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Iowa Press #2745 - Attorney General Tom Miller
July 9, 2000

Borg: INQUIRIES ARE UNDERWAY INTO THE SHARP JUMP IN GASOLINE PRICES DURING THE PAST TWO MONTHS. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF IOWA TOM MILLER IS CONDUCTING HIS OWN INVESTIGATION, AND WE'LL GET A PROGRESS REPORT ON THIS EDITION OF IOWA PRESS.

FUNDING FOR IOWA PRESS WAS PROVIDED BY FRIENDS OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION. AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS.

THIS IS THE SUNDAY, JULY 9TH EDITION ON IOWA PRESS. HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: PRICE-GOUGING, PRICE-FIXING, AND COLLUSION... THOSE ARE THE BUZZ WORDS ASSOCIATED WITH THE LATEST ROUND OF DRASTIC INCREASES IN GAS PRICES... INCREASES THAT FIND RECORD PRICES NOW FOR GASOLINES AT PUMPS ACROSS THE UPPER MIDWEST. THE INCREASE FINDS THE MAJOR OIL COMPANIES SCRAMBLING TO PROVIDE EXPLANATIONS INCLUDING, IN THOSE EXPLANATIONS, A GOOD MEASURE OF ETHANOL-BASHING. THE DRAMATIC PRICE INCREASES WITHOUT CONSISTENT EXPLANATIONS HAS BROUGHT CALLS FOR INVESTIGATIONS AT BOTH THE STATE AND THE FEDERAL LEVELS. IOWA ATTORNEY GENERAL TOM MILLER HAS BEGUN HIS OWN INVESTIGATION. HE JOINS US TODAY. WELCOME BACK TO IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION.

Miller: IT'S ALWAYS GOOD TO BE BACK.

Borg: THANK YOU. ACROSS THE TABLE, TWO REPORTERS YOU KNOW FROM THE STATEHOUSE: DAVID YEPSEN OF THE DES MOINES REGISTER AND KAY HENDERSON OF RADIO IOWA.

Henderson: ATTORNEY GENERAL, LET'S TALK ABOUT THIS GAS PRICE PROBE. DO YOU HAVE ANY INITIAL FINDINGS YOU CAN REPORT TO IOWANS?

Miller: NO INITIAL FINDINGS. WE'LL PROBABLY HAVE SOME PRELIMINARY RESULTS THE END OF JULY, BEGINNING OF AUGUST, AT THE SAME TIME, PERHAPS, AS THE FTC. BUT I THINK WE'RE GETTING A GOOD LOOK AT THE ISSUES. THERE ARE A WHOLE HOST OF ISSUES, REALLY, RELATED ISSUES. ONE IS WHY PRICES ARE SO HIGH IN THE MIDWEST. ANOTHER IS WHY THEY'RE SO EXTRAORDINARILY HIGH IN CHICAGO AND MILWAUKEE AND DOES THAT REFLECT UNFAIRLY ON ETHANOL. ANOTHER IS WHY IS ETHANOL -- HAS THAT RISEN TO THE LEVEL OF THE OTHER GAS PRICES. AND FINALLY WE ALWAYS WILL LOOK AT ANY KIND OF COLLUSIONS AT THE LOCAL LEVEL. IF THERE'S A COMMUNITY WHERE THERE'S PRICE-FIXING GOING ON, WE'RE ATTUNED TO THAT. WE REALLY WANT TO DIG IN TO ALL THOSE QUESTIONS. WE WANT TO WORK VERY CLOSELY WITH THE FTC AND WITH THE OTHER STATES AND, OF COURSE, WE'VE BEGUN TO DO THAT.

Yepsen: MR. MILLER, AS A PRACTICAL MATTER, WHAT CAN THE STATE OF IOWA DO ABOUT HIGH GAS PRICES? I MEAN, GAS PRICES ARE SET BY THE LAWS OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND, FEDERAL REGULATION. AREN'T YOU REALLY A BIT PLAYER IN THIS WHOLE THING?

Miller: WELL, WE SURE DON'T THINK SO, DAVID. CERTAINLY, THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATIVE LEADERSHIP, WHEN THEY CALLED ON US TO BE INVOLVED, DIDN'T THINK SO. LET ME TELL YOU HOW WE CAN FIT INTO IT. ONE IS, OF COURSE, WORKING WITH THE FTC AND LOOKING --

Yepsen: FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION.

Miller: FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION, EXACTLY. -- AND LOOKING AT THESE MACRO-ISSUES AND LOOKING PARTICULARLY IF THERE'S ANY KIND OF ANTITRUST VIOLATIONS. SECONDLY, IF THERE ARE NO ANTITRUST VIOLATIONS BUT THERE ARE, SORT OF, PRICE GOUGING, THAT'S SOMETHING WE CAN AT LEAST REPORT TO THE PUBLIC AND THE PUBLIC CAN TAKE WHATEVER ACTION THEY THINK IS APPROPRIATE. THERE'S A LITTLE CLUE THERE IN A SENSE THAT THE SEVEN LARGEST OIL COMPANIES A YEAR AGO IN THE SECOND QUARTER MADE $3 BILLION. THIS YEAR THEY'RE ESTIMATING IT AT $6- TO $6.5 BILLION. SO WE WANT TO KNOW THAT, AND WE WANT TO GIVE THE PUBLIC AN IDEA WHY THAT WENT ON. AND THEN, FINALLY, WORKING TOGETHER WITH OTHER STATES -- WE'VE HAD SOME GREAT SUCCESS WORKING WITH OTHER STATES ON MAJOR ISSUES, AND THAT'S CERTAINLY A POSSIBILITY. AND THEN, FINALLY, AS I MENTIONED BEFORE, WE CAN WORK AT THE LOCAL LEVEL, IF THERE'S ACTUAL PRICE-FIXING AT THE LOCAL LEVEL. THERE'S A WHOLE MYRIAD OF THINGS WE CAN DO. IT IS A COMPLEX ISSUE. I THINK THAT YOUR QUESTION REFLECTS THAT. IT IS COMPLEX AND DOES INVOLVE A LOT OF DIFFERENT FORCES, BUT WE'RE DIGGING IN AND WE'RE WORKING WITH OTHER PEOPLE TO DO IT.

