Marvin's Window: Big money speaks the loudest

I looked out my window earlier this week and saw a top banana.

His name is Carl Lindner, and his company has dominated world trade in bananas for a century.

He is upset because the European Union Market (EU) countries limited imports of his bananas in 1993.

He still dominates their banana markets with 20 percent of the imports.

I few weeks ago I looked out my window and saw no bananas and told you about the banana trade wars between our trade people and the EU.

I did not know Carl Lindner, of Cincinnati and a certified member of Forbes list of the 400 richest men in America since 1982, caused the war.

He grows bananas in several Central American countries, but no bananas in the United States.

It looks like he is the guy who started this banana trade war with huge political contributions.

Time calls fruit baron Lindner "The Top Banana."

I have to say, the first column was more an expression of my surprise that government would get involved in such a crazy trade war.

But, a reader sent me a long, well-researched article from the Feb.

7 Time Magazine that outlined the banana war with all the players, winners and losers, and the huge political contributions involved.

All at once a tongue-in-cheek column that I treated humorously got serious.

First, the top banana, Lindner, and his companies own 40 percent of the stock of Chiquita Brands International based in Cincinnati.

Chiquita controls 20 percent of the European market even with the import restrictions.

The $2.7 billion Chiquita Brands, the $4 billion American Financial Group Insurance Co.; The Provident Financial Group, a $8 billion bank holding company; and American Heritage Homes, one of Florida's largest home builders are part of the 80-year-old Lindner's business interests.

Lindner's partner in the Florida housing company is Terrence McAuliffe, described in the Time article as "king of the Democratic fund raisers" and called by Vice President Al Gore "the greatest fund raiser in the history of the universe."

Time reports $5.5 million in campaign contributions by Lindner, his family and business associates since beginning the banana wars in 1991.

Republicans and Democrats have each received a share of the money with support for both Clinton and Dole in the last presidential election.

Only Clinton could offer a night in the Lincoln bedroom and access to the U.S.

trade representatives.

The levying of 100 percent tariffs on selected European products imported to this country to get the banana rules changed marked a first for the U.S.

in trade negotiations.

This country had NEVER embarked on a trade war involving a manufactured product or an agricultural product that was NOT produced or manufactured in this country.

A 1994 U.S.

trade staff memo to U.S.

Trade Representative Mickey Kantor quoted by Time said "if initiated this investigation would break new ground, as this would be the first time USTR had ever used Section 301 in connection with a product not exported from the United States but from elsewhere."

Time describes the old United Fruit Co., now Chiquita since Lindner bought in, as "a ruthless buccaneer that earned a justifiable reputation as a tyrant that bribed officials, used armed forces to keep workers in line and generally mistreated its thousands of dirt-poor laborers.

.

."

Many of the bananas are grown in Central America-Honduras, Coast Rica, Panama and Guatemala and Caribbean islands.

The small business importers of the products targeted were surprised when the import duties showed up.

Timothy Dove, owner of special battery importing Action battery, got hit with a $200,000 bill.

Arthur Chaplain's Galaxy of Graphics quit importing a line of picture prints from England when the 100 percent import duties priced the product out of his market.

Rick Reinert's Reha Enterprises had selected bath oils and soaps hit with the 100 percent tariff to "punish" countries that were restricting Lindner's banana imports, even as Chiquita still controlled 20 percent of the European banana market!

Companies like Mercedes, Gillette's ball point pens, Mattell's dolls and fur products were successful in lobbying efforts to keep products off the "hit list."

The banana wars are still going on hurting our small business and pulling a lot of money into political donations.

Europe has made no changes and the World Trade Organization ruled that the U.

S.

acted illegally imposing the 100 percent tariffs.

At this point, there is no end in sight.

Makes me wonder about a lot of "free enterprise" and "law of supply and demand" talk I hear in oil, gas and electricity markets.

As I look out my window at the mountains and sunsets, I am thinking about an old cliché.

"Money still talks and big money talks even better."