Ben White

Ben White is a contributing reporter at the Washington Post and assistant to columnist David Broder. Previously, he was a writer for the Hotline and editor of the Hotline Weekly.

See Everett Oops

Junk science. Two of the sharpest words in the arsenal of the public policy wars. Is your adversary touting a study that shows a product is safe (or harmful)? Vilify the study as bogus, cooked-up junk paid for and concocted by this industry or that special interest group. Sometimes the charge fits; other times it doesn’t. Koopy looking spooky The charges of junk peddling are flying fast and furious in the case of chemicals used in plastic baby bottles and other consumer products. Environmental and consumer groups say the science, while not final, indicates that the use of certain chemicals …

Power Play

Several weeks ago in this magazine, Sara Patton of the NW Energy Coalition uncorked an acidic rant against the aluminum industry (and its lackeys in Congress) for strong-arming the Bonneville Power Administration into providing the industry with below-market electricity rates. Aluminum plant on the Columbia River, Wash. There is still no agreement on paper, but it looks as though the Pacific Northwest’s aluminati (Patton’s coinage, not mine) will get a deal far sweeter than the one Bonneville originally offered. Sources say BPA has extended its deadline for setting rates because two aluminum smelters have said yes to the proposed deal, …

Is Young Restless After All?

Last week, we reported on rumblings that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) might not seek reelection next year, at least in part because committee chair term limits mean he can’t be at the helm of the House Resources Committee in the next Congress. We brought the issue to the attention of Young’s staff who lazily batted it away as baseless speculation, pointing out that Young has already told Alaska newspapers he will seek another term. Case closed? Well, not exactly. At least not according to Kevin Harun, Alaska project director for Conservation Strategies. Harun, who spends his days organizing at the …

Sierra Club Leaping into Political Ring?

Latest buzz on the streets of San Francisco is the nascent mayoral candidacy of enviro wunderkind Adam Werbach, who at the ripe old age of 26 is already an ex-president of the Sierra Club. We tracked Werbach down at the production company he runs in the Bay Area to find out if he is serious about taking on Democratic legend Willie Brown, whose job approval ratings of late are deep in the cellar. Werbach, who says he won’t make a final decision for another couple of weeks, certainly sounded like a candidate as he ticked off the reasons why his …

Bird in the Hand Worth Two for Bush?

While you were smoothing on suntan lotion or stoking the barbecue this weekend, Texas state legislators were madly finishing up work before their midnight May 31 deadline. Gov. George W. Bush‘s tax cuts and education initiatives got most of the attention, but we kept our gaze trained on the environmental bills likely to come up in debate as “Dubya” leaves the friendly confines of Austin and hits the presidential campaign trail this summer. Bush managed to slip out of the legislative session with a compromise on industrial plant emissions — not strong enough to satisfy the likes of Ken Kramer …

Senator Browner?

It’s been a busy few weeks for EPA Administrator Carol Browner. During Senate testimony last week she launched an emotional attack on the recent appeals court ruling that invalidated EPA’s 1997 clean air standards. One Muckraker source present at the hearing said Browner had Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) tied in knots as he repeatedly attempted to steer her away from the court decision and onto sulfur standards, the actual topic at hand. Browner is back on the Hill again this week to talk about a GOP Superfund reform bill. Perhaps Browner hasn’t had a great deal of time to ponder …

The Phantom Menace?

Last week brought an end to the remarkable run of Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who announced his intention to leave Washington and turn the reins of the federal treasury over to his well-groomed deputy, Lawrence Summers, known affectionately to some enviro insiders as Darth Vader. Although Wall Street may be comfortable with Summers, environmentalists are not. Lawrence Summers, Dark Lord of the Sith In 1991, while at the World Bank, Summers signed an internal Bank memo that argued, “The economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable.” He later issued a public apology, …

Riders on the Storm

No one in her or his right mind thinks the 106th Congress is going to pass a whole lot of actual free-standing legislation. It will likely take every ounce of strength this feeble Congress can muster to pass the essential spending bills that fund the government. So riders, those pesky little items that hope to escape scrutiny by hitching a ride on big money bills, are the name of the game, as noted in last week’s Muckraker. The current vehicle for riders is the behemoth supplemental spending bill primarily intended to fund the war effort in Kosovo. As of this …

Guess Who's Not Coming to Dinner

California State Senator and environmental booster Byron Sher (D) sent out invitations to a fundraiser recently and listed State Sen. Ray Haynes (R) among his supporters. Trouble is that Haynes is what you might call a movement conservative, given to labeling people like Sher “clean-air Nazis” and “environmental wackos.” Sher’s office explained the incident to the Riverside Press-Enterprise as a “typographical error.” A typo? That sounds a bit like Handgun Control typing up an invite to a fundraiser and accidentally getting an itchy finger and OOPS! whaddya know? Charleton Heston is listed as a sponsor! How could THAT have happened? …

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