Saturday, April 03, 2010

If You're Stupid Enough To Be Donating Money Towards Your Own Enslavement, You Deserve To Be Ripped Off By The GOP


Republican Party recruitment poster?

The political party that would like the nation to be run like a corporation has the ethics of one. No, I'm not about to launch into another sordid story of the C Street corruption scandal. This is another sordid story of Michael Steele and the RNC. If I wasn't so painfully aware of how incapable of anything like this Rahm Emanuel actually is, I'd be easily persuaded Steele is a Democratic mole, a plant inside the GOP hierarchy whose only motivation is to wreck the party from within. Yesterday's most amusing news came from Lindsay Beyerstein at Alternet, Trendy Fashion Buys Reimbursed as "Office Supplies" to RNC Finance Officials. It struck uncomfortably close to home. I'll explain after a sample of Beyerstein, who has been dissecting the RNC's public FEC filing.
Listed on the report in the category of "office supplies" are purchases from a New England winery and a Capitol Hill liquor store, as well as more than $3,800 from a Florida clothing store. The category of "meals" also seems to extend to the sartorial, with a $450 purchase from a high-end Manhattan boutique-- one that has no restaurant or take-out shop on the premises-- falling into that category, as listed on the RNC's reports to the FEC. That purchase, as well as one for more than $500 from the Florida clothing store, are attributed to RNC Deputy Finance Director Debbie LeHardy, who, according to the report, was reimbursed for them.

LeHardy also received reimbursement for more than $2,800 in "tips" between December 2009 and February 2010, according to the reports... [T]he RNC made purchases totaling $3817 at Fugate's. On its report, the RNC labels the purchase as "office supplies," but Fugate's general manager Nancy Blank says her store doesn't sell office supplies. Fugate's sells men's and women's clothing and accessories, Blank told AlterNet. "We're a specialty department store," she said... In December, RNC reimbursed LeHardy for $453 worth of "meals" from Henri Bendel, a posh boutique on New York's Fifth Avenue. Bendel's is an upscale source for costume jewelry, handbags and make-up. The store bills itself as a "Girls' Playground for trendsetting young women from around the world." "[W]e do not have a restaurant in the store so I don't know how she would have spent $450 on meals," spokesperson Jodi Mellman wrote in an e-mail.

...Even before news broke this week that the Republican National Committee spent nearly $2,000 at a bondage-themed Hollywood strip bar, RNC Chairman Michael Steele had been sharply criticized for extravagant spending. AlterNet's review of RNC campaign finance records suggests a pattern of reporting irregularities within an institutional culture of over-the-top extravagance.

And that's the point: "an institutional culture of over-the-top extravagance." That's corporate America to a tee. How do I know? I was at the top of one corner of it, president of a division of AOLTimeWarner, running Reprise Records.

But I didn't start in the record business as the president of Reprise-- or even at AOLTimeWarner. I started a small indie punk label, 415 Records, with my friend and fellow music enthusiast Chris Knab. Neither of us expected to make a dime when we released our first record, "Decadent Jew" b/w "Suicide Child" by The Nuns. And we didn't. We really never made anything for years and eventually managed to scrape out a meager living. I think my top salary as president of the company was $10,000 a year. No expense account. I didn't even have a credit card at the time.

When I was hired at Warner Bros. it was as a vice president (after CBS, now SONY, bought our label), I was shocked by my salary, more than my father had ever made, and I was shocked by my expense account allotment, more than I had ever spent in a single year in my entire life. I was also shocked, and horrified, by a feeling of greed and entitlement inside the corporate culture, more at the corporate headquarters in New York than at Warner Bros. Records in Los Angeles, where I worked most of the time. But I'll never forget a friend of mine in the company, making nearly double the extravagant salary I was at the time, suggesting insisting that we would one day break our chains of poverty. It's the first time I realized he's mentally ill-- or the system he was part of is pathological.

I'll always remember one of my artists, a household name worth easily tens of millions of dollars, fretting about having to end his life residing in a cardboard box. He never tipped anyone. Another friend just last week was worried that he would never have the resources he needs to retire, although he was just in the process of cashing in nearly $10 million in stock options, a significant part of his financial net worth (though certainly nowhere near all of it). As out-of-touch as this must sound, I wrote an answer to a comment on my Facebook page yesterday that illustrates exactly what I'm trying to get at-- basically how fucked up the corporate environment is that the GOP emulates. Rather than quote it word for word, let me make it a bit more precise.

When I first got that corporate job at Warner Bros., my first boss, whose salary and perks were way over a million dollars annually, showed me-- proudly-- how he would go to tailors in Italy and charge hundreds of dollars in suits as meals. It's actually a significant part of the reason he used to trek religiously to Midem (a music convention in Cannes) every year. When I told him that the practice was disgusting and that I would never do it and that he had to stop immediately, we had a huge fight, which resulted in me getting to go over all his expenses before they could be turned in to corporate headquarters. He had so many tricks to steal money from the company that was already lavishing immense wealth on him-- and I do not mean to imply that he didn't represent real value for Warner Bros.; he did-- that it was breathtaking. When I would scold him, he claimed "everyone" did it.

But that was never true. For one thing, people who made less than $100,000 a year didn't have that kind of leeway. So we're only talking about people who are by any reasonable standard already gigantically wealthy. For another thing, I feel confident in saying that most of the senior executives there felt enough gratitude and responsibility that they had no desire to cheat the company whatsoever. This guy, my old first boss, is worth at least $50 million... but still cheating on his expenses.

I always said that he was only a Democrat-- and a very conservative one, by the way-- because his father was a corrupt machine pol in the Bronx who got a judicial appointment, and he felt that being a Democrat was something you inherited from your family, like being Jewish or being, well, self-serving-- as well as, odd as it seems, genuinely charitable.

In California we have fatally flawed candidates for governor and senator, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, who are spending immense sums from the corporate loot they pocketed to persuade voters that their experience running eBay and Hewlett Packard qualify them to run California. I think there's a better case to be made that their experiences disqualify them. Fiorina failed so dismally that she was fired after destroying nearly half the company's value. Whitman took a much-loved and admired company and made it into an object of widespread public hatred.

A CEO is, in effect, a dictator; a successful politician had better be a consensus builder. The Republican model has always failed in politics. It causes depressions and recessions and a redistribution of wealth away from 90% of the population into the hands of the wealthiest and most connected (and avaricious) families. There is nothing worse in politics than people with a sense of entitlement. And there are plenty of Democrats with that sense-- as well as plenty with a sense of service. But all Republicans share that sense of entitlement. They really do believe that God shows His love for the rich by making them rich, and that therefore they should also rule. It's the way the wealthy and powerful responded to Jesus' remark comparing the chance of a rich person not spending eternity roasting in Hell to the ability of a camel getting through the eye of a needle.

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At 2:15 PM, Blogger Cirze said...

I thank you from the deepest recesses of my little ole myopic heart.

I've been saying the same thing for years now without any real inside data for backup.

This should go viral.



At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Fritz said...

Thanks. I learned a lot from this.

(btw most of my music from h.s. and college days can be attributable to you, thanks for that, too)


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