Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Can The GOP Replace Democracy With Plutocracy? Case Study: The Adelsons


In the last couple of cycles Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, funneled $94,402,625 into U.S. political campaigns. Although some of it was wasted on crackpot fringe candidates like Shmuley Boteach, Miriam wrote 3 checks for $5,000,000 each on June 14, 2012, October 15, 2012 and October 19, 2012 to Romney's SuperPAC, Restore Our Future. On June 14, 2012, October 11, 2012 and October 19, 2012, Sheldon also wrote $5,000,000 checks to the same Romney SuperPAC. That's a cool $30,000,000. And it isn't all the money-- on behalf of China, Israel and the Mafia-- the Adelson's managed to inject into the Romney campaign. They put another $23,000,000 into Rove's America Crossroads operation and hundreds of thousands more into all kinds of GOP operations and committees that supported Romney.

So it was a tiny bit strange today when the Washington Post published a story by Matea Gold and Philip Rucker asserting that Adelson doesn't want to underwrite the campaigns of candidates who are too far from the mainstream to win national elections. He's "undertaking," they wrote "a new strategy for 2016-- to tap his fortune on behalf of a more mainstream Republican with a clear shot to win the White House."

The Republican base is sick of "mainstream candidates" like Romney and McCain and they say they will not be denied in 2016. If they don't get a fringe extremist like Ted Cruz or, at least, Rand Paul they will destroy the party. The last thing the base wants now is another Bush or something like that. Adelson and his coterie think they can force the right-wing base to do what he decides.

[T]he Adelsons are plotting their investments based not on personal loyalty, but on a much more strategic aim: to help select a Republican nominee they believe will have broad appeal to an increasingly diverse national electorate.

The change in attitude comes amid early jockeying by a lengthy list of aspiring Republican presidential contenders to win the affections of the billionaire, who is in the beginning stages of assessing the field.

“The bar for support is going to be much higher,” said Andy Abboud, Adelson’s top political adviser and an executive at the Adelson-run Las Vegas Sands Corp. He added, “There’s going to be a lot more scrutiny.”

This strategy would favor more established 2016 hopefuls such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. All four will descend this week on Adelson’s luxury hotel in Las Vegas, the Venetian, for an important step in what some are calling the “Sheldon Primary.”

Officially, the potential 2016 candidates will be at the Venetian for the spring meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which begins Thursday with a golf outing followed by a VIP dinner featuring Bush and hosted by the Adelsons in the private airplane hangar where Adelson keeps his fleet.

But some of the most important events will occur between the poker tournament, Scotch tasting and strategy workshops. That’s when Adelson is scheduled to hold casual one-on-one chats-- over coffee, at dinner or in his private office-- with the prospective candidates.

Victor Chaltiel, a GOP donor and an Adelson friend who sits on the board of Las Vegas Sands, said at this early stage in the 2016 sweepstakes, Adelson is “neutral” and has his eye on a number of potential candidates, including Bush and Christie.

“He doesn’t want a crazy extremist to be the nominee,” Chaltiel said. “He wants someone who has the chance to win the election, who is reasonable in his positions, who has convictions but is not totally crazy.”

Chaltiel said Adelson is concerned about the impact the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal in New Jersey has had on Christie’s political image. He also said Adelson admires Bush and believes he has the unique potential to do what Romney could not: win over a large number of non-white voters. Bush, whose wife is Mexican American, speaks fluent Spanish.

“Jeb Bush, because he’s bilingual, because of his wife, he has a better chance to reach out and get more access to the minorities,” Chaltiel said… “The candidate will have to have a strong résumé-- no sudden lightning-new guy-- will have to build a formidable fundraising apparatus and really be emotionally tethered to bringing in middle-class Latinos, Asian Pacifics, Jews and blacks like never before.”

…Adelson, who is worth an estimated $37.9 billion, according to Bloomberg, is a staunch supporter of Israel. Adelson has expressed little interest in some of the social issues that motivate the GOP base. But he is driven by what he has said he sees as Obama’s socialist agenda. He is a fierce opponent of organized labor and is currently embroiled in a fight to ban online gambling.

Adelson also is lending his weight to a bid by Las Vegas to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Adelson has a personal friendship with one possible candidate: former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. In late November, Adelson introduced Huckabee at the Zionist Organization of America’s annual dinner in New York City, where Huckabee received the Adelson Defender of Israel Award. There, the casino magnate called him “a great person, a great American and a great Zionist.” But it remains to be seen whether their friendship would translate into financial support should Huckabee run.

A senior strategist who has advised past GOP nominees said the 2016 hopefuls “are just falling at his feet.”