Borg: HOW MUCH ARE YOU ALREADY WORKING WITH OTHER STATES THAT YOU MENTIONED? THAT IS, ARE YOU FINDING THAT CIRCUMSTANCES ARE SIMILAR? PIPELINES GO DIFFERENTLY AND THAT'S ONE EXPLANATION, AND REFINERIES ARE LOCATED IN ONE GEOGRAPHIC AREA AND NOT ANOTHER. BUT ARE THERE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT ARE SIMILAR SO THAT YOU CAN COLLABORATE?

Miller: THERE ARE SOME SIMILAR CIRCUMSTANCES AND PARTICULARLY IN THE MIDWEST, OF COURSE. WE'RE LEARNING, FOR INSTANCE, FROM CALIFORNIA. CALIFORNIA WENT THROUGH THIS ABOUT A YEAR AGO ON A DIFFERENT SET OF ISSUES WHEN THEY HAD HIGHER PRICES THAN THE REST OF THE COUNTRY. SO WE CAN LEARN FROM THEM. ONE OF THE THINGS ABOUT STATES ARE THAT WE'RE LABORATORIES OF DEMOCRACY. ONE STATE DOES SOMETHING WE CAN LEARN (A) NOT TO DO IT OR (B) HOW TO DO IT IF IT WORKS WELL. SO THE ATTORNEY GENERALS ARE VERY CLOSE. WE WORK TOGETHER AND HAVE THAT KIND OF DYNAMIC, AND THEY'RE TRYING TO USE THAT IN THIS INSTANCE.

Borg: ARE YOU CLOSE IN WORKING WITH THE STATES IN FILING SOMETHING?

Miller: WE'RE NOT CLOSE TO FILING, NO. AND I CERTAINLY WOULD NOT SAY THAT AT THIS POINT.

Yepsen: MR. MILLER, HOW MUCH OF THIS IS JUST POLITICAL GRANDSTANDING BY ALL YOU POLITICIANS? THE REASON I SAY THAT IS EVERY TIME PRICES GO UP, THE POLITICIANS -- THERE'S THIS BIG HUE AND CRY, "OH, IT'S ETHANOL, THOSE BIG MEAN OIL COMPANIES," AND EVENTUALLY NOTHING HAPPENS. SO HOW MUCH OF THIS IS JUST GOING TO BE GRANDSTANDING, OR DO YOU EXPECT THERE WILL ACTUALLY BE SOMETHING SUBSTANTIVE TO COME OUT OF THIS ONE?

Miller: WELL, CERTAINLY THERE WILL BE SOMETHING SUBSTANTIVE COME OUT. YOU'VE BEEN AROUND ME A LONG TIME. GRANDSTANDING IS NOT SOMETHING THAT I TYPICALLY DO. I AM VERY CONCERNED ABOUT SUBSTANCE, VERY CONCERNED ABOUT A PROFESSIONAL OFFICE. YOU KNOW, THE RESULT COULD BE -- COULD BE NOT A HUGE AMOUNT OF ACTIONS, BUT COULD BE BETTER KNOWLEDGE AMONG THE PUBLIC, AND IT COULD BE FURTHERING THE PUBLIC DEBATE AS TO WHY THIS REALLY HAPPENED. SO I THINK THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION IN THE STATES CAN REALLY MAKE A CONTRIBUTION AS TO WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON HERE. I'M NOT DEMOGOGUING THE ISSUE. I'M NOT OVERPROMISING. I'M TRYING TO DO THIS PROFESSIONALLY LIKE I ATTACK EVERY ISSUE THAT COMES TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE.

Yepsen: WHEN YOU USE PHRASES LIKE "BIG OIL COMPANIES," ISN'T THAT A FORM OF DEMAGOGUERY RIGHT THERE?

Miller: I DON'T THINK I USED THE WORD "BIG OIL COMPANIES." I SAID THE SEVEN LARGEST AND USED A STATISTIC.

Yepsen: ARE YOU PREPARED TO TELL IOWANS SOMETHING WE MAY NOT WANT TO HEAR, AND THAT IS THAT ETHANOL IS, IN FACT, PART OF THIS PROBLEM?

Miller: IF INDEED THAT IS THE PROBLEM, THAT'S SOMETHING WE'LL TALK ABOUT.

Yepsen: BECAUSE THERE IS A SCHOOL OF THOUGHT THAT SAYS IT COSTS MORE. IT IS A SCARCE COMMODITY AND THAT DRIVES UP PRICES. I JUST WONDER IF POLITICIANS ARE WILLING TO, IN THE MIDWEST PARTICULARLY, TO STAND UP AND TELL CONSTITUENTS, WELL, YOU KNOW, WE'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Miller: WELL, IF THAT'S THE CASE, OUR TRADITION AT THE OFFICE IS TO LET THE CHIPS FALL WHERE THEY MAY. AND IF THAT'S THE CASE, WE WILL SAY THAT. I THINK THAT THERE ARE SOME ENORMOUS ADVANTAGES OF ETHANOL THAT WE'VE SEEN BOTH IN THE ENVIRONMENTAL AREA AND IN TERMS OF A SITUATION OF SCARCE SUPPLY AND ADDING TO THE SUPPLY. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT CERTAINLY WE WILL SAY, AND I THINK YOU'VE SAID, IS THAT SOME OF THE RESPONSIBILITY DOES RESOLVE WITH US AS CONSUMERS, THAT WE'VE GOTTEN AWAY FROM ENERGY CONSERVATION. AS WE'VE DONE THAT, OUR DEMAND INCREASES AND THAT'S ONE OF THE FACTORS, I THINK, THAT ALLOWED THE CRUDE OIL PRICE TO GET OUT OF CONTROL. IT'S NOT THE ONLY FACTOR, BY ANY MEANS, BUT IT'S PROBABLY ONE OF THE FACTORS, AND WE WILL TALK ABOUT THAT IF THAT'S NECESSARY.

