Saturday, December 01, 2018

The Take Over Of The Democratic Party By Big Money Is Very Real


The Ugly Face of the Takeover

During the this cycle’s primary season, first Marie Newman (Chicago), then Alan Grayson (Orlando) and then Matt Heinz (Tucson) were all calling on the media to look into and report how Rupert Murdoch and his family and a handful of other right-wing billionaires were funneling immense sums of money into a network of shady superPACs run by Mr and Mrs Mark Penn, who were working in overdrive to defeat progressives on behalf of reactionary candidates like Blue Dog Dan Lipinski and New Dems Darren Soto and Ann Kirkpatrick. They also ran campaigns against Deb Haaland in Albuquerque and Susan Wild in the Philly suburbs, again, on behalf of very right-wing, faux Democrats.

We’ve been covering the news extensively and yesterday I was overjoyed to see Lee Fang run with it— albeit way too late for Marie, Alan or Matt. His Intercept headline reads, Billionaire Republican Donors Help Elect Rising Centrist Democrats. It’s all the rage now for wealthy Republicans to put money into the campaigns of conservative Democrats in blue districts. They do it through Penn and his money-hungry wife, Nancy Jacobson, the Sugar Mama for the Republican wing of the Democratic Party and the most venal enemy of progressivism within the confines of the DNC’s way-too-big tent. “Just three years ago,” wrote Fang, “hedge fund manager Louis Bacon was writing a $19,600 check to a committee called “Boehner for Speaker.”

Now, the billionaire GOP donor has pivoted to influence the future of the Democratic Party. Records show Bacon is one of several deep-pocketed donors that have shifted to financing recent Democratic campaigns. Though national media attention has focused largely on newly elected democratic socialists and progressive members, the House Democratic caucus has also swelled with pro-business moderates, such as the Blue Dogs, the Problem Solvers Caucus, and the New Democrats.” I’ve tried explaining to Fang the mistake of calling conservatives “moderates,” but… he persists. Otherwise, his article is very good.
The newly ascendent centrists flexed their muscle this week when a bloc of moderate [Note: None of them are remotely “moderate;” they are all extreme] lawmakers imposed a set of rules on Rep. Nancy Pelosi in her bid for speaker of the House, forcing the California Democrat to accept parliamentary changes that are designed to give the GOP greater access to floor votes and amending legislation.

The rule changes were proposed by the Problem Solvers Caucus— a nearly 2-year-old group affiliated with the organization No Labels that consists of 24 House Democrats and 24 House Republicans [Note: nearly all the Republican Problem Solvers were defeated on November 6]. Many of the members of the caucus were elected with financial support from Bacon, the billionaire hedge fund manager, along other wealthy donors with a long history of giving to Republicans.

When the House was previously under Democratic control, the Blue Dogs and New Democrats helped industry lobbyists kill health care reforms designed to lower costs and expand public insurance options. Earlier this year, the same bloc sided with House Republicans to repeal financial reforms on medium and large-sized banks. [Note: Fang has that right… so why does he persist in referring to them as “moderates?”]

On Monday, the Blue Dog Coalition also formally announced the addition of eight new members, bringing the total group to 24 members. The new members represent a rebound for the caucus, which has lost a lot of its members since the 2010 tea party wave. The recent electoral success is at least partially thanks to close ties to Democratic leadership — the Blue Dog caucus, notably, helped the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee identify pro-business candidates for swing districts ahead of the midterm elections.

The Blue Dog caucus is known for embracing a corporate-friendly agenda draped in rhetoric about finding common ground with conservatives. The caucus has a long history of supporting defense spending, fiscal austerity, and corporate-friendly free trade deals and regulations, while opposing civil rights legislation and expanded social services.

The three newly elected Blue Dog co-chairs, Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL); Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ).; and Lou Correa (D-CA), are simultaneously members of the New Democrats. Murphy and O’Halleran are also members of the Problem Solvers Caucus and were two of the members who signed a letter demanding rule changes in exchange for their support of Pelosi. The three centrist caucus groups could boast as many as 90 members or more in January when new lawmakers elected this month are sworn in.

No Labels, Lots Of Cash

The newly empowered centrist Democrats rode a wave of big money into office.

Federal Election Commission records show that much of the centrist bloc has been financed by eight Super PACs associated with group No Labels, a centrist group that created the Problem Solvers Caucus.

Despite the litany of PACs, the donors remain largely the same group of about 13 wealthy businessmen, most of whom have a history of financing Republican campaigns.

Bacon, the founder of the Moore Capital Management hedge fund, gave $1.1 million in campaign contributions exclusively to GOP committees for federal office during the 2016 cycle. This cycle, Bacon gave $1 million to three No Labels-affiliated Super PACs, with much of that money flowing to races that elected centrist Democrats. One of the groups, United for Progress, played a decisive role in helping Rep. Dan Lipinski, a centrist Illinois Democrat who is anti-abortion, beat back a progressive primary challenger.

James Murdoch, chief executive of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, gave $500,000 to United for Progress, a No Labels Super PAC. The group transferred $730,000 to another No Labels Super PAC, Progress Tomorrow, which helped Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) fend off a primary challenge this year from former Rep. Alan Grayson, who has been highly critical of Fox News.

