s controlling corporate political elite.

Right now, it feels like a tossup as to whether teachers and their fellow citizens will sink back into their man caves and Netflix couches or stand up and counterpunch—but there are also some early signs suggesting that the counterpunchers could be on the way.


First and foremost is the political rise of State Senator Richard Ojeda (D-Logan County).

Ojeda is a piss-and-vinegar straight shooter—a tattooed, buzz-cut former Army paratrooper, and a coal miner’s grandson. When he was first running for Senate in 2016, someone with brass knuckles beat him into a coma. Ojeda thinks it was a political hit job. He came out of the hospital and won his Senate seat by 59 to 41. Ojeda’s seat is squarely in the middle of the coal fields that Trump won with 80 percent of the vote in the same election cycle.

Ojeda is a rock star among the striking teachers. Ask any of them who was their leader in the legislature, who stuck with them from beginning to the end—and the answer, nearly to a person, will be Ojeda.

During the strike, Ojeda was swarmed in the Capitol building by teachers looking for selfies. Teachers love him, but the mainstream Democratic Party has ignored him. (Ojeda voted for Trump for president, a vote he now says he regrets.) Along with the West Virginia teachers, Ojeda is becoming a national story; he was the subject of a recent lengthy profile in Politico Magazine. (In a recent interview with the Guardian, he said that Big Pharma is “no different than the Taliban and al-Qaida that I fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.”)

And Ojeda knows his West Virginia labor history. During the strike, he took a picture of himself with a red bandana around his neck and tweeted it out with this caption: “The term redneck started when WV coal miners tied red bandanas around their necks during the bloody battle of Blair mountain to unionize. Today, our teachers channeled their history. #UnionStrong”

Ojeda is now running for Congress in West Virginia’s Third Congressional District—in the heart of coal country against mainstream corporate Democrats and Republicans. Local political observers give him a strong shot at winning, thanks to his strike-tested profile as a down-home fighter for the people with deep roots in West Virginia.

Compare Ojeda to West Virginia’s best-known political figure, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. He is a corporate Democrat who is destined to lose his re-election campaign this year, even if the Republicans nominate Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, who was convicted of crimes related to the deaths of twenty-nine of his employees at the April 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion.

Blankenship is running in the May 8 Republican primary against another pair of handpicked candidates of the corporate oligarchy: West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is firmly in the pocket of Big Pharma and the corporate Democrat turned corporate Republican Congressman Evan Jenkins. Blankenship is wealthy—he reportedly had a $86 million golden parachute upon leaving Massey—and he’s spending freely on statewide ads. (Last week, a liberal Democrat friend of mine said to me that there was no way Manchin will lose to Blankenship. “Isn’t that what you said about Hillary and Trump?” I replied.)

Or compare Ojeda to Talley Sergent, the leading corporate Democrat in West Virginia’s Second Congressional District. She was the 2016 state director for Hillary’s campaign, and a one-time public relations executive for Coca-Cola. She’s also been involved with a Coca-Cola campaign to get West Virginia University’s School of Public Health to sponsor studies showing that it’s not so much sugary drinks that cause obesity—West Virginia leads all other states in its obesity rates—but lack of exercise.

Her opponent in the May 8 Democratic primary is Aaron Scheinberg, another Army vet supported by the neoliberal-corporate national campaign of Congressman Seth Moulton (D-Massachusetts) to get veterans to run as Democrats for Congress. (Moulton ignores Ojeda, even though he’s a Democrat and a veteran with a good chance to win. What else could it be?)

The Second District’s Republican Congressman, Alex Mooney, is a carpet-bagging corporatist, but he won’t be defeated by either Scheinberg or Sergent for the same reason that Manchin is in trouble. It’s incredibly difficult to beat a corporate Republican with a corporate Democrat in a red state.

The anemic Democrats failed to put up a candidate in many races across the state—so the teachers, energized by Ojeda and the strike, are stepping up.

In my home district, our State Senator Charles Trump (R-Morgan), who leads the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been carrying water for corporate lobbyists during the three years he’s been in office. He was part of the gang of twenty senators who were dragged kicking and screaming into the teacher pay raise deal.

The Democrats failed to field a candidate to face Charlie Trump, so just this week, Jason Armentrout, a social studies teacher at Frankfort High School in Short Gap, West Virginia—and the school’s wrestling coach—decided to run as an independent against Trump. (Armentrout needs only 270 signatures by August 1 to get on the November ballot as an independent.)

Armentrout has been a lifelong conservative Republican. But now he says he’s had enough. “I grew up in a conservative evangelical household,” Armentrout told me. “I grew up to respect my elders, including my teachers. And lot of these conservatives today don’t respect teachers. Now they have taken it to a new level, to push private school vouchers, to pressure public education. The Republicans are so nasty. And Charlie Trump is enslaved to that platform.”

