Sunday, April 03, 2016

Hillary Clinton's End Run Around Democracy-- Follow The Money


Presiding over a horrifying culture of corruption she must have learned when she was still a Republican

Cory Doctorow's BoingBoing post about Hillary campaign state-level money laundering shenanigans pointed me to an investigative piece by Margot Kidder that I had missed at Counterpunch, How Hillary Clinton Bought The Loyalty Of 33 State Democratic Parties. Doctorow:
The Supreme Court's 2014 McCutcheon v FEC ruling eliminated aggregate caps on individual campaign donations, and this paved the way for the DNC and the Hillary Victory Fund to collaborate with 33 state-level Democratic parties to accept $10,000 donations from the millionaires and billionaires who back Clinton, kicking them back up to Hillary, allowing each couple to donate up to $1.32M to the Clinton campaign.

$26 million was transferred from these state-level warchests to the Hillary Victory Fund. These funds were dispersed to the Hillary Clinton super PACs, like Hillary for America and Forward Hillary. The Hillary Victory Fund is administered by the Clinton Campaign's treasurer, Elizabeth Jones, who has the sole right to direct the funds.

In addition to laundering donations for the super-wealthy in service to the Clinton campaign, the state Democratic parties also appear to be peddling the loyalty of their super-delegates to the campaign, in a quid-pro-quo that directs a portion of Hillary's establishment backer's millions to the cash-strapped state organizations.
What do billionaires like Esprit Founder Susie Buell of California, and Sri Lankan lobbyist Imaad Zuberi of California, and media mogul Fred Eychaner of Chicago, and Donald Sussman hedgefund manager from New York and Chicago real estate mogul J.B Pritzker, and gay activist Jon Stryker of NY, and NRA and Viacom lobbyist Jeffrey Forbes and entertainment mogul Haim Saban all have in common?

They all appear to be brilliant business people who have all given millions to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and to her various PACS. And they all gave the Montana State Democratic Party $10,000 each in 2015. It is doubtful that many of them have any interest in Montana politics, or that they have even bothered to visit.

None of these are awful people; they are simply awfully rich. And they like their friend Hillary and want her to be the president. And if some of their millions will buy her way into the White House then so be it. None of this is illegal. But it makes a mockery of Ms. Clinton’s pledge to further the cause of campaign finance reform.
Every now and then you'll read about a Hillary super-delegate in Idaho or a Hillary super-delegate in Minnesota announcing that they will vote for Bernie at the convention because he won their state and district. What you don't see as often are the elected officials saying "screw the voters; I'm the super-delegate and I'm voting for Hillary no matter how many voters in my state are for Bernie's damn political revolution." But that overwhelming arrogance is the predominant feeling among members of the Democratic Establishment, particularly among senators and congressmembers. New Hampshire New Dem congresswoman Ann Kuster's constituents voted overwhelmingly-- over 60%-- for Bernie but Kuster doesn't care; she has no primary opponent and she as much as told her own constituents who want her to reflect the will of New Hampshire Democrats to go suck an egg. Another right-of-center New Dem, Washington state's Adam Smith, who's district east and south of Seattle gave Bernie an even more massive landslide, was even more dismissive of what his own constituents want. Margot Kidder's article helps explain why:
Collusion between the Clinton Campaign and the DNC allowed Hillary Clinton to buy the loyalty of 33 state Democratic parties last summer. Montana was one of those states. It sold itself for $64,100.

The Super Delegates now defying democracy with their insistent refusal to change their votes to Sanders in spite of a handful of overwhelming Clinton primary losses in their own states, were arguably part of that deal.

In August 2015, at the Democratic Party convention in Minneapolis, 33 democratic state parties made deals with the Hillary Clinton campaign and a joint fundraising entity called The Hillary Victory Fund. The deal allowed many of her core billionaire and inner circle individual donors to run the maximum amounts of money allowed through those state parties to the Hillary Victory Fund in New York and the DNC in Washington.

The idea was to increase how much one could personally donate to Hillary by taking advantage of the Supreme Court ruling 2014, McCutcheon v FEC, that knocked down a cap on aggregate limits as to how much a donor could give to a federal campaign in a year. It thus eliminated the ceiling on amounts spent by a single donor to a presidential candidate.

In other words, a single donor, by giving 10,000 dollars a year to each signatory state could legally give an extra $330,000 a year for two years to the Hillary Victory Fund.  For each donor, this raised their individual legal cap on the Presidential campaign to $660,000 if given in both 2015 and 2016. And to one million, three hundred and 20 thousand dollars if an equal amount were also donated in their spouse’s name.

From these large amounts of money being transferred from state coffers to the Hillary Victory Fund in Washington, the Clinton campaign got the first $2,700, the DNC was to get the next $33,400, and the remainder was to be split among the 33 signatory states. With this scheme, the Hillary Victory Fund raised over $26 million for the Clinton Campaign by the end of 2015.

