HIGHTOWER: FedEx Writes Its Own Ticket

Federal Express is the high-flying overnight mail operation that promises "absolutely, positively" that it will deliver on time.But in Washington, it was the Congress that was "absolutely, positively" determined to deliver for Federal Express -- so determined that Republican Senate leader Trent Lott kept the entire body in session past its scheduled adjournment date, until the weary members gave-up and passed the benefit that FedEx wanted. It's a classic example of how a powerful corporation buys legislation.Both the Senate and House had passed versions of the basic federal aviation act, without a certain "technical correction" that Federal Express demanded. This "correction" would make it nearly impossible for the airline's employees organize a union -- something many of them want. So FedEx simply used Congress as its union-buster.Even though neither house had approved the FedEx proviso, a secret conference committee snuck it back into the bill. What did the company use to sliiiiiide its amendment into the bill? Money, of course -- the WD-40 of American politics.FedEx spent $1.4 million on lobbyists in just the first six months of this year, including hiring the former-top aide to transportation committee chairman Bud Schuster, who obediently shoved through the anti-worker loophole. The airline also greased the skids with $600,000 in campaign contributions to Shuster, Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich and other key players. Democrats got money, too, perhaps because former-Democratic Senate leader George Mitchell was recently named a FedEx board member.Also, FedEx has let Senator Lott and others hop rides on its airplanes, which might be why Lott was willing to ground the Senate until it passed the loophole.For only two-million dollars, FedEx bought the leaders of Congress and wrote its own first-class ticket to hold down America's working class.

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