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Bank Of America And Billionaires Funded Republican & Democratic Conventions

by on Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm EDT in Election 2012, Politics

OpenSecrets.org, one of the best sites for tracking money in politics, just tallied up the major funders of the Republican and Democratic national conventions, and their findings are revealing.

No surprises with the Republicans — the ones they are beholden to for having funded their extravaganza are mostly billionaires and huge corporations.

The biggest revelations came from the Democratic Party tally. As some anticipated, unions came up short for Obama’s Convention this year. Having shelled out $8.3 million in 2008, they gave nearly 30% less. 

But not to worry, Obama had taken care of one moneyed interest group who was all too happy to step up. Bank of America practically self-funded the event, underwriting approximately 1/3 of its entire expense. And just to be sure they covered their bases, Bank of America also tossed the GOP $1.1 million for theirs in Tampa. 

This may provide a clue as to why bankers, whose fraudulent activities brought down the entire world economy, still seem to enjoy an unspoken immunity from any criminal prosecutions.

Small donors, incidentally, contributed a mere .00002% — not joking — of the RNC’s funds. And only 6 people — you read that right — donated between $200 and $500. Hands-down, the RNC is an event entirely funded by the wealthiest few individuals and corporations in the nation.

The Democratic Party did better with small donors, as they provided 2.5% of the DNC’s funds. And they did much better with donors contributing between $200 and $500: 1,558 contributed. Though the Democrats are still lopsidedly dependent on influence-peddlers, when compared to the Republicans’ donor list they might actually tout these numbers.

Money Behind The Two Parties’ Parties

The Republican Party, which held its 2012 convention in Tampa, FL, raised $55.8 Million. The following were some key contributors:

  • Sheldon Adelson (Las Vegas casino mogul, fanatically pro-Israel) : $5 million (9% of total)
  • Bill Edwards (CEO of Mortgage Investor’s Corp.): $4.6 million (8.24%)
  • AT&T (in addition to $3M, gave in-kind donations for phone service): $3 million (5.4%)
  • American Petroleum Institute: $2 million (3.6%)
  • Microsoft: $1.6 million (2.9%)
  • Bank of America: $1.1 million (2%)
  • David Koch (billioinaire Koch brother): $1 million (1.8%)
  • Paul Singer (Elliott Management): $1 million (1.8%)
  • Robert Mercer (of hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies): $1 million (1.8%)
  • Paulson & Company (hedge fund run by John Paulson): $1 million (1.8%)
  • James S. Davis (chairman of shoe company New Balance): $1 million (1.8%)
  • Florida Power and Light: $1 million (1.8%)
  • United Health Care Services: $522,000 
  • American Indian tribes (2 tribes contributed): $450,000
  • America’s Natural Gas Alliance: $400,000
  • New York Yankees: $150,000
  • Small donors (Total unitemized contributions of $200 or less): $1,200 (.00002%)
  • Number of donors giving between $200-$500: Six donors

The Democratic Party, which held its convention in Charlotte, NC, raised $35 Million. The following were some key contributors:

  • Bank of America$10.9 million (31.14% of total)
  • Unions: $5.9 million (17%)
  • Duke Energy (lobbied H.R.910 to keep EPA from regulating emissions of green house gases): $1.5 million (4.3%)
  • American Indian tribes (4 tribes contributed): $400,000 
  • James Rogers (Duke Energy CEO): $339,000
  • Tides Foundation (partially funded by Soros’ Open Society Institute) : $310,000
  • Small donors (Total unitemized contributions of $200 or less): $866,000 (2.5%)
  • Number of donors giving between $200-$500: 1,558 donors

Stagecraft: Our Presidential Contest Has Devolved Into Little More Than A Fake Wrestling Match

by on Friday, September 28, 2012 at 3:34 pm EDT in Economy, Election 2012, Politics

For those on the Left, one of the most frustrating aspects of this Presidential election has been following the narratives of both establishment parties, each aligned with the other in their complimentary fictions, as they deceive the American voters into believing there is an actual choice to be made here. 

Beyond the rhetorical divide, the actual differences between Obama and Romney are minor, if not downright trivial. Each candidate, regardless of how he has actually governed in the past, uses the talking points from his party’s platform to tap into the ideological preferences of his base. The contest is little more than a theater of deception.

Romney, who governed like a Clintonian Democrat, now speaks in ways that appeal to his base, which continues to drift rightwards a la Tea Party.

