Friday, July 11, 2008



No wild fans of Kansas Democratic Senate candidate Jim Slattery around here; don't look for him on the Blue America endorsement page, even if each of us hopes he beats craven and useless incumbent, Bush rubber stamp Pat Roberts. And speaking of craven... Roberts must be plenty worried about this race because he's already launched a costly negative ad campaign slamming Slattery as a lobbyist. And Slattery is a lobbyist, a shameful and repulsive profession, which in my opinion, makes someone unfit for public trust. But not as unfit as someone who already has public trust-- an elected official, like Pat Roberts-- who takes bribes (AKA- "contributions") from lobbyists and votes for special interests rather than for the interests of his constituents.

Has Senator Pat been doing that? Let's take a look. A member of the Agriculture Committee, Roberts has been the recipient of over a million dollars from the agricultural industry in their attempts-- usually successful-- to get him to represent their special interests over the interests of non-industrialized family farmers, not to mention consumers. You name the industry: Commercial Banks ($422,424)-- he's also a deregulation fanatic on the Senate Finance Committee-- Oil & Gas ($324,900), Securities & Investments ($251,862), Insurance ($230,192), Big Pharma ($165,477)... Roberts always has his hand out and is always, always, always voting to wreck the regulatory system that protects workers and consumers and investors from the corporate predators who hire the lobbyists who pay him off. Otherwise it's a lovely ad. (Oh, and in case you were wondering, the Big Telecom giants lavished Roberts with $14,250 this year alone and he dutifully voted to shred the U.S. Constitution for them this week-- permitting warrantless wiretaps and retroactive immunity for corporate criminals. Go lobbyists!)

Roberts is hardly the only member of Congress who accepts massive bribes from lobbyists and corporate donors and then votes for their special interests. That's the way the obscenely wealth have rigged the political system to work for them-- and against the great unwashed masses (the rest of us). And Congress writes its own rules, carefully defining its members' crude criminal practices as permissible. Bribery is only bribery if... a masked man give sit to you in small denominations in cash... and you hide it in your refrigerator.

Just today the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Mitch McConnell (R-Big Business) raised over $3 million dollars in the last 3 months for his campaign, for a total of $15 million so far. As of April 30. McConnell had scooped up over $27,000,000 in contributions, much of it from special interests with business before the Senate. The Finace/Insurance and Real Estate sector-- which has gotten, with McConnell's toxic leadership, the deregulation they've been so lusting after for since FDR reined them in after they caused the Great Depression-- has given him $4,147,334. And in return we have a severe Recession-- according to out of touch Republicans only in our minds-- heading straight towards a Depression, with runaway inflation, spiraling unemployment, a gutted out middle class, rampant outsourcing (a McConnell hallmark), a collapsing housing market impacting the rest of the economy, and a health care system that has gone from the envy of the planet to decidedly third rate... for non-millionaires and members of Congress. McConnell's contributors have certainly gotten their money's worth from him.

Of course, McConnell's bribers know full well that his corrupt and reactionary Democratic opponent would be no less of a willing servant to their whims and demands. Right now he doesn't need their money because he's already put $2.1 million of his own bread into the campaign. One of Lunsford's spokespersons pointed out that it's "easy to rake in special-interest cash when you've been doing their bidding for 24 years in the Senate. The big oil companies alone have given McConnell over $650,000 in campaign contributions over the years. Kentucky cannot afford another six years of McConnell's misplaced loyalties. He is not on our side. It's time for change."

Change meaning what? Going from a corrupt Republic taking corporate bribes to a corrupt Democrat taking corporate bribes. That isn't change. Change would be no corporate bribes... period. Anyone who wants to donate to a candidate should be allowed to donate... anonymously.

Would McConnell have been so eager to sell out the Constitution and allow the Telecoms to get away with their criminal activities if they hadn't paid him off with hefty donations totaling over $20,000 this year alone? Or would have Susan Collins if they didn't give her $35,850? Ted Stevens, who raked in $41,400? Gordon Smith, who sold us out for $27,750? Would Rahm Emanuel have joined the Republicans and dragged dozens of Democrats along with him for this disgraceful piece of infamy if the Telecoms hadn't bought him off with $49,950 this year?