Yepsen: LET ME JUST FOLLOW THAT UP. ISN'T THAT -- WHY DON'T IOWA POLITICIANS SPEND MORE TIME WITH THAT ISSUE INSTEAD OF OFF WORRYING ABOUT PRICE-FIXING THAT MAY OR MAY NOT EXIST? FOCUS ON DOING MORE ABOUT ENERGY CONSERVATION. ISN'T THAT SOMETHING WE CAN DO TO HELP OURSELVES, JUST USE LESS ENERGY?

Miller: THAT CERTAINLY IS AND, YOU KNOW, THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE'VE TALKED ABOUT IN THE PAST. WE HAVE HAD A MAJOR INITIATIVE TO THE CONSUMER ADVOCATE TO TALK ABOUT ENERGY CONSERVATION, BROUGHT AMORY LOVINS IN TO KEYNOTE A WHOLE NEW WAY OF THINKING ABOUT ENERGY CONSERVATION IN IOWA. SO I THINK IT IS, BUT I THINK IT IS SOMETHING THAT WE HAVE IN THE PAST -- WE'VE HAD THAT TRADITION IN THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, AND IT WILL BE A THEME. YOU'RE EXACTLY RIGHT. WE DON'T HAVE A LOT OF ENERGY RESOURCES IN OUR STATE. WE HAVE TO IMPORT PRACTICALLY ALL ENERGY, SO THAT TO THE EXTENT THAT WE CAN CONSERVE, WE CAN HAVE A STRONGER, MORE EFFECTIVE ECONOMY IN OUR STATE. THAT IS PART OF THE ANSWER.

Henderson: GOVERNOR VILSACK HAS SUGGESTED GIVING EVERY IOWA LICENSE HOLDER TO DRIVE A CAR, A $10 COUPON TO BUY ETHANOL. DO YOU THINK THAT'S A GOOD IDEA AS A PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRAT TO GIVE A $10 COUPON TO THE MILLIONAIRES IN IOWA AS WELL AS THE SINGLE MOMS WHO ARE SCRATCHING BY ON $10,000 A YEAR?

Miller: YOU KNOW, IT'S LARGELY SYMBOLIC. $10 TODAY DOESN'T GO VERY FAR, PARTICULARLY IF YOU SPEND IT ON GASOLINE. WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS THE GOVERNOR BEING A VERY RESPONSIVE GOVERNOR. HE WENT ON HIS WALK. HE HEARD THIS AS A CONCERN OF IOWANS, PARTICULARLY MIDDLE-CLASS IOWANS THAT HE'S VERY ATTUNED TO. THE ORDINARY IOWAN IS STRUGGLING, AND GOVERNOR VILSACK IS VERY ATTUNED TO THEIR ISSUES AND THEIR NEEDS, AND THIS IS PART OF THAT RESPONSE.

Yepsen: SO WE'RE GOING TO GIVE THEM A REGRESSIVE REBATE?

Miller: I DON'T KNOW WHETHER THAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN OR NOT. I DON'T THINK THAT WHETHER IT HAPPENS OR NOT IS A MAJOR ISSUE. I THINK WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT, THE CAUSES, INCLUDING ENERGY CONSERVATION, ARE THE MAJOR ISSUES HERE.

Yepsen: MR. MILLER, I WANT TO SWITCH GEARS WITH YOU, BECAUSE WE'VE GOT A LOT OF OTHER ISSUES TO TALK ABOUT TODAY. PRIVACY... THE GOVERNOR RECENTLY APPOINTED A TASK FORCE TO START EXAMINING THE ISSUES SURROUNDING COMPUTER PRIVACY. WITH MORE AND MORE COMPUTERS IN OUR SOCIETY, MORE AND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ALL OF US IS FLOATING AROUND. ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THAT? HOW CONCERNED ARE YOU ABOUT THAT ISSUE? IS THAT A SERIOUS ISSUE?

Miller: IT IS A SIGNIFICANT ISSUE AND AN ISSUE THAT WE SHOULD PAUSE --

Yepsen: WHAT CAN WE DO IN IOWA ABOUT IT? ANYTHING?