As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney implemented what would become the blueprints for Obamacare, and offered generous subsidies for those in his state who couldn’t afford it. He embraced a pro-choice position, favored gun control, was pro-gay-rights. He opposed the flat tax, was critical of Bush tax cuts. He believes in global warming, and has supported ‘cap and trade’ policies. 

Whereas Romney has been forced to move rhetorically to the right, Barack Obama, who himself has governed from right-of-center, needs to reestablish his own cred with his liberal base, and is thus, only too happy to accommodate Romney in aligning their fictions.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle that both candidates have had to overcome with regards to their respective bases is in trying to convince them that there actually are fundamental differences between their visions for America’s economic model.

The Obama campaign was the first to seize on a distinction when it released a video showing Mitt Romney at a Boca Raton fundraiser expressing disdain for Obama voters, suggesting they are “dependent upon government” and feel entitled to handouts.

But this video revelation actually enhanced the far-Right cred that the Governor had been so desperate for. You might think his own campaign planted the video. In fact, he proudly wore the video revelation around like a medal. The Tea Party won’t see me as a RINO anymore, he likely surmised.

Seeing this as the perfect red meat issue needed to re-energize his base, Romney pivoted to the hot-button ‘Socialism’ charge. He charged Obama with being another Socialist-minded liberal who wants to take money from those who work hard and succeed, to then redistribute it to those who don’t.

After unearthing a 1998 video showing a young Obama expressing that he believed in “redistribution at a certain level,” Romney pounced:

“He [Obama] really believes in what I’ll call a government-centered society. I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution. It’s never been a characteristic of America,” Romney said Wednesday at an Atlanta fundraiser. “There’s a tape that came out just a couple of days ago where the president said yes he believes in redistribution. I don’t. I believe the way to lift people and help people have higher incomes is not to take from some and give to others but to create wealth for all.”

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus seconded that description of Obama, and now all GOP surrogates are on message, making the ‘redistribution’ buzzword the central theme in Romney’s campaign.

But of course this depiction of Obama couldn’t be further from the truth. Obama has actually governed like a starry-eyed Milton Friedman disciple. Bloomberg News decided to investigate Romney’s ‘redistribution’ charge, and here is what they found:

If President Barack Obama is trying to spread the wealth, he doesn’t have much to show for it. […]

[S]ince Obama took office in January 2009, wealthy Americans have continued to pull away from the rest of society. In the aftermath of the recession, income inequality in the U.S. reached a new high in 2011, Census Bureau data show.

Even as the president has decried the hollowing out of the middle class, the fortunes of labor and capital have diverged on his watch. Quarterly corporate profits of $1.9 trillion have almost doubled since the end of 2008, while workers’ inflation- adjusted average hourly earnings have declined.

“At the very high end, people got a whole lot wealthier whereas income stagnated at other levels,” said Anne Mathias, director of Washington research for Guggenheim Securities LLC. “Fifty years ago, people talked about the other half, how the other half lived, and now we’re talking about the other 1 percent.”

But, forget reality — back to the fantasyland that is our Presidential Election.

Knowing his progressive base sees the U.S. economy through the 1% vs 99% prism and views his last 3 1/2 years as a monumental sellout to the 1%, Obama likely sees an opening in Romney’s ‘redistribution’ charge. This Republican accusation may be exactly what he needs to energize his own base. Perhaps it can help him to get his populist mojo back.

And the theater just continues on and on …

But make no mistake about it, whichever candidate wins — be it Obama or Romney — things will continue right along this Neoliberal road we are on, and the firmly-entrenched 1% will have their man.

Edit: In response to reader who questioned the validity of statement re: Mitt Romney’s alleged support of gay-marriage when Governor of Massachusetts, and after further review myself, I have decided to remove the statement: (he implemented same-sex marriage by executive fiat).

The Strategic Rationale Behind The Left’s Criticism Of President Obama: FEAR

by on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 12:17 pm EDT in Politics

Photo by Pete Souza

There are essentially two major camps left-of-center in American politics, and the divisions between the two are often as deep and wide as the rifts between the two major parties.

One camp is composed of Democratic partisans — a group that goes to great ends to stifle any and all criticism of President Obama and other Democratic politicians.

Commonly referred to as ‘Democratic loyalists’, ‘Obamabots’, ‘Obama Loyalists’ ‘Obama apologists’, ‘sheeple’ … they are fueled by a deep conviction that the Democratic Party — no matter what they do and how far to the right they swing — must have our full unflinching support to ensure their eventual reelection.

