Grassroot Perspective – Jan. 20, 2003-Businesses and Interest Groups Give Little to Political Campaigns; Nuclear Energy is Safe, Reliable; Smart Growth Takes Hits

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”Shoots (News, Views and Quotes)”


– Businesses and Interest Groups Give Little to Political

Industries spend much more on lobbying than they do on political
campaigns. According to a new study in the Journal of Economic
Perspectives, around 80 percent of campaign contributions are from
individuals. Businesses contribute so little because they receive very little for their money — so contributing more is fruitless.

*Individuals, organizations and companies gave a total of nearly $3 billion to national campaigns in 1999 and 2000 — equivalent to 0.15 percent of annual federal spending.

*Contributions by individuals average around $115.

*Forty percent of all Fortune 500 companies do not even have a political action committee — and the average corporate PAC gives only about $1,400 to legislators, far below the legal limit.

*Organizations spend 10 times as much on lobbying as on direct campaign contributions.

The study challenges the common wisdom that corporate money runs
politics. It finds that politicians’ votes depend almost entirely on
their beliefs and the preferences of their voters and their party.

Contributions can help a company’s or an industry’s lobbyists gain
access to legislators. The lobbyists can then make their arguments —
and they often can then provide the politician with essential information.

Source: Alan B. Krueger (Princeton University), “Economic Scene:
Lobbying by Businesses Overwhelms their Campaign Contributions,” New York Times, September 19, 2002.

Above article is from Daily Policy Digest 9/19/02.

– Nuclear Energy is Safe, Reliable

Despite the countless scare stories about accidents at nuclear reactors, nuclear energy is the safest way to generate electricity, experts say. But expansion of nuclear power has been stalled in the United States because of media-fed perceptions that nuclear power is unsafe.

Among the points nuclear energy advocates make in support of its safety:

*Radiation from American nuclear plants has not harmed anyone, and the chances of a nuclear reactor meltdown are miniscule.

*Per kilowatt of energy produced, more people are killed by fossil fuel.

*An incident like that at Chernobyl is even more unlikely, as the Chernobyl design was rejected as unsafe by the U.S. 50 years ago.

*A new type of reactor called a pebble bed reactor, one of which will be built in South Africa, is even safer, say experts, due to its design.

Source: The Energy Advocate: A monthly Newsletter Promoting Energy and Technology, May 2002 (Vol. 6, No. 10).

For more on Energy Advocate, see

”Roots (Food for Thought)”

Smart Growth Takes Hits

While still a dominant political force in many states and metropolitan areas, cracks in the smart-growth movement are growing wider.

Author: Randal O’Toole

Published: The Heartland Institute 01/01/2002

Since the Sept. 11 attack on the densest part of America (when
counting job density), numerous commentators have pointed out the idea of density suddenly doesn’t seem so attractive. Smart-growth advocates have come up with rather lame responses to this. University of Pennsylvania urban planner Mark Alan Hughes, for example, says terrorism proves we should live in high-density cities so we can be close to hospitals when terrorists attack. That is hardly reassuring — especially if the roads between you and the hospitals are gridlocked.

Smart Growth Bad for Salmon

Aside from terrorism worries, smart growth has suffered blows from other quarters. In the Northwest, for example, it turns out smart growth is incompatible with saving salmon.

According to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) biologists,
protecting fish requires that no more than 10 percent of new
developments should be “impermeable,” i.e., covered with pavement or buildings. Implementing this rule, admits NFMS officials, will require “sprawl.”

This calls into question Oregon’s strict smart-growth rules. “In most
areas,” says NFMS biologist Spencer Hovcamp, Oregon land-use policies “have little likelihood of success” in helping to recover salmon.

In response, Mike Burton, the director of Metro (Portland’s regional
planning agency and a leading smart-growth supporter), says state
agencies and the Legislature need to “take a second look at Oregon’s
land-use policies.” This comment has the effect of deflecting any blame for harming salmon habitat to someone other than Metro.

Suburbs Attracting Minorities

Meanwhile, the idea that low-density suburbs unjustly concentrate poor people and minorities in the cities is being blown away by 2000 Census results. In the Portland area, for example, the Census has shown that “growing numbers of Latino, African American, and Asian families bought homes in scattered Portland and suburban neighborhoods during the 1990s, increasing racial and ethnic diversity throughout the region.”