Miller: -- AND BE CONCERNED ABOUT IT. IT'S AN ISSUE THAT THE ATTORNEY GENERALS ARE FOCUSING ON. WE JUST HAD OUR NATIONAL MEETING OF ATTORNEY GENERALS A COUPLE WEEKS AGO IN SEATTLE, AND THAT COVERED MORE THAN HALF THE AGENDA. WE HAD A GREAT DISCUSSION ON THE VARIOUS PRIVACY CONCERNS, INCLUDING WE HAD THE INDUSTRY IN TO GIVE THEIR POSITION. IT'S SOMETHING THAT AS A GROUP OF ATTORNEY GENERALS, CERTAINLY, WE'RE WORKING ON. YOU KNOW, IT'S ONE OF THOSE ISSUES THAT A BALANCE NEEDS TO BE STRUCK. AMERICANS DO NEED AND WANT A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF PRIVACY, PARTICULARLY ABOUT MEDICAL RECORDS, BUT OTHER ISSUES AS WELL. ON THE OTHER HAND, THE INTERNET IS AN ENORMOUS NEW TOOL, AN ENORMOUS ECONOMIC ENERGY, SO WE DON'T WANT TO CRIPPLE THE INTERNET AND E-COMMERCE AND ALL THOSE POSSIBILITIES. SO, THE GOAL REALLY IS TO STRIKE THE PROPER BALANCE, AND THAT'S WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO DO AS ATTORNEY GENERALS. AND I ASSUME THAT GOVERNOR VILSACK IS DOING THAT WITH HIS GROUP. CONGRESS CONSIDERED THIS LAST YEAR, BUT NO LEGISLATION WAS PASSED. THE BEST GUESS IS THAT NO LEGISLATION WILL PASS THIS YEAR, BUT PROBABLY WILL BE NEXT YEAR. THE CONGRESS WILL BE ADDRESSING THIS. IT IS A NATIONAL ISSUE. WE AS ATTORNEY GENERALS FEEL VERY STRONGLY, THOUGH, THAT UNLESS THERE'S STRONG ENOUGH STANDARD TO PROTECT CONSUMERS, THE STATE SHOULD HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO SUPPLEMENT THAT, WHATEVER REGULATION. BUT IF IT'S A GOOD STANDARD, THEN IT SHOULD BE PREEMPTED AND HAVE A NATIONAL STANDARD. A VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE THAT YOU IDENTIFY AND ONE THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE WORKING ON, INCLUDING THE ATTORNEY GENERALS OF AMERICA.

Henderson: LET'S TALK SPECIFICALLY ABOUT MEDICAL PRIVACY. YOU'VE MENTIONED THAT THIS HUMAN GENOME PROJECT RAISES ALL SORTS OF CONCERNS THAT THERE MAY BE DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT, FOR INSTANCE... IF YOU KNOW THAT SOMEBODY IS PREDISPOSED TO HAVE CANCER OR HEART DISEASE OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. SHOULD THERE BE SOME ACTION ON THE STATE LEVEL IN THAT REGARD TO ENSURE THAT IOWANS AREN'T DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE OF THEIR GENETIC CHARACTERISTICS?

Miller: I WOULD THINK SO. I THINK THAT THERE SHOULD BE LEGISLATION EITHER AT THE STATE OR FEDERAL LEVEL THAT COVERS THAT. I THINK WE NEED TO KNOW A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THE WHOLE SET OF ISSUES, AND ABOUT THE SCIENCE, AND ALSO ABOUT HOW INDUSTRY WOULD USE IT. BUT IT CERTAINLY STRIKES ME AS FUNDAMENTALLY UNFAIR, TO DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT BASED ON MEDICAL CONDITIONS. THAT'S SOMETHING THAT'S FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG AND GOES AGAINST WHAT WE BELIEVE IN AS IOWANS AND AMERICANS.

Yepsen: ANOTHER ISSUE IN FRONT OF POLICYMAKERS AT THE STATEHOUSE IS SENTENCING REFORM. IT'S A FORM OF REDUCING THE SENTENCES IN SOME CRIMES. LEGISLATORS DIDN'T WANT TO DO IT. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT ISSUE?

Miller: LEGISLATORS WERE VERY DIVIDED ON IT. SOME OF THEM CERTAINLY WANTED TO DO IT. I FEEL THIS WAY... THAT IF WE CAN DEVELOP A NEW STRUCTURE OR INDIVIDUAL LEGISLATION THAT WOULD GIVE US ADEQUATE PROTECTION AGAINST THOSE THAT ARE DANGEROUS, THOSE ARE THAT VIOLENT, AND REDUCE IN SOME WAY APPROPRIATELY, WITHOUT DANGER TO THE PUBLIC, THOSE THAT COMMITTED PROPERTY OFFENSES IN SUCH A WAY THAT WE DON'T HAVE TO KEEP BUILDING PRISON AFTER PRISON AFTER PRISON -- WE FELL BEHIND IN THE PRISON POPULATION, AND THEN WE HAD A BUILDING SURGE OVER A PERIOD OF YEARS, WHICH I SUPPORTED. BUT WE CAN'T KEEP BUILDING PRISONS FOREVER. IF WE CAN BRING THAT INTO BALANCE BY SOME SENTENCING REFORM, I THINK THAT WOULD BE CONSTRUCTIVE. IT WOULD STILL PROTECT THE PUBLIC IN TERMS OF SAFETY, BUT IT ALSO WOULD PROTECT THE PUBLIC IN TERMS OF EXTRAORDINARY EXPENSES. THEY DID THAT, TO SOME EXTENT, IN NORTH CAROLINA, MINNESOTA, AND KANSAS, AND I THINK WE SHOULD CONTINUE TO LOOK AT THOSE EFFORTS.

Yepsen: IS THE BILL THAT WAS BEFORE THE LEGISLATURE LAST YEAR THE GOING VEHICLE, OR WILL YOU BE RECOMMENDING ADDITIONAL LEGISLATION TO THE NEXT LEGISLATURE?

Miller: THAT'S SOMETHING THAT WE'RE WORKING ON IN THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, AND WANT TO TALK TO SOME OF THE KEY PLAYERS IN THE CORRECTIONS AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE AREA OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS.

Yepsen: BUT ISN'T THE SYSTEM REALLY WORKING? ONE OF THE REASONS THIS BILL DIDN'T GO ANYWHERE WAS BECAUSE THERE WERE MANY LEGISLATORS WHO SAID INDEED CRIME HAS GONE DOWN, AND IT HAS GONE DOWN BECAUSE WE'RE LOCKING UP A LOT OF THESE CHAPS, SO WHY START LETTING THEM OUT AGAIN. WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT?

