Pfact-pfinding mission bogus

Denver Post/November 12, 1999
By Chuck Green

When he's not within earshot, some of his colleagues in the Colorado legislature are referring to Rep. Penn Pfiffner's crusade against psychotropic medications as Pfiffner's Pfollies.

They're even joking that Pfiffner is the only member of his Republican class who has never been appointed by his colleagues as the chairman of a legislative committee. Earlier this year, in an attempt to correct that humiliation, Pfiffner was nominated by a fellow Republican to serve as chairman of the Audit Committee.

The friend's gentlemanly gesture was rudely rejected when no one in the room would second his motion. Instead, the Republican-controlled legislature selected a Democrat to serve as audit chairman, merely extending the humiliation that Pfiffner's friend so mercifully had tried to end.

Pfiffner finally got his chairmanship, though. He appointed himself the chair of a committee that he created - a committee that has no legislative sanction, no authority, no power, no budget, no staff and no credibility. Pfinally, though, he can call himself a chairman - which he manages to do with a straight face.

When he gaveled his non-committee to session for its only-ever "hearing'' Tuesday, not even all of his nine hand-picked members attended. And none of the other 91 invited legislators bothered to drop in to listen to the "testimony'' at the non-hearing.

From the start, the hearing was bogus.

Pfiffner has defended the meeting as a "fact-finding'' session to determine whether prescribed medications such as Ritalin, Prozac, Dexadrine and Luvox make homicidal maniacs of kids.

But when he announced his lineup of speakers at the "fact-finding'' inquiry, Pfiffner headlined only five people - all of whom had declared that they agree with Pfiffner that such drugs are linked to schoolhouse violence. All five of the featured speakers came to Colorado from other states to offer their theories and anecdotes, but not a single nationally known expert whose research would counter that view was invited by Pfiffner.

Pfiffner's speakers were assembled well in advance of the hearing, allowing them to arrange for travel to Colorado. Yet even local experts on the issue learned of Pfiffner's so-called "fact-finding'' hearing less than four days before it began, and one expert said he heard of the meeting only 14 hours earlier.

Pfiffner told me Wednesday that he had searched out "the top experts in the country'' for his hearing, but later he acknowledged that his list of invitees actually was suggested to him by a member of the state Board of Education, Patti Johnson, who is unabashedly critical of current trends in the prescription of psychotropic drugs.

So much for casting a wide net.

Indeed some might suggest that Pfiffner and Johnson may have used a butterfly net to assemble their panel. One of their five headlined speakers was Bruce Wiseman, president of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. That organization is part of the Church of Scientology, a worldwide cult that believes alien creatures from an intergallactic war a billion years ago have hidden out in Earth's volcanoes before emerging as mind-control parasites living in human bodies.

That sounds about as buggy as Pfiffner's pfact-pfinding mission.

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