“I agree with Senator Ojeda. We need to increase the severance on natural gas. How is so much of the land in West Virginia absentee owned, out-of-state owned? That’s a big issue. It’s been a big issue for generations. We have watched out-of-state interests —timber and coal—pillage our state. The companies that made off like bandits are headquartered in New York and New Jersey. We got nothing out of that. The severances were minimal.”

Even though the teachers were out on strike, they were teaching an important civics lesson to West Virginia and to the rest of the nation, including their union brothers and sisters in Oklahoma and Kentucky, who are on the verge of striking themselves. The populist equation goes something like this: Want to defeat the corporate lobbyists and their politicians? First, find people rooted in the community—people like schoolteachers.

As you try to recruit candidates for office, reach out to someone with an independent streak, who’s not beholden to the corporate state, and who understands and carries with them West Virginia’s history of down-home independence. Then fight like hell to the end, and refuse to back down.

As Richard Ojeda will tell you, if you survive, you might win.

This piece first appeared at The Baffler.

Striking West Virginia

More than 1,400 Frontier Communications workers in West Virginia and 30 technicians in Ashburn, Virginia went on strike this morning at 12:01 am.

“We have been very clear throughout the bargaining process that our top priority is keeping good jobs in our communities,” said Ed Mooney, Vice President of Communications Workers of America District 2-13. “Going on strike is never easy. It’s a hardship for our members and the customers who we are proud to serve. But the job cuts at Frontier have gone too far — we know it and Frontier’s customers know it. It’s time for Frontier to start investing in maintaining and rebuilding its network in West Virginia.”

An analysis of informal complaints filed with the West Virginia Public Service Commission shows that complaints have increased steadily over the past three years, rising 69% from 639 complaints in 2014 to 1,072 complaints in 2017.

Since Frontier acquired Verizon’s landlines in West Virginia in 2010, the company has cut over 500 middle-class jobs in the state.

“We’re taking a stand,” said Johnny Bailey, President of CWA Local 2276 in Bluefield, WV. “Customers are waiting way too long to have their problems resolved, and too often we’re back fixing the same problems over and over again. Frontier is leaving West Virginia behind. The network has been neglected and there are just not enough experienced, well-trained workers left to handle the service requests.”

Members of the Communications Workers of America have been negotiating with Frontier since last May.

The contract was originally set to expire on August 5, 2017, was extended until November 4, and then extended again until March 3.

“It’s about keeping the jobs here in West Virginia and getting the company to reinvest in the network, to build it out,” Mooney told WRNR’s Eastern Panhandle Talk with Rob and Dave last week. “Frontier acquired California, Florida and Texas more recently from Verizon. It appears to us that they are allocating their capital to the newly acquired properties, not to the state of West Virginia. For us it’s about fighting for those jobs and a quality network that’s available to the customers.”

WRNR host Rob Mario said that “since Frontier acquired the business from Verizon, I haven’t met ten people who are happy with their Frontier service right now.”

“Is this because of job eliminations, or is there something else going on?” Mario asked.

Mooney said it was a number of factors.

“Job elimination,” Mooney said. “Not investing in the network. This network sits out there in the elements, 365 days of the year. It is subject to deterioration due to the elements. It requires constant upkeep and constant analyzing of the network to see where things are deteriorating, where things need to be replaced.”

“As employees of Frontier, we want to apologize for any inconvenience the customers have been going through. We want to provide them with the highest quality network so they have what’s available at their fingertips to compete in today’s economy.”

“We are not deploying the network to all of the educational institutions and the communities. Many classes now require work to be done on the internet. Many of us don’t have encyclopedias in our homes any more. Probably none of us do as we did when I was a child. Where does the student go to look for that information? On the Internet. If they are home and they have some kind of work to do and they can’t access it, or it takes so long that the child or the family is losing interest in doing it, the education system suffers as well.”

“We are hoping that we can get Frontier to come to their senses and invest in the network,” Mooney said.

“We care about this state. Our members care. I’m a technician myself. Nothing gives me more pleasure than showing up at a customer’s residence or business and either installing a quality product or service they need or repairing the service or product they already had in a timely fashion to make sure they were back in business or back to their security.”

“When I travel the state, I ask our workers – how many of your feel embarrassed when you show up to a customer’s home or their business over the quality of the products and services that we are providing as a company?” Mooney said. “Many of them are. We need to correct that. We need to hold these corporations accountable when they come in here and make commitments to something as critical as this. This is a network that sustains many of our 911 systems. It sustains many of our hospitals, our financial institutions.  All of them run over this network.”

