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Pledge links candidates to special interests

January 3, 2012
By Richard Clark , Daily Press

ESCANABA - Congressman Benishek pledged fealty to a Harvard graduate who is the stereotypical Washington, D.C. insider. The congressman signed a loyalty pledge to this ultimate insider and his special interest group before he was elected.

Congressman Benishek signed the pledge to an organization cynically calling itself Americans for Tax Reform - ATR. ATR sends candidates for public office a written pledge with instructions that it "must" be signed, dated and sent the ATR's Washington office.

ATR promotes a tax policy that keeps the wealthy from paying their fair share of the cost of being American citizens. It promotes the repeal of the health care reform that has reduced the national debt and grants tax credits to small businesses providing employee health insurance.

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Richard Clark

No state official representing the U.P. except for Attorney General Schuette has signed the ATR pledge.

Grover Norquist founded and is president of ATR. Mr. Norquist lists his achievements on the ATR website. Nothing on the list includes service to others or America. It holds no military service or lists any charitable organization.

Republican Alan Simpson, a retired Senator from Wyoming and co-chair of the Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, identified Mr. Norquist as an impediment to America's return to a secure financial footing. At a hearing before the recent super committee on budget reform Senator Simpson said of Mr. Nordquist, "(j)ust a quick note about Grover NorquistThere's no question about his power. And let me tell you, he has people in thrall. That's a terrible phrase. Lincoln used it. It means your mind has been captured. You're in bondage with a soul. "

ATR says the pledge it requires is made to a candidate constituents, but that's not reality. The pledge is written by ATR with an ATR heading. It prohibits closing tax loopholes and loopholes favor the wealthy.

What seems plausible is that the pledge made to the ATR connects a candidate to money coming from special interests with ties to Mr. Nordquist.

One of Mr. Benishek's first acts after being elected, but before being sworn into office, was to have a fund raiser in Washington, D.C. On Nov. 18, 2010, Political Action Committees and individuals were invited to "Debt Reduction Breakfast" for Mr. Benishek in Washington for the entry price of $2,000/PAC and $500/individual. Only two months earlier the Washington lobbying firm of Valente and Associates held a $500/individual and $1,000/ Political Action Committee. Getting more and more from special interest seems to conflict with Mr. Benishek's campaign motto of "enough is enough."

While in lock step with ATR Mr. Benishek voted against funding for the Essential Air Service program that supports airports in Mr. Benishek's district, including Escanaba, Sault Ste Marie, Houghton, Ironwood and Iron Mountain. Iron Mountain community leaders reported that medical services will suffer with elimination of Essential Air Service.

More about Nordquist by Senator Simpson, "So here he is. I asked him. He said, 'My hero is Ronald Reagan.' I said, 'Well, he raised taxes 11 times in his eight years.' And he said, 'I know. I didn't like that at all.' I said, 'Well, he did it. Why do you suppose?' He said, 'I don't know. Very disappointing.' I said, 'He probably did it to make the country run, another sick idea.'"

The Constitution does not require that members of Congress actually represent the interests of their fellow citizens so signing the ATR pledge is not illegal. The Constitution only requires an oral oath or affirmation that the representative will support and defend the Constitution.

One must question Congressman Benishek's commitment to special interests who do not reside in his district. Congressman Benishek follows all ATR's positions, even those not involving taxes, but that do increase the power of the wealthy.

In support of the ATR agenda Congressman Benishek voted to reduce Medicare benefits, to increase the tax burden on small businesses that provide their employees with health insurance, to revoke health insurance for young adults, and to permit insurance companies to deny children health insurance for preexisting conditions.

The 1st Congressional District deserves better. It deserves someone whose soul is not in bondage.


EDITOR'S NOTE - Richard Clark, Escanaba, practices personal injury law throughout the Upper Peninsula. He can be reached at



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