“It’s a bunch of people out scrounging for the same dollars, and Sheldon represents the largest or second-largest box of money,” said the strategist, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.
The Republicans have outsourced most of their political spending to shady outside operations like the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity directly controlled by a tiny handful of democracy-hating plutocrats. And, for all the bragging the DSCC and DCCC do about how they are out raising the NRSC and the NRCC, the billionaire-controlled outside groups are dominating the field and spending the most money. This chart shows how the Kochs alone are burying the Democrats' Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC in key races. The Kochs and the Adelsons may not be able to beat Hillary in 2016, but they are certainly going to kick the Democrats' asses in the congressional elections this year. Steve Israel's incompetence guarantees the Republicans will have a sizable majority in the House and the stunning unwillingness to fight on the part of Michael Bennet and Guy Cecil will probably hand the leadership of the Senate over to Mitch McConnell (or, if he is defeated, to John Cornyn). Call to action: help Shenna Bellows beat Susan Collins in Maine, help Rick Weiland beat Mike Rounds in South Dakota and help Jay Stamper beat Lindsey Graham in South Carolina. If the Democrats win even one of these races, they keep the Senate majority.

This is from a letter Senator Bernie Sanders sent to his supporters this morning:
The unprecedented struggle that we're engaged in now against the Billionaire Class is not just about preserving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, or whether we create the millions of jobs our economy desperately needs. It's not merely about whether we raise the minimum wage, make college affordable, protect women's rights or take the bold initiatives we need to reverse climate change and save our planet. It's not just about creating a health care system which guarantees health care to all as a right, or addressing the abysmally high rate of childhood poverty.


I know that some of you think I am exaggerating when I say that.  I'm not.

In my view, there are now three major political forces in this country.  The Democratic Party, the Republican Party and the Koch brothers led Billionaire Party. As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court ruling which regards corporations as people and allows the super-rich to spend as much as they want on elections, the Billionaire Party (aligned with the Republicans) is now the major political force in the country.

The Koch brothers, worth $80 billion dollars, are the second wealthiest family in America. Working with other billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, the Kochs are prepared to spend an UNLIMITED sum of money to create an America shaped by their right-wing views.  And I mean UNLIMITED. Last year, according to Forbes Magazine, the Koch brothers’ fortune INCREASED by $12 billion dollars, while the fortune of Sheldon Adelson INCREASED by $11 billion. In one year!  In other words, a handful of self-serving right-wing multi-billionaires have the capability of spending more money on the political process than everyone else combined (the Obama campaign spent one billion in 2012) and they will still be far better off financially than the preceding year.

It is also important to understand the nature of their spending. While they are obviously putting huge sums of money into elections (much of it hidden from public scrutiny), political consultants and lobbyists, their influence goes far beyond political campaigns or congressional policy. Incredibly, and not widely known, is the reality that they have created or supported organizations active in almost every area of public life-- the law, education, health care, economics, academia, the environment and climate change, state legislative initiatives, media and veterans’ needs. In other words, they are spending billions not only to win elections and legislative victories today, but to aggressively shape public consciousness to bring about the extreme right-wing society they wish to see. It is also likely that, in years to come, they will move to influence public opinion through direct media ownership.  Last year, for example, the Koch brothers gave serious thought to buying the Chicago Tribune Media Company.

What is it that the Koch Brothers and these other billionaires want?  What are their goals?

Short term, they want to repeal or eviscerate every major piece of legislation passed in the last 80 years which protects the interests of working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. This means, among other programs, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education, the right of workers to organize, worker safety, unemployment benefits, nutrition programs and the United States Postal Service. Incredibly, they not only oppose raising the minimum wage, they want to abolish the CONCEPT of the minimum wage so that employers can hire workers for $3 an hour. They also want to dismantle virtually all agencies of government which work to protect the environment and clean air, clean water and safe food. Needless to say, they also believe in a regressive tax system in which the wealthy and large corporations pay even less than they pay today.

Long term, their economic goal is to create a right-wing extremist "free" economy in which working people have virtually no rights or protections. It is not only ideology that motivates them. They want to make sure that more and more of our nation's wealth will come to rest in the hands of the richest 1/10th of 1% of Americans. They want to make certain that they keep their billions and increase those billions, so that the rich not only stay rich but become even richer.  They want a radical redistribution of wealth away from the middle class, the elderly, children and working families-- and into the financial holdings of the Billionaire Class.

Politically, they want an electoral system in which the super-rich buy elections while, at the same time, fewer low-income and working people are able to vote. For the Billionaire Class, "democracy" is simply an extension of their economic power. Today, they own much of the economy. Now, they want to own the government.  Clearly, part of their insidious agenda is to make it harder for low-income and working families to vote and participate in the political process through the establishment of restrictive voting regulations.

That is their agenda and, if the truth be told, they are making huge gains. Ideas that used to be thought “crazy” are now echoed daily by senators, members of Congress and governors all across the country.

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