Mooney said that Frontier was moving ahead of the strike to hire replacement workers – also known as “scabs.”

He quoted the 19th century robber baron Jay Gould as saying – “What business wants is to hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”

Lissa Lucas Dragged Out of West Virginia House Judiciary Hearing For Listing Oil and Gas Contributions

Lissa Lucas traveled the 100 miles from her home in Cairo, West Virginia to the state capitol in Charleston yesterday to testify against an oil and gas industry sponsored bill (HB 4268) that would allow companies to drill on minority mineral owners’ land without their consent.

Lucas began to testify to the House Judiciary Committee, but a few minutes in, her microphone was turned off.

And Lucas was dragged out of the room.

Lucas is running for the House of Delegates from Ritchie County, which has been overrun by the fracking industry.

“As I tried to give my remarks at the public hearing this morning on HB 4268 in defense of our constitutional property rights, I got dragged out of House chambers,” Lucas said. “Why? Because I was listing out who has been donating to Delegates on the Judiciary Committee.”

Lucas took to the podium and began by pointing out that “the people who are going to be speaking in favor of this bill are all going to be paid by the industry.”

“And the people who are going to be voting on this bill are often also paid by the industry,” Lucas said.

“I have to keep this short, because the public only gets a minute and 45 seconds while lobbyists can throw a gala at the Marriott with whiskey and wine and talk for hours to the delegates,” Lucas said.

(Lucas was referring to the Whiskey, Wine and Policy Winter Legislative Reception at the Charleston Marriott Hotel on February 7 sponsored by the Shale Energy Alliance.)

Lucas then began to read the oil and gas donations to the members of the House Judiciary Committee, including the chairman, John Shott (R-Mercer).

“John Shott. First Energy $2,000. Appalachian Power $2,000. Steptoe & Johnson – that’s a gas and oil law firm – $2,000. Consol Energy $1,000. EQT $1,000. And I could go on.”

No she couldn’t.

Because at that point, Shott had enough.

“Miss Lucas, we ask that no personal comments be made,” Shott said.

“This is not a personal comment,” Lucas said.

“It is a personal comment and I am going to call you out of order if you are talking about individuals on the committee,” Shott said. “If you would, just address the bill. If not, I would ask you to just step down.”

Lucas barged ahead to Delegate Jason Harshbarger (R-7) – who she will face off against in November for the seat from Ritchie County. Harshbarger works for Dominion Energy.

“About 40 percent of his money (campaign contributions) comes from the oil and natural gas industry,” Lucas said.

Shott then ordered Lucas removed from the room and two security guys approached her and began to lead her out.

“I want to finish,” Lucas said.

The security guards said she would have to leave.

“Drag me off then,” Lucas said.

And they did.

Roberta Walburn on Miles Lord the Maverick Judge Who Brought Corporate America to Justice

Miles Lord passed away in December 2016. He was 97 years.

For those young lawyers today wandering the corporate wilderness in search of meaning, they might want to pick of a new biography of the man and judge – Miles Lord: The Maverick Judge Who Brought Corporate America to Justice by Roberta Walburn (University of Minnesota Press, November 2017).

[Last week, Minnesota Public Television aired a one hour documentary — Miles Lord: Minnesota’s Maverick Judge — based on the book.]

Judge Lord was known for confronting corporate executives face to face for their corporate crimes and other wrongdoing – most notably the executives of A.H. Robins Company, the maker of the Dalkon Shield, and Reserve Mining, the company that dumped 67,000 tons of waste tailings a day into Lake Superior for more than a decade.

“I am not anti-corporation, but I am anti-hoodlum, anti-thug, anti-bank robber and anti-wrongdoers,” Judge Lord said. “Some of these wolves wear corporate clothing.”

Walburn graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1983 and went on to clerk for Judge Lord. It was the year that Judge Lord was confronting his biggest case – the tort litigation against A.H. Robins Company, the maker of the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device.

“As a boy growing up on the Iron Range, Miles Lord was struck by the sermons he heard in church,” Walburn told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week. “As a judge, he would often sound more like a preacher than like a judge. He believed in the goodness of people, but that good people did bad things if they were in a corporation where the pressures were on them to sublimate their individual responsibility to the corporate entity – a corporate entity that had no heart, no soul and no conscience. He believed that if he could break down the corporate walls and talk person to person to the corporate executives that he could convince them to change their ways. He was always trying that.”

“One of the speeches he gave was to the Minnesota Council of Churches in the early 1980s. He spoke about this. He said that many people denounced crime in the streets, but few examine crime in the skyscrapers.”

