Tuesday, February 09, 2016

New Hampshire Now: What Voters Should Be Thinking About As They Make Their Final Decisions


Lots of progressive organizations are making a big deal out of Hillary Clinton taking a pledge to not cut Social Security. MSNBC Maddow blogger Steve Benen featured it on their blog yesterday. What's next? "Hillary Clinton is not still a Republican?" Yes, it's good she made the pledge-- second nature to progressives like Bernie but a real stretch to a multimillionaire corporatist like her-- especially when so many of her congressional Leadership Team back cuts. Benen explains why he thinks it's significant and a big deal.
In most of the major debt-reduction plans put forward in recent years -- the Grand Bargain, Simpson-Bowles, et al-- Democrats have been asked to accept some Social Security cuts as part of a broader compromise. For many on the left, such a provision is not only a deal-breaker, it’s also backwards, since they believe Social Security should be expanded, not cut.

And with this in mind, many progressive activists are looking for commitments from the presidential candidate: are Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton prepared to rule out Social Security cuts if elected? Sanders wasted no time in making that vow, tweeting on Friday, “I urge Sec. Clinton to join me in saying loudly and clearly that we will never cut Social Security.”
Clinton's husband has turned into a full-time attack dog against Bernie and he's dragging his name through the mud in the process. Unfortunately for Hillary, it's her name as well. Perhaps the Clinton's are desperate to get the election narrative to move away from her being a Wall Street pawn. Lee Fang's story in yesterday's Intercept is the last thing in the world the Clintons want voters to be talking about when they head for the polls today. And now her off-kilter campaign is buzzing about which incompetents are going to be fired on Wednesday or next week. Long time family retainer, sleazy lobbyist Tony Podesta-- brother of her equally sleazy campaign chairman-- closes Fang's story with a cringe-worthy quote. Discounting Bernie entirely, he predicted that Hillary would probably be the next president and that "whomever the next president is will not maintain the lobbying ban. It was a good applause line for Obama, but it didn’t seem to make much sense for policy." He asserted that Obama's ban on registered lobbyists will disappear if Hillary wins and that K Street will find a more welcome home in a Clinton White House. 

No doubt, since half her campaign is run by a pack of predatory, crooked lobbyists whose bread and butter depends on the success of the Clinton enterprise. She may want people to think she's the guardian of Obama's progressive policies but she doesn't count any of his anti-corruption policies, since her entire political career is based on corruption. The consultants and corporate lobbyists who run her campaign on every level help define what's wrong with American politics and many of them have worked hard and long to defeat all of the progressive policies she claims, thinly, she will protect. New Hampshire voters need to judge her on her disgustingly anti-progressive Senate record and on who's on her payroll, not on her laughable campaign promises.

Consultants associated with the Dewey Square Group, a lobbying firm that has been retained by business interests to defeat a variety of progressive reforms, are playing a major role in the Clinton campaign. Charles Baker III, the co-founder of Dewey, is a senior strategist and the campaign’s chief administrative officer. Michael Whouley, another Dewey co-founder, played an early role in advising Clinton’s plan for the current campaign by convening some of the very first strategy sessions. Senior Dewey officials Jill Alper and Minyon Moore are also close advisers and fundraisers for Clinton, while at least four other Clinton officials have worked at Dewey within the last four years. In addition, disclosures show that Clinton’s Super PACs Priorities USA Action and Correct the Record have also paid Dewey Square Group for a variety of services in this election.

Dewey, for instance, worked on behalf of the health insurance industry during the health reform debate, specifically to block the changes to Medicare Advantage that were critical for financing the Affordable Care Act. Medicare Advantage, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to use plans administered by private insurers, had long served as a cash cow for the health insurance industry. By one estimate, insurance companies over-billed the government by nearly $70 billion in improper payments over just a five year period. Dewey, which had been tapped to by health insurers to block cuts from the program starting in 2007, continued during the Obama era to lobby to protect Medicare Advantage, even as such reforms became a major part of how Democrats and the Obama administration sought to finance the Affordable Care Act.