Miller: CRIME HAS GONE DOWN DRAMATICALLY IN THE COUNTRY AND IN IOWA. THERE'S A WHOLE HOST OF REASONS. ONE OF THOSE REASONS IS THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE LOCKED UP. A LOT OF DANGEROUS PEOPLE ARE LOCKED UP. BUT THERE'S A WHOLE HOST OF OTHER REASONS: COMMUNITY POLICING; BETTER ENFORCEMENT; RESTRICTIONS ON GUNS; GREATER SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY, I THINK, IN COMMUNITIES. SO THERE'S A WHOLE HOST OF REASONS, ONLY ONE OF WHICH IS THAT WE LOCKED SOME PEOPLE UP. IF WE CAN HAVE PEOPLE SERVE SOMEWHAT SHORTER TERMS ON THE PROPERTY SIDE AND NOT ENDANGER THE SAFETY OF THE PUBLIC, AND NOT GET INVOLVED IN PRISON AFTER PRISON, THAT'S A WORTHY GOAL, I THINK.

Henderson: YOU RECENTLY DECLARED A. J. DECOSTER AN HABITUAL VIOLATOR OF THIS STATE, WHICH PRECLUDES HIM FROM EXPANDING. DOES THAT LAW NEED TO BE CHANGED SO THAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY SHUT DOWN AN OPERATOR THAT IS NEGLIGENT OF STATE ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS?

Miller: THAT WOULD CERTAINLY BE UP TO THE LEGISLATURE. THEY --

Henderson: IS IT SOMETHING YOU'D LIKE?

Miller: IT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT WE FEEL THAT WE ABSOLUTELY NEED AT THIS POINT. THE LEGISLATURE NEVER CAME CLOSE TO THAT SORT OF POSITION THAT THEY DECIDED THAT YOU'D HAVE TO HAVE A PERMIT TO CONSTRUCT BUT NOT TO OPERATE. GIVEN THE SENTIMENT OF THE LEGISLATURE, I THINK IT'S UNLIKELY THAT THEY WOULD GO TO OPERATING PERMITS, PARTICULARLY WITH THE REPUBLICAN CONTROL IN THE LEGISLATURE.

Henderson: WHY IS IT TAKING THE U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SO LONG TO BUILD AN ANTITRUST CASE AGAINST SOME OF THE NATION'S LARGEST AGRIBUSINESSES IN REGARDS TO THE LIVESTOCK CONCENTRATION ISSUE? THEY WENT AFTER MICROSOFT AND, KABOOM, IT HAPPENED, IT'S IN COURT, AND IT'S BEING ADJUDICATED NOW. WHY IS IT TAKING SO LONG TO BUILD A CASE AGAINST THE CONAGRAS OF THE WORLD?

Miller: THE ANTITRUST LAW IS LEAST ABLE TO DEAL WITH AN OLIGOPOLY. AN OLIGOPOLY IS WHERE TWO OR THREE OR FOUR FIRMS ESSENTIALLY CONTROL MOST OF THE MARKET. THE ANTITRUST LAW DEALS WITH A MONOPOLY, WHICH MICROSOFT WAS IN. NOBODY HAS A MONOPOLY IN AGRIBUSINESS, SO WE HAVE THAT OLIGOPOLY SITUATION, WHICH IS THE WORST, REALLY, FOR THE PUBLIC, BECAUSE THE LAW REALLY ISN'T HERE TO DEAL WITH OLIGOPOLIES. OLIGOPOLIES TEND NOT TO COMPETE VERY STRONGLY, ONE WITH ANOTHER. THEY SORT OF HAVE FRIENDLY, SAFE COMPETITION. THAT'S ONE OF THE REASONS THAT I'M CONCERNED, FOR INSTANCE, ABOUT THE UNITED/U.S. AIRWAYS MERGER. THE DANGER IS THAT WE WOULD GO FROM SIX MAJOR AIRLINES TO THREE MERGERS THAT THIS MERGER MIGHT TRIGGER. SO I THINK THAT'S WHY THERE'S THE STRUGGLE IN THE AGRIBUSINESS IN TERMS OF THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT. IT'S NOT THAT THEY'RE NOT CONCERNED. I KNOW JOEL KLEIN IS VERY CONCERNED ABOUT IT. HE APPOINTED DOUG ROSS AS HIS SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DEAL WITH AGRIBUSINESS ISSUES, BUT THE LAW IS JUST NOT AS STRONG IN THAT KIND OF SETTING.

Borg: YOU'VE JUST CONTINUED IN YOUR LAST COMMENT THERE ON AIRLINE MERGERS AND THE EFFECT ON THE CONSUMERS. YOU HAVE ESTABLISHED A REPUTATION FOR CONSUMER PROTECTION. DO YOU SEE, IN IOWA'S GAMBLING INDUSTRY, AREAS WHERE YOU WOULD LIKE ADDITIONAL RESTRICTIONS TO PROTECT THE GAMBLERS OR CONSUMERS?

Miller: I DON'T -- I DON'T THINK SO. IT'S SOMETHING THAT, OBVIOUSLY, WE DO GIVE SOME THOUGHT TO FROM TIME TO TIME. I THINK THAT SORT OF THE POLICY DECISIONS OF NOT EXPANDING GAMBLING IN IOWA IS A GOOD SET OF POLICY DECISIONS THAT THE ADMINISTRATION AND THE COMMISSION HAS MADE. I THINK THAT THE CURRENT AMOUNT OF GAMBLING WILL CONTINUE. THERE'S CERTAINLY A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF SUPPORT FOR THAT AMONG THE PEOPLE THAT GAMBLE, AND AMONG THE COMMUNITIES THAT ARE DEPENDENT UPON IT. I THINK THAT THE ADVERTISING PROBABLY IS NOT THE KIND OF ADVERTISING WE SEE IN OTHER INDUSTRIES THAT MAKE US SO CONCERNED. BUT CERTAINLY THE PROBLEM GAMBLER IS ONE THAT PRESENTS A CHALLENGE. IT PRESENTS SOME VERY DIFFICULT STORIES FOR THE FAMILIES TO DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM GAMBLER. I THINK THEY DO A CONSIDERABLE EFFORT BUT ALWAYS HAVE TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT THAT PERSON.