“The Dalkon Shield was an IUD sold in the early 1970s by the A.H. Robins Company of Richmond, Virginia. The company was a Fortune 500 company at the time. In the early 1970s, the Dalkon Shield became the best selling IUD in the country with 80 percent of the market. Millions of the Dalkon Shield were sold in 80 countries around the world.”

“But despite its widespread use and popularity, it had a deadly flaw. It had a multifilament tail string that could wick bacteria up into the uterus causing horrendous infections in tens of thousands of women. Many women lost their fertility. Some women died.”

“The litigation started in the early 1970s. It had been going for more than a decade, when in 1983, right when my clerkship was starting with Judge Lord, he took on his first Dalkon Shield case. It was the judge’s last big case on the bench. He would retire at age 66, shortly after the A.H. Robins Company declared bankruptcy.”

“He had twenty-one Dalkon Shield cases assigned to him. And one of the ways he broke the cases open was to reopen the discovery. He allowed the plaintiffs’ attorneys to take the depositions of the highest corporate officers of the A.H. Robins Company. And he reopened the document discovery. And the main issue there was secret studies of the tail strings that the company or its lawyers had conducted that reportedly showed bacterial migration up the string.”

“And as the pressure to produce the documents built and built, the company was serially settling the cases in front of the judge. When the last of the cases was about to settle, the judge said he wanted one final settlement hearing. And he requested that three top officers of the company appear before him in court. He wanted again to talk to them person to person, to plead with them to recall the device, even though it was no longer being sold, it was still being worn by thousands of women, and he wanted the company to compensate the women who had been injured.”

“When they came to his courtroom, he delivered a scathing speech to them. That speech ended up going viral, as we would say today. It was reprinted in newspapers and magazines all across the country. It was reprinted in the Congressional Record. A.H. Robins in turn filed judicial misconduct charges against the judge based upon that speech.”

There was a Committee of Inquiry pulled together by the Eighth Circuit. They brought disciplinary charges against Judge Lord. They found that he was in fact biased. But the judge felt that everything he said was true. What was the sanction?

“Not only did the judge say that everything was true, but it was based on the record in front of him. Even though he had presided for only 90 days, he had been extraordinarily active, even traveling to Richmond to supervise some of the depositions. What he said in the speech was based on the record.”

“Even though the company filed judicial misconduct charges against him, the company did not contest the accuracy of anything in the speech. The company said they were denied due process, but didn’t contest the accuracy.”

“The Eighth Circuit held a two day hearing – open to the public at Judge Lord’s insistence. That hearing ended up backfiring on the A.H. Robins Company. The speech galvanized attorneys and other judges around the country to go after what they were now calling Judge Lord’s docket.”

“In the end, the Eighth Circuit dismissed the misconduct charges, but expunged the speech from the record of the case, even though by that time, the speech had become famous across the country. It was published in newspapers across the country.”

There was no finding of misconduct?

“Correct. The judge had signed the final settlement agreement. The Eighth Circuit struck the judge’s signature from the settlement document. But by this time, other judges around the country had issued virtually identical orders for the production of the documents.”

One of the highlights of the book was the testimony of Roger Tuttle. Who is Roger Tuttle?

“Roger Tuttle was an in house lawyer for the A.H. Robins Company. He was in charge of the Dalkon Shield litigation in the early years of the litigation in the 1970s. He left the company in the mid-1970s and went to teach law school in Oklahoma.”

“He was a born again Christian. He remained on the sidelines for about a decade. When he read Judge Lord’s speech to the three A.H. Robins executives, it gave him the courage to come forward. He eventually agreed to a deposition that was taken by Mike Ciresi in Minneapolis. And in the course of that deposition, Roger Tuttle testified that when he was at the company, he was ordered to and did destroy documents from the files of the top ranking officials at the A.H. Robins Company. He had instructed some people to gather the documents and they were burned in a furnace that was used to otherwise destroy bad product. That testimony was sensational. It drew national headlines. And it was the final straw for the A.H. Robins Company.”

“Within a year the company filed for bankruptcy. And in the end, about 200,000 women received about $3 billion in compensation. But again, the litigation and the bankruptcy proceedings all told took close to thirty years.”

What was Roger Tuttle’s work at the time he testified?

“He was a professor at Oral Roberts University Law School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

Was there ever a criminal investigation or prosecution of A.H. Robins?

“There was a criminal grand jury convened. It operated for about five years and no charges were ever brought and there was no explanation. There were some news reports about the grand jury. But that is all that I was able to find.”

The documents that Tuttle destroyed incriminated the top executives. But did he say what was in the documents?

“He described the documents as showing the knowledge of the top executives about the Dalkon Shield. He didn’t testify in detail about the documents, but he saved a handful of them in the basement of his house. And he did produce some of those at his deposition.”

