Monday, March 12, 2012

Two Sons Of Illinois: David Gill For The 99% And Kenneth Griffin For The 1%


Tim Johnson (R), David Gill (D), Matt Goetten (on the right in the photo, but in between politically)

Last Wednesday we wondered aloud what the hell is wrong with Steny Hoyer. The DCCC makes a big show about how they never-- oh, never, never, never (not us, never) interfere in primaries. But whenever they think they can get away with it, they always do-- and always on the side of self-funders (millionaires) and conservatives, never on the side of progressives or working class candidates. It horrifies me that the party that claims to represent the interests of working families is led by a bunch of effete elitist insiders who hate actual working class people as much as any garden variety Republican does.

So far this year Hoyer's leadership PAC, AmeriPAC, has doled out $450,000, primarily to conservative, corporate-friendly Democrats. Aside from giving thousands to the candidates who have been endorsed by the Blue Dog caucus-- like Clark Hall (AR) and Brenden Mullen (IN)-- in every race that pits a conservative or corporatist against a progressive, Hoyer donated to the conservative. He gave $5,000 to Brad Schneider, a rich GOP-light Illinois punk running against progressive icon Ilya Sheyman, $5,000 each to conservatives Tim Holden (Blue Dog-PA), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ) and Dan Maffei (NY), each of whom has a strong progressive opponent, respectively, Matt Cartwright, Wenona Baldenegro and Brianne Murphy. and on and on from one sleazy worst-of-the-Democrats to another. He also gave $5,000 to Luis Garcia, former head of Democrats for Jeb Bush, who turned out to be such a terrible candidate that the DCCC is trying to dump him for the man Al Gore called "the single most treacherous and dishonest person I dealt with during the campaign anywhere in America." No doubt Hoyer will soon be embracing him as well.

One Democratic candidate I don't expect to see Hoyer embracing anytime soon is Dr. David Gill, the movement progressive who twice ran in the district when it was hopelessly red and deserves a shot now that it's been redistricted to make it competitive for a Democrat. But conservative Democrats have recruited Matt Goetten to represent the pro-1% faction of the party. A new poll from PPP shows that Democrats in the 13th aren't buying it. The results (February 28):
Gill 30%
Goetten 18%
undecided 52%

Dr. Gill's prescription for Congress isn't for conservative consensus hacks like Hoyer or anyone in the Establishment... but grassroots voters like it. His plan to limit the influence of cash on politics is the last thing corrupt politicians like Hoyer want to hear about. Selling himself to the highest bidders and making himself into a middleman between sleazy special interests and campaigns is how he's built his career. Imagine what he thought when he saw Dr, Gill's plans to limit the influence of campaign donations on congressional action:
Ban Congressmen from accepting PAC/lobbyist money from industries directly regulated by committees they serve on.

Ban registered lobbyists from campaign contributions to federal candidates.

Ban government contractors and prospective contractors from lobbying Congress or donating to campaigns and federal committees.

Ban Too Big To Fail/bailed out banks from lobbying Congress or donating to federal candidates or PACs/SuperPACs

In a letter to supporters Dr. Gill suggests that "the large lead my campaign enjoys and the strength of my progressive support has obviously shaken the Goetten campaign."
Matt's handlers have chosen not to release their own internal polling numbers and have now sounded the alarm with an expensive district-wide mail program and a major TV buy beginning today. Meanwhile, Goetten continues to duck debates and forums and is taking his direction from political advisors in Washington, DC. Wednesday, Matt told the Decatur Herald & Review that he "hesitated" to take a position on reproductive rights and access to contraception for American women. He wouldn't clearly state where he stood on the War in Afghanistan, either.

Now that Osama bin Laden has been killed, I believe it's time to end our involvement in Afghanistan and bring our troops home.

As you know, I'm the only candidate in this race who won't take a cent from corporate PACs and Wall Street lobbyists. And I'm the only candidate in IL-13 who is 100% pro-choice and will protect women's access to contraception.