Lipinski and Soto, who are members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, both signed the letter to Pelosi. They are also members of the New Democrats, and Lipinski is the former policy co-chair of the Blue Dogs.

Investor Nelson Peltz, an adviser to No Labels, has donated $900,000 to No Labels Super PACs and directly to several centrist Democrats that pressed to impose new rules on Pelosi, including Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Tom Suozzi of New York, and Murphy, the representative from Florida. Peltz is also a major donor to Donald Trump, having given to the president’s campaign and joint fundraising committee over the last two cycles.

Peltz, who made much of his fortune using junk bonds, has awarded himself very large pay packages. At one of his former companies, known as Triac, he paid himself $29 million for a company with only $1.2 billion in sales. After the election in 2016, he urged support for Trump and called for policies that give investors a special tax holiday on repatriated oversees profits.

Last year, the Washington Post revealed that the top aide to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin traveled on Peltz’s private plane, a trip that raised ethics concerns. Peltz notably has pushed for lower tax rates for corporations.

Dan Webb, co-executive chair of the law firm Winston & Strawn, gave $100,000 to Citizens for a Strong America, one of the No Labels Super PACs. Webb’s other direct federal donations this cycle only went to two incumbent House Republicans…

Blue Dogs Fetch Dark Money

One of the other Super PACs that worked to elect centrist members is known as the Center Forward Committee, an outgrowth of the Blue Dog Research Forum, a now-shuttered think tank affiliated with the House Democratic caucus.

The group was formed by former Rep. John Tanner (D-TN) and other retired centrist Democrats. Tanner now serves at the lobbying firm Prime Policy Group, which represents many corporate clients, including FedEx, Bayer, the American Hospital Association, Google, and the National Restaurant Association.

The Super PAC spent big on electing moderate, pro-business Democrats, including Florida’s Murphy, Arizona’s O’Halleran, and Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) But unlike the New Labels PACs, the Center Forward Committee has virtually no identifiable individual or corporate donors. Out of $1.2 million the Super PAC raised, $980,000 came from Center Forward, an affiliated 501(c)(4) nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors. Another $200,000 came from the New Democrats PAC and the Blue Dog PAC, two groups nearly fully funded by a range of corporate PAC money. Center Forward did not return a request for comment.

Despite the opaque nature of the big-money group, there are some hints.

The National Restaurant Association, an avowed opponent of expanding union rights and raising the minimum wage, is funded through company donations from the likes of McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Jack in the Box franchise owners, though the group does not provide a public breakdown of exactly how it is funded. The National Rifle Association, notably, directly contributed $40,000 to the Blue Dog-affiliated Super PAC, according to FEC disclosures.

Other corporate donors have given through a daisy chain of semi-disclosed entities. The Center Forward 501(c)(4), for instance, received $77,000 from NCTA, a trade group that represents Comcast, Cox Communications, and other cable giants, according to the 2017 tax filing made available to The Intercept last week.

Generally speaking, establishment Democrats seem utterly unconcerned that GOP billionaires are systematically replacing progressive candidates with conservatives from the Republican wing of the party. In fact, if you look at the candidates recruited by the DCCC this cycle, they are overwhelmingly, the same kind of business-friendly, military-industrial complex-loving, shitheads who are both hostile to the legitimate aspirations of the working class and very much in sync with the demands of the Bacons, Murdochs, Webbs, Peltzes, etc. After all, keeping the Bernie wing of the party— the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party— away from the levers of power is the overriding (bipartisan) goal of all concerned. They have their sites set on this for 2020:

Biden by Nancy Ohanian

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At 8:29 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Oh yeah i totally believe this.

At 8:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many problems covered by this post:

1) - Expecting the media to do anything their corporatist owners don't want done is an exercise in futility. Sisyphus will successfully push that boulder up to the top of the hill long before the media ever covers any investigation on anything involving political money. Watergate was the last time that will ever happen in the US of A.

2) - There is now even LESS difference between the two faces of the corporatist party. What few progressives who were elected to office will be neutralized in some manner, and few will get much media coverage.

3) - I respect the work of Lee Fang and The Intercept, but he is a lonely voice crying out in the wilderness. His story isn't likely to be picked up by the corporatist media. Few will thus ever read what he has to say. What passes for progressive media has yet to organize even an informal syndicate.

4) - Bernie tried once, and let us down. While he may try again, he won't be allowed to do as well again - especially if Hillary is running as rumored.

This nation is incredibly close to becoming a one-party state controlled by corporate money. For too many reasons, 2018 was our last chance, and Big Money saw too it that our gains were limited, and some of our stars were prevented from winning their races.

After the climate report, I don't see this nation or the world population surviving too much longer. The wealthy won't allow it.

At 6:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim Hightower on our ravaged and plundered media

It's why they can't do the job a democracy requires of them.

At 6:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see we aren't posting links again

At 6:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big money didn't take over the democraps. the DLC sold the party to the big money.

And this is not new. Hightower and the late, great Molly Ivins had written about it since the '80s, when Clinton et al formed the DLC expressly for the purpose of selling the party to the big money.

and now the big money will get 'paygo'. they always get at least a 10-1 ROI.


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