“The Dalkon Shield had copper in it. And if the copper was in the device to affect the efficacy of the device, it would have been subject to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration as a drug and subject to pre-market testing. This document showed that the copper did in fact have an efficacy component, contrary to what the company told the FDA. And special masters working on the case said that document lent a lot of credence to Roger Tuttle’s testimony.”

Was there any judge in the United States like Judge Miles Lord?

“Not that I know of. He took a boxer’s mentality with him throughout his life. He has that aggressive fighter’s instinct. If you are knocked down, you get back up and you keep fighting. He saw fighting as a symbol of how he lived his entire life.”

He was a colleague with the famous Democratic politicians from the state, including Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy and Walter Mondale.

“It was quite a collection of young men who all came together in their early adulthood in the 1940s in Minneapolis.”

Could Miles Lord have just as easily gone into politics like Humphrey and McCarthy and Mondale?

“Miles was a natural politician. He loved people. In the book, I focus on the relationship between Miles and Humphrey and McCarthy. And it culminated in many respects in the 1968 presidential campaign. Miles loved Hubert. He considered Hubert a brother. He was also very close to Gene McCarthy. Gene McCarthy didn’t have a lot of close friends, especially in politics or public life. Miles was good friends with both, but he was much more of a personality type like Hubert. He loved kissing babies. He loved making speeches to the crowd. Whereas Gene McCarthy was more of a loner and more reserved.”

“Miles had his heart set on being a federal judge from the time he graduated from law school. He did love politics though. There is no question that he could have gone very far in politics. But his wife was saying – I don’t want you in politics.”

“As a federal judge, he had the power of one. He would have been great at getting elected and being a firebrand. But I’m not sure he would have been able to form coalitions and make the compromises you would have had to make in Washington.”

Still Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco: John Boehner and College Ethics

Former Speaker of the House John Boehner chain smokes Camel cigarettes.

As Speaker, he was one of the tobacco industry’s most reliable friends in Congress.

In 1996, he was caught handing out checks from tobacco lobbyists to his colleagues on the floor of the House while the House was in session.

Now retired, Boehner sits on the board of Camel maker Reynolds American.

Which is all quite predictable.

Chain smoker, friend of Big Tobacco, sits on the board.

Given that background though, what is a bit creepy is that Boehner was hired recently to give the keynote address to thousands of young students attending the annual College Ethics Symposium last month in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

The mission of the College Ethics Symposium is “to foster ethical decision making by utilizing Christian and moral values.”

For example, the symposium teaches seven ethical duties from the life and teaching of Jesus, including ethical duty number five — “strive for health, healing, and wholeness in oneself and for others.”

A college student who attended the symposium and who asked not to be named, is a sophomore at a West Virginia college that participates in the program.

He was the leader of one of the break-out student groups.

The group got together and decided to ask Boehner a question about the morality of his board membership at a big tobacco company.

The students decided that after Boehner’s keynote, during the question and answer session, they would ask Boehner  — “”After having been in an elected position of high political power, how do you morally justify working on behalf of Reynolds American?”

“We were all in groups of six to eight students, each with a moderator,” the student said.

“I presented the question to my group. They loved it.”

But the moderator said he thought there were two questions — first, is it ethical to promote tobacco products?

And second, is it ethical to lobby after having been elected to a position of political power?

The West Virginia college student says now, looking back on it, the moderator, who is a corporate lawyer, deftly moved the students away from asking Boehner about the ethics and morality of his board membership on Reynolds American.

When the student asked Boehner whether it was ethical for a former Speaker of the House to lobby Congress, Boehner brushed it aside.

“I don’t think it’s unethical, but I don’t do it,” Boehner said. “I don’t think a former Speaker should be a lobbyist.”

When Boehner was named to the board of Reynolds American last year, a spokesperson for the company told reporters that the company “is striving to transform the tobacco industry through innovative strategies that include speeding the decline in tobacco use among young people and reducing the harm caused by smoking.”

“These are objectives Speaker Boehner supports and looks forward to helping Reynolds American advance through his service on the board,” the company spokesperson said.

This explanation irritated Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“It is truly absurd that tobacco giant Reynolds American and former House Speaker John Boehner, who was elected to Reynolds’ board of directors today, would express a commitment to ‘speeding the decline in tobacco use among young people,’” Myers said at the time. “Their records show the exact opposite. Reynolds’ announcement pairs the tobacco company with the most egregious record of marketing to kids and a politician with a long record of fighting policies to reduce youth tobacco use.”

Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Reynolds has stepped up its marketing of Newport cigarettes to young people with coupons for cigarettes at just $1 per pack and ‘Newport Pleasure Lounges’ at music festivals.

