Friday, September 28, 2012

Buck McKeon-- Charged With Keeping America's Biggest Moochers Shelling Out Cash For The GOP


The man behind the curtain

This week Frank Rich rethought a post of his from April, Sugar Daddies: The Old Rich White Men Who Are Buying This Election. It sounded dire and scary when I read it last spring... hideous, sociopathic and very dangerous plutocrats like Harold Simmons, David and Charles Koch, Sheldon Adelson, Irving Moscowitz, Steven Lund, Bob Perry, Peter Thiel, Jerry Perenchio, Robert Rowling, Foster Friess, William Dore, Philip Geier, Julian Robertson, Robert Mercer, Harlan Crow, Edward Conard, Paul Edgerley, John Paulson, Frank VanderSloot, Paul SInger... most of them financial predators angry that Democrats want to protect consumers from their deprecations. The names bolded are hedge fund managers, leveraged buy-out crooks and stock manipulators. Each has given at least a million dollars to the GOP this year, some much, much more. Now Rich is wondering if maybe the expected impact of the sugar daddies was overhyped.
It may turn out that many, including me, were more worried about the post–Citizens United wave of money from the Kochs and Adelsons than we had to be because (a) Romney proved an even weaker candidate than anyone imagined (which is saying something), and (b) he’s so weak that those pulling the strings of the super-PACs (e.g., Karl Rove) may in desperation start shifting money away from the national ticket to salvage troubled GOP Senate candidates. The most important political story so far this week was on the front page of Monday’s Wall Street Journal: It cites example after example of pro-Romney super-PAC expenditures failing to get the job done. Obama is up nearly ten points in Michigan and eight points in Pennsylvania even though right-wing super-PACS have spent $18 million on TV spots in those two states (more than twice the amount spent by the Obama campaign and a pro-Obama super-PAC combined). In North Carolina, the race is still close despite nearly $34 million in pro-Romney spending there (nearly 50 percent more than Obama forces have spent). Democratic Senate candidates are ahead in Ohio, Florida, and Virginia despite similarly huge pro-GOP super-PAC outlays in those races. As I wrote in my piece about attack ads, the quality of the ads matters, and Romney’s ever-shifting campaign strategy may have made it impossible for anyone on his side to come up with a devastating “Daisy” ad. And at this late point, the audience may be too desensitized to respond to one in any case. (Just go to a swing state and turn on the television for an hour; the volume is shocking.) Money’s biggest role in the final weeks may be on the ground, not on the air-- an advantage for the better-organized Obama.
Thursday Dan Eggen explained, technically, why all that money flowing from the avaricious billionaires into Romney-backing SuperPACs isn't as nearly as effective as the money Obama has coming in.
As the presidential campaigns step up the pace of their multimillion-dollar spending sprees, President Obama has a little-noticed strategic advantage that gives him more control over the money he has raised.

While Mitt Romney relies heavily on massive amounts of cash held by the Republican Party and interest groups, Obama has more funds in his own campaign coffers. That allows him to make decisions about where and how to spend the money and to take better advantage of discounted ad rates, which candidates receive under federal law.

In one Ohio ad buy slated to run just before the election, for example, Obama is paying $125 for a spot that is costing a conservative super PAC $900.

The imbalance could prove crucial over the next six weeks, when the candidates and their allies are expected to burn through about $1 billion worth of advertising in battleground states and deploy thousands of staffers and volunteers to drum up votes. With $1.5 billion already spent on the White House race, the final barrage will help determine whether Romney can turn around his fortunes and defeat the incumbent.

Boehner appointed McKeon chairman of the House Armed Services Committee for exactly one reason: McKeon is a dependable shill who could be counted on to shake down arms makers and war contractors for Republican Members of the House. That's his job. McKeon is the #1 recipient in the whole Congress (both Houses) of blood money from the arms makers and military contractors. So far this cycle he's taken in $481,850-- not counting what he was able to extort from the companies for his wife's ridiculous and failed California state Assembly run, which saw national defense corporations donating to a state legislative race for the first time in history. All  that cash was pure, unadulterated bribery for McKeon. He's also the #1 recipient in the whole Congress ($186,500) of war industries PAC cash.

McKeon's crooked PAC has raised closed to half a million dollars so far this cycle and the biggeste dcontributors include every big weapons maker in America: General Electric, General Dynamics, Boeing, BAE Systems, Lockhead Martin, Nortthrop Grumman, DynCorp, EADS, General Atomics, Alliant Techsystems, Honeywell, Raytheon... You get the picture. Most of this money goes into McKeon's pockets by way of payments to his wife, children and other  relatives. But he also doles out checks to other Republican candidates (as well as $5,000 to Boener, who has no opponent). Among the Republicans who McKeon wrote PAC checks to are disgraced war criminal Allen West (FL), Joe Coors (CO), Mike Coffman (CO), Charlie Bass (NH), Frank Guinta (NH), Brian Bilbray (CA), Richard Tisei (MA), Adam Hasner (FL), Mia Love (UT), Todd Young (IN), Dan Lungren (CA), and dozens more. And McKeon also directs his Military Industrial Complex finaciers to write checks for less powerful and more needy Republican backbenchers-- hundreds of thousands of dollars worth. Every cent of that money is paid many times over by taxpayers  who foot extravagent bills for weapons systems that factors all the bribes into the pie.

McKeon is also fellow Mormon Mitt Romney's point person with the arms industry and he's helped Romney wring $395,932 out of the sector so far. This week former GOP congressional staffer Mike Lofgren penned an OpEd for TruthOut, Meet the Welfare Queens of the 1%: The Moochers Mitt Missed Work for the Pentagon. Like everyone else talking about Mitt Romney these days, his kick off point is Romney's secretly recorded remarks dispargaing 47% of Americans as moochers and deadbeats. He says that if "Romney were to broaden his focus, he would find that there are welfare queens beyond his imaginings. In the last four years, Wall Street moguls such as Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein have reaped tremendous public scorn for their outsized paychecks, so their transgressions are not exactly a secret. At least in theory, however, bankers operate private enterprises not dependent on the taxpayer (that is, in good years when the government is not bailing them out)." He was just getting warmed up.
[T]here is no dispute about the status of major Pentagon contractors, their utter dependency on government, and their outsized profiteering. Lockheed Martin, the largest contractor, receives about 85 percent of its revenues from US Government contracts. Government sales accounted for more than 90 percent of revenue to Northrop Grumman, the fourth largest contractor, during the last three years.

Unlike the cases of Dimon or Blankfein, I doubt one American in a thousand knows who Wes Bush is. The CEO of Northrop Grumman, he made over $26 million last year, exceeding JPMorgan Chase's payout to Dimon, the highest paid bank CEO. In fact, the chiefs of the five largest Department of Defense (DoD) contracting firms hauled in $107 million combined, more than the top five bank CEOs (who limped in with a mere $75 million altogether). Yet somehow, this form of income redistribution through the medium of government manages to bounce off the consciousness of people like Romney and his supporters like Swedish peas off an Abrams tank.

Indeed, as I have argued more comprehensively elsewhere, the public rarely notices how much the DoD budget contributes to an upward redistribution of income from the many to the relatively few. The Washington, DC, suburbs are a notable example of this. At a time when median income and net worth have fallen nationally, income in DC's surrounding counties has surged, with seven of the ten richest counties in the nation now lying in the Washington region.

While government employees are well-compensated, there are statutory limits to their pay, so they do not account for the explosion of 5,000-square-foot McMansions, gated communities, and similar gaudy excrescences in the capital's outer suburbs. This phenomenon has gone hand-in-hand with the last decade's explosion in the contracting out of government services and the huge and uncompetitive profit margins this process generates-- particularly in DoD, but also Homeland Security and government-wide information technology.

Yet the peculiar sociology of the military-industrial complex paradoxically allows for a government-dependent population that disproportionately thinks of itself as small-government conservative and heavily votes GOP. This is particularly true in outer-suburban counties like Loudoun that are rural enough to maintain the illusion of a free Jeffersonian yeomanry among the many contractor personnel living on their sham estates in what was once Virginia's horse country.

In addition, the Pentagon budget is a net drain on jobs nationally, rather than a net creator. A dollar spent on road building, health care or just about any other employment activity creates more jobs than a dollar appropriated to DoD. And while the military budget generates a few pockets of prosperity, such as the DC suburbs or San Diego, it draws money out of more congressional districts than it benefits.

It will be fascinating to see the howls of dismay from defense contractor executives if, on January1, 2013, Congress really does walk the country over the so-called "fiscal cliff" and the Pentagon budget faces cuts. And what would be their reaction to a modest proposal to cushion the blow to our troops in the field by forcing these executives to take a pay cut? Why should a company that receives more than, say, two-thirds of its revenue from government pay its executives more than the $400,000 annual salary that the President of the United States receives? Any more than that would simply demonstrate the kind of grasping dependency on taxpayers that Mr. Romney abhors.

And, yes, of course Wes Bush has given directly to McKeon-- something like $7,000 in the last few years-- even apart from the massive bribes he has authorized that Northrup Grumman pays McKeon for services rendered.

But perhaps all the billionaire cash isn't going to work because most Americans are fed up with right-wing ideology. The polls all indicate the whole country-- outside Wall Street, the Old Confederacy, the Mormon states and Fox News' poor brainwashed viewers-- are rejecting the whole GOP schtik, from the forced ultrasounds to all the bigotry to the voodoo economics. And that's all they've got... except this. They've got this:

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