Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Congresswoman Lobbies Clinton to Jump-Start Kaolin Probe

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Congresswoman Lobbies Clinton to Jump-Start Kaolin Probe

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- After six years of inaction on her request for a federal investigation into allegations that giant mining companies swindled small Georgia landowners, U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney has gone straight to the top.

McKinney, a Lithonia Democrat, took advantage of President Clinton's recent trip to Atlanta to lobby him on behalf of several hundred Middle Georgia landowners she represented before her old 11th District was dismantled by the courts.

With television cameras rolling, McKinney complained to Clinton that his Justice Department has been dragging its feet investigating claims that the companies used fraud and trickery a half century ago to keep landowners from earning fair value for kaolin.

Clinton asked McKinney for more information. The next day, during a White House event touting the administration's anticrime initiatives, she hand-delivered a packet of background information.

"The whole point of putting that packet in the president's hand was to explain to him what's happened to landowners in Middle Georgia and to encourage his interest in the issue," McKinney said Friday.

"This is a classic case of the corporate giant taking advantage of the little landowner to fill their own pockets," she said. "This investigation needs to be put on the front burner."

McKinney first requested a Justice Department probe in 1993 after constituents complained that the kaolin companies had conspired to fix prices and prevent landowners from receiving fair value for the fine, white clay.

Kaolin, more plentiful in Middle Georgia than anywhere in the world, is used in papermaking, paint products, ceramics, fiberglass and stomach-soothing medicines. More than 8 million tons were mined in Georgia in 1997 by just five companies. The industry has an estimated economic impact on the state of more than $800 million annually.

After an initial review of her request, McKinney said the Justice Department notified her that an antitrust investigation had begun. Since then, she said, the antitrust division has been involved with "a lot sexier cases," such as the Microsoft and American Airlines investigations, and has made little progress on kaolin. …

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