By Buck Shott
August 4, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – This week, our Political Wrangler brings you the lastest from those smoke-filled rooms in Washington and San Diego. Amid pressing world issues, which of your U.S. legislators has a bill to ban marijuana brownies? Who is drawing fire for cozy ties to tobacco lobbyists after backing a cigar club for legislators? Which Congressman is fighting to make it easier to send cigarettes to our troops? Did a certain Supervisor break the law in doling out $80,000 in taxpayer money to a special interest group?
GONE TO POT: Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) has introduced the “Saving Kids from Dangerous Drugs Act” that would increase penalties for people who distribute drugs that look like goodies or are combined with candy:
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-258&tab=summary . Bakers beware: The website FiredogLake.com warns that the bill could land you in jail for cooking up marijuana brownies—even for medical marijuana patients. “With Congress finally taking important steps to reduce the prison population, it just doesn’t make sense to fill up those same prisons by doubling penalties for marijuana brownies,” snipes the site, which has launched a petition drive for voters to air their views to Feinstein: http://action.firedoglake.com/page/s/DiFibrownies
SMOKES FOR THE TROOPS: Rep. Duncan Hunter, meanwhile, has introduced a bill to add a loophole to a new measure that cracked down on illegal tobacco marketing via mail. Hunter’s exemption to the Prevent all Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act would allow family and friends to mail cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products to U.S. troops in combat zones. “Combat personnel face considerable danger every day, making small comforts all the more the important,” said Joe Kasper, aide to Hunter, a former Marine Captain who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Apparently long-term health risks of tobacco aren't of much concern in a war zone, where short-term risks are deadly.
SMOKING OUT BILBRAY TIES TO TOBACCO LOBBYISTS : Did Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-San Diego) violate House ethics rules by sponsoring formation of a Congressional cigar club to give tobacco industry lobbyists access to legislators? “If Bilbray is saying this is about cigars, he is blowing smoke,” says his Democratic opponent, Francine Busby. She has called for an investigation, suggesting Bilbray’s actions may be illegal as well as unethical. “I think it’s about giving access to lobbyists who are giving tens of thousands of dollars. This is about going to the back door.” Exhibit A: The Congressional Cigar Association has three lobbyists on its board of directors; House ethics rules expressly prohibit this practice, the Union-Tribune reports: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/jul/23/rival-calls-review-bilbray-cigar-club/ . Bilbray has said he was unaware of the lobbying and sponsored the group to facilitate conversation about Central America and the cigar-making industry. He called Bilbray’s allegations “desperate.” To which Busby fired back: “As a former lobbyist himself, his claims that he was unaware of a lobbyist presence on the board or as sponsors in funding of lavish CCA events are impossible to believe.”
ZYGOTE-GATE, ANOTHER SHADY DEAL? CityBeat’s newshounds reveal that Supervisor Bill Horn doled out $80,000 in County grants—taxpayer monies—to Life Perspectives, a La-Mesa based Christian group that promotes pro-life education programs in schools. The American Civil Liberties Union says the practice may violate federal and state Constitutional requirements for separation of church and state. The curriculum includes teaching kids as young as kindergarten level about fetuses and zygotes. No word on whether pro-choice advocates may ask for an equal share of funds from a County so cash-strapped that it can’t seem to find adequate funding for fire protection services or completing construction of a library.