Daniel Kester of Williamsville, N.Y., believes some actions of his representative in Congress are hypocritical. So, fed up and using information available online, he sat down and penned a letter to the editor of The Buffalo News:
Last year, Exxon-Mobil made a profit of more than $40 billion. This is the highest profit any American company has ever made. While I congratulate Exxon on this achievement, it does make me wonder why my congressman, Tom Reynolds, found it necessary to vote to continue to give tax breaks to Exxon and other oil companies (House Bill 5351). At the same time, Reynolds voted against tax credits for wind, solar and other alternative energy sources that could actually help reduce global warming.
I can see the sense in giving tax breaks to struggling Western New York companies. But tax breaks for Exxon? What was he thinking? This wouldnâ€™t have anything to do with the fact that he has received more than $165,000 in contributions from the oil and gas industry, would it?
Mr. Kester, 53, is a scientific consultant by trade and an activist who emerges, he said, “every two or four years.” He has worked with Democratic candidates who have opposed Rep. Reynolds. His goal? “One less Republican in Congress,” he said.
“Why’d you write the letter?” I asked.
“To point out the shortcomings” of Rep. Reynolds, he said. “This seemed a like good issue to do it with. It’s easy to understand.”
Mr. Kester composed his letter using information about the bill â€” including the text of the bill and congressional actions and voting records concerning the bill â€” available through the Thomas service (named after Thomas Jefferson) at the Library of Congress. He found his estimate of oil and gas industry campaign contributions to Rep. Reynolds at the Web site of the Center for Responsive Politics â€” better known as opensecrets.org.
I admire what Mr. Hester did as well as how well he did it. In just eight sentences, he demonstrated:
â€¢ the magnitude of corporate profits.
â€¢ a coyness in his admiration for Exxon’s accomplishment.
â€¢ a contrast between Rep. Reynold’s votes for tax breaks that augmented Exxon’s profits and his votes against measures that could address climate change.
â€¢ a contrast between the favorable tax treatment for Exxon and the suggestion that faltering businesses in New York state have a greater need for tax breaks.
â€¢ a wink-wink question, rather than a demonizing statement of outrage, about Rep. Reynold’s motivations for backing Exxon.
Mr. Hester’s letter should serve as model to more citizens fed up with hypocrisy in politics, corporate governance and campaign finance. It should encourage them to sit down, write a letter to the editor (or begin a blog) and tell others what they object to, why they object to it, and what ought to done about it.