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Center Point couple joins oil protest in Terre Haute

Monday, July 3, 2006

Andy McCammon photo

Bob Dodson of Center Point takes Big Oil to task during a protest at a Terre Haute gas station Wednesday.

As gas prices rise, Bob Dodson's hour-long daily commute from his Center Point home to his job in Ellettsville is becoming more and more inconvenient.

"We both drive quite a ways, so gas prices being high affects us immediately," said Dodson's wife, LaVonne, whose daily commute takes her to Greencastle and back.

The Dodsons were among a group of around 20 demonstrators who convened at a Terre Haute gas station Wednesday to protest contributions to Republican members of Congress from major oil companies. The protesters displayed homemade signs and trumpeted their message to passing cars from the parking lot of a gas station at Third and Poplar streets.

The rally was one of more than 250 similar events organized nationwide by MoveOn, a political action group with a history of supporting Democrats and taking Republicans to task. The organization's Web site alleges Republican Congressmen have accepted $142,635,314 since 1990, and links the GOP's relationship with oil companies to resistance to alternative energy initiatives and, ultimately, inflated oil prices.

Dodson and the Terre Haute protesters directed their frustration at one politician in particular.

"Specifically, we're targeting Mr. Hostettler," Bob Dodson said, citing MoveOn findings that the 8th District Congressman has personally benefited from oil company donations-- to the tune of $58,525.

Dodson blames Hostettler's relationship with Big Oil for his non-support of initiatives to promote alternative sources of fuel.

But Republicans have taken issue with MoveOn's findings, denying that Big Oil has been buying influence in Congress.

Sharon Koehler, president of the Clay County Republican Central Committee, denied that Hostettler-- or any other Republican-- accepted anything from oil companies.

"He doesn't accept (oil company donations)," she said. "He can't accept that money. "I don't know where they're getting their information from, but it's clearly not accurate."

The Dodsons and their fellow Terre Haute protesters are convinced otherwise, turning out to demonstrate even as a thunderstorm pelted them with rain and produced lightning. Their unofficial goal: To wrest the 8th District seat from Hostettler's control and into the hands of his Democratic challenger, Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth.

Asked it he's ever frustrated by the conservative leanings of the community in which he lives, Bob Dodson said it can be "depressing"-- but he isn't convinced the area is as Republican as some suspect.

"A lot of it has to do with gerrymandered districts," he said. "Clay and Vigo would probably go Democrat (in state and federal elections) if it weren't for those counties further south."

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