Consumers Rain Nickels on Congress

In a case reply to the man who would soon take over the Korean bribery inquiries in the House, Nader said. "It's intellectually shoddy, if not disgraceful to his presumed stature in the legal profession to let the business people use his reputation without exposing him to cross-examination. He got the benefit without being there to testify." Jaworski refused to say wh the Business Roundtable paid him to write the letter.

It took some morning-of-the-vote wake-up calls to Democrats by Vice President Walter F. Mondale to all save the ACP in the House Government Operations Committee, where it was reported out 1st May by a vote of 22 to 21.

"Business is accused of doing anything money can buy, but it can't buy the power of the Oval Office," Joseph said. "Some members told Mondale they would vote yes as a favor to the party, to allow a debate, but that they would not vote for it on the floor," he added.

The House leadership has already agreed with Senate majority leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.) that the House should debate the bill first, since Senate confirmation is likely despite an inevitable filibuster by Sen. James B. Allen (D-Ala.). The big issue now, Green says, is when Speaker O'Neill, in conference with the White House, will schedule floor debate and votes.

Green says the Nader organization's unprecedented grassroots campaign is not only a crucial test for the future of the consumer movement, but also "a harbinger of things to come for Public Citizen."

"We will be redefining our thinking on grass roots organizing. We have to get out more to the districts to have greater impact in Congress--this is a real trail blazer for us," he said.

Green said that the importance of the Nickel Campaign for the consumer movement extends beyond even this great issue because "if a member knows that we have the ability and the impact and the following to affect the outcome of his next election, then he will be more responsive to our point of view."


From this perspective, the lobbying battle could be said to affect directly the outcome of other proposed and pending consumer legislation, such as air bags for automobiles, a federal consumer bank, and a bill called Public Participation that would appropriate some $10 million to be awarded as compensation to consumer groups, individuals and local governments testifying at congressional hearings where special-interest groups are already well-represented. Peterson said yesterday.

Despite optimism on the consumer side, the business lobby does not concede that the Nickel Campaign cut down the early advantage they built up by inspiring an early flood of mail opposing the ACP.

"We feel like we're in the fifth quarter of a football game with the score 21-14 in our favor, but nobody blew the whistle yet." McKevitt said.

Although everyone seems to agree that Ralph Nader will stick around Washington even if he loses this battle, big-business is hoping that if they can defeat the consumer coalition here. Nader will see his public support and media exposure evaporate--possibly even ending this current wave of consumer activism in America.

The jury is out.

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