Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Harry Reid's Latest Scandal: The Milk Man
From The Washington Post:
In the summer of 2003, shoppers in Southern California began getting a break on the price of milk. (Ed. Note: Huh - a price break - why, who could argue with consumers getting a price break. Gee - can you guess?)
A maverick dairyman named Hein Hettinga started bottling his own milk and selling it for as much as 20 cents a gallon less than the competition, exercising his right to work outside the rigid system that has controlled U.S. milk production for almost 70 years. Soon the effects were rippling through the state, helping to hold down retail prices at supermarkets and warehouse stores.
That was when a coalition of giant milk companies and dairies, along with their congressional allies, decided to crush Hettinga's initiative. For three years, the milk lobby spent millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions and made deals with lawmakers, including incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).
Last March, Congress passed a law reshaping the Western milk market and essentially ending Hettinga's experiment -- all without a single congressional hearing.
Reid was no newcomer to dairy issues. Nevada's population was growing faster than its dairies could supply milk, so prices tended to be high. Milk plants that had to import milk from far away thought they could get it cheaper if they did not have to pay regulated prices. In 1999, Reid helped them out. He slipped an amendment into a spending bill exempting milk plants in the Las Vegas area from federal pricing rules.
David Coon, vice president of Anderson Dairy Inc., then the area's largest milk plant, hailed Reid's amendment as a "good example of the good we feel he has done fighting for our state." Reid later listed Anderson as one of 51 "soft money" donors to his Searchlight Leadership Fund, which funds Democratic candidates in Nevada.
On the evening of Nov. 2, 2005, lawmakers and several dozen lobbyists squeezed into the conference room of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to seek common ground in the milk dispute. Lewis brought Hettinga and McGrath. Reid came with Anderson's Coon. Shamrock Foods' McClelland was with Kyl.
"Jerry, if it wasn't for you, we'd have taken care of this a long time ago," Reid said, according to several participants.
Lewis bridled. It seemed as if Reid was calling him a "liar," he said. If that was so, he might as well leave, he added.
Hettinga told the group how he had built his plants, arguing that the other dairy farmers "didn't pay me when I started the business, why should I start paying them when the business is successful?" (Ed. Note - exactly !)
At the end, participants said, Reid was plainly exasperated. "I'm not listening to any more of this," he said. "I'm out of here."
Reid made his move on Dec. 16, with the Senate chamber nearly empty. He brought up the milk bill, which passed a few minutes later by "unanimous consent," a procedure that requires no debate or roll call vote if both political parties agree. Reid and Kyl said in recent statements that their goal was to level the playing field for milk producers.
If the URL of the WaPo article changes, The same Story can be found HERE.
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Isn't it time a ground swell of voices spoke up, and continues speaking up - until Reid is forced to resign?
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