The money was either transferred to the Hillary for America or Forward Hillary PACs and spent directly on the Hillary Clinton Campaign, often paying the salaries and expenses within those groups, or it was moved into the DNC or another Clinton PAC.  Some of it was spent towards managing the Hillary merchandize store, where you can buy Hillary T shirts and hats and buttons.

...One could reasonably infer that the tacit agreement between the signatories was that the state parties and the Hillary Clinton Campaign would act in unity and mutual support. And that the super-delegates of these various partner states would either pledge loyalty to Clinton, or, at the least, not endorse Senator Sanders. Not only did Hillary’s multi-millionaire and billionaire supporters get to bypass individual campaign donation limits to state parties by using several state parties apparatus, but the Clinton campaign got the added bonus of buying that state’s super-delegates with the promise of contributions to that Democratic organization’s re-election fund.

If a presidential campaign from either party can convince various state parties to partner with it in such a way as to route around any existing rules on personal donor limits and at the same time promise money to that state’s potential candidates, then the deal can be sold as a way of making large monetary promises to candidates and Super-delegates respectable.

The leadership of a very broke Montana Democratic Party decided in August of 2015 that this was a seductive deal they were willing to make. And by the end of that year scores of 10,000 donations came in from out of state.

Montana’s list of out of state donors to the state campaign reads like a Who’s Who of the Democratic financial elites. The names vary little from the list of high donors to the other 32 states that signed on to the Hillary Victory Fund.

...[T]he Hillary Victory Fund’s marriage of convenience with the Montana party negates Governor Steve Bullock’s eloquent insistence that he will do anything necessary to overturn Citizen’s United.  And the coldness of the deal’s intention of doing anything it can to further Hillary Clinton’s chances for becoming President brings Senator Jon Tester’s stated neutrality in the Democratic primary into a sharp and unflatteringly hypocritical focus.

One doubts that most of these one percenters adore fly fishing. Or care much about mountain climbing, or skiing, or collecting morel mushrooms along the edges of the Yellowstone river in the fall. We can safely assume that they will not be raising buffalo for meat in the near future, or buying an organic farm next to Senator Jon Tester’s.  In fact we can probably assume that most of them have never been to Montana.

And one doubts if many of them care or not if Governor Steve Bullock will get re-elected or will be replaced with a creationist businessman named Greg Gianforte whose family gave $1.5 million to a creationist museum in Glendive, Montana that proudly displays a man riding a dinosaur as if it were a rodeo horse.

That outsiders could make their votes count for more than our own in our Presidential primary by supporting a system that is rigged in favour of the wishes of lobbyists and billionaires running their money through our state democratic party coffers is a concept that most Montanans would be repulsed by.

Yet it is inconceivable that not only did the state’s chairperson, Nancy Keenan, approve the deal, but that both Governor Steve Bullock and Democratic senator Jon Tester approved it as well. It directly affects the funding of both of their campaigns, now and in 2018.

...In Montana, a state where one third of voters identify as independents, and where it is imperative that Democratic candidates for public office win some votes from both Republicans and Independents in order to get elected, it seems peculiar that the Montana State Democratic Party would make a deal with the Hillary Clinton campaign months before the national primaries were underway, given that there is a very real and proud tradition of political independence in Montana. Being told who to vote for in a primary by your party’s big wigs is not part of that tradition. Any collusion by a Montana national candidate with the Hillary Clinton campaign before a primary was held, and the votes counted, could potentially be politically suicidal.

The agreement with the Hillary Victory Fund and the DNC could solve some of the Montana State Democratic Party’s financial problems while simultaneously funding several state and federal candidates. But the scheme would only make sense as a benefit to the parties involved if the money raised actually stayed in the states that received the initial checks. This did not happen.

The Alaska Democratic party, in its end of the year filing with the FEC, said it raised $43,500 from the Hillary Victory Fund with 10,000.00 dollar donations from Clinton friends and billionaires, including hedge fund manage S Donald Sussman, and Hyatt Hotel heir JB Pritzker. ( two of the several $10,000  donors to the Montana State Democratic Party) . But in the same report it said it transferred the same amount of money, $43,500 back to the DNC...  a technically legal move that effectively obliterates federal limits on donations to the national committee.

“It just becomes a way to funnel more to the DNC to support the Clinton Campaign”, said Paul S. Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Centre, which advocates for campaign finance reform. “It’s effectively Hillary Clinton’s team soliciting Hillary Clinton’s supporters for much bigger checks than they can give to the campaign.”

The same thing happened with the Maine State Democratic Party with many of the same billionaire donors. Maine attracted many of Clinton’s biggest donors. But the contributions didn’t stay in Maine either, or in any of the other state democratic parties to which Hillary Victory Fund donations have been funneled.  In October and November two transfers totaling 39,000 from the Hillary Victory Fund to the Maine Democratic party sat for less than 48 hours before the same amounts were transferred to the DNC in Washington.

