Corporate Election Machine Fires Up

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minnesota)

The corporate financial steamroller is heading into the election arena much faster than many folks thought possible.

I was one of those who figured the corporate money machine wouldn’t be fully functional in time for the 2010 mid-term elections.

Obviously, I and others who thought the same way should have known better. We were naïve.

The billionaire corporation officers couldn’t come up with serious reductions in automotive fuel consumption for 40 years. Corporate bigwigs have yet to figure out how to make banks profitable without creating periodic worldwide economic disasters, and have and failed over almost 40 years to make any progress whatever in preventing and/or cleaning up major oil spills. People who pay themselves well upward of a million dollars a year say they simply can’t find a way to seriously reduce their pollution of our environment.

But it took only about four months to design and set up an efficient system for taking over the American electoral system at all levels, from municipal to national.

On Jan. 21, 2010, the day the Supreme (now Extreme) Court under John Roberts declared that corporations and the very rich had a right to speak louder than the rest of us during campaigns, it was immediately clear that representative democracy in this country would be a thing of the past. The rich, already enormously powerful, were going to own the system outright.

The court extended that January gift to the very rich, and dealt what is almost sure to be the death blow to American democracy, on June 7, 2010, when it declared in a case involving Arizona election law that public funding couldn’t be used to even the odds for a less-than-rich candidate running against a candidate of great wealth or supported by great (corporate) wealth.

In case you’ve been in a coma for the past seven months:

The Roberts court decided on Jan. 21 that corporations are individuals and as such have all rights of individual American citizens. That was clearly translated by the court as meaning that restrictions on corporate spending on elections are unconstitutional because they are “restrictions on the free speech” of individuals — citizens such as 3M, General Motors, Exxon, Halliburton, et al.

Never mind that corporate officers already had as much freedom as thee and me to say what they choose to say and to donate to favored politicians –- within the same restrictions that apply to the rest of us. The ruling overturned a whole lot of law aimed at keeping corporations from buying elections and gave each top-level corporate executive a thousand, or ten thousand, times the voice that each of us has.

On June 7, the rampaging court declared that an Arizona law that tried to even the odds between rich and not-rich candidates also is unconstitutional.

Under that law, candidates who signed up for public financing got more public money if their opposition refused to abide by the limits imposed under public financing and spent much more. According the Roberts gang, helping poorer -– that is, usually Democratic, or liberal — candidates match the spending of big-money candidates somehow restricts the free speech of the rich candidates.

Hey, don’t look for logic or rational legal thinking; the political right is on a crusade. Their most dearly held core belief is that money has special rights.

Roberts achieved with breathtaking swiftness the goal that was the reason for his appointment to the court.

But the fact that his clients could get into position to take full advantage of the court’s achievement so quickly is somewhat surprising. It is a testament to how efficient they can be when they actually want to accomplish a given task.

It also makes clear that their failures to accomplish tasks they don’t want, such as reducing or stopping pollution, are deliberate, but almost no one will notice that. Certainly the corporate media won’t see it or call attention to it.

What is not directly and quickly profitable, they will not do.

Taking full control of government on all levels in America will be quickly and enormously profitable, obviously.

The way it is being done in Minnesota, my home state, is a model of perfection, and undoubtedly will be duplicated throughout the country with almost equal speed.

Here, the state’s two most powerful corporate armies, the Minnesota Business Partnership and the state Chamber of Commerce, in one of the shortest such pregnancies in history, gave birth to something called MN Forward.

(You have to admire the names the right comes up with. Those two organizations always have been devoted to dragging our society backward to the time of Gilded Age, or perhaps feudalism.)

The new organization will be headed by Brian McClung, who resigned as deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to take the new job. The Minnesota Business Partnership, by the way, is headed by Charlie Weaver, former chief of staff for Pawlenty. McClung, Weaver, and Pawlenty all work for the same people.

Pawlenty, of course, is an outwardly affable, youthful-appearing and very well-dressed extreme right winger who pretty much successfully masquerades before the general public as a deeply Christian nice guy who really cares about people. He owes his political career to a secretive, small-membership group of very rich people who go by the name of the Minnesota Taxpayers League. He is their servant, if not their slave. He wants to be president of the United States. Manchurian candidates ain’t in it.

McClung told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the new organization plans to raise $2 million to use in this year’s campaigns in the state. That, the Strib, said, is four times what the Chamber of Commerce has raised in individual political contributions in a typical election year in the past.

