The Hightower Report

Senator takes pity on poor little CEOS; and Propaganda Rules!


It's good to know that our congress critters are not completely obtuse about the needs of their constituents. Take Sen. Richard Shelby. The Alabama Republican gets almost misty-eyed as he talks about the need to provide some relief for an especially aggrieved group of Americans: corporate executives.

It seems that many CEOs have come to him with sad sagas of having to cope with legislation that Shelby himself voted for in 2002 – the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate corruption law. This act was congress' response to the Enron-style scandals that were front-page news back then. So the Sarbanes-Oxley Act imposed some rather modest accounting provisions on CEOs to make it slightly more difficult for them to engage in self-enrichment at the expense of employees, retirees, shareholders, and the general public. The senate approved the bill 97 to zero.

But only three years later – even though the corporate scams continue – the corruption no longer makes the front page, and CEOs have been swarming lawmakers with complaints that the anti-corruption law is too restrictive, an unnecessary burden that crimps the style of the captains of industry.

Now, prepare to be shocked: Since passing the 2002 law, senators like Shelby have gleefully cashed beaucoup campaign contribution checks from these CEOs and their lobbyists, and apparently the checks have softened their hearts. Shelby recently declared that the Sarbanes-Oxley law "may have reached too far," and he is scheduling hearings this year on how to relieve the burden on CEOs.

Meanwhile, Shelby and a majority of the Senate have already voted to let CEOs grab multimillion-dollar golden parachutes as their corporations plummet into bankruptcy, even as their employees and retirees are left totally unprotected, and to allow a "millionaire's loophole" so CEOs can shelter their assets from lenders in a bankruptcy case.

Don't you wish that Shelby cared as much about your pain as he does for CEO's?


George W. has gotten another in-house legal opinion to let him do what he wants to do – even if it is clearly wrong.

On everything from autocratically gutting environmental rules to authorizing the torture of prisoners of war, Bush has rationalized some of the worst aspects of his tenure on the specious grounds that hey, his lawyer said it was OK. Now the sycophantish legal beagles in his justice department have told George he can engage in something that is totally un-American: propaganda.

It's been revealed that at least 20 federal agencies under Bush are aggressively pushing government-produced-and-distributed "news" segments on hundreds of local television stations – segments that (big surprise!) laud our Glorious Leader for policies ranging from prescription drugs to beef exports. These TV news bits use actors posing as real reporters, and they almost always air without any mention that, by the way, what you just saw as "news" was the product of the Bush PR team.

"Covert propaganda" is what it has been properly labeled by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of congress. In three official opinions in the past year, the GAO has ruled that agencies using our tax dollars to make prepackaged news segments that proselytize, deceive, and distort in order to influence the public amounts to government-sponsored propaganda – which is illegal.

You'd think that would be that ... but noooo. Far from being embarrassed, the White House got Justice Department lawyers to hack out a legal opinion declaring that the Bushites' brainwashing is legitimate news material. Plus, said Bush's lawyers, GAO legal opinions aren't binding on the White House, so a memo has now been sent to all agency heads telling them to ignore the GAO findings ... and merrily keep on propagandizing!

In case you don't want to be propagandized, the Center for Media and Democracy has effective grassroots actions you can take to help stop the Bushites. Call them: 608/260-9713.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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Richard Shelby, Sarbanes-Oxley corporate corruption law, Enron, propaganda, Bush administration, Center for Media and Democracy, Government Accountability Office

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