The super-rich are surreptitiously pulling a super con job on the rest of America, using their vast inherited wealth to promote permanent repeal of the estate tax, so that the fortunate few will pay less to support the nation in which they have flourished. They call this “fairness.”

Two public-interest groups, Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy, have issued a report assuring that the names of the perpetrators are known. A couple of them are familiar to Arkansans. The Waltons and Stephenses are among 18 extremely wealthy families identified in the report as having led an “aggressive” campaign to repeal the estate tax by employing “vast money, influence and deceptive marketing.” The group includes the families behind Gallo wine, Campbell’s soup, and Mars, Inc., as well as Wal-Mart.

The report says the families have sought to keep their activities anonymous by using a huge number of business and trade associations to represent them. “In a massive public relations campaign, the families have also misled the country by giving the mistaken impression that the estate tax affects most Americans,” the report says. In particular, they have said the estate tax destroys small businesses and family farms. But just more than one-fourth of one percent of all estates will owe any estate taxes in 2006, and no family forced to sell its farm because of estate tax liability has ever been found.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Rep. John Boozman, opponents of the estate tax, are 19th and 20th on a list of the top recipients of campaign contributions from the super-wealthy families in 1999-2005. At $111,600, Lincoln was just behind the notorious Tom DeLay. The biggest recipients were national party committees and campaign groups like the pro-Bush Progress for America Voter Fund, which received $6.6 million. Of that, $2.6 million was from Alice Walton, daughter of the founder of Wal-Mart. Warren Stephens of Little Rock, head of Stephens, Inc., was a “Ranger” in the 2004 Bush campaign, meaning he raised at least $200,000 for Bush, who is pledged to repeal the estate tax. The full report is available at www.citizen.org.

A picture in the paper of an enraged elephant running amuck in a small town in India reminded us of Gov. Mike Huckabee, lashing out furiously against those he supposedly works for.Denying the public’s right to know what their government is up to, he stopped notifying the Arkansas Times of gubernatorial activities, prompting a coalition of journalism groups to protest. Now he refuses to release the file on one of his appointees who resigned after an investigation of his conduct. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has rightly sued over that. Like the elephant, Huckabee has stopped doing useful work and become a destructive force. It took a powerful tranquilizer to quiet the elephant.


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