Saturday, November 22, 2008

Georgia Sen. Chambliss Knocks Over Camera When Asked About Deadly Sugar Factory Accident


The pressures of the runoff election and the continuing questions about his ties to a large, scandal-scarred sugar company seem to be getting to Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

Asked by a reporter whether a lawsuit involving deaths at an Imperial Sugar plant -- a lawsuit in which Chambliss claims he has senatorial immunity from testifying -- were making his chances at reelection harder, the Georgia Republican responded by knocking away a nearby camera.

The video, put out by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, is another chapter in a bizarre but brewing saga that could very well affect the outcome of the Senate race.

In February 2008, an explosion at the Imperial Sugar Factory in Savannah, caused largely by combustible dust particles, killed 14 workers and injured 40. The whistleblower who brought the issue to light came before Capitol Hill to testify on the matter. Chambliss sat in on the hearing, though he was not part of the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety. He was accused by his opponents of verbally harassing the whistleblower. Moreover, Chambliss continued to oppose a new combustible dust standard at the plant even after the explosion. Finally, when families of the victims filed a lawsuit, the Senator refused to give evidence or testimony, citing Senatorial immunity, which doesn't actually exist.

Imperial Sugar, which has funneled a moderate amount of donations into Chambliss' coffers, has defended the Senator's conduct as appropriate.

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