“Reynolds knows that reducing cigarette prices attracts price-sensitive youth, and the tobacco industry has a long history of using concerts to market to young people,” Myers said. “Reynolds’ latest marketing schemes are blatant efforts to circumvent federal law, which bans free samples of tobacco products and direct sponsorships of concerts because these strategies have been found to appeal to kids.”

“At the same time Reynolds is offering coupons for ultra-cheap Newport cigarettes, the company is pouring millions into fighting ballot initiatives to significantly increase cigarette taxes in California, Colorado and North Dakota. Reynolds, Altria/Philip Morris and other tobacco companies have already spent about $60 million to run deceptive ads against these initiatives. Reynolds is opposing these initiatives for the very same reason it is offering cheap Newports: It knows that increasing the price of cigarettes is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids.”

As a member of Congress, Boehner was a top recipient of tobacco industry campaign contributions and consistently opposed legislation to reduce youth tobacco use, including the 2009 law granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over tobacco products.

Boehner once handed out campaign checks from tobacco interests on the House floor. Toward the end of his tenure, Boehner worked to weaken FDA oversight of electronic cigarettes and cigars, an effort that other members of Congress are continuing today and should be rejected.

“It’s not surprising Boehner would go to work for Reynolds American, a tobacco company with a long and continuing history of marketing to kids and fighting proven strategies to reduce youth tobacco use,” Myers said. “Reynolds brought us the cartoon character Joe Camel, the most notorious example of cigarette marketing to kids, and the company’s Camel and Newport brands remain two of the three most popular cigarette brands among kids today.”

“It is also not surprising that Boehner is joining Reynolds at the same time there is growing pressure for the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes. Newport is the leading menthol brand. The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council last year called on the FDA to ban menthol, with support from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health organizations. Newport and other menthol cigarettes have been heavily marketed to African Americans with devastating health consequences. A 2013 FDA report concluded that menthol cigarettes lead to increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults, greater addiction, and decreased success in quitting smoking. It is time for the FDA to act on these findings and ban menthol cigarettes.”

“Reynolds American likes to claim it is ‘transforming tobacco,’” Myers said. “But in reality, the company is doing everything it can to preserve its cigarette market for as long as possible. Elected officials have an obligation to reject the company’s efforts to wield political influence and act to protect kids and public health instead.”

That’s a good factual basis for a question about ethics, morality, Boehner, Christian values and public health.

Too bad the kids didn’t get a chance to ask it.

The “Brilliance” of Joe Manchin

Senator Joe Manchin came to the Country Inn in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia on October 27.

And he was brilliant.

Manchin spoke and took questions for over three hours.

One woman said she and her husband are retired military and on the military health insurance plan TRICARE.

The woman said that they have a granddaughter living in Texas on the CHIP program – that’s Medicaid for children.

The granddaughter has a rare illness and is on medicine that costs $150,000 a month.

Because Congress is delaying renewing the CHIP program, Texas could run out of funds – leaving the granddaughter without access to her medications.

The grandmother – who did not identify herself – said that her and her husband were going to have to move from Berkeley Springs to Texas to adopt their granddaughter so that the granddaughter would be covered by their TRICARE health insurance.

The grandmother wanted to know from Manchin what he could do about preventing Texas from losing funding for CHIP.

Manchin asked the grandmother to give her name to one of his aides and he’d look into it.

But a young high school student then asked Manchin if a single payer system – where everyone is covered in one system – Medicare for all – wouldn’t solve the woman’s problems.

Manchin referred to Bernie Sanders’ single payer bill which was introduced in the Senate last month with 16 other Senators co-sponsoring – not including Manchin.

Manchin said that he would have to study the proposal – “you can’t just jump onto every new idea without studying it” – Manchin said.

Of course, single payer is not a new idea.

It was introduced first by President Harry Truman more than 70 years ago.

And Manchin has heard from single payer advocates in West Virginia for years now – advocates who have made their case over and over again.

Yet Manchin still says that he has to study it.

What he actually means is that – I’m not going to go against the health insurance industry to help the people of my state.

Manchin brushed aside the young high school student with a touch of flattery.

Manchin took a number of questions about the opioid crisis in West Virginia.

In response, he referenced the corruption that allowed for the opioid crisis to flourish in West Virginia, referencing a Washington Post/60 Minutes expose on how three drug distribution companies – McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health – lobbied Congress to make it difficult for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to put a stop to their distribution of opioids in Appalachia and elsewhere.

Manchin did not mention the fact that in 2015 Congress passed the legislation by unanimous consent – including the consent of Senator Manchin – before it was signed by President Barack Obama.

One person did get under Manchin’s skin.

And that was Morgan County farmer Patricia Kesecker.

Kesecker told Manchin the story of Mountaineer Gas taking her farmland with the use of eminent domain to build a gas pipeline.

