The 1999 Senate Hearing

October 14, 2006
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From Jim Metrock: This is one of my favorite photos. This was taken on May 20, 1999 right after a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on Channel One. Ralph Nader, Pat Ellis and yours truly of Obligation, and Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum.

We all opposed Channel One’s presence in schools. Channel One opposed the idea of a hearing. We all were happy with how things went with the hearing, but we would have been even happier if we had known about this email that was one of the ones published by the U.S. Senate Finance committee this week. [If the file is too small to read, “print” it out as a PDF and then open it with Adobe Reader. You can then zoom in and read the text easily. Click to download the free Adobe Reader.]

This email is prepared by a member of Jack Abramoff’s team. Abramoff was Channel One’s main lobbyist at the time. This shows what his team did to undermine public opposition to Channel One and to undermine efforts to hold an informational hearing on the company. Senator Mike DeWine and the late Paul Wellstone were oddly supportive of Channel One during the hearing. Now we know that they were recruited to be Channel One “committee champions” by Team Abramoff. Several months after the hearing, Senator Wellstone’s education aide Roger Wolfson quit to take a nice, well-paying job at Channel One.

Alabama’s Senior Senator Richard Shelby was a “champion” too, but he was a champion for the millions of students forced to watch Channel One’s junk food and violent movie ads. These schoolchildren couldn’t afford a Jack Abramoff to look after their interests, but Senator Shelby against the odds called for and got this hearing. Before the hearing an odd thing happened. For months I was told that the Junior Senator from Alabama Jeff Sessions was also opposed to Channel One. Days before the hearing Senator Sessions becomes indifferent to the hearing and Channel One. Now, because of this email,we know Senator Sessions was effectively “co-opted” by Team Abramoff.

The legislative aide for Sessions at the time was Jim Hirni. He later goes on to work for (don’t be shocked) Jack Abramoff.

That brings me back to this picture. I love this picture because I am standing with three totally principled people. Pat Ellis is the woman who brought Channel One to my attention. She lead the effort to remove Channel One from her city’s schools. Obligation would never have taken on Channel One if it hadn’t been for her wish that other schoolchildren would be free of this misuse of school time. If Channel One wanted to trace their collapse back to one person, they would end up in front of Pat Ellis.

I disagree with a lot of what Ralph Nader says, yet this is a deeply principled man. What he has stood for in the past; he stands for now. The same for one of the most remarkable humans I have ever met – Phyllis Schlafly. All Americans should place greater value on the Naders and Schlaflys of the world. There are few of them. They are the oppose of the typical Washington “windsock” who supports whatever will win him or her re-election.

Phyllis Schlafly and Ralph Nader put aside their political differences and stood together to speak out against the commercial exploitation of schoolchildren. We all should do the same.

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