Yepsen: ANOTHER ISSUE YOUR OFFICE GETS INVOLVED WITH IS THE ISSUE OF CONSUMER PROTECTION, CONSUMER FRAUD QUESTIONS. RECENTLY MY PAPER DID A SERIES ON SOME OF THESE ISSUES THAT YOUR OFFICE IS INVOLVED IN: TELEMARKETING SCAMS, USED CAR SALES, FRAUD AGAINST SENIOR CITIZENS. A COUPLE-PART QUESTION: HOW BIG OF A PROBLEM IS CONSUMER FRAUD IN THIS STATE COMPARED TO OTHER PLACES? ARE WE MORE SUSCEPTIBLE HERE IN IOWA TO THESE KINDS OF CRIMES? AND SECONDLY, DO WE NEED NEW LAWS OR DO WE JUST SIMPLY NEED MORE ENFORCEMENT? HOW DO WE FIX THESE PROBLEMS?

Miller: I THINK IN ONE WAY, WE'RE MORE SUSCEPTIBLE IN THE SENSE THAT WE HAVE A HIGHER ELDERLY POPULATION THAN MOST OF THE REST OF THE COUNTRY. AND ONE OF THE THINGS WE'VE FOUND OUT IS THAT FRAUDS THAT SEEMS TO BE SORT OF NEUTRAL AS TO AGE ON THE SURFACE ARE DIRECTED AGAINST ELDERLY. WE FOUND THAT IN TELEMARKETING FRAUD. WE FOUND THAT IN SWEEPSTAKES FRAUD. THAT, AS I SAY, IS SORT OF AN AGE-NEUTRAL ON THE SURFACE, REALLY IS DELIVERED DISPROPORTIONATELY TO ELDERLY. I THINK IN SOME SENSES, WE'RE FURTHER AHEAD OF THE COUNTRY, I THINK, BECAUSE OF THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN DONE IN OUR CONSUMER PROTECTION DIVISION. WE LED THE COUNTRY IN DEALING WITH TELEMARKETING FRAUD, SO MUCH SO THAT THE FTC WOULD GO INTO BOILER ROOMS AND THERE WOULD BE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE WALL, INCLUDING "DO NOT CALL IN TO THE STATE OF IOWA." WE DEVELOPED THE STING OPERATION THAT, EVENTUALLY, THE FBI AND 20 OTHER STATES DEVELOPED. WE'RE TAKING SOME OF THE LEADS ON SWEEPSTAKES FRAUD. I THINK IOWANS ARE KNOWLEDGEABLE PEOPLE. WE'VE TRIED TO INFORM PEOPLE. SO, WE'RE A LITTLE MORE SUSCEPTIBLE, BUT I THINK OUR ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE IS FURTHER AHEAD THAN MOST A.G.'S OFFICES IN DEALING WITH THEM.

Yepsen: DO YOU NEED ANY ADDITIONAL TOOLS FROM THE LEGISLATURE?

Miller: WE PROBABLY DON'T NEED ANY DRAMATIC NEW TOOLS. WE'VE TALKED TO THEM ABOUT SOME LEGISLATION FROM TIME TO TIME, INCLUDING THE PRIVATE RIGHT OF ACTION SO THAT WE CAN'T POSSIBLY HAVE ENOUGH RESOURCES IN OUR OFFICE TO DO ALL THE CASES AND DO ALL THE WORK SO THAT IF INDIVIDUALS WANTED TO BRING THEIR OWN ACTIONS, THEY COULD UNDER THE CONSUMER FRAUD ACT. THAT WOULD ADD TO WHAT WE'RE DOING. SOMETIMES WE NEED A FEW MORE RESOURCES TO DO SOME OF THE PROJECTS WE'RE DOING. BUT THERE'S NO MAGIC BULLET IN TERMS OF LEGISLATION.

Yepsen: IS THERE ANY MAGIC BULLET, PIECE OF ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE CONSUMERS ABOUT HOW TO KEEP FROM GETTING RIPPED OFF BY THESE SCAM ARTISTS?

Miller: IT'S THE OLD CLASSIC THAT: "IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT'S USUALLY NEITHER GOOD NOR TRUE."

Yepsen: WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE BEEN RIPPED OFF BY ONE OF THESE SCAMS? IS THERE SOMETHING A CONSUMER CAN DO QUICKLY TO RESOLVE THE PROBLEM?

Miller: I THINK THE BEST THING IS TO CALL OUR OFFICE, OR TO CALL THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU. AND EMOTIONALLY, SOMETIMES WHEN YOU'RE TAKEN, YOU'RE EMBARRASSED. YOU FEEL, SORT OF, STUPID. THAT'S EXACTLY THE WRONG REACTION. THAT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYBODY. THERE'S AN OLD SAYING OF "FOOL ME ONCE, SHAME ON YOU; FOOL ME TWICE, SHAME ON ME." I THINK NOT TO FEEL EMBARRASSED, TO FIGHT BACK, TO NOT LET THAT HAPPEN AGAIN, TO CALL OUR OFFICE, THOSE SORTS OF THINGS.

Henderson: YOUR OFFICE HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN COLLECTING UNPAID CHILD SUPPORT, THE SO-CALLED DEADBEAT PARENTS OUT THERE. WHAT SORT OF NEW IDEAS DO YOU HAVE FOR GOING AFTER THAT MONEY?