One of the more deceptive components of the Dewey lobbying strategy was uncovered when an editor at the Lawrence, Massachusetts, Eagle-Tribune realized that the firm had worked quietly to place letters to the editor against cuts to Medicare Advantage under the names of elderly Massachusetts residents without their knowledge or consent.
That's the Hillary show-- always has been; always will be. She talks a good game to the voting public but what Charles Blow referred to in yesterday's NY Times as her "Half A Dream" may not be as horrible what the Republicans have in store, but is plenty horrible-- and not fit for a Democratic Party primary campaign. She represents the Blue Dog/New Dem contingent and her agenda is to go through the primary and the election and then revert to form. Young voters can smell it-- when is why only 17% of Democrats under 30 years old who caucused last week, picked her. (A stunning 84% went for Bernie, who, unlike Clinton, rings authentic. She defines inauthentic.) Clinton, Blow wrote, "represents much of what [young people] distrust or even despise. There is an aura of ethical ambiguity-- from the emails to the Wall Street paid speeches to the super PACs. (There is growing pressure for her to release the transcripts of those speeches and have the content of them compared to her public pronouncement.) There is the legacy of her military hawkishness, including her Iraq war vote. There is the articulation of her positions that are at odds with young folks’ aspirations and sensibilities, like saying Thursday, 'I don’t believe in free college,' and saying that she continues to support capital punishment. But possibly the most damaging of Clinton’s attributes is, ironically, her practicality. As one person commented to me on social media: Clinton is running an I-Have-Half-A-Dream campaign. That simply doesn’t inspire young people brimming with the biggest of dreams. Clinton’s message says: Aim lower, think smaller, move slower. It says, I have more modest ambitions, but they are more realistic."
Other lobbyists now closely associated with the Clinton campaign were active in the fight against Obama’s health reforms.

Heather Podesta is one of the most prolific fundraisers for the Clinton campaign, having personally raised at least $348,581, according to recently filed disclosures. In 2009 and 2010, Podesta worked as lobbyist for the health insurance company Cigna. While working for Cigna to influence the health reform bill, Cigna was one of several large health insurers to secretly provide over $86 million in secret payments used to air negative television and radio advertisements to defeat the law. Heather Podesta is one of several lobbyists now fundraising for the campaign who previously worked for insurance interests to influence health reform. Irene Bueno, a fundraiser who raised $26,675, lobbied on behalf of CareMore (a division of health insurer Anthem) and Blue Shield of California to influence health reform as the bill was being debated. Bueno and Podesta did not respond to a request for comment.

On financial reform, Clinton has similarly tied herself to Obama’s legacy. Speaking with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last month, Clinton asserted that on Dodd-Frank, Obama’s financial reform legislation, she is one of the “many Democrats” who are “fighting to prevent it from being turned back.”

Clinton’s inner circle, however, has lobbied to help obstruct and roll back many of Dodd-Frank’s signature reforms.

The Benenson Strategy Group, the consulting firm run by Joel Benenson, now serving as the Clinton campaign’s chief pollster and strategist, was retained by the Financial Services Forum, a lobbying group for Wall Street interests such as Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Lobbying records show the Financial Services Forum has worked over the years to weaken a variety of Dodd-Frank reforms. In 2013, the Financial Services Forum paid Benenson’s firm $273,459 to lobby on a number of rules that were mandated by Dodd-Frank, including capital requirements designed to prevent another financial crisis. Danny Franklin, a partner with the Benenson Stategy Group, wrote to The Intercept to say the Financial Services Forum is not currently a client of his firm, but declined to comment any further.

Last month, Benenson convened a conference call with reporters to “deride Bernie Sanders for airing an ad that criticized Wall Street firms and the politicians who accept their donations,” according to a report from International Business Times. As IBTimes reported, Benenson has also represented JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, among other corporate clients.

Steve Elmendorf, a campaign adviser and fundraiser who has collected $30,505 for Clinton, was retained by Goldman Sachs as one of the bank’s “primary lobbyists” working to weaken the Dodd-Frank bill. Records show that after the bill was signed into law, Elmendorf continued to work on behalf of a number of Wall Street clients to ensure the implementation was favorable to financial industry interests. Elmendorf was tapped by Citigroup, for example, to help the House of Representatives pass the Swap Jurisdiction Clarity Act, a bill strongly supported by Republican leadership in Congress to allow banks to avoid financial regulations by moving some operations overseas-- a change that experts say could lead to another financial meltdown.

Elmendorf is one of many lobbyists who worked to influence Dodd-Frank now helping the Clinton campaign raise cash. Dewey co-founder Charles Baker worked on a lobbying team with DLA Piper’s Matthew Bernstein, another major Clinton fundraiser, for Citizen Financial Group to help the bank lobby on Dodd-Frank. Disclosures show the efforts included work on the Volcker Rule, derivatives regulations, and rules concerning overdraft fees, many of the top concerns for the banking industry. Arshi Siddiqui, a lobbyist with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld who is currently helping to raise money for the Clinton campaign, worked to influence Dodd-Frank implementation on behalf of the Mortgage Bankers Association, according to disclosures. Tony Podesta, the brother of the Clinton campaign’s chairman and a fundraiser for the campaign, worked for Bank of America to influence Dodd-Frank, according to filings.
Remember, Hillary insists she's a progressive on one stage while her husband is down the road on another stage bragging that she's been praised by war criminal Henry Kissinger, not exactly a hero to progressives. Instead of paying attention to Bill Clinton's vitriolic and false claims about Bernie, New Hampshire voters should ask themselves if they want one of the two outcomes of voting for Clinton today: a thoroughly sleazy administration that will disgust Americans or a Republican victory in November. And if you don't live in New Hampshire or if you do and are absent today...
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