Kesecker questioned the use of eminent domain by private corporations to take farm land.

Manchin expressed surprise that a private corporation would have the right to take the Kesecker property by using eminent domain.

He asked around to his buddies in the crowd – including Republican state Senator Charles Trump and West Virginia House Majority Leader Republican Daryl Cowles – to see if they knew what was going on.

Neither Trump nor Cowles responded.

One woman in the crowed looked at Trump and asked, perhaps sarcastically – “you were trained in the law, weren’t you Charles?”

Of course, Manchin and Trump and Cowles all know what’s going on.

They have been in wholehearted support of the use of corporate eminent domain to take farmers’ property for pipelines.

Not only did Manchin know what was going on.

He supported the exact eminent domain power that Mountaineer Gas used to take the Kesecker farm property.

In November 2016, Manchin came to Berkeley Springs to address economic development.

He was asked about the brewing opposition to the Mountaineer Gas pipeline.

“People don’t want any type of inconvenience on their property,” Manchin said.

Manchin suggested the state could consider investing in the Mountaineer Gas project.

“If the state becomes involved, it’s a public project and with eminent domain you can move on it when you need to,” Manchin said.

And Trump was behind the law, written by the natural gas industry that fast tracked the Mountaineer Gas pipeline through the West Virginia Public Service Commission.

The Trump sponsored law effectively shifts the burden of paying for construction of new natural gas pipelines from the corporation to existing ratepayers in the state.

Cowles was right behind Manchin and Trump in support of the pipeline.

Just brilliant.

Talley Sergent Aaron Scheinberg Coca Cola Single Payer and the Failure of Democrats in West Virginia

Congressman Alex Mooney is the former chair of Republican Party in Maryland. But now he’s a congressman from the second Congressional district of West Virginia.

How did that happen? In 2014, Mooney saw that he wasn’t going to win anything in Maryland, so he crossed the bridge over the Potomac River and came on over to West Virginia.

Mooney should have been — and in 2018 should be — easily defeated. Mooney puts the interests of powerful out of state corporations over the interests of the people of his district. He is hardly ever is seen in the district. (Instead, he does phone call town hall meetings.)

Strike three and he should be out.

But he keeps winning.

Why?

Democrats in West Virginia are politically bankrupt.

Take for example the two declared Democrat candidates for the Mooney seat.

One is Talley Sargent. She’s a former public relations executive at Coca-Cola.

The other is Aaron Scheinberg. He’s been endorsed by Congressman Seth Moulton of the New Democrat Coalition, a group that raises funds from Big Business and is seeking to move the Democratic Party to the right.

Both Sergent and Scheinberg refuse to take economic positions that would rile big business.

Both, for example, have refused to back the West Virginia Democratic Party platform’s call for a single payer, Medicare for All plan along the lines of HR 676.

HR 676 currently has 120 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives — none from West Virginia.

When asked about this, Scheinberg spokesperson Elizabeth Gale said that “Aaron believes that we have a duty to each other to ensure that all West Virginians have access to comprehensive health care.”

“As a veteran, Aaron is lucky to receive reliable, affordable health care through the VA,” Gale said. “He believes no one should to have to worry about losing or being denied health insurance. That will be a major focus of his agenda if he is elected. As far as commenting on specific bills, Aaron will wait until he can participate in the debate within Congress.”

But Margaret Flowers of Health Over Profit, said that the phrase “access to health care” is used by politicians across the spectrum to dodge the issue of single payer.

“Politicians will say that people have access to health care right now under the current system, it’s just that some people can’t afford it,” Flowers said. “Will Democrats say that a public option gives access to health care? The policies matter and candidates need to show that they understand what policies will solve the crises we face.”

“It is an unwillingness to take strong stances that is one of the reasons Democrats are doing so poorly. The majority of Democratic voters support single payer health care and it is a proven policy, so there is nothing controversial about supporting it. Voters are looking for candidates with the courage to take positions.”

While at Coca-Cola, Sargent worked to promote a Coca-Cola front group called the Global Energy Balance Network.

The message of the network? Exercise more and worry about calories less. Take the focus off of sugary drinks like Coke and put the focus on the couch potato behind the straw.

In August 2015, the New York Times exposed Coke’s front group in an article titled — Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets.

The Times reported that Coca-Cola spent $1.5 million to start the organization.

“Health experts say this message (exercise more important than diet) is misleading and part of an effort by Coke to deflect criticism about the role sugary drinks have played in the spread of obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” the Times reported. “They contend that the company is using the new group to convince the public that physical activity can offset a bad diet despite evidence that exercise has only minimal impact on weight compared with what people consume.”