Matt Goetten is raising a fortune from wealthy lawyers and politicians. I'm funding my campaign from a thousand individual donors like you who are ready to change things in Congress. We can prove the pundits and the politicians wrong. The polling shows that voters want a strong progressive as their Democratic nominee.

Please consider contributing to Dr. Gill's campaign on our ActBlue page. Notorious Chicago hedge fund predator Ken Griffin is generally thought of as an extreme right Republican-- which he is-- but there's a certain brand of Democrats he supports as well. The ones who call themselves Democrats and vote-- on economic and fiscal matters-- like Republicans. He just loves Rahm Emanuel for example. And while he's best known for the more than a million dollars he's spent trying to elect reactionary Republicans like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, George W. Bush, Marco Rubio, David "Diapers" Vitter, Eric Cantor and Miss McConnell, he has also contributed generously to right-wing Democrats who serve the interests of the one percent-- from Max Baucus, Evan Bayh and Mark Pryor to Rahm Emanuel and Melissa Bean. And, yes, he gave then-Senator Barack Obama $4,600 in 2007, just a little taste compared to the $550,000 in checks he wrote to Karl Rove's neo-fascist PAC, American Crossroads. Over the weekend the Chicago Tribune profiled Griffin and let him air his grievances that billionaires don't have enough power in America. The 43 year old founder of the Citadel hedge fund, he's a dangerous sociopath who society needs to protect itself against... but thanks to self-serving "Democrats" like Emanuel, never will. He doesn't like government protecting consumers or society from financial predators like himself. And that's what's driving his political contributions. He's given $1.5 million to Koch-backed initiatives over half a million to the Republican Governors Association and more money than anyone else to Republicans running for Illinois legislative seats. Here are excerpts from Melissa Harris' interview with him. You can read the whole thing at the link above.
Q. You've supported both Republicans and Democrats in the past. How do you decide which candidates to support?

A. Country before party.

Q. Explain.

A. Who's going to be our best leader ... That's first and foremost.

...Q. What about the amounts? Is it based on what the candidate asks you for? They vary a lot. You and Anne gave $200,000 to (Mayor) Rahm (Emanuel), for instance.

A. I was really proud to support Rahm. He is really one of the brightest men I've ever spent time with. And I've known Rahm for maybe 15 years. I believe our city and our state has some real challenges ahead of it, whether it's educating our children, whether it's dealing with the fiscal irresponsibility of past leaders. And I don't want to cast aspersions on anyone in particular. It's just where we are today. We're going to need to make some very important decisions about how to put our fiscal house back in order. And I think Rahm has the intellectual capacity to understand the issues and to make trade-offs and decisions that are going to have to be made. He and I are not on the same side of the aisle per se. We're not on the same side of a couple of different things. But the insights that he has and the determination he has are really important to solving the problems we face as a city.

Q. Where are you on the same page? Where are you not on the same page?

A. I actually spent some time with Rahm in the last couple weeks. He showed me around his new office. There were two photographs that he had on his wall. One was of him with Bill Clinton when he signed NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). That was a really bold thing for a Democratic president to do. And, if you think about the North American trade bloc, the United States, Canada and Mexico could not be more close, more cooperative, more unified. You don't even think about. You take it for granted every day. It's really one of the great accomplishments of post-World War II North American relationships.

The other photograph he had on the wall was when he was in the room when Bill Clinton signed a balanced budget for the U.S. government. Unemployment was 4 percent at the time. It was a great day in American history. I think Rahm and I share a lot of common interests in those accomplishments. I much prefer to sort of think about those moments than to find things to differ over.

Q. What were you there talking to Rahm about?

A. Rahm has done a fantastic job of engaging the business community in Chicago. I believe that he understands the fundamental importance of this city needing to create jobs. So he has been very solicitous for advice on what it would take for us to bring more jobs to Chicago, and for Chicago-based employers to create more jobs here.

...Q. What, if anything, have you specifically asked of a politician in the past? What did you ask of (former) Mayor (Richard) Daley?

