Monday, October 26, 2015

What Do Big Donors Expect From The Legalistic Bribes They Pay Politicians?


The other day I was nosing around the Open Secrets website to see who was giving what to which candidates and their various SuperPACs. It's been widely reported that Hillary has taken in $97,763,283 in total-- most of it ($77,471,604) for his own campaign committee and the rest for her SuperPACs ($20,291,679). The biggest amounts of money came from these entities:

Corning? $209,100. What's that all about, I wondered. They're not Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley. Why is so much Hillary money coming from this one firm in a very Republican part of upstate New York? (While New York state gave Obama a landslide win over Romney-- 63-36%-- in 2012, Steuben County, home of Corning, in the Southern Tier, was one of Obama's worst performing counties-- just 41%.) The elected officials are all Republicans-- from Congressman Tom Reed and homophobic state Senator Tom O'Mara to 3 right-wing Assemblymen, Philip Palmesano, hate talk radio host William Nojay and Joseph Giglio.

Bloomberg reporter Zach Mider tracks money flows in U.S. politics and he published a story this morning that explains why she's getting so much from Corning, Clinton's Ties to Corning Turn Republican Stronghold Into Cash Cow. It's early in the cycle and Clinton is likely to walk away with a good quarter million dollars from Corning before its over-- despite the fact that "the company's leaders have been enmeshed in Republican politics ever since they backed James Garfield for president in 1880. Two different sons of the founding Houghton family have gone to Congress on the GOP ticket after running the company." It's not the corporation itself-- whatever that is in Mitt Romney's added brain-- but the employees who are so into her-- more than 100 of them. Before we look at the heart of Mider's piece, though, I just want to call your attention to a very different kind of campaign finance piece, this one by Beth Reinhard and Chris Stewart in Sunday's Wall Street Journal, Jeb Bush Moves Between Campaign and SuperPAC With Ease. It's hard to walk away from their story without the district impression that Jeb is breaking the law that prohibits coordination between SuperPACs and campaigns. Unlike the Hillary situation, his SuperPAC has raised-- with his very active participation-- much more than his campaign: $103,222,384 for the SuperPAC and $24,814,730 for the campaign committee. 93% of his money comes from large donations, as opposed to 81% of hers and just 22% of Bernie's.
Some presidential candidates are openly embracing super PACs, even helping them to raise money, giving the campaigns a connection to vast wealth with few restrictions but also risking a loss of control.

This new, closer relationship between campaign and political action committee is a departure from previous years when candidates kept these outside organizations at arms’ length for fear of crossing legal lines.

Candidates are allowed to appear at events organized by super PACS as long as they don’t ask for more than $5,000.

Super PACs back most of the 2016 candidates, among them retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. But few have embraced the outside groups as tightly as Mr. Bush.

One week after his campaign launch in Miami, Mr. Bush attended a reception that drew about 200 people to a donor’s home in Jacksonville, Fla.

Later, he and more than a dozen attendees and some campaign aides drove less than two miles to another home for a catered dinner organized by the super PAC. The campaign aides stayed in a separate room, away from the donors in the dining room, according to people who were there.

Asked about going from one Jacksonville event to the other, donor Richard Jones joked: “We went through a big steel door and were frisked.”

Mr. Jones gave $2,700 to the campaign and, four days later, gave $25,000 to the super PAC.

“It was like having dinner with an old friend,” said Jacksonville transportation executive Michael Ward, who wrote a $25,000 check to the super PAC on top of the $100,000 he had already donated, federal records show. “It’s what the rules of the game are right now.”

But some donors are uncomfortable with the new status quo. Michael Burns, a Lionsgate movie studio executive, attended both Nantucket events but only gave to the campaign. All contributions, he said, should be capped.

“A major donor to a super PAC has an agenda and seeks influence,” Mr. Burns said. “It’s why the PAC was created in the first place.”
Jeb's whole operation is beginning to fall apart at the seams, perhaps irretrievably now. That remark about donors seeking influence is not supposed to be said out loud-- not ever  Only Bernie, who has no SuperPAC, ever talks about it. The Clinton fundraising in the Bloomberg piece sounds very different though, at least on the surface.
[I]n July, the current CEO, a registered Republican named Wendell Weeks, gathered some 150 friends and employees in a hotel ballroom in the tiny company town of Corning to welcome the firm's clear favorite for president of the United States: Hillary Clinton.

Clinton's relationship with Corning, a major employer in upstate New York, date to when she served as the state's junior U.S. senator, but they seem only to have strengthened since she left that role almost seven years ago. Over 100 Corning employees have given her campaign a combined $196,700 so far this year, her second-biggest source of contributions by any employer, and ahead of the Wall Street investment banks and Washington lobbying firms that usually give the most in presidential contests. Only three employees gave to other candidates.

