Chambliss slams company official at federal hearing

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SAVANNAH, Ga. --- An Imperial Sugar Co. executive's lawyer says the company put U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss up to harassing his client at a subcommittee hearing.

Near the end of the Tuesday session in Washington, the Georgia Republican lit into Graham H. Graham, Imperial's vice president of operations.

"I believe Chambliss was espousing the company line in an effort to discredit and blunt Mr. Graham's testimony," the attorney, Philip Hilder, said Wednesday.

Mr. Chambliss denied that, saying he spoke on behalf of the families of the 13 people killed as a result of the Feb. 7 explosions and fire at the Port Wentworth refinery.

Mr. Graham testified about what he said were dangerous conditions he saw there.

Imperial faces proposed fines of $8.8 million, multi-pronged federal investigations and possible criminal prosecution. The proposed fines stem from 200-plus alleged safety violations at Port Wentworth and at Imperial's refinery at Gramercy, La.

Mr. Graham also said he was told by senior executives he was being overzealous in his efforts to make the plant safer.

Near the end of the hearing, Mr. Chambliss questioned Mr. Graham aggressively. He twice said he doubted Mr. Graham's sincerity and cut him off before he could answer a final question.

But U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who led the panel -- the subcommittee on employment and workplace safety -- let Mr. Graham answer.

Mr. Chambliss is not a member of the subcommittee. He was invited as a courtesy because he is a Georgia senator, said subcommittee spokesman Matt McAlvanah.

Johnny Isakson, Georgia's other senator, is the top-ranked GOP member.

Mr. Hilder said he thinks Imperial suggested questions for Mr. Chambliss to ask Mr. Graham and accused the senator of a "cheap shot" against his client.

"He's more interested in discrediting Mr. Graham than discovering the facts, and I think he's the one who's being insincere," Mr. Hilder said.

Mr. Chambliss rejected Mr. Hilder's claims.

"I ask my own questions," the senator said. "That's what lawyers are paid to say."

He did say Imperial suggested questions to senators to ask Edwin Foulke Jr. Mr. Foulke, the head of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also testified Tuesday.

"I never saw them," Mr. Chambliss said of the questions.

Imperial spokesman Steve Behm said the company suggested questions to subcommittee members, but none to Mr. Chambliss for Mr. Graham.

Mr. Chambliss, who received a $1,000 campaign donation in June from Imperial's political action committee, did say he was "infuriated" at Mr. Graham.

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afadel 08/01/08 - 06:47 am
Would the Chronicle do some

Would the Chronicle do some kind of story telling us about the proposed legislation which passed the U.S. House concerning industrial dust? I'd like to know more details about it the bill and the positions each of our legislators (Barrow, Broun, Chambliss and Isakson) has taken on the issue.

i.b.e.w..electric 08/01/08 - 07:51 am
i have no respect for saxby

i have no respect for saxby chambliss after what he did to max cleland in order to win his office ,it was the election of 2002 chambliss acused cleland of not signing the patriot act which i will say cleland didnt sign it ,he said it was to vague and picked on everyday common americans which if you ever read the patriot act before the gov black out most of it would know it was scary reading.well chambliss called cleland a friend of bin laded and unamerican,folks he called cleland unamerican and unpatriotic,this man left TWO LEGS AND AN ARM IN sorry but i will continue to support cleland and ga. lost a great senator when he was defeated.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 08/01/08 - 08:50 am
It's time to get over it,

It's time to get over it, I.B.E.W.

Dedicated 08/01/08 - 09:11 am
Hey would

Hey would support Charles Manson if he was on the side of the unions.

Augustaguy1962 08/01/08 - 10:58 am
For those of you who are not

For those of you who are not aware, Saxby was a representative in Middle Georgia before he ran for Senator. During his time as a US Representative he had a major problem even knowing where he lived. He represented the 8th district, but did not even live there. He finally rentedan apartment in Macon just to get by the requirement. He never even put furniture in the apt. The minute he decided to run for Senator he gave up his apartment in Macon and went back to call ing South Georgia home. I guess the local folks there knew he was liar and would not elect him so he had to lie to get elected so he could keep feeding off the taxpayers. He could not be trusted then and he can not be trusted now. I hope the people of Georgia wake up and send this liar back to South Georgia in November.

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