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Republicans show their true colors on Hershey sale
[September 7, 2002]

By Nicholas Provenzo

The share price of Hershey Foods dropped 4 percent yesterday after a Pennsylvania state judge barred its sale until the court resolves a challenge by state attorney general Mike Fisher. Fisher, also the Republican candidate for governor, wants the court to halt the sale of Hershey by the charitable Hershey Trust, which holds a majority voting stake in the candy giant. The charity seeks to sell Hershey in order to diversify its holdings. Companies expected to bid up to $15 billion on the candy maker include Nestle, Kraft Foods and Cadbury Schweppes.

According to a press release at Fisher's website:

"I am pleased the judge has stopped this sale to give us a chance to raise these issues. We need to step back and take a hard look at how a sale of Hershey Foods would affect the Hershey community," Fisher said. "There is no reason for the trust and its board to rush out and sell this company without allowing me to represent the public's interest and without allowing the court to determine how a sale could hurt this community". . .

. . .Fisher noted that any public sale of the controlling interests of Hershey Foods could have profoundly negative consequences for the Hershey community and surrounding areas, including the loss of jobs and related business and a decrease in the tax base. Fisher said the broad interests of the Attorney General, who oversees charitable organizations, include protecting the public against any social and economic disadvantages that could result from the action of a public charity.

Fisher's attempt to halt the sale of Hershey has been joined by Republican House Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner. According to the AP, Sensenbrenner wrote to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy J. Murris urging the FTC to "rigorously examine the antitrust implications of any sale of Hershey Foods."

Fisher and his fellow Republicans' actions against the Hershey Trust speak the the fundamental intellectual problem within the Republican party. Despite their claim to represent the freedom and individual rights philosophy of the founders, the Republicans accept the ethics of altruism just as do the Democrats. Present your average Republican with a someone in "need" and they would be hard pressed to make an argument against state intervention to relieve that "need." It's no real surprise that Fisher is willing to sacrifice the property rights of the Hershey Trust in the same of the "needs" of the community.

This isn't just a case of "Republican in name only" syndrome—the defects I speak of run deep and infect the vast majority of the party. Even when the Republicans were at their height and squaring off against Bill Clinton during the 1995 government shutdown, they were unable to communicate why the government needed to reduce spending. Instead, their arguments came off as shrill and cruel—and these were the top-shelf "revolutionaries" in the best position to make their argument. Anti-government rhetoric alone is not sufficient to uproot the entrenched position of the state paternalists.

So great is the Republican's collapse that Fisher's assault has barely raised a whimper within the Republican party. On the contrary; moderate Republicans have supported Fisher on the grounds that if he doesn't prevent the sale of Hershey, he won't win the PA governorship. Given his current philosophy, some victory that would be.


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