Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Burner vs. Reichert: for me, it's personal.

I've written a lot about the race for Washington's 8th Congressional District, and why I want to see Darcy Burner elected as my next representative in the House. A lot of it has to do with Reichert being a rubber-stamp for the Bush administration. That's bad enough, but I've talked about that before.

What I've never talked about before is this--for me, it's personal.

I know firsthand that Dave Reichert simply does not care what happens to me or my family. As a former King County Sheriff, he ran his first election campaign on a law-and-order, safety-oriented platform. His basic message was "I was in law enforcement, so I know how to keep your family safe."

But then in his first term he took votes that specifically placed my children at risk. In 2006, the FDA put new regulations into effect relating to food labeling, having to do with making allergy warnings clearer, stronger, and more specific. The goal was to enable people who are allergic to milk, nuts, peanuts, shellfish, soy, et cetera, to be safer about what they eat.

A bread production line, for example, may bake loaves for several different recipes. Some recipes may be dairy free, other not. One recipe might be a raisin-nut loaf, while another is plain white bread. Some people are so severely allergic to nuts, for example, that cross-contamination from a batch of bread for one recipe to a batch for another can give them an allergic reaction. And as anyone who has watched ER or House or any other medical drama show knows, severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can be deadly.

Since just about everything we eat these days is processed in commercial facilities, this matters. Since my kids have allergies to dairy products, nuts, and eggs, this really matters to us.

The food industry didn't especially like these new regulations. They meant extra expense: internal processes necessary to track allergens and determine what products needed to have what specific warnings. The new regulations also allowed states to impose their own, possibly more stringent, warning requirements.

So the food industry fought back. Their lobbyists drafted HR 4167, the National Uniformity for Food Act. This bill aimed to take the teeth out of the FDA's efforts to protect consumers. The bill would eliminate the state-by-state portion of the rules, thus effectively forcing America into a lowest common denominator mode of food labeling. "Uniformity" in this case is a code-word for "cheap and profitable."

For a shining few months while the regulations were in effect, my wife and I noticed a difference. Food labels were clearer, more informative, and specific about the particular ingredients that might cause problems for our kids and the specific nature of the risk. We could make informed choices.

Then HR 4167 came up. When I learned about it, I wrote to Congressman Reichert and asked him please not to place the demands of the food industry ahead of my family's safety. Reichert sold us out. Now I know that Senators and Congressmen take votes for all kinds of different reasons, and I just wanted to know what his reason was. So I wrote to him again--an actual on-paper letter, not just e-mail--to ask him why he had voted to make it harder for my wife and I to keep our kids safe.

I started my letter this way:
It is with deep regret, anger, and a sense of betrayal that I learned today of your Aye vote on HR 4167, the National Uniformity for Food Act.

And I ended with a request for an explanation:

Yesterday you voted to make my family less safe, despite my plea to you to do otherwise. You owe me an explanation of how your vote for national, lowest-common-denominator standards is better for my family than the rigorous state laws HR 4167 will overturn. It had better be a good one.

I never got a response. None. Dead silence. Crickets chirping. I think that speaks volumes, don't you?

My family's particular challenge is food allergies. What's yours? Do you think for one minute you can trust Dave Reichert to vote in your interests? Or will he vote interests of corporations who fill the RNC's campaign coffers? Here's a hint: the RNC is set to send $1.1 million dollars of that money to Reichert's campaign.

You bet this is personal for me. Sure, Reichert was in law enforcement. But if he does know how to keep our families safe, he sure doesn't vote like it. Dave Reichert has squandered his public trust, and has squandered his precious time in office. He does not deserve another two years on the public's dime. Vote Burner for Congress this November.


Post a Comment

<< Home