Friday, March 16, 2012

Elizabeth Warren, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Scott Brown And Sugar Money


Banana Republic-- a Koch & a couple of Fanjuls... pure sleaze

This week the AFL-CIO issued an exceptionally strong-- and welcome-- statement on Citizens United. I wish the Democratic Party was as clear and straight-forward.
Two years ago, the Supreme Court seriously undermined our democracy when, continuing a trend of deregulatory campaign finance decisions, it ruled to allow unlimited independent campaign spending by business corporations and other groups.

The Citizens United ruling further tilted the playing field in favor of the 1% and against the 99%, whose voices are being drowned out by excessive spending and influence by corporations and the wealthy.

Since the Citizens United ruling came down, and particularly since the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement, there has been growing momentum in support of public policy solutions aimed at curbing excessive corporate influence and restoring greater balance in our political process. From federal and state initiatives to bring about greater transparency and disclosure of spending by corporate interests and wealthy donors, to proposals for a constitutional amendment restoring Congress’ ability to regulate campaign spending, to calls for abolishing corporate "personhood," people from coast to coast have sounded the alarm about the need for reforms to rein in excessive corporate influence in our democracy.

The AFL-CIO supports the overturning of the Citizens United decision and calls for immediate action to end the dominance of our political system by corporations and the 1%. The AFL-CIO has long advocated for measures to bring about greater fairness, openness and participation in elections-- reforms that enfranchise voters and ensure that wealth does not wield disproportionate influence. We support public financing of campaigns, limitations on individual contributions to candidates and parties and public disclosure of political expenditures. We also support measures to enable citizens to vote more easily, and we oppose voter identification and similar measures that are aimed at seizing partisan advantage through disenfranchisement. And, we oppose misleadingly labeled “paycheck protection” measures that would exacerbate inequality by hampering union political activity while leaving corporate and rich individuals’ political spending unimpeded.

The Citizens United ruling has opened the floodgates to massive spending by corporations and even more so by wealthy donors. They are pouring money into our electoral system and threaten to drown out the voices of hard-working Americans. Common-sense restrictions on their spending are needed, along with robust disclosure of their contributions and expenditures-- including their contributions to organizations engaged in electoral activity.

The AFL-CIO also supports reforms aimed at restoring business corporations to their proper role as commercial institutions and limiting their influence in the political sphere. Business corporations are not people-- they are manmade creatures of law that exist to generate economic activity and create jobs and income in communities. The notion that they should enjoy the same rights and protections as natural persons is absurd and it is destructive to our democracy. At the same time, for more than a century, corporations have enjoyed certain constitutional protections, such as due process protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, which are consistent with basic American values. We support reforms, including changes to our tax laws and corporate laws, that address corporate dominance of our political system and that restore corporations to their proper role in our democracy.

Congress should pass and the Supreme Court should uphold the necessary reforms to protect our democracy from the power of money. As long as Citizens United remains the law of the land, constitutional change may be the only option. Amending the U.S. Constitution should be a rare act, done with the greatest of care. To earn our support, any such amendment must be carefully and narrowly crafted to protect our democracy from the economic power of the 1%, while at the same time protecting the public’s right to organize politically through democratic organizations and movements.

Working people have a long and proud history of participating in our nation’s public life through our unions. Unions are by tradition and law democratic organizations, run on the basis of one member, one vote. In a union, dollars do not vote-- people do. Our unions bring us together in our union halls, our workplaces and our homes to discuss the issues facing our nation and to come together to make our voices heard in the political process. Unions are transparent organizations-- all of our spending, including our political spending, is disclosed in great detail to the general public and union members, as required by statute since 1959. Any campaign finance reform needs to recognize the fundamental distinction between the democratically governed communications among working people through unions and the unaccountable spending by corporations and the rich.