That’s smoke, of course. In truth, the Chamber undoubtedly has urged, teased, sweated and otherwise forced its members to give considerably more than $500,000 per election year to its favored candidates throughout the state. The “official” numbers are meaningless.

And it would be little short of astonishing if what the corporate people pump into the 2010 campaigns for statewide office, congressional seats, legislative seats and maybe a few key municipal elections is only $2 million. Maybe they’ll hold the reported MN Forward direct contributions to that number.

The direct contributions to candidates are only part of the story, however.

Those guys are very smart when it comes to furthering their own perceived advantages as opposed, say, to furthering the public good through something like weaning themselves and society from dependence on fossil fuels.

The story they’re already telling is that they are raising the money and picking candidates not for their own benefit -– why, they aren’t even really sure what self-interest means -– but, as the Strib quoted Chamber President David Olson, to “work with a broad coalition of Minnesota job creators to elect candidates from both parties who support policies that enhance job growth in Minnesota.”

“Job creators” is a favored Republican and corporate phrase. It applies equally to a new fabric shop, a local garage and the nation-sized corporations that for more than two decades have been shipping American jobs to India, Mexico, China and other places where people work 80-hour weeks for barely enough to buy food and shelter.

Weaver told the Strib that MN Forward will be “a force to counter unions and other DFL-leaning groups.”

(DFL is Minnesota-speak for Democrat. It derives from the merger in 1944 of the Democrats and the Farmer-Labor Party, which was something of a force in the state in the 1920s, ’30s and early ’40s.)

To interpret:

Electing candidates of both parties is an obvious lie. That could change as the Democrats continue to move toward duplicating the Republican party, but to date the state Chamber of Commerce and the Business Partnership have rarely, if ever, supported anyone with a D after his or her name.

“A coalition of job creators” is, as already noted, Republican boilerplate. It long has been required by their public relations people and campaign advisers to mention “job creation” and “protecting jobs” at least three times in every speech and interview, to con the dumdums into believing the Republicans actually want to increase the number of decent-paying jobs. And it works to some extent. A great many people listen to what they say and ignore or remain unaware of what they do.

“Counter unions and other DFL-leaning groups” also is standard Republican fare throughout the country. They maintain the highly useful fiction, stoutly supported by corporate news media, that unions continue to be a gigantic force in American politics. Lots of people believe it, and also believe the media fiction that most unions are essentially gangster operations.

Corporations and their executives outspend unions on politics by enormous amounts, and that’s before the Roberts court rulings. Hard figures are difficult to come by, partially because union spending decreases steadily, but the latest apparently reliable research results I saw showed that corporations, their officers and high-level employees outspent unions and their members on campaigns by somewhere around nine to one at the turn of this century. Union membership has continued to shrink since then, of course, and corporate power has grown, even before the January court ruling.

Oh, and the backers and leaders of the new MN Forward election-buying machine openly admitted that it will be much easier to get corporate officers to donate company money than to get them to dig into their personal purses. That’s important.

I haven’t seen any reporting on this in the corporate media, but it’s safe to assume that corporate money people will get, or find a way, to deduct campaign spending from corporate taxes. You and I will not get that break. But our “free speech” isn’t valued by the Roberts court as highly as that of McDonnell Douglas or Honeywell.

As the Strib quoted Olson: Under the old system, which forbade direct corporate spending on elections, “You have to go to somebody and say, ‘Will you give me a thousand dollars?’ I’ve asked somebody for a thousand dollars…and they’ve said, ‘Dave, I’d rather give you $10,000 in corporate money.’ I think we’re going to get some of that.”

There is no doubt he is right about that.

——————–

Another place where the court approval of corporate election buying is immediately effective is, of course, Congress, where Democrats are jumping into line so quickly that some of those intellectually and morally stunted coots are in serious danger of tripping over Republicans and hurting themselves.

The most obvious evidence of Congressional kissing of corporate butts at the moment is in the so-called financial regulatory reform bill. Check the New York Times, Mother Jones and other publications still practicing journalism for recent stories on what’s happening to that bill. Republicans always were going to give their all to prevent genuine reform, of course, but they’ll succeed for sure now, because they’re being joined in every rotten move by a larger number of Democrats than might otherwise have been the case.

They’re protecting the poor billionaires against the great unwashed and, in the process, earning the money needed to retain their Congressional sinecures.

It’s just getting rolling, but how do you like Corporate States of America so far? If you have any ideas to slow the machine, