Senators Chambliss and Isakson: Let me introduce you to my family

Dear Senators Chambliss and Isakson,

I have had the pleasure of meeting both of you when you have met with constituents in Sandersville. I haven’t had the opportunity to bring any of my family with me so I hope you will allow me to tell you a little bit about them.

My husband and I moved back to his home county 25 years ago because we wanted to live in a rural community and be near family. We raised two daughters outside tiny Warthen,  in an old farm house we restored with considerable sweat equity. We are fortunate to have two incredibly energetic grandchildren Ella, 5 1/2 years old, and Chase, 4 1/2 years old, who live nearby.

Ella making pottery, Spring 2012

Chase helping his dad at a volunteer firefighters equipment repair work day

Now that you have met my two grandchildren, I hope you will consider my concerns on behalf of Ella and Chase, the five grandchildren you have Senator Chambliss, and your nine grandchildren Senator Isakson.

The other day both of you voted to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to enforce the Mercury and Air Toxins Rule, known as MATS. These emission standards weren’t the result of fly-by-night or stealth regulatory work by the EPA. Instead, they were announced in 1990 as additions to the Clean Air Act.

Twenty two years is a long time for citizens to wait on cleaner air and the cleaner water which results from less pollution in the air. It was long enough for me to give birth to my younger daughter and raise her to the age of 22. Her entire lifetime has been spent breathing air that could have been cleaner a long time ago.

Mary Michael, Georgia Southern, May 2012

 I just can’t figure out why, after all the medical, scientific, and financial research done by numerous respected institutions and individuals which shows just how harmful mercury and heavy metals emissions are to fetuses, growing children, and anyone with asthma or cardiopulmonary disease, that anyone would agree it should go on any longer. Or the research that demonstrates that the tougher standards would actually create approximately 8,000 permanent jobs and up to 45,000 temporary ones.

Yet both of you chose to stand up and say with your votes, “Yes, I support the continuation of dirty air and water for American citizens, including my grandchildren.”

I did a little research so that I might understand why you voted as you did.  The Southern Company’s Georgia Power, which owns and operates Plant Scherer near Juliette, and emits the most carbon pollution in the country, was the second largest donor with a total of $102,650 in the 2011-2012 election cycle, to your campaign committee Senator Chambliss (that ought to be helpful if you run for re-election in  2014).

Senator Isakson
, the Southern Company was third on your donor list with $28,050 to your campaign in the 2011-2012 election cycle (on the heels of the $38, 350 donation for your re-election in 2010).

Where you trying to help your donors who are burning an awful lot of coal with your vote opposing tougher mercury rules?

Or maybe that vote would help clients using the law firm King and Spalding (K&S). Those attorneys represent a group called Power4Georgians that wants to build a coal fired power plant in Washington County. Senator Chambliss, K&S helped your campaign with $58,000 in donations, putting them at a respectable sixth on your list. Senator Isakson, they didn’t ignore you either. K&S is eighth on your donor list with $31,250.

It goes to figure that some local folks in Washington County would support your respective campaigns. I found out some of the neighbors at my farm have done exactly that. Ben Tarbutton (no middle initial or other identifier) has donated $3,000 so far to the Chambliss campaign in the 2010-2012 cycle. Several Tarbuttons have donated $9,300 to the Isakson campaign since 2009. Those family members include Ben Jr., Benji, Charles, Betsy, Gena, and Hugh.

It’s no secret since Plant Washington was announced over four years ago that the Tarbuttons have been vigorous supporters of Plant Washington. It’s also public knowledge that Charles Tarbutton, who personally donated $1,000 to the Isakson campaign in 2009, is a member of the Georgia Power Board of Directors.

There are 10 directors on the Georgia Power Board. There are seven members of the Tarbutton family who have donated to your respective campaigns since 2009. If we consider corporations to be people (per the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling), then the number of interested parties in these two groups plummets from 17 to 8. A single digit.

Almost 24 percent of the 21,187 people living in Washington County are under the age of 18. In the state of Georgia, there are over 2,500,000 children under the age of 18. The math should work out in favor of the children and votes in favor of upholding the MATS rule.

My grandchildren are among those 2.5M children who deserve cleaner air to breathe. Your grandchildren deserve the same, in whatever state they live in. My children deserved cleaner air when they were growing up. Yours did too.

So please tell me, when does the health of the children come first ahead of the money and influence of donors?

About Katherine Helms Cummings

During the day I am a social and environmental activist whose professional work has been in the nonprofit world for the last 12 years. Most nights and weekends I am an artisan making accessories with upcycled cashmere and woven textiles. My handmade items are available at The Sassy Gal http://thesassygal.org
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4 Responses to Senators Chambliss and Isakson: Let me introduce you to my family

  1. Katherine Helms Cummings says:

    There are several Tarbuttons with the name Ben or a variation. Ben Jr is the oldest, and his son is Ben III. Ben III leads the Board of Regents. Ben III’s oldest son is named after him. Benji is the son of Hugh Tarbutton, Sr and Gena.

    The reason I mentioned that the $3,000 in donations made by Ben Tarbutton couldn’t be identified more specifically was because it does get very confusing. If anyone finds a link to clarify those donations I would be glad to post it.

  2. First, thank you, Katherine. It is refreshing to know that I am not the only Mother (and Grandmother) asking questions that our elected officials have chosen not to answer.
    I assume that when you reference “Ben Tarbutton,” you are referring to the Chairman of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.
    After fifteen years in the Office of the President at Macon State College, I have been a Georgia Whistleblower regarding very serious ethical and fiscal violations that I witnessed firsthand that are covered up by Ben Tarbutton, the Board of Regents, Chancellor Huckaby, et al and legally sealed by their attorney, our state’s “Open Records” advocate, Attorney General Sam Olens. I have copies of all the sealed documents. The BOR’s violations negatively impact hundreds of USG families each day and has for years. One example of the BOR’s fiscal abuse: In response to the $2.5 million the Board of Regents approved 9 May 2012 to give millionaire USG Michael Adams, BOR Chairman Ben Tarbutton, was quoted as saying:
    “It’s a lot of money. There’s no getting away from that, but we’re here to celebrate the job he’s done,” Board of Regents chairman Ben Tarbutton said. “It is a generous package – some may say too generous – but we’re excited about where we are and we’re really closing this chapter and beginning to look forward.”
    See: http://www.macon.com/2012/05/04/2014466/under-plan-retiring-uga-president.html
    I encourage you to ask Ben Tarbutton, Chambliss and Isakson why it’s o.k. to “celebrate” another $2.5 million of our tax dollars – allocated for education – when it is given to another of the many USG millionaires at a time when our children and grandchildren are frantically trying to locate a third part-time job to pay the BOR’s increasing tuition fees or dropping out of college due to lack of funds.
    “Tuition to go up, with biggest hikes at Tech, UGA, Georgia State”
    See: http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-government/tuition-to-go-up-1419782.html
    The facts that Ben Tarbutton chooses not to make public are now in the hands of U. S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates’ Public Corruption Division. I am more than willing to discuss all the facts with anyone. I am on this mission – as Katherine is – for our children and grandchildren. Someone has to – as our elected officials have chosen to look the other way – and with the campaign contributions Katherine mentions above that Ben Tarbutton gave to Chambliss and Isakson, it is even more clear why.
    More examples:
    “University execs’ deferred pay, often hidden, tops $7 million.”
    http://www.atlantaunfiltered.com/2009/10/05/university-execs-deferred-pay-often-hidden-tops-7-million/
    “For nine years after he retired as the chancellor of the University System of Georgia, Stephen Portch remained on the state’s payroll, collecting $823,000 as an adviser and consultant, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.” http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/university-system-execs-retire-957564.html

    If anyone would like more information, please email me at cotn712@aol.com. As a Veteran’s Widow and Mother of a Naval Nuclear Chief Petty Officer, I assure you, I am on this mission for our children and grandchildren for as long as it takes to get answers and some accountability by Ben Tarbutton and our state’s higher education system.

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  4. linda Smith says:

    This is a very thought provoking letter. It raises very good questions to these two elected officials. I would like to hear their answers, though there is NO really good answer that will make any sense. Money is their god. The golden rule has changed and has become, “He who has the gold, makes the rules.” Shame on these two senators and anyone who would put money ahead of the health of our children. Even to the citizens who say, “Coal power is cheap. Let’s keep using it.”