Anytime the Left criticizes Obama’s initiatives or policies, or calls for primaries or third party options, Partisans immediately condemn them as “helping to elect Republicans”.

Partisans have succumbed, fully and completely, to the ‘lesser of two evils’ rationale. 

To fully appreciate how insignificant policies are to the partisan mind, consider that most of them absolutely loathed Ronald Reagan in the 80s, yet now ironically adore President Obama. Never mind that his actual policy record sits to the right of Reagan’s along the left-right political spectrum.

The second camp is composed of progressives — a group whose loyalties lie ONLY with progressive policies. These individuals relentlessly pursue the truth irregardless of which party suffers from their findings. Unlike partisans, they refuse to cherry-pick, or engage in historic revisionism, or even to pull punches as a way of sparing Democratic politicians embarrassment. 

Commonly referred to as ‘the Left’, ‘the populist Left’, ‘truth-tellers’, ‘the professional Left’, ‘non-partisan Left’, ‘ideological purists’, … they tend to vote Democratic, but will at times — depending on the options available to them — consider voting for Greens and independents.

The Left has been especially critical of President Obama over the last three years. He won a decisive victory in 2008 having campaigned on the following progressive platform: a public option as the vital component to any health care reform legislation; allowing the re-importation of prescription drugs; ending Bush tax cuts; scrapping the Patriot Act, which he deemed ‘shoddy and dangerous’; ending the warring policies of the neocons; closing GITMO; ending ‘Too Big to Fail’ on Wall Street (so as to avoid future TARPS); rewriting job-killing NAFTA-like trade policies, etc. etc. Once elected, he instantly turned his back on all these campaign promises, instead cutting back-room deals with the wealthy entrenched interest groups who profit from the very deep structural problems he vowed to reform.

All this begs the following question: Whose Strategy (Partisan or Progressive) Is Most Likely To Yield Meaningful Progressive Change?

Again, Partisans preach that within the confines of a two-party system, you MUST ALWAYS support and defend the ‘lesser of two evil’ parties. And so as an extension of this belief, they view the Left — always shining a light on Obama’s betrayals and pro-corporate, non-progressive policies — as merely sabotaging his 2012 reelection prospects, thereby ensuring we get stuck with a Tea Partier President.

But this partisan assessment is both simplistic and naive.

To fully appreciate the strategy of Progressives, one must focus entirely on what motivates politicians to legislate the policies they do: FEAR. If politicians don’t fear you, they are free to ignore you. 

Like all Americans, politicians fear losing their jobs. The two major competing groups that directly impact their reelection prospects are the powerful entrenched entities who fill either their or their opponents’ political coffers with millions of dollars, and the constituents who will actually cast the votes.

Why Politicians Fear Entrenched Corporate Entities Far More Than Voters

Deep pocketed special interest groups have only one objective: to ensure that all legislation passed and signed into law continues to enrich them and advance their own narrow self-interests (often to the detriment of the American public).

Of great significance, is their mercenary approach to influencing the legislative process. Their loyalty lies with whatever party legislates their agenda. One wrong vote and they will reroute tens of thousands of dollars slotted for one politician directly into his opponent’s war chest. Similar to Progressives, their loyalties lie with the policies being legislated. 

Voting constituents, conversely, are largely too timid to provoke this same level of fear in their politicians, and this is a direct result of our deeply-flawed two-party political system. By punishing or even criticizing Democrats, partisans fear they risk empowering Republicans.

So naturally Democratic politicians factor their supporters’ reluctance to punish them into their decision-making process anytime their campaign promises meet resistance from the powerful entrenched-interest groups. It is precisely this ‘lesser of two-evils’ mindset that all but ensures Democratic politicians put entrenched corporate interests above their own supporters’ interests.

The Media’s Role in Ensuring America Remains Partisan

The main-stream-media (owned by these same entrenched corporate interests) helps to do its part to solidify a public partisan mindset by largely replacing serious news coverage and thoughtful policy discussions with a focus on partisan gamesmanship and the most extreme elements of the ‘other’ party. This blatant distraction — a refocusing of the public attention away from the issues that matter — lulls each side’s voters into complacency. It grants a non-principled President even more leeway to betray the interests of his own supporters. He can quietly serve the entrenched interests, in exchange for millions in campaign contributions, and yet still remain confident his constituents — shocked by the nightly broadcasting of extreme Tea Party and Rush Limbaugh rhetoric — will continue to support him.

