Whether or not someone supports House File 2288 has absolutely no bearing on whether or not they "support the arts." (See "March for Cultural Trust Fund," River Cities' Reader Issue 362, February 20-26, 2002.) Far from being a "brilliant concept" from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, the Cultural Trust Fund is yet another example of liberals trying to force the taxpayer to fund their creativity.

I for one am proud that "Iowa ranks as one of the lowest in per capita spending of tax dollars for culture-related programs." Funding for the arts should come from the bottom up, not from the top down. Culture is best expressed, demonstrated, and funded by the communities that represent that culture.

Submitting a grant proposal to Des Moines seems really inefficient, not to mention being very culturally detached. What was left out of the editor's gushing was that the majority of the new board of trustees would be made up of governor appointees, which means they would likely reflect the cultural beliefs of the governor. Also, the bill directs that the board would take grant recommendations from the Iowa Arts Council and State Historical Society, so if you're not lucky enough to impress either one of these organizations, tough luck! This just further narrows the pool that would be eligible for funding to those that can't thoroughly document and represent their culture to the satisfaction of bureaucrats.

The editor provides a Web-site reference in favor of the bill. What's even more distasteful than the bill itself is the selfish whining from the proponents who feel compelled on their Web site to bemoan the fact that funds going toward the victims of September 11 are sapping donations to the arts. I guess even money-hungry liberals are capable of being insensitive jerks.

This is a bad bill that hopefully will die a quick death. Culture in Iowa is underfunded because we are taxed too heavily. A better way to fund culture in Iowa is to reduce the role of government in our lives, reduce our taxes, give us our money back, and let each of us determine how we support culture.

Keith Chiavetta,
West Branch, Iowa

Time to Reconsider Cannabis Laws

The Iowa legislature is in session, and it's an election year; now is the time to reconsider cannabis laws. Industrial-hemp and medical-marijuana bills are before the Iowa General Assembly.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) spent approximately $3.4 million to air two 30-second anti-drug spots during January's Super Bowl, and the ads linked drug use to terrorism. Keith Stroup, the executive director of NORML, said, "Does anyone really believe that Americans' illegal-drug-use patterns will be affected in the slightest by this sort of government propaganda?" Let's not link the "War on Drugs" to the "War on Terrorism."

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp, and Bill Clinton possessed pot but didn't inhale. Are they terrorists?

The DEA's own Francis L. Young, administrative law judge, said, "One of marijuana's greatest advantages as a medicine is its remarkable safety." Now the DEA has banned hemp food products and cosmetics and continues to hamper the Canadian hemp industry from trading in the U.S. as permitted under NAFTA. Most states surrounding Iowa have considered legislation, and the Farm Bureau has supported industrial hemp.

Fact: You cannot get high on industrial hemp.

Now is the time to the get involved. Meet your lawmakers and speak out for cannabis-law reform.

James Getman,
Director, Iowa NORML

Two-Party System Discriminates

For voters who belong to one of the officially recognized political parties in Iowa, life is pretty sweet. Iowa taxpayers help their party by acting as recruiter and fundraiser. And no, I'm not making that up.

When Iowa prints voter-registration cards that only permit certain political parties to be checked off, keeps records of who registered in which party, and then makes that information available cheaply ($10 for a CD of all of Scott County), that gives the favored parties an otherwise unavailable source of high-probability supporters, volunteers, donors, and even candidates. That's some high-quality recruiting, and it's all financed by Iowa's taxpayers.

And when Iowa puts a check-off box for $1.50 on all income-tax forms only for officially recognized parties and then even the unspecified check-off money is shared by only the officially recognized parties, that's a nice job of fundraising. And again it's all financed by Iowa's taxpayers.

For many of Iowa's truly independent voters, who don't have any political-party allegiance at all, this probably isn't such a great system. After all, why is their money being used to pay for purely political activities that help parties they don't care for?

But for voters who support political parties that are not officially recognized, and there are many, the current system is a rip-off on a grand scale. Our parties are denied equal access to those who support them. Our parties don't get a dime of public financing. This is despite the fact that in 2000, there were 42,000 Iowans who voted for "third party" candidates for president, 26,000 Iowans who voted for our candidates for Congress, and 15,000 Iowans who voted for our candidates for the state legislature. Increasingly, the federal courts are agreeing that such unequal treatment of voters cannot be allowed to continue.

There are various legal precedents to be cited and discussed to show that voters of these unrecognized and unsubsidized political parties would win a federal lawsuit in Iowa, but really that's not the point. There shouldn't have to be an adversarial relationship between the "ins" and the "outs" that would result in a mandate imposed by the federal courts. Instead, all the "third parties" of Iowa - Natural Law, Green, Reform, Libertarian, Socialist, and Constitution - have been working hard to lobby the legislature for a new system that would be agreeable to everyone - the "ins" and the "outs" and those who have to administer the system.

Unfortunately, our efforts have largely fallen on deaf ears. A bill in the state Senate that would have improved the situation died with the first funnel when "Senate leadership" ordered the bill killed. Efforts to attach amendments to an elections bill in the House (House File 2472) have been listened to politely but without results. Sadly, if our legislators will not act, it might be necessary to involve the courts, which will mean spending by the attorney general's office to defend this indefensible system. Let's hope our legislators don't let the current session end without fixing this very biased system.

Richard Moroney,

Reform's Public Enemy

As campaign-finance reform moves to the Senate floor again, the man most likely to cause it harm is Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. I have a serious bone to pick with him.

I saw today that AEI, Inc., the coal giant in Kentucky that has been the largest single contributor to Mr. McConnell's political career, was among the companies that met privately with the White House to shape our nation's energy policy. That company, like Enron, is teetering into bankruptcy after years of deregulated adventures. The Louisville paper recently had this to say about AEI and Mr. Addington, who runs it: "While AEI was growing, so was the size of campaign donations from the Addington clan. In 1996, Larry Addington gave $15,000 to national political parties and candidates. But from 1998 to 2000, Addington contributed more than $800,000. That included $500,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee while U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell was its chairman."

The Addingtons, connected in complex ways with Ashland Oil and Massey Energy, are major contributors to Mr. McConnell's own campaigns.

In the face of Enron, Mr. McConnell has had no shame. Though he funneled money from Enron into his own campaign and into the campaigns of many of his friends, he yet does not resign or even apologize. Now that he has his own private Enron in the form of AEI, will he still stand like Bull Conner in the doorway of the Senate to block the arrival of campaign-finance reform? Will the other senators allow this shame to continue?

When I walked, at age 90, some 3,200 miles across the United States to publicize the need for campaign-finance reform, arriving in Washington in February of 2000, Mr. McConnell, who would not meet with me, suggested that Americans were more interested in static cling than in rescuing their democracy from the stranglehold of big-money politics. He said campaign-finance reform would pass Congress "when hell freezes over."

Actually, the first time he said that was before I reached Washington. It had snowed along my route and I was using my old cross-country skis to continue along. I asked my friends to send him a picture of it, so he could see that his prediction was coming true.

And so it is. But if there is one delay in the passage of this bill, or if Mr. Bush delays one minute in signing it into law, all the relationships between AEI, McConnell, and government payoffs need to be investigated alongside Enron.

Regarding those who stand with McConnell against the American people and against the necessary reform of the scandalous campaign-finance system, let us all here resolve to unseat them at our next opportunity, and investigate them as the criminals many of them are - selling the stolen goods of constituent access to the highest bidders.

Doris "Granny D" Haddock,
Dublin, New Hampshire

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