From 1990 to 2000, the share of the region’s African Americans
concentrated in Northeast Portland (the area people called “the ghetto” in the 1960s) fell from 60 to 48 percent — which means the rest moved to the suburbs or other Portland neighborhoods. The number of African-American families who owned their own homes grew by 27 percent. Hispanics and other minorities are also dispersing. I am sure similar numbers can be found for other urban areas.

Portland Planning “is in Trouble”

A recent draft report from a Portland State University professor says, “The urban transportation planning process in Portland is in trouble.” The report, A Critique of the Urban Transportation Planning Process: The Performance of Portland’s 2000 Regional Transportation Plan, is by Prof. Kenneth Dueker of the Urban Studies and Planning Department.

According to Dueker, Portland’s Metro predicts transit’s share of
regional travel will double over the next 20 years. Many other
metropolitan planning organizations are projecting a decline in
transit’s share, and the average projection for similar-sized urban
areas is just a 14 percent increase. “No other city comes close” to
Metro’s estimate, which Dueker considers to be “wishfully optimistic or unrealistic.”

Dueker observes Metro plans to make capital investments in transit equal to $1.18 per projected transit trip, while investments in highways will equal only $0.05 per auto trip. The result, Metro projects, will be “a 560 percent increase in congested hours in the PM peak period.” This plan is “unsustainable,” says Dueker, because “people will not tolerate” that level of congestion.

Portland “planners have a faith in new urbanism that is blind to what reasonable forecasts tell them.” Dueker predicts Metro’s plan will lead to “backlashes,” including “opposition to upzoning proposals, the flight of families seeking the space they need and can afford, and ballot initiatives to finance and build roads.”

Congestion Leads to More Roads

Is Dueker’s prediction accurate? We can get an idea from another growing region that decided to stop building roads in order to discourage growth.

Years ago, Santa Cruz County, California, decided not to expand the
four-lane Highway 1. The policy didn’t do much to curtail traffic: In
the past decade, highway traffic grew by nearly 40 percent. The result was “agonizing stop-and-go conditions” that overflowed into
neighborhoods, sometimes “trapping residents in their homes for hours at a time.”

In response to pressure from a variety of sources, the county commission recently voted 8 to 2 to expand the highway by two lanes. Among the supporters of expansion was the county’s transit district, which is enthused the new lanes will be bus-and-carpool lanes.


Smart growth is still the dominant political force in many states and
metropolitan areas. But the cracks in the movement’s facade are growing wider.

Smart-growth advocates express concern about congestion and housing affordability. But as more people realize the real effects of smart growth are to increase congestion to discourage driving, and increase housing costs to discourage low-density development, support for the movement will eventually fade away.

Randal O’Toole is senior economist with the Thoreau Institute and author of the recent book, The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths. He can be reached by email at: See the Institute’s Web site at:

Above article is from Environment and Climate News 1/02 See for details. For free subscription to Environment and Climate News, please give Dick Rowland a call at (808) 487-4959.

”Evergreen (Today’s Quote)”

If, on the one hand, we must speak of solidarity, of establishing rules to help those worse off than we are, then, on the other hand, we cannot ignore the two values of responsibility and liberty. To think, as happens more frequently, “I pay my taxes, so the state can do it,” is a tremendous mistake. It is not the state that must deal with our neighbors; we all must do it. There is one thing I never tire of repeating in public meetings everywhere in Italy. We ourselves must carry the burden for our brothers who are ill. We ourselves as persons and indivuduals must feel the responsibility over and above the United Nations, the government, and the multinationals. It is very true that all this runs counter to human egoism.

And why was development born in the West? Because the West, thanks to centuries of the Gospel, of Christianity, of preaching the importance of the concept of the person — all this has given birth to liberty, and with liberty comes industrialization and scientific discovery. Without liberty, it would not have been possible. It is not sufficient to import the Western model through laws alone; a mentality needs to be created that is fertile for development. – Father Piero Gheddo, translated by Father Robert Sirico

”’See Web site”’ ”’for further information. Join its efforts at “Nurturing the rights and responsibilities of the individual in a civil society. …” or email or call Grassroot of Hawaii Institute President Richard O. Rowland at or (808) 487-4959.”’