“This clash over the science of obesity comes in a period of rising efforts to tax sugary drinks, remove them from schools and stop companies from marketing them to children. In the last two decades, consumption of full-calorie sodas by the average American has dropped by 25 percent.”

“Coca-Cola’s sales are slipping, and there’s this huge political and public backlash against soda, with every major city trying to do something to curb consumption,” Michele Simon, a public health lawyer, told the Times. “This is a direct response to the ways that the company is losing. They’re desperate to stop the bleeding.”

One internal Coca-Cola email shows the head of Coke’s public relations department — Clyde Tuggle — reporting that “Talley has been leading some of our health and wellness work” and that “I’d like her to be my right hand and a core part of the team on this work going forward” — referring to the Global Energy Balance Network.

Gary Ruskin of the public interest group US Right to Know, which helped expose Global Energy Balance Network and make public the internal Coca-Cola emails, said that “Talley Sergent is perhaps the least qualified person in West Virginia to serve in Congress.”

“As a Coke public relations executive, Sergent helped perpetrate a deceit so egregious that it was exploded on the front page of the New York Times. She was a Coke handler for one of its front groups, the Global Energy Balance Network, and their efforts to snooker consumers and public health leaders, and to shield Coke from accountability for its role in helping to create the global obesity epidemic.”

“Now she wants to represent West Virginia in Congress. There is already enough deceit in Congress without her.”

“Coke’s role in West Virginia has been especially destructive of late. The state is suffering from some of the worst levels of obesity in the nation. In a notable insult to public health, the founding dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health was a key Coke ally and a leader in Coke’s Global Energy Balance Network debacle.  Hand left the deanship following the avalanche of negative news coverage about his role in the Coke deceit.  And now comes Talley Sergent.”

Sergent now says it was a mistake for Coca-Cola to fund the Global Energy Balance Network and that after the Times article ran, she helped move Coca Cola into a new, more transparent direction.

In response to an inquiry,  Sergent, a native of Huntington, West Virginia defended her work at Coca-Cola and took a barely veiled shot at Ruskin (based in Oakland, California), Scheinberg (who is originally from Cherry Hill, New Jersey) and Mooney (the former chair of the Republican Party in Maryland) as “outsiders.”

And Coca-Cola isn’t an outsider doing tremendous harm to the state?

“Isn’t West Virginia number one in obesity in the country?” Sergent was asked.

“We’re actually number two — behind Mississippi,” she said.

(Actually, according to a recent listing, West Virginia is number one — with a 37.7 percent obesity rate, with Mississippi coming in second with a 37.3 obesity rate.)

“Outsiders think they know voters here in West Virginia – shoot – we have folks from outside the state moving here just to run,” Sergent said. “But, like most West Virginians, I don’t take cues from special interests or outsiders, just the special people of my home state.”

“On my watch, the Coca-Cola Company transformed its approach to public health, owning up to its mistakes, becoming more transparent with its consumers and starting an open dialogue with the public health community. It wasn’t easy work but it was the right thing to do.”

“Now, I’m taking the same approach to Congress. We need a congresswoman who will take tough obstacles like health care head on, beginning with protecting and improving the Affordable Care Act, which will help break the cycle of opioid addiction, improve lives with preventive care and coverage for pre-existing conditions and encourage every West Virginian to live their best life. West Virginia needs a congresswoman who will stand up for the people and who welcomes an open dialogue with every West Virginian, no matter what. As congresswoman, I’ll do just that.”

But Sergent refused to commit to a public health campaign against sugary drinks or to a single payer, Medicare for All health program.

Some West Virginians aren’t giving up on Sergent or Scheinberg.

West Virginians Cathy Kunkel, Sally Roberts Wilson, and Lynn Moses Yellott, who are active members of grassroots organizations in the state advocating improved Medicare for All, have spoken with both Sergent and Scheinberg.

“We will continue to educate and push these candidates to support a single-payer ‘Medicare for All’ system as the only real way to fix our broken healthcare system,” Kunkel, Wilson and Yellot said in a statement. “HR 676 is the only solution put forth that will enable the country to afford comprehensive care for everyone. We urge candidates to ask voters the question — ‘Since under expanded and improved Medicare for all, more than 95% of you will pay less through a fair tax than you now pay for premiums, co-pays, and deductibles, are you willing to convert the money you now pay for health insurance and out of pocket expenses to a fair tax so all in our country can have needed care?’ The grassroots will continue to educate and to push candidates to support National Improved Medicare for All.”

In addition to working for Coca-Cola, Sergent was the West Virginia director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for President.

And unfortunately for the people of the second Congressional district, Sergent and Scheinberg appear to be playing by the same Clinton corporate playbook that brought us President Trump — and that will re-elect Congressman Mooney.