The Montana State Democratic party received $43,500 dollars from the Hillary Victory Fund on November 2, 2015.  Yet on that same day it transferred $43,500 back to the Democratic National Committee in Washington. And on December 1, 2015 it received another $20,600 from the Hillary Victory fund.  And on the same day the Montana State Democratic Party sent that exact same amount, $20,600, back to the DNC in Washington as well, an entity that has not bothered to disguise its preference for a Hillary Clinton candidacy over that of a Bernie Sanders one.

By November 2015, 22 of the state parties linked to the Hillary Victory Fund have received $938,500 from the fund and sent the same amount back to the DNC. There is no limit to amounts of money transferred between state and national parties and PACS or Funds.

The Democratic spokespeople for the 17 states that refused to go along with the Clinton campaign’s plan, even though many of them were as broke as the Montana State Democratic Party was  (Nebraska springs to mind), were clear that it seemed less than democratic to be choosing sides in a primary that hadn’t happened yet.  That the very purpose of a primary was to let the people choose which candidate they wanted to represent them and to not let the party establishment load the dice in their own favour. They made it obvious that they were choosing democracy over kick-backs.

“A joint fundraising committee linking Hillary Clinton to the national Democratic Party and 33 state parties is routing money through those state parties and back into the coffers of the Clinton campaign and all its PACS and Funds”  “It is a highly unusual arraignment if only because presidential candidates do not normally enter into fundraising agreements with their party’s committees until after they actually win the nomination. And second, Clinton’s fundraising committee is the first since the Supreme Court’s 2014 McCutcheon v FEC decision eliminated aggregate contribution limits and congress increased party contribution limits in the 2014 omnibus budget bill” said Paul Blumenthal, a writer for the Huffington Post.

A loud article in the NYT in March proclaiming that elected officials in 22 states would not support Bernie Sanders conveniently left out that those 22 states had signed agreements with the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Hillary Victory Fund.

What it really does is seriously handicap the Democratic Primary Race. Every one of the states charging electoral interference by the Clinton campaign is a state that made a deal with the Hillary Victory Fund. Insinuations of conspiracies are  unprovable in these cases.  But the perception of fraud and corruption is glaring and damaging.

What the Clinton campaign appears to be in stunning denial about is that most of us “regular folks” (a revolting term used with growing frequency these days) are not burdened with an inability to confuse morality with legality. Corruption is corruption is corruption no matter how many laws there are allowing it.  Very few brilliant business people give presidential candidates upwards of six million dollars without expecting something in return. There is a reason they are brilliant business people. Throwing away millions of dollars for nothing is not one of them.

Most state democratic parties don’t want Campaign Finance Reform. They feel they can’t afford it. Many local politicians become terrified of voicing support for alternative candidates out of fear of being cut off the Democratic Party gravy train.

The psychological damage of the Hillary Victory Fund, the inference by its very existence that every vote is not equal, has had a dampening effect on older Democrats. The perception that most Democrats support Hillary, and that she is the most reliable candidate to defeat a Trump or a Cruz in the fall is felt by every journalist, every newspaper opinion writer and every television current affairs show, and is absorbed by the consumers of that news. When you have lobbyists for the big media giants, such as Fyeed Eychancer of Newsweb, or Viacom lawyer and lobbyist Steve Forbes,  giving money to the Hillary Victory Fund through the state of Montana, the rot in the system is laid bare.
It still isn't too late to wipe away the stench of corruption from the Democratic Party, a stench Democrats have long persuaded themselves emanates solely from Republicans-- but have more recently learned otherwise. Still... it wasn't Bernie who told NPR that "I feel like my political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism that I was raised with... I'm very proud that I was a Goldwater Girl." That's what you want for a nominee? If not, please consider tapping the thermometer and helping Bernie win this thing.
Goal Thermometer

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At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article is quite revealing and disheartening, another blow to democracy. The stench of our current political system is becoming too much to tolerate. Who knew how corrupt the Democrats have become. Surely this information won't be revealed by the media...maybe Rachel Maddow would cover it? Go Howie!

At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am also concerned that the democratic delegates from Wyoming who do not have to vote as the voters choose, will be choosing Hillary over Bernie even though most Democrats in the state prefer Bernie. What is the point in going to a caucus or primary when you know the "fix is in."?

At 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering the turmoil in both major parties, I'm expecting them both to split. I've been wanting this since 1980 when I voted for John Anderson under the principle that I didn't like the choices the parties were giving me and wanted other options. I thus may live long enough to actually realize this goal!

At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Michael Simmons said...

Thanks for re-posting this, Howie. It ought to be a Big Story, but I suspect the 1% media is Clin-toned.


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