When I interviewed Dent, the first thing I did was check to see if any Big Oil rigs were parked in the vicinity. I saw none, but Big Oil is very sneaky.
LVRamblings: Over the weekend, your constituents began receiving your six page "energy update." The Bennett camp has complained that it is funded by taxpayer money. “With the $75,000 Congressman Dent’s received from Big Oil, you’d sure think he could afford to pay for a mailing out of his campaign funds. Instead, he’s leaving Lehigh Valley taxpayers footing the bill.” How do you answer this accusation?
Congressman Dent: "The format of this newsletter is no different than any other newsletter I've ever sent out. It is approved by the Franking Commission. It is informational. I've noticed that [Republican] Chris Hackett, who is running against [Democratic] Representative Carney up in Northeastern Pennsylvania was attacked for the same thing. I'm waiting for Bennett's charge that Congressman Carney has done the same thing that I've done. There's a little hypocrisy there.
"I received very positive feedback from a number of people. Just yesterday, someone came up to me and said this was one of the best energy updates ..."
LVRamblings: Well, actually, it is very informative ...
Congressman Dent: "We do these periodically and this format is no different than any other piece we've sent out."
LVRamblings: Are you aware of any legislation that's pending right now to curtail the use of taxpayer money to send out informational pieces? Do you think it's a good idea or a bad idea, just as a general concept?
Congressman Dent: "Well, if I could have the media publish this information, that would be great. but they don't. A lot of my press releases are ignored, so this is one of the few ways left that I can communicate. By the way, we keep limitations on how much franked mail we send out. I have returned $200,000 in federal funds from my MRA. I run a frugal office. We don't spend a lot of money on a lot of frills. But we do feel that, from time to time, it is necessary to send out an informational mailer. On this energy issue, my office has received more comments on this and on the issue generally than anything else. They're calling all the time. People who did not write in may want to hear where their Congressman is on this issue."
LVRamblings: I could see in the questions that I received that people don't know what your stance is even though it's everywhere on your web page and campaign site . . .
Congressman Dent: "Yes, so we communicate every way we can. I do have to stay in touch with my constituents, but we limit what we spend on these types of initiatives.
"She throws out another charge about $75,000 in Big Oil. I believe she's including local individuals . . ."
LVramblings: Sometimes she says it's $100,000 . . .
Congressman Dent: "Well, she pulls her numbers wherever she pulls them from, but she is including local people. It's great to know that Siobhan Bennett believes that people who work in local energy companies are part of Big Oil. It's fascinating to know that she thinks what they do is dirty, that what they do is dishonorable. You know, she wrote in a recent op-ed that her grandfather was in the oil business. My late grandfather, who lived at 520 N 11th Street in Allentown, worked for over forty years of his life at UGI Company and Union Gas. He had an 8th grade education. He was proud of what he did. He would be sickened to know that people like my opponent think that what he did for a living was somehow dishonorable. He was proud that he was helping provide natural gas to help power people's businesses and homes. He thought that was honorable work and my opponent clearly thinks that people who work in the energy sector are dishonorable.
"And I should point out that Air Products and Chemicals, Do you know who their largest customer is?"
LVRamblings: Who's that?
Congressman Dent: "It is probably Exxon Mobil. Air Products builds hydrogen plants down by the refineries, to help refine the oil and gasoline."
LVRamblings: Apparently, the Bennett camp has a rather poor opinion of Air Products, but we'll get into that.
Congressman Dent: "Well, apparently, she does. You know, Air Products is an alternative energy company, by the way. I was out there yesterday. We finally dedicated a hydrogen fueling station that i worked with them on for some time along other local providers - The Discovery Center, Lehigh Valley Hospital and LANTA. We developed hydrogen shuttle buses as well as a fueling station and had hydrogen vehicles from all over the country drive right through here and they're on their way to California. Every major manufacturer was there."