Koches, Singers, Murdochs... The Vultures Move In For The Kill (We're The Kill)
Yesterday we started the day here at DWT with a report on the People For the American Way candidates' pledge regarding a constitutional amendment ending corporate dominance of our electoral system. Frank Rich's NY Times column dealt with the billionaires bankrolling the idiot, drooling teabaggers. He dealt with what's behind the curtain, what he calls the "one element missing from these snapshots of America’s ostensibly spontaneous and leaderless populist uprising: the sugar daddies who are bankrolling it, and have been doing so since well before the 'death panel' warm-up acts of last summer."
Three heavy hitters rule. You’ve heard of one of them, Rupert Murdoch. The other two, the brothers David and Charles Koch, are even richer, with a combined wealth exceeded only by that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett among Americans. But even those carrying the Kochs’ banner may not know who these brothers are.
Their self-interested and at times radical agendas, like Murdoch’s, go well beyond, and sometimes counter to, the interests of those who serve as spear carriers in the political pageants hawked on Fox News. The country will be in for quite a ride should these potentates gain power, and given the recession-battered electorate’s unchecked anger and the Obama White House’s unfocused political strategy, they might.
All three tycoons are the latest incarnation of what the historian Kim Phillips-Fein labeled “Invisible Hands” in her prescient 2009 book of that title: those corporate players who have financed the far right ever since the du Pont brothers spawned the American Liberty League in 1934 to bring down F.D.R. You can draw a straight line from the Liberty League’s crusade against the New Deal “socialism” of Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission and child labor laws to the John Birch Society-Barry Goldwater assault on J.F.K. and Medicare to the Koch-Murdoch-backed juggernaut against our “socialist” president.
Only the fat cats change-- not their methods and not their pet bugaboos (taxes, corporate regulation, organized labor, and government “handouts” to the poor, unemployed, ill and elderly). Even the sources of their fortunes remain fairly constant. Koch Industries began with oil in the 1930s and now also spews an array of industrial products, from Dixie cups to Lycra, not unlike DuPont’s portfolio of paint and plastics. Sometimes the biological DNA persists as well. The Koch brothers’ father, Fred, was among the select group chosen to serve on the Birch Society’s top governing body. In a recorded 1963 speech that survives in a University of Michigan archive, he can be heard warning of “a takeover” of America in which Communists would “infiltrate the highest offices of government in the U.S. until the president is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.” That rant could be delivered as is at any Tea Party rally today.
Last week the Kochs were shoved unwillingly into the spotlight by the most comprehensive journalistic portrait of them yet, written by Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. Her article caused a stir among those in Manhattan’s liberal elite who didn’t know that David Koch, widely celebrated for his cultural philanthropy, is not merely another rich conservative Republican but the founder of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which, as Mayer writes with some understatement, “has worked closely with the Tea Party since the movement’s inception.” To New Yorkers who associate the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center with the New York City Ballet, it’s startling to learn that the Texas branch of that foundation’s political arm, known simply as Americans for Prosperity, gave its Blogger of the Year Award to an activist who had called President Obama “cokehead in chief.”
The other major sponsor of the Tea Party movement is Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, which, like Americans for Prosperity, is promoting events in Washington this weekend. Under its original name, Citizens for a Sound Economy, FreedomWorks received $12 million of its own from Koch family foundations. Using tax records, Mayer found that Koch-controlled foundations gave out $196 million from 1998 to 2008, much of it to conservative causes and institutions. That figure doesn’t include $50 million in Koch Industries lobbying and $4.8 million in campaign contributions by its political action committee, putting it first among energy company peers like Exxon Mobil and Chevron. Since tax law permits anonymous personal donations to nonprofit political groups, these figures may understate the case. The Kochs surely match the in-kind donations the Tea Party receives in free promotion 24/7 from Murdoch’s Fox News, where both Beck and Palin are on the payroll.
And on Friday night Eric Lichtblau reported on another far right billionaire willing to pony-up nearly unlimited funds to influence the outcome of elections to enrich himself and his cronies, Wall Street predator Paul Singer. The publicly available list of direct contributions Singer has made to the GOP, right-wing politicians and right-wing causes is breathtaking-- and investigators say it is just a small fraction of what he's dumped into the far right indirectly. If you search "Singer, Paul" in New York, "all cycles," at Open Secrets, you come up with five pages of reported contributions led off by $200,000 to the NRSC on October 7, 2002. $140,000 to the NRSC on July 12, 2000, $100,000 on June 4, 1998 to a GOP committee, another $80,000 on August 27, 1999 to the NRSC and $80,000 more to the same folks on December 4, 2001. Local Republican party operations in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, Colorado, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc were flowing at the same times-- as were hefty checks to all the worst and most corrupt right wing political hacks in America: Marco Rubio ($3,142 + $742), Mitch McConnell ($4,600 + $2,300 +$1,000 +$1,000). Rob Portman ($2,400 + $742), Eric Cantor ($2,400 + $2,400 +1,000) Joe Lieberman ($10,500), Jim DeMint ($2,400), Mark Kirk ($2,400 + $2,400), Roy Blunt ($2,400 +$1,000 + $742), Richard Burr ($2,000), David Vitter ($2,000), Carly Fiorina ($1,800), John Boehner ($1,000), Pat Toomey ($2,400 +$742)... five pages, nearly a million and a half dollars, thousands more to McCain, Bush, Giuliani, Cornyn and dozens of equally disreputable characters (including, I might add, Chuck Schumer).
Singer is a hedge fund manager of the worst sort, the vulture fund. Robber baron doesn't begin to describe what he is. In more rational societies he would have been locked up as a danger many years ago. His worst nightmare is a muscular government working to protect society from the financial machinations of ruthless, greed-obsessed sociopaths like himself.
He has become one of the biggest bankrollers of Republican causes, giving more than $4 million of his money and raising millions more through fund-raisers he hosts for like-minded candidates who often share his distaste for what they view as governmental over-meddling in the financial industry.
The same day in June that the House gave final approval to the sweeping overhaul of financial regulations, Mr. Singer had a fund-raiser at his Central Park West apartment, netting more than $1 million for seven Republican Senate candidates who had opposed the bill. His hedge fund, Elliott Management, is the biggest source of money to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
...In April, he gave $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association, along with smaller donations this election cycle to more than two dozen other conservative campaigns.
At his June fund-raiser, Mr. Singer voiced frustration not only over financial policies in Washington, but also on national security and foreign policy, particularly what he saw as the Obama administration’s inadequate support for Israel, according to a friend at the fund-raiser who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not comfortable speaking publicly about his guarded associate.