A. Not putting a casino in downtown Chicago has been an ask of Mayor Daley and Rahm.

Q. Do you talk to Governor Quinn?

A. No. But I wrote a letter to him saying we shouldn't have casinos in Chicago.

Q. Anything else (you've asked for)?

A. The great thing about Rahm is he understands the fiscal issues, and he's going to work really hard to address those in a thoughtful way. Rahm knows clearly my passion around education, and he shares that passion. Rahm knows that for our city to break the cycle of poverty that exists, for prosperity to be part of the life of every citizen, our kids have to graduate from high school with a set of skills that will make them successful in a 21st century jobs market.

...Q. What do you think in general about the influence of people with your means on the political process? You said shame on the politicians for listening to the CEOs. Do you think the ultrawealthy have an inordinate or inappropriate amount of influence on the political process?

A. I think they actually have an insufficient influence. Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system more than ever now owe a duty to protect the system that has created the greatest nation on this planet. And so I hope that other individuals who have really enjoyed growing up in a country that believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – and economic freedom is part of the pursuit of happiness – (I hope they realize) they have a duty now to step up and protect that. Not for themselves, but for their kids and for their grandchildren and for the person down the street that they don't even know ...

At this moment in time, these values are under attack. This belief that a larger government is what creates prosperity, that a larger government is what creates good (is wrong). We've seen that experiment. The Soviet Union collapsed. China has run away from its state-controlled system over the last 20 years and has pulled more people up from poverty by doing so than we've ever seen in the history of humanity. Why the U.S. is drifting toward a direction that has been the failed of experiment of the last century, I don't understand. I don't understand.

I started my career with myself, two employees and a one-room office. Nothing was given to me per se, except for a great education — my college degree — and a country that allows somebody to just go for it. (Griffin's grandmother paid his way through Harvard University.)

Look at Chicago. Look at all the shared celebration of the success of Groupon. We need in Chicago 10 more Groupons, 10 more Citadels, each creating thousands of jobs and tremendous value for their stakeholders. Groupon saves people billions of dollars a year. Citadel provides pension plans with the financial means to make retirement payments to their beneficiaries.

Q. How much do you think your influence comes from the size of your donations? Do you think you should be able to make unlimited donations? Should you be able to donate $500,000 to a super PAC?

A. In my opinion, absolutely. Absolutely. The rules that encourage transparency around that are really important. And I say that with a bit of trepidation.

Q. Why with trepidation?

A. Target made a political donation and there was a huge boycott organized.

Q. So do you or don't you think the public should know if you're giving this money?

A. My public policy hat says transparency is valuable. On the flip side, this is a very sad moment in my lifetime. This is the first time class warfare has really been embraced as a political tool. Because we are looking at an administration that has embraced class warfare as being politically expedient, I do worry about the publicity that comes with being willing to both with my dollars and, more importantly, with my voice to stand for what I believe in.

As government gets bigger every single day, how does my willingness to stand up for what I believe is right become eclipsed by my dependency on institutions that are ultimately controlled by the government? Remember I live in financial services, and every bank in the United States is really under the thumb of the government in a way it's never been before. And that's really worrisome to me, as someone who's willing to say, 'Wait, we need to step back and try to push government outside the realm of every dimension of our lives.'

Q. When you said that any industry that harms innocent people should be regulated. I think that's what people view the financial crisis as, as a moment when an industry hurt innocent people.

A. I think there are a lot of things about '08 that are worth discussing. Every time there's been a bubble in asset prices, people get hurt. I think it's very unfortunate that as a culture we were so encouraged by both the past stability of home prices and a litany of government programs to buy homes, to view them as a safe place to put a significant amount of our net worth, so that as a society we pushed home prices way above where they should have been. When that bubble burst, a lot of people got hurt.