Is it a mere coincidence that Fox News Chairman Roger Aisles — who serves as the Republican Party’s propagandist-in-chief — decided to cancel Glenn Beck just before the 2012 Election cycle? Aisles understood better than anyone that Beck provokes fear and disgust in Centrists and Leftists alike. And that fear has a way of overshadowing the deep-seated feelings of betrayal shared by MANY who campaigned for Obama in 2008. Aisles knew that MSNBC and CNN would continue to devote an exorbitant amount of time each night focused on Beck’s crazy conspiratorial rants, and that this could only frighten and energize a largely disenchanted electorate to vote Democratic.

Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, et al actually steal the spotlight away from Obama’s right-of-center policies. Obama’s Milton Friedmanesque initiatives have failed to spark outrage amongst many Democrats, because they are completely captivated by the circus clowns on the far-Right. When liberal pundits roll clip after clip after clip of antics from the fringe-right, they divert their viewers’ attention from things such as the NAFTA-like ‘free trade’ deals Obama is quietly pushing through — gifts to multi-national corporations which will result in the exportation of hundreds of thousands more American jobs, and during one of the biggest unemployment crises since the Great Depression. They neglect to remind their viewer that Obama routinely slammed these very NAFTA-like trade deals during his campaign, promising his supporters he’d rewrite NAFTA if they elected him.

Why The Progressive Strategy Is Our Only Hope For Change

Progressives are of the mindset that the only way to transform this country into a more progressive one, is to heighten politicians’ FEAR of their own constituents in a way that rivals the fear instilled by deep-pocketed interest groups. Progressives know that politicians strategically move towards their ideological base, whenever confronted with political insecurity. 

When the Left calls Obama out in a way that penetrates the inner-beltway bubble — and becomes quantifiable by corresponding poll numbers — the President’s political advisers interpret this as voter repudiation. They realize his policy pendulum has swung too far Right in favor of entrenched interests and to the detriment of his own political stability. And it’s at this moment he begins to fear his supporters — the ones who elected him, and who will actually cast the votes in 2012. This leaves him with little choice, but to pivot towards his base and attempt to diffuse rising populist dissent.

Therein lies the key crucial difference between the two camps:

Progressives understand that when a President’s poll numbers drop he is more likely to push progressive priorities to appease his supporters. As such, the Left doesn’t believe its criticism of Obama in any way threatens the ends it hopes to achieve: progressive policies. If Obama stubbornly refuses to pivot to the Left then he has only himself to blame for a disenchanted, unenergized base come election time.

Partisans are always in campaign mode — viewing actual governing as little more than the muddy tracks of a perpetual horse race — and thus equate lowering poll numbers as a precursor to defeat. Therefore, as a group, they are incapable of ever pressuring their politicians to champion progressive causes or to promote meaningful change.

The message partisans continue to send to their Democratic representatives is this: “Just ignore me and everything I want, because I intend to campaign for you and vote for you regardless of what you do. I’ll even lie for you and cover up how you’ve screwed me every which way til Sunday — anything to ensure those scary Republicans don’t win.”

The Left hopes to send them the exact opposite message.

The US founding fathers, like today’s Progressives, understood that the one vital ingredient for maintaining a robust democracy is nothing less than FEAR itself:

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

~Thomas Jefferson

Well, today, we find ourselves living in a state of corporate tyranny, where change has become nothing more than a campaign slogan. Partisans have no one but themselves to blame for this sorry state of affairs.

When Lies And Conspiracies Are All You Have To Energize Your Base, Be Prepared For Violence

by on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 5:44 pm EDT in Politics

If a person falsely shouts ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, thereby creating a stampede in which innocent bystanders get trampled, then that person can be held liable, as was decided in the 1919 Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States. This verdict distinguished between untruthful statements used to incite violence (i.e. falsely shouting ‘fire’ in […]

War Of Words: Why Failed Theories, Like Reaganomics, Continue To Linger

by on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 2:55 pm EDT in Politics

The Republicans have long engaged in historic revisionism as a means of covering up a long record of failed policies and blunders.  Some of their most disastrous ideological experiments over the years, like Reaganomics, have been successfully re-framed into mythological successes.  Democrats have no one to blame for this, but themselves.  They’ve done next to […]

These Fox News Clips Show It For What It Isn’t: News

by on Saturday, October 24, 2009 at 12:58 am EDT in Politics

Watch these clips of Fox News programming (beginning from Obama’s inauguration), and then tell us with a straight face that Fox News is a real news network: It can’t be done.