Miller: WELL, WE CONTINUE TO TAKE SORT OF THE ALL-OUT EFFORT TO DO THAT. THAT'S SOME OF THE MOST DIFFICULT WORK IN STATE GOVERNMENT. IT'S PRIMARILY DONE BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES WITH ASSISTANCE FOR US. WE'RE TRYING TO EMPHASIZE A TOTAL MESSAGE. WE HAD AN EVENT AT THE IOWA CUBS GAME AT SEC TAYLOR A COUPLE WEEKS AGO RIGHT BEFORE FATHER'S DAY, WHERE NONCUSTODIAL PARENTS COULD BRING THEIR CHILDREN FREE TO THE GAME. WE HAD SORT OF A PRESENTATION BEFORE THE GAME WHERE I MADE THE POINT, AND HUMAN SERVICES MADE THE POINT, THAT WHEN PARENTS ARE INVOLVED -- A NONCUSTODIAL PARENT IS INVOLVED, BOTH IN TERMS OF PAYING SOME CHILD SUPPORT AND EMOTIONALLY INVOLVED WITH THE KID -- THE KIDS DO SO MUCH BETTER. YOU LOOK AT THE STATISTICS, IT'S AMAZING. AS PART OF THE PROGRAM, I THINK I HAD PROBABLY THE WORST OPENING PITCH IN THE HISTORY OF THE IOWA CUBS, SO BAD THAT THEY GAVE ME A SECOND CHANCE AND I DID MUCH BETTER ON THE SECOND CHANCE.

Yepsen: ANOTHER ISSUE CONFRONTING THE STATE IS THE RESTRUCTURING OF THE UTILITY INDUSTRY. SOME PEOPLE LIKE THE IDEA. SOME PEOPLE OPPOSE IT. HOW DO YOU COME DOWN ON THAT QUESTION?

Miller: WELL, AS SOMEONE WHO BELIEVES IN ANTITRUST PRINCIPLES, I BELIEVE IN COMPETITION. REAL COMPETITION IS WHAT DOES THE BEST FOR CONSUMERS. SO I BELIEVE THAT OVER TIME, WE SHOULD DEREGULATE. WE SHOULD GO TO COMPETITION IN THIS INDUSTRY, AND THAT WILL PRODUCE THE LOWEST PRICES AND THE BEST SERVICES. THE QUESTION IS HOW DO WE GET THERE, THE TRANSITION POINT. AND THAT IS -- BESET WITH SOME DIFFICULT ISSUES, BUT NONE THAT CAN'T BE RESOLVED. HERE'S THE SITUATION. THERE'S REALLY TWO GROUPS OF STATES. THERE'S THE HIGH-COST STATES AND THE LOW-COST STATES. IOWA, FORTUNATELY, IS A LOW-COST STATE BECAUSE OF THE UTILITIES, BECAUSE OF THE REGULATORS. WE HAVE AN ENVIABLE SITUATION. WHAT HAS HAPPENED ON DEREGULATION IS THE EARLY STATES, THE EARLY 20 OR 25, ARE THOSE IN THE HIGH-COST AREA. AND IT REALLY MADE A LOT OF SENSE FOR THEM TO DO THAT. WE ARE IN THAT DIFFERENT SITUATION AND I THINK HAVE TO BE A LITTLE MORE THOUGHTFUL, AND A LITTLE MORE CAREFUL, AND NOT NECESSARILY DUPLICATE WHAT'S DONE BEFORE. SO, I THINK IN THE TRANSITION, WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT CONSUMERS ARE TREATED FAIRLY. IT'S A COMPLICATED ISSUE, A WHOLE SET OF ISSUES, BUT THE GOAL IS TO REACH DEREGULATION BUT REACH IT IN A FAIR WAY TO CONSUMERS IN A LOW-COST STATE. ONLY ONE LOW-COST STATE HAS DONE DEREGULATION, AND THAT IS MONTANA. THEY DIDN'T DO A VERY GOOD JOB. THERE'S LESSONS TO BE LEARNED OF HOW NOT TO DO IT THERE. SO IF WE DO IT, WE WOULD BE, SORT OF, THE FIRST LOW-COST STATE TO DO IT AND NEED TO DO IT WITH THAT IN MIND.

Henderson: GOVERNOR VILSACK HAS ISSUED AN EXECUTIVE ORDER WHICH BARS DISCRIMINATION AGAINST GAY AND TRANSGENDER EMPLOYEES. REPUBLICAN LEGISLATORS INTEND TO SUE CHALLENGING THAT. AS THE GOVERNOR'S ATTORNEY, THE STATE'S ATTORNEY, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR HIM ON THAT CASE?

Miller:, WELL, WE'VE TALKED TO THE GOVERNOR ABOUT HIS ABILITY -- HIS AUTHORITY -- TO ISSUE THAT ORDER. WE BELIEVED THEN, WHEN HE ISSUED IT, AND NOW THAT HE HAS THAT POWER. HE IS THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF STATE GOVERNMENT. IT'S PART OF HIS POWER AS GOVERNOR. AS PART OF HIS POWER OF HIS CHIEF EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY, HE HAS THAT AUTHORITY TO ISSUE THAT ORDER. WE WILL BE DEFENDING FULLY, OF COURSE, IN COURT, THAT POSITION.

Yepsen: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE LARGER ISSUE OF GAY RIGHTS THAT IS RAISED BY THIS QUESTION? DO YOU FAVOR OR OPPOSE A LAW BANNING DISCRIMINATION IN ALL EMPLOYMENT? WHY SHOULD WE JUST BAN DISCRIMINATION AGAINST GAYS IN STATE GOVERNMENT? WHY DON'T WE BAN IT FOR ALL EMPLOYERS?

