- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2000

AFL-CIO's mountain of money for election campaign

Thank you for your informative editorial on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's "racketeering" lawsuit against its political enemies ("Criminalizing political competition," July 24).

My sole complaint is that you greatly understated the amount of money (mostly consisting of workers' compulsory union dues) that AFL-CIO political operatives tacitly admit their organization plans to spend on federal politics this election year.

An AFL-CIO spokesman confirmed for The Washington Post in mid-February that the official $40 million AFL-CIO campaign war chest you cited "does not include any money spent by the federation's 68 [international] member unions."

That means the $40 million refers only to the expenditures of the AFL-CIO umbrella organization. These outlays constitute 13 percent of the organization's total revenues of roughly $300 million for two years.

If only 25 of the most politically active of the AFL-CIO's international affiliates such as the American Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, etc. contribute the same 13 percent of their biennial revenues, that's an extra $875 million.

That makes a total of $915 million, which doesn't include election-related spending by the AFL-CIO's other international affiliates, local unions or non-AFL-CIO unions, including the giant National Education Association.

By conceding to The Washington Post that the oft-cited $40 million figure applies only to the relatively small AFL-CIO umbrella organization, the AFL-CIO spokesman in effect confirmed charges that the union conglomerate's "in-kind" political spending in federal election years runs into the high hundreds of millions.

And "Big Labor" uniquely obtains most of the money it spends on get-out-the-vote drives, phone banks, leafleting, etc., by siphoning off dues and "fees" that employees are forced under federal or state law to pay if they wish to keep their jobs.

Now there's a real racket for you.

REED LARSON

President

National Right to Work Committee

Springfield

Poor countries must account for debts

The Group of Eight summit ended last Sunday in Okinawa, Japan, with, among other things, a recommendation to offer debt relief to poor nations.

The G-8 nations noted that while progress has been made in implementing $15 billion in debt relief to Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Honduras, Mauritania, Mozambique, Senegal and Uganda, there is need to expedite debt relief for more than 20 countries. This is a positive move, but the G-8 nations should ask the poor nations to account for what the debts did in respect to positively transforming the living conditions of ordinary people.

Most of these poor countries are poor because of corruption. Contracted debts don't benefit the people. They benefit only the small clique who can access the money easily. Without conditioning these poor nations to improve their accountability of donor moneys, even the benefits of the well-intended debt relief might not help them get out of the vicious circle of poverty.

JULIUS MUCUNGUZI

Washington

Julius Mucunguzi is Ugandan-Witherspoon fellow at the Family Research Council.

Public, The Times shouldn't 'adore' TV show's stereotypes

The Washington Times, in a July 21 article about the cable TV series "The Sopranos," says the show is successful because "Americans adore the brutal, nostalgic cachet of all things Soprano," which is a "ruthless portrayal of Italian-Americans as murderers, drug dealers, thieves, extortionists, adulterers and thugs" (" 'Sopranos' holding an open casting for more Sopranos"). "Adore" is a poor choice of a word.

The dictionary defines "adore" as to worship or honor as a deity or as divine. A more appropriate description would be that some Americans like to be entertained by such diatribe.

Unfortunately, this is at the expense of the Italian-American community, which is neither respected nor honored, especially by the media in general and Hollywood in particular. Hollywood has produced more than 200 movies that stereotype Italians and only two films that have portrayed the sons of Italy in a positive light.

The negative images of Italian-Americans continue, and too many Italians can thank themselves. They are their own worst enemy. The late author Mario Puzo is a perfect example.

SALVATORE CITINO

North Potomac

Scientology unfairly blasted in critique of film

The Washington Times reprinted portions of an article by Libby Gelman-Waxner of Premiere magazine speculating that the motion picture "Battlefield Earth" promoted the doctrines of Scientology ("Sci-fi faith," Culture et cetera, July 18). Unfortunately, the author does not appear to be knowledgeable about Scientology, and her ambiguously phrased speculations do a disservice to your readers who want accurate information.

The specific beliefs and practices of Scientology simply are not featured in the film, as they are not in the highly popular fiction written by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology. I see just one possible connection. Both "Battlefield Earth" and Scientology optimistically assert that an ordinary human being can accomplish great things if he or she seeks to gain knowledge and to serve humanity. I would hope we all believe this, whatever our orientations toward the Church of Scientology may be.

The year 2000 is the 50th anniversary of "Dianetics," the precursor to Scientology, and the founding Church of Scientology is right here in the District. Thus, The Times is at a good time and place for feature articles on the first half-century of this remarkable religious movement. I am not a Scientologist, but I have met many people who feel they have benefited from the church. The news media should outgrow their juvenile tendency to take cheap shots at Scientology and offer the public a more detailed and balanced report on the real accomplishments of this American-born religious movement.

WILLIAM SIMS BAINBRIDGE

Bethesda

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I was disappointed by the use of excerpts from Libby Gelman-Waxner's column from the August issue of Premiere magazine. Humor is useful because it helps us lighten up and keep things in perspective. Snide remarks and cheap shots, however, are just not funny at best and destructive at worst. The author chose to target several successful people for ridicule because they tell of having their lives improved because of their religious beliefs and because they wish to share what has helped them.

The author also misrepresented the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. He was a successful writer who sold hundreds of stories during the highly competitive golden age of action-adventure magazines. We all know that what ends up on the screen is a loose interpretation of an original story. Judging a life's work as a writer because a movie gets bad reviews is a cheap shot. No matter what one's opinion of Scientology may be, the fact remains that Mr. Hubbard's work continues to sell after many decades, and his legacy includes the contests he founded and funded to identify and promote writers and illustrators. Several current best-selling authors recognize the invaluable start they received through the contest and associated writing workshops.

I know that the author can do better and that Premiere magazine and The Washington Times can't be that desperate to fill space. Why not honor those who are actively trying to make a difference to improve lives? Why not encourage positive messages and reward success? What kind of message are we trying to send? What kind of future are we creating?

RON LINDAHN

Rabun Gap, Ga.

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