Her ability to sustain her ties to Corning points to one of the strengths of her campaign for the presidency: a Rolodex built over decades in public life and painstakingly maintained, offering her a formidable list of allies and more campaign contributions-- $77 million-- than anyone in either party in the 2016 race. (Jeb Bush is ahead only if independent super-PAC funds are included.) It also points to a potential weakness: she's been criticized for blurring lines between her official duties, fundraising, and personal finances, such as with the corporations that have bankrolled her family foundation and supported her and her husband's lucrative speaking business.

Corning has done both, but James Flaws, the chief financial officer and a co-host of the July fundraiser, said the company doesn't stand to gain more than anyone else if she becomes president. "We're voting for someone who we think is an effective leader for the country," he said.

Clinton's campaign, in an e-mailed statement, didn't comment on her relationship with Corning but said she's "committed to making sure we have an economy that works for all Americans and not just those at the top."

In interviews, some of Clinton's advocates at the company and in the region said they didn't expect special attention of the kind they enjoyed when she was in the Senate, nor could they point to any of her campaign pledges that would particularly benefit them. They said they just got to know her when she was their senator, and thought she did a good job. They recalled times when she remembered a name, found money to fix a road,  or cut short a nap on the campaign trail to meet with a local official.

"She's been a friend to us in Corning, and you support your friends," said Thomas Blumer, 65, a retired supply-chain executive at the company and a lifelong Republican who contributed $2,000.

Amory Houghton Jr., 89, is a scion of the company's founding family who served as company chairman through the 1980's, and later as a Republican congressman. After his wife died in 2012, he recalls getting a call from Clinton, who was serving as secretary of state at the time.

"She was in Uzbekistan or something like that. She called up and said how sorry she was," he said. "You could say that was political. I don't think it was. I thought it was wonderful. Those human touches really made a tremendous difference here."

One sunny spring day in 2003, Clinton stood outside Corning's headquarters in a bright orange pants suit, gazing at the back end of an idling school bus. She was there for a demonstration of a ceramic filter the company had invented to reduce diesel pollution. An official held a white cloth over the tailpipe, then handed it, still immaculate, to the senator. She sniffed it. "It's like a magic trick," she remarked to a local newspaper, the Star-Gazette. Not long after, Clinton helped direct hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to equip buses and trucks across the country with Corning's technology.

At the time, the 164-year-old company's shares were near their lowest point in decades, and it needed the help. A firm that crafted some of Thomas Edison's first light bulbs had, by the end of the 1990's, shifted focused from glassmaking to fiber optics. When the telecommunications boom went bust just after Clinton joined the Senate, Corning nearly went out of business. It recovered by boosting sales of a broader group of products, including the emissions filters, liquid-crystal displays for TV's and computer screens, and the high-tech glass in smartphones. It now has about 35,000 employees around the world, including about 5,000 in the Corning area, nearly half the population of the town.

Senator Clinton helped in other ways, such as intervening in a trade dispute with China over fiber-optics tariffs, and upgrading a key highway. The company reciprocated, directing thousands to her Senate re-election campaign from top executives and through its political action committee.

The support continued after Clinton left the Senate for the State Department in 2009. When she sought to raise $60 million in corporate funding to pay for an American pavilion at a world expo in China the following year, Corning kicked in $500,000. Corning also cut a check of at least $100,000 to her family's foundation, and paid her $225,000 last year to give a speech to about 200 top executives.

Corning spokesman Daniel Collins said the company's contribution to the Clinton's foundation was to support an initiative to promote the advancement of women into senior corporate positions. As for the expo in China, he noted that the company employs more than 5,000 people in the country and an additional 10,000 in the Asia-Pacific region.

For her part, Clinton continued to be helpful to the company while at the State Department, according to Blumer, the former supply-chain executive. "If we needed to know who to deal with somewhere around the world, she could help with names," he said.

Flaws, the CFO, said he scrawled personalized notes to so many hundreds of his friends and colleagues, asking them to come to the $1,000-a-seat July fundraiser, that his hand got sore. As he remarked to the Star-Gazette in 2003, "The Clinton-Corning partnership is very rewarding for both of us."

None of these crooks in the chart below have given to Hillary's campaign. Do you think they expect anything special from the campaigns they have funded though? Or are they just really, really, really civic-minded?

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At 1:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do big donors expect? They want the world and they want it now. Puppets like Hillary are expected to deliver on their desires, but to pass the costs on to We the People. After all, haven't the destitute wealthy already suffered enough having to buy public services through buying public servants?

At 5:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We spend about a $trillion per year on our system of perpetual war and domestic spying. This is roughly a half the discretionary budget.

I am patiently waiting Sanders's plan to deal with severely limiting the creation of billionaires via that monstrous indulgence.

John Puma

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At 8:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To add little color to this excellent post: Apple uses lots of Corning's high-tech super hard glass in i-phones.

If elected Clinton will find a way to sign TPP and support US tech firms that manufacture in other countries, as opposed to getting jobs sent back here. That's what Corning and similar donors are paying for.

There is no way that Clinton, who likes to bomb weak countries, will ever stand up to China unless she is absolutely forced to.


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