Miller: I DO FAVOR SUCH A LAW. I WOULD FAVOR A LAW AND HAVE FOR SOME TIME FAVORED A LAW THAT WOULD BAN DISCRIMINATION CONCERNING SEXUAL ORIENTATION IN ALL EMPLOYMENT. I THINK THAT THE WHOLE QUESTION OF DIVERSITY IS A VERY, VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION FOR OUR STATE. IT WAS RAISED BY, OF COURSE, DAVID OMAN, IN A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT CONTEXT. BUT DIVERSITY IS THE KIND -- DIVERSITY AND TOLERANCE ARE THE KINDS OF THINGS THAT WILL HAVE A MORE ENERGETIC, A MORE CREATIVE, A GREATER SOCIETY, I THINK, IN THE LONG TERM. WE'RE REALLY SEEING THAT IN CALIFORNIA. CALIFORNIA, I READ ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, SOMETIME IN THE NEAR FUTURE, WILL GO TO LESS THAN 50 PERCENT WHITE. AND THE DYNAMICS THAT'S PROVIDING IN CALIFORNIA ARE JUST ENORMOUS, AND THE POTENTIAL, AS THE GOVERNOR SAID, IS ENORMOUS OUT THERE. I THINK THAT WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE TOLERANT AND THAT WE HAVE DIVERSITY HERE IN THIS STATE FOR A WHOLE HOST OF REASONS. ONE, IT'S RIGHT, BUT ALSO I THINK IT MAKES A LOT OF ECONOMIC SENSE, AS DAVID OMAN WAS SUGGESTING IN A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT CONTEXT.

Yepsen: CRITICS OF THAT IDEA SAY YOU'RE GIVING SPECIAL PRIVILEGES TO GAYS AND LESBIANS. WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THOSE PEOPLE?

Miller: WELL, YOU KNOW, I GUESS, I HAVE A LOT OF SPECIAL PRIVILEGES. I CAN'T BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE I'M CATHOLIC. I CAN'T BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE I'M A MAN. AND WITHOUT GETTING INTO AGE, I THINK I PROBABLY QUALIFY ON THE AGE. SO I HAVE ALL THESE PRIVILEGES IN THAT CONTEXT. THE POINT IS THAT WE PROVIDE PROTECTION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION FOR A WHOLE HOST OF REASONS... COMPARABLE REASONS, IN MY VIEW, AND THIS SHOULD BE ADDED. IT'S NOT A QUESTION OF PRIVILEGE; IT'S A QUESTION THAT DISCRIMINATION IS WRONG, BOTH IN TERMS OF POLICY AND IN TERMS OF ECONOMICS.

Henderson: WHAT'S YOUR POLITICAL FUTURE? ARE YOU GOING TO BE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR LIFE?

Miller: I DON'T THINK SO.

Henderson: IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?

Miller: THAT'S CERTAINLY NOT IN THE CONSTITUTION. I LOVE THE JOB. IT'S A GREAT JOB. IT'S THE ABILITY TO SERVE THE PUBLIC AND USE THE LAW REALLY UNIQUELY TO SERVE THE INTERESTS OF ORDINARY IOWANS. THE JOB HAS JUST ENORMOUS RESPONSIBILITIES SO THERE'S ALWAYS A CHALLENGE, THERE'S NEVER A DULL MOMENT. I ENJOY THE JOB. I THINK I THRIVE ON IT. I HOPE I'M DOING A GOOD JOB.

Borg: SO WHAT'S NEXT?

Miller: I DON'T KNOW. I DON'T KNOW. I LIKE THIS AND, YOU KNOW, I ENJOY IT AND LOOK FORWARD TO EACH DAY TO COME TO THE OFFICE. AND BESIDES, I DON'T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR THIS TIME AROUND.

Henderson: YOU GOT THAT OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM?

Miller: WELL, I GOT IT OUT OF THE WAY THIS TIME AROUND, BECAUSE WE HAVE A GREAT GOVERNOR, LIKE MANY DEMOCRATS.

Henderson: BUT THAT'S NOT IN YOUR FUTURE? YOU DON'T EVER WANT TO BE GOVERNOR?

Miller: WELL, WHO KNOWS? WHO KNOWS? I WOULDN'T TOTALLY RULE IT OUT. WHO KNOWS? I DO IT, SORT OF, FOUR YEARS AT A TIME. THAT'S THE WAY THE CONSTITUTION SETS IT UP. AND AS I SAY, GOVERNOR VILSACK HAS SPARED ME THE NEED TO THINK ABOUT RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR, BECAUSE HE'S DONE SUCH A SPECTACULAR JOB.

Borg: WISH WE HAD MORE TIME TO EXPLORE THAT ONE. THANK YOU, TOM MILLER, FOR BEING OUR GUEST TODAY.

Miller: THANK YOU.

Borg: ON THE NEXT EDITION OF IOWA PRESS, THE FOCUS SHIFTS TO THE BUSINESS OF THE IOWA BOARD OF REGENTS. AND THEY'RE, OF COURSE, INVOLVED IN FINDING A NEW PRESIDENT FOR IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY. NEXT WEEK, BOARD OF REGENTS MEMBERS DR. DEB TURNER OF MASON CITY AND DAVID FISHER OF WEST DES MOINES, NEXT SUNDAY AT NOON AND 7:00 HERE ON IOWA PRESS. A FINAL NOTE TOO... WE'RE NOW ON THE WORLDWIDE WEB. YOU'LL FIND US WITH TRANSCRIPTS FROM PAST EDITIONS OF IOWA PRESS AND NEWS LINKS TO SOURCES ON TOPICS WE'VE BEEN DEALING WITH HERE, REPORTER BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES, AND COMMENTARY FROM OUR REPORTERS. WE'RE AVAILABLE AT WWW.IOWAPRESS.IPTV.ORG. THAT'S THIS WEEK'S EDITION. I HOPE YOU'LL JOIN US NEXT SUNDAY AT NOON AND 7:00. I'M DEAN BORG. THANKS FOR BEING WITH US TODAY.

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