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In his own words: Outback's Joe Kadow

Below are excerpts from e-mails sent by Joe Kadow, Outback's general counsel and political action committee treasurer, to the St. Petersburg Times. Some excerpts are drawn from more than one e-mail.

Published October 31, 2004

On being involved in the political process

Government has a tremendous impact on business, more so on those industries that have low profit per employee. We have an obligation to our employees, shareholders and customers to be involved in the process, to inform our elected officials of the impact of legislation on our business, and to support those candidates who support our positions.

On lowering blood-alcohol limits for drivers

We are opposed to drunk driving and we support efforts to effectively reduce and eliminate drunk driving. We promote responsible drinking. However, we believe the emphasis on continually lowering BAC (blood-alcohol content) levels is misguided. The vast majority of drunk driving fatalities involve repeat offenders who are way over the BAC. We are talking .15 and above. That is 50% over the old .10 standard and almost twice the .08 standard. If they will not or cannot obey the law at .10 or .08, why do we think they will obey the law at .05?

The available resources for combating drunk driving would be much better used targeting the recidivist, high BAC problem drinker.

We are justifiably concerned that anti-alcohol groups' continual focus on lowering BAC level below .08 is an ineffective solution with negative side effects. I do not think that going out to dinner with your spouse, responsibly drinking wine or a cocktail with dinner and driving home is criminal behavior. Yet if we continually lower the BAC, we are making it criminal behavior. And without effectively dealing with the real problem, drunk drivers. What did the late Senator Moynihan say about "defining deviancy down"?

In Scotland in August 2004 at the International Conference on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety, a conference of the anti-alcohol groups, Paul Zador (whose studies concluding impairment starts as low as .02 have been used by anti-alcohol groups to lobby for lower BAC levels) presented a study on the effects of lowering the BAC from .10 to .08 in Maryland and D.C. His study concluded "we found no statistical evidence that reducing BAC level from .10 to .08 had a measurable effect on alcohol related fatal motor vehicle crashes." He further stated he found no evidence of any change in vehicle fatalities attributable to Maryland and D.C. going to .08. He said "None at all. Nothing moving up, nothing moving down."

If there is no evidence that going from .10 to .08 has any effect in reducing drunk driving fatalities, why lobby to lower the BAC further? Lowering the BAC further is not the answer.

...We oppose the continual lowering of BAC levels because it is the least effective, least targeted way of reducing drunk driving and has unnecessary negative side effects. Let's put the available resources in better, more targeted solutions, such as programs for recidivist, problem drinkers, graduated more severe penalties for DUI as your BAC goes up, more severe penalties for repeat offenses.

On minimum-wage laws

We do not oppose raising the income of low income families. We oppose minimum wage increases because they are the least effective means of raising the income of low wage families and they have serious harmful side effects on the very people they are trying to help (such as less entry level jobs for the unskilled and low skill worker). We advocate for more effective, more targeted solutions that don't have the harmful side effects (e.g., wage based tax credits).

...The primary basis for our opposition to Amendment 5 (ballot question that would create a Florida minimum wage of $6.15 an hour) is that these types of measures should not be locked into the Constitution. This only takes away from the Governor and legislature the flexibility they need to address changing circumstances. This is particularly true in light of the indexing feature...We support subsidizing low income workers who support families while their skills and income increase (Earned Income Tax Credit and similar targeted measures), rather than an indiscriminate minimum wage increase that takes away jobs, benefits and opportunities.

...Right now the EITC is based on income rather than hourly wage and this undermines its effectiveness. Under the current EITC a full time minimum wage worker receives the same EITC benefit as someone working at a much higher hourly wage but working fewer hours. By eliminating the benefit to the high hourly wage worker and using the money for the low hourly wage worker, we can be more effective in helping low hourly wage workers who support families as they acquire skills and experience and their wage rate increases. As indicated in the full study, a wage based tax credit could, at no more cost than the current EITC, increase the income of a full time minimum wage earner with one child to $7.75 per hour and $8.50 per hour with two children. This is more than current minimum wage increase proposals and at the same cost as current EITC.

On how Outback decides which candidates and causes to support

The only purpose of our political activity is to protect the economic viability of the restaurant industry. Almost 2,000 people contribute to our PAC and on social issues I am sure they include the entire spectrum of conservatives, liberals and moderates. The only reason they contribute to our PAC, and the only thing I know they all agree on, is they want to protect the economic viability of the restaurant business. I would not presume to act for them on any other issues.

...Every candidate we contribute to clearly understands why we support them and that it has nothing to do with any social agenda, conservative, liberal or otherwise. We deal with business issues only.

On making political contributions with corporate rather than PAC funds

Our political activity is primarily done through our PAC and we rarely make corporate contributions...However, given the importance of Proposition 72 in California (would require larger employers to provide worker health insurance) and Amendment 5 in Florida (including in large part their impact as precedent in other states if enacted) the decision was made to augment our PAC contributions with corporate contributions. Our PAC will have raised about $1.6 Million over the 2 YEARS ending December 2004...PACs were unaffected by the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act because PACs are and have always been transparent. Every month a publicly available report is filed with the FEC showing every dollar in and who gave it and every dollar out and who got it.

[Last modified October 31, 2004, 01:04:09]

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