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Bakery brothers' energy-bill beefs spark media blitz, and possible intervention by McCaskill

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 7, 2009 - This afternoon, the national Fox News cable channel showcased David McArthur, half of the local "bakery brothers," whose concerns about the federal cap-and-trade energy bill have skyrocketed the duo to the top of the political charts.

McArthur appeared on Fox's Glenn Beck show shortly after 4:30 p.m. St. Louis time.

During his 10 minutes on the air (with a stand-in commentator for Beck), McArthur reprised his fears, and those of brother Randy McArthur, that the energy measure that recently passed the U.S. House would lead to huge hikes in energy costs that would drive small businesses like McArthur's Bakery out of business.

The brothers have been Internet fodder for more than a week, but their concerns have gotten big-time attention since Monday, McArthur said.

They have become the darlings of local radio and TV stations, in a media blitz that centers on their dispute with their congressman, U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, who voted for the bill.

"It hit the fan real hard,'' David McArthur said.

Among other things, Fox spotlighted the angry message that the McArthurs sent Carnahan via the electronic sign at their Lemay location.

Earlier today, the brothers say they have been contacted about a possible meeting with the staff of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. A spokeswoman for McCaskill said the session has yet to be scheduled, and emphasized that local business leaders had asked the senator to step in.

McArthur said he was heartened by what he viewed as McCaskill's accurate grasp of small-business complaints about the measure, which seeks to tackle global warming by reducing harmful pollution emissions.

Backed by the White House, the 1,200-page bill sets emission limits (cap), and requiring those companies who need a higher limit to purchase credits (trade) from companies that pollute less.

The bottom line, says David McArthur: "The only way I can cut back on my energy costs and usage is to cut back on production."

McCaskill said on a mid-Missouri radio show this week that the House version of the cap-and-trade bill was unlikely to pass the Senate in its current form.

“If there is going to be enough support for the bill, it will be a very gradual implementation as we move toward changing to wind and solar and other kinds of energy,” said McCaskill on the show with radio host Mike Ferguson. “I’m going to be one of those trying to craft it in a way that is very gradual, that is not going to hurt a state like Missouri that is so coal dependent.”

Such comments are in line with her Tweet made shortly after the House's controversial vote: “I hope we can fix cap and trade so it doesn't unfairly punish businesses and families in coal dependent states like Missouri.”

The House's approval has touched off a wave of conservative criticism of Carnahan and others in the House who voted for the bill.

The congressman's district director, Jim McHugh, met with the brothers on Tuesday to defend Carnahan's support for the bill and to try to allay some of their chief concerns. David McArthur said that he was waiting for a transcript of their session, which he was told would be forthcoming shortly.

Carnahan's staff have yet to comment this afternoon on the meeting.

McArthur said the session was civil. He added that he is continuing to emphasize to all who will listen that, "This isn't a political battle. It's an issue battle."

Thursday evening, Carnahan's office issued the following statement:

"Protections were included in the clean-energy bill for small businesses so that any possible short-term rises in energy costs are offset.

"Small businesses stand to gain from new energy efficiencies and stable energy costs, which have been lacking the past eight years. Also many small businesses are where these new clean-energy jobs will be created, ones right here in the U.S. In fact, Missouri just received $23 million to expand upon the State Energy Program specifically designed to help business and individuals reap the awards of a new clean-energy economy. Through this program small businesses will be eligible to receive a free energy audit in coordination with the University Missouri.

"It’s understandable that some are hesitant to change, but the truth is that doing nothing isn’t an option. Energy costs have increased between $1,000 and $3,000 per family the past eight years. Job growth has been the lowest in 75 years. Our dependence on foreign oil has increased. Congressman Carnahan firmly believes that after eight years of doing nothing now is the time to declare our energy independence.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.