And what about Norm Coleman? This Bush rubber stamp has scooped up nearly as much as McConnell from corporate interests. Since he began his miserable political career in the late 80s, he's taken in over $23,000,000 in "donations." Today's Star Tribune reports that Coleman and his Democratic opponent, Al Franken, are running neck-and-neck in the fundraising race, each having taken in over $2 million in the last quarter. The first comment on the story summed up the real issue, one left untouched by the Star Tribune:
Coleman gets his money from rich donors across the country at exclusive events. Al Franken gets the majority of his money from Minnesotans who contribute 10 dollars at a time. Sure, Franken does have some supporters that come from out of state, but not like the ones Norm Coleman has. Coleman works for big oil, the pharmaceutical companies, and special interest groups. Al works for the people.

Is it true? Of the over $13 million Coleman has hoovered up in the current cycle, he's taken the lion's share from special interests with business before the Senate: Real Estate ($610,137), Securities & Investments ($567,750), Insurance ($288,324), Commercial Banks ($226,400), Big Pharma ($203,717), Big Oil ($88,550). Is it just a coincidence that Coleman always votes for what these industries want, regardless of how detrimental it is to working families back in Minnesota? Do you think Minnesotans want the government wiretapping citizens at will without a court order? Coleman does-- or doesn't care-- but this year alone the Big Telecoms gave him $7,700.

When he was in the House, Bob Schaffer was known as someone who would accept money from anyone and sell his vote cheap for any corporate special interest. Now that he's trying to get into the Senate, Big Business is rallying to his banner. Big Oil has given him more money this year than any other candidate who is not currently in Congress, $114.15, more than almost all sitting members of the Senate. He's their boy. And Sam Stein's story at Huff Po today goes a long way towards explaining why:
At the same time that he was officially a candidate for the United States Senate, Colorado Republican Bob Schaffer was helping to arrange a major oil deal in the Kurdish region of Iraq that government officials said would damage U.S. interests in that country.

Schaffer has claimed that he was unaware that the company he was aiding, Aspect Energy, was undermining American policy by pursuing an oil contract in Kurdistan. But a review of press reports from that time period suggests that such an explanation is either highly unlikely or downright disingenuous.

..."Four years before Bob Schaffer went to Kurdistan, he voted to authorize the Iraq War where he had to have learned about the conflict between the Kurds and the Iraqi central government," said Tara Trujillo, spokeswoman for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Udall. "Two months before Bob Schaffer went to Kurdistan to negotiate an oil contract, the Kurds threatened to separate from Iraq because of oil... One month before Aspect Energy signed the deal, the U.S. State Department officials also told the press that these types of oil deals would counter our national security interests. How could Bob Schaffer not know? It's not that Bob Schaffer didn't know his actions would undermine the fragile situation in Iraq, it's that he didn't care."

I don't especially mean to single out corrupt politicians like Bob Schaffer (R-CO), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Bruce Lunsford (D-KY), Norm Coleman (R-MN)-- although I once ran against him for class secretary and although we tied and served as co-secretaries of our elementary school class in Brooklyn, he was a dirty little cheat even back then-- Pat Roberts (R-KS), or even Rahm Emanuel (D-IL). Instead I want to point out that the system is hopelessly corrupt-- by design-- and that democracy is impossible with the billions of corporate dollars being shoveled into political pockets on behalf of special interests.

These days members of Congress not only use the "donations" to buy ads and pay for lawn signs. They hire their wives and children and pay them large sums of money, in effect taking money from donors and putting it directly into their personal living conditions. They spend millions of campaign donations for defending themselves in court against corruption charges, as Ted Stevens (R-AK), Don Young (R-AK), Jerry Lewis (R-CA), John Doolittle (R-CA) and dozens of others have done. Congress has proven that it cannot regulate itself. A nonpartisan commission should have the job, not Nancy Pelosi, not Rahm Emanuel, not Steny Hoyer, not Tom DeLay, not John Boehner, not Roy Blunt... This is too important to be left to politicians.

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At 4:37 PM, Blogger Dr. Know said...

Truly. One can just about predict the ultimate stance of any given politico by perusing his campaign contribution disclosure.

At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well put. I've been talking about this for years because it seems to me that campaign finance reform is really the number 1 issue facing democracy today. I agree with you that people should be able to donate absolutely anonymously, but for a big campaign such as the presidency, I think both candidates should be funded by government grants... It would even out the playing field and would encourage real debates about issues, where each nominees personal opinions can be stated, as opposed to the corporate and political rhetoric we get so much of now.

At 1:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I posted on the response that the Kansas Dem Party made to Roberts's ad here. We need a candidate that will properly frame this debate and start calling campaign finance what it is; "legalized bribery". Reframe this debate.


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