Friday, July 5, 2002

Stanley Accused of Misleading Shareholders Again
The Connecticut state attorney general accused New Britain-based Stanley Works this week of misleading shareholders in its latest campaign to move the century-old toolmaker’s corporate headquarters from Connecticut to Bermuda.

In a letter to the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called for an investigation into Stanley’s “conflicting and misleading statements” on how the rights of shareholders would be affected by the firm’s offshore reincorporation in Bermuda.

In addition to creating new limits on traditional shareholder rights, Stanley’s bid to move to a post office box in Bermuda would exempt the corporation from nearly $30 million in U.S. taxes. The move is opposed by a growing number of investors, legislators and citizens who view the offshore tax dodge as a glaring example of corporate irresponsibility.

“If we don’t do something now, more of these companies are only going to follow,” said Richard Neal (D-MA), who, with Rep. Jim Maloney (D-CT), introduced a bill to prevent U.S. companies from setting up offshore shell headquarters. Neal and Maloney say their bill would save American taxpayers $4 billion over 10 years.

Amtrak Gets Temporary Reprieve
Amtrak and the Department of Transportation agreed last week on a financial assistance package that ensures uninterrupted service for our nation’s commuter rail services through September.

The first part of the package comes from a direct $100 million loan under the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program. The second component would come from a joint request by Amtrak and the Administration to Congress for an additional $170 million in operating funds for the remainder of this fiscal year. For the Department of Transportation’s announcement regarding the loan, go to www.dot.gov/affairs/062802sp.htm. For a summary of conditions for the direct loan agreement, go to www.dot.gov/affairs/conditions.htm.

In separate Amtrak news, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and Federal Railroad Administrator Allan Rutter this week announced the award of a $76,748,000 grant, to fund improvements to the Amtrak-owned New York City tunnels. The grant funds will be used to cover the costs of fire and life safety improvements including:  structural rehabilitation; installation of modernized tunnel ventilation and communication systems; and improvements for emergency access and egress. The grant agreement provides for reimbursement to Amtrak of actual costs incurred in making the improvements.

Poll Shows Cracks in GOP Agenda
Recent surveys find the economy is becoming a real problem for Republicans as a highly competitive election cycle moves into high gear. A new poll shows that voters increasingly distrust the Republicans’ handling of domestic issues, particularly the economy.

According to the Associated Press, a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press revealed that President Bush is “slipping on the handling of many domestic issues.” The poll also found that “only one-third of the public thinks Bush is doing all he can to help the economy.” Even Republicans are split on whether Bush is doing enough to help the economy.

Although Bush’s overall approval ratings remain high, rooted primarily in the war on terrorism, his ratings on his handling of Social Security have fallen to only 36 percent.

The Associated Press also reports that “when people were asked what issues they most want candidates running in their state or congressional district to talk about,” they most often mentioned domestic issues.

Still Time to Mend Flawed Prescription Drug Bill
Congress makes laws in strange ways. Despite House passage of a badly flawed prescription drug bill for senior citizens, this does not mean it is going to become the law of the land any time soon. The legislation goes into a holding pattern until the Senate passes its version of a Medicare-linked drug bill. Both bills then go to a joint House-Senate conference to iron out the differences.

Legislation often emerges from such conferences in a much better format than the original versions. The AFL-CIO has set up a toll-free number so that older men and women may call their elected representatives and make their voices heard on this important issue. The toll-free number is 1-877-611-0063.

Call and tell them that “We will remember in November” if you do not vote to enact a worthwhile prescription drug bill under Medicare—a bill with no doughnut hole in coverage and one that protects seniors, not the insurance industry.

Remember, too, that the entire House membership and 34 members of the Senate must face the voters this year.

Watts Retirement Spices House Fight
A rising GOP star lobbed a bombshell into an already volatile campaign stew when he announced his retirement. Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK) is the second member of the Republican House leadership to step down in this election cycle.

Watts’ surprise decision caught GOP leaders off guard and added another seat to the growing list of open seats Republicans must defend to retain their slim House majority. His Oklahoma district has a strong base of Democratic voters and is likely to be competitive in the fall. Republicans now have 21 open seats to defend in the November election.

Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas earlier said he would not run for another term in the House.