Q. So you don't think Wall Street played a role?

A. I didn't say that. The biggest role: Fannie (Mae) and Freddie (Mac). Look at the issue of economic freedom that I spoke to earlier. The GSEs provided more fuel to the housing bubble than any other entity in the world. And by the way, they had their own dedicated regulator. And, by the way, we're all going to pick up the tab of several hundred billion to a trillion dollars in cleaning up the losses at Fannie and Freddie. The primary source of fuel to that bubble was policies that came out of Washington. And, by the way, why were Fannie and Freddie so above reproach for all those years? They put so much money into local congressional seats in one way or another. No congressman wanted to touch them.

Wall Street had a role in this. The development of mortgage-securitization technology, like every other form of technology, had both good and negative attributes. The biggest negative attribute is that we failed to encourage the end lender of money to be as disciplined as we should have been. And (the rating agencies) didn't call it right. But I'll leave you with a thought on this. It's very hard to know you're in a bubble until it's gone. The housing bubble hit a lot of people. The dot-com bubble hit a lot of people. And until it burst — and you look back and go, 'What were we thinking?' — it's often really hard to know you're in a bubble.

Discipline broke down among lenders. Discipline broke down among mortgage brokers. And discipline broke down among consumers.

Q. Is there anything you've done in the last month that's going to pop on the pages of the national press?

A. We sent $100,000 in to Romney.

Q. How much time overall do you spend on politics?

A. I spend way too much of my time thinking about politics these days because government is way too involved in financial markets these days. QE2. ('QE' stands for quantitative easing. That's when the Federal Reserve pumps money, created out of thin air, into the economy.) Will there be QE3? The Volcker Rule. Dodd-Frank. Part of my sensitivity to these issues is that I now live in the middle of a hyper-regulated industry, where not only is government affecting how capital markets work, or how banks work, but (the government) is punishing savers.

If you're 68 years old and you've saved your whole life for retirement, the Federal Reserve's policies are punishing you. At the same time, the policies of the Federal Reserve are punishing people who don't have means. The very low interest-rate environment has encouraged commodity speculation around the world. It's driven up the price of energy. It's driven up the price of food. Unfortunately, I think a lot about these issues these days. I'm seeing the manifestation of an over-involved government in every dimension of what we do here at Citadel. It is really brutally unfair what it's doing to large segments of our population. I'm not really sure who the winners are.

Q. How would you try to convey to someone on the street, that you and your ilk are not evil? How would try to explain to them that you're not just acting out of self-interest? What would you say to them to make them trust you?

A. (45 second pause.) I think if you look at the realm we're discussing, which is the political realm, I think it would be impossible to find an action by any politician intended to specifically favor either my firm or myself. That's not the driver of my involvement. And with respect to the role my firm plays, I'm proud that we've created well over 1,000 high-paying jobs in Chicago, and I'm very proud of the involvement of my leadership team in the city.

I know the people in these four walls here have put more than $100 million into institutions, whether it's education, the arts, programs to combat poverty. This is a group of people who are really invested in the community.

We got through the financial crisis in '08 without a single dollar of taxpayer support. All we've done since '08-- since we saw the government pick winners and losers in our industry, which was really distasteful to watch play out-- is that we've continued to stay true to our moral compass. We're going to fight for what we believe in, and we're going to support the city and the country we're a part of.

Some people go through an experience like '08 and say, you know, 'The world's not fair.' And they just pull into their shell. I don't believe that's the case. I believe it's time for those of us who believe in the values that have made this great nation to continue to exemplify those values every chance we get.

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At 5:12 PM, Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...

Can you tell me why you don't have more comments and a massive readership? Because your work is fantastic.

At 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely support David Gill. But I am also against SuperPacs. Is ActBlue a type of SuperPac? If not, what's the difference?

At 6:38 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Blue America isn't a SuperPAC. Our average contribution is $45. It's a grassroots political action committee working to help elect grassroots progressives to Congress. We're very transparent as well. (And no one ever gave us a million dollars.) If you want to contribute (to the PAC or directly to Dr. Gill's campaign), you can do it here:


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