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Published on Monday, July 17, 2000 in the San Francisco Bay Guardian
Corporate Reception: Big Business Shells Out Big Bucks To Hobnob With The Governors
by Ralph Nader
 
It never seems to end, this relentless merger of corporate lobbyists and their government buddies.

The latest display of cushiness was at the annual summer meeting of the National Governors' Association at Pennsylvania State University. The NGA is a private association on the corporate hospitality take. And man, do these corporations give to get inside the gated community.

Forget about everyday Americans and their citizen groups. They can't afford the tickets of admission to hobnob with the governors. But corporations – paying up to $150,000 each – get inside the gates. Seventy companies paid the top price.

Larry Makinson, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, based in Washington D.C., commented: "Talk about an investment. This is a golden opportunity for these companies to rub shoulders with the CEOs of virtually every state of the union." Right, Larry, and he who has the gold gets the opportunity.

Unions, environmental groups, and consumer groups need not apply. But corporations, such as Aetna and Wal-Mart, can send their executives to a special "corporate fellows" program that allows them to spend time with governors and their staffs, who are often the companies' regulators.

It doesn't matter to politicians how often these companies have violated the laws. Exxon/Mobil, Dupont, the illegal monopolist Microsoft – all receive deferential treatment.

Outside of the governors' meeting, more than 100 protesters gathered for a rally-demonstration to challenge abuses of corporate power. Philip Morris, the giant nicotine dealer, got inside, but the police kept the peaceful demonstrators away from even the entrance of the conference center. Out of sight, out of media opportunity.

One of the discussion topics at the NGA meeting where President Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, and Federal Reserve hhair Alan Greenspan spoke was how state governments should react to the information age economy. You can bet that putting all major state government contracts and grants on the state's Web site was not on the agenda. Nor was urging the state legislatures to put their voting records in an understandable, retrievable format on the states' Web sites for citizens to easily discover.

At its conferences, the NGA passes resolutions that are often very pro-corporate. The one that took the cake was a resolution in the mid '90s. It supported federal preemption of the state common tort law, further restricting the right of wrongfully injured Americans to have their day in state court against the perpetrators of their harms.

Yep, the NGA is the best money can buy. And it comes without even any shame over appearances.

To contact the NGA, write to:

National Governors' Association
Hall of States
444 North Capitol St.
Washington, D.C. 20001-1512
(202) 624-5300

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