There Otter Be a Law

Would you like to decide how your tax dollars are spent? Meet an unlikely ally.


Congressman C.L. “Butch” Otter, R-Idaho, may be a new kid on Capitol Hill, but he’s already got the attitude.

He was busted in 1999 for illegally filling in wetlands on his ranch near the Boise River and fined $80,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency. Otter had been constructing a huge bass lake lined with waterfalls and flowerbeds on his property without securing the proper permits. This was the third instance in which Otter had been cited for altering wetlands without a permit. For months, he refused to pay the fine — even after it was reduced to $50,000. He gave in last week.

Just another story of an arrogant, hypocritical lawmaker who believes himself to be above the law? Worse: Otter sits on the Water Resources and Environment subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee, which oversees federal water projects, water-pollution controls, and… wetlands protection.

But what’s especially curious about Otter’s case was his argument that he should be able to dictate how the fine is spent. Otter says he intends to introduce legislation that would give those paying environmental fines a choice on what the money should be used for.

What a great idea. Why not design the bill so that any payment to the feds is spent at the payer’s discretion? I, for one, would like to ensure that all my taxes go to social programs and not a penny to the Pentagon or George W. Bush’s salary.

Well, maybe we can’t tell the government how to spend our money, but since this year most of us are getting a tax rebate courtesy of W., we can choose to spend those dollars wisely. In fact, a movement is afoot to persuade lefties to put their rebate where they wish their government’s priorities were. The Gen-X-focused non-profit Third Millennium has created a Web site called DonateRebate.org to make donating one’s tax-rebate check easy and painless. The folks at Working Assets are going one better: they’ll match your donation to a selected list of nonprofits.

Bits and Pieces

CLOWNING AROUND WITH THE FIRST AMENDMENT
A street clown in Provincetown on Cape Cod has enlisted the help of the ACLU after local business leaders lobbied police to reject his request for a public performance permit. Numerous complaints were lodged against the street performer for allegedly hooting at girls, making homophobic remarks, and performing while drunk. ACLU staff attorney Sarah Wunsch says simply not liking someone isn’t enough reason to obstruct a person’s livelihood.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR TAKES ON ABERCROMBIE & FITCH
Lt. Gov. Corrine Wood of Illinois is on a mission to make Abercrombie & Fitch stop being so naughty. The governor started a campaign to boycott A&F after her daughter received a catalog for the clothing company which contained what Wood felt was inappropriately suggestive imagery involving minors. “After discussing this discovery with my husband, I decided that I simply could not sit silently by while this catalog infiltrated thousands of unsuspecting households across Illinois. Working with many of the same support organizations listed on this website, we launched a campaign to alert the public of this catalog and we called for a boycott.” Although Abercrombie & Fitch restricts the catalog to subscriptions only, mails it in a plain wrapper, and even requests proof that subscribers are 18 or older, Wood is not satisfied. She calls A&F’s actions “a series of gimmicks that parents and concerned citizens see right through.”

NO HUBBY, NO BABY
Single women in Slovenia have lost the right to in-vitro fertilization, thanks to a referendum in the predominantly Roman Catholic country. Married women will continue to enjoy access to the service, which had been briefly available. Approximately 70 percent of Slovenian voters opposed access for single women.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.