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Corporations still a threat, Nader says

April 10, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

MONT ALTO, Pa. - Consumers have much to fear from large corporations, Ralph Nader, the nation's leading consumer advocate, told nearly 250 Penn State Mont Alto students Thursday.

Citizens, Nader said, are losing control of their money to corporations through the new electronic commerce systems and debit cards. "They threaten to hurt your credit rating and even charge you for paying on time," he said.

Some companies make customers pay a surcharge if they pay off their account early, he said.

Corporations, through contributions to politicians, control pollution legislation, he said. Huge campaign contributions by corporations make citizens' votes meaningless, he said.

"That kind of money makes politicians forget their promises. They have no time for you unless you are a contributor. If you're lucky you get to see a staff person. The only time you see your politician is when they visit your community to glad-hand or cut a ribbon," he said.

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He said the two main candidates in the California gubernatorial race this year have each raised $30 million for their campaigns. "That kind of money nullifies your vote," Nader said.

He said corporations and banking interests donate huge sums to candidates for special legislation and privileges. "It's legalized bribery," he said.

Nader wants citizens to finance political campaigns through contributions in their income tax returns. He also encourages citizens to push for the right to hold statewide referendums on key issues.

About 20 states have referendum rights. In states that don't, such as Pennsylvania, legislators are in the pockets of special interest groups, he said.

It's one way for the people in a democracy to hold corporations accountable, he said.

He also took a swipe at the entertainment industry, which he called "electronic child molesters. Parents have to seal their children from the pop culture. The only way they can do that is to home school them and get rid of the television, the VCR and the radio."

Madison Avenue, he said, circumvents parents and aims its advertising directly to children. He said marketers do surveys to determine a product's "nag factor" which is how much children will pester their parents to buy it.

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