Normally when we talk about the criminal sugar barons, the Fanjul brothers, we're about to launch into a tirade against the Democrat they have in their pocket, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But it's important to remember, if the Fanjuls can control a third, or even half, of the Democratic Party, through Wasserman Schultz (at least on the matters that are of interest to them-- relations with Cuba and keeping the price of sugar artificially high)-- they have the whole GOP pretty much locked up. The Fanjuls define the whole idea of a banana republic in America; they are the quintessential plutocrats who have no place in our democracy-- and their servants, like Wasserman Schultz, should be booted out with them. But today's Fanjul exposé has nothing whatsoever to do with Wasserman Schultz. Today's corrupt culprit is on the other side of the aisle and on the other side of the Capitol: Scott Brown. Is he as heinous and shady as Wasserman Schultz? Hey he's new in town; give him time-- he's on the way. Last month Brown was collecting checks at a ritzy Palm Beach luncheon hosted by José “Pepe” Fanjul, the vice chairman, chief operating officer, and president of Fanjul Corp. and Florida Crystals Corporation, two Fanjul-family-owned sugar production companies. You don't recognize the name? The Domino sugar company is a subsidiary. Pepe Fanjul and his brother have been called the “Koch Brothers of South Florida” for their long record of political involvement and lobbying against industry regulations.
A 1998 Time magazine article by legendary reporters Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele called the Fanjul’s “the First Family of Corporate Welfare,” with more than $60 million in corporate subsidies benefiting their companies annually from the federal government.

But most disturbing are reports about the Fanjul’s Dominican Republic operations. In January, the Palm Beach Post reported that Wikileaks documents revealed the Fanjuls and their companies “muscled” lawmakers to kill the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which might have increased competition. A lawyer for the family dismissed any allegations of illegal or inappropriate lobbying as “chatty gossip.”

Big Sugar, a 2005 CBC documentary raised an even bigger concern. According to their investigation, workers for the Fanjul-owned Central Romano plantation work 12-hour days to earn just $2 a day. The workers go hungry in conditions that have been compared to slave labor. In a 2001 Vanity Fair article, attorney Edward Tuddenham called the treatment of sugar cane pickers under the Fanjul’s “modern-day slavery.” Their treatment of workers and the Florida everglades has been heavily questioned. Pepe Fanjul and his brother denied being barons, denied harming the everglades, and denied receiving subsidies in a 1997 New York Times letter to the editor. And in the CBC documentary, he said Centro Romano is the “most progressive employer in the Dominican Republic.”

Fanjul also made news in 2010 when the New York Post reported that his executive assistant is the ex-wife of former KKK leader David Duke and current wife of the former KKK grand wizard who runs a white-supremacist website. A company spokesman told the paper “While we may not agree with someone’s politics, we wouldn’t terminate them for that.”

Florida Sugar Company did not respond to an email requesting comment for this story.

When he kicked off his re-election campaign, Brown boasted, “Once again I won’t have the political establishment behind me – not the one on Beacon Hill, and certainly not the one on Capitol Hill.” Now we see it is the Florida GOP establishment he has in his pocket. But even with more than $750,000 in political contributions over the years, mostly to Republicans, one still has to wonder why Brown would risk aligning himself with a figure like Fanjul.

Well, it hasn't hurt Wasserman Schultz' headlong dash up the ladder of power. Of course, Wasserman Schultz meticulously drew her own district when she was in the Florida state legislature and she's never had an electoral challenge in her entire miserable career-- unless you include the challenge of working as the head of the DCCC's red-to-blue program while helping reelect 3 Fanjul Republican favorites in her neighborhood, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the notorious Diaz-Balart brothers, all of whom would have been working as lobbyists if not for Wasserman Schultz' very public undermining of their Democratic opponents. But unlike Wasserman Schultz easy-- some would say "fixed-- waltzes to reelection, Scott Brown has the formidable task of beat back a challenge from a Democratic woman who is nothing like Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Elizabeth Warren isn't corrupt and isn't in the pocket of every (or any) special interest with a bulging wallet.

Yesterday the GOP and its Massachusetts mouthpiece, the Boston Herald, claimed that DC Democrats were miffed because Elizabeth Warren had made a pact with Brown about excluding third party PACs from the Massachusetts Senate race. (Shelly Berkely is attempting to do the same thing in her own race against Republican lightweight Dean Heller.) Elizabeth's savvy campaign manager, Doug Rubin, a Bostonian, not a Beltway freak, explained to the Republican propaganda team at the Herald that "Elizabeth wanted an enforceable agreement keeping out third party ads because she believes it is the right thing to do. She is committed to running a strong, grassroots campaign." That's something that neither Republicans nor Democratic Beltway Insiders can relate to in any way. What they can relate to-- both Republican hacks like Scott Brown and Democratic Insiders like Debbie Wasserman Schultz is unending special interest bribes. Sit back and watch Big Sugar and understand why we have to cleanse our system of people like Wasserman Schultz and Brown and elect clean candidates like Elizabeth Warren-- which you can help to do right here at our Blue America Senate page.

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At 10:34 PM, Blogger WarrenG said...

Thanks for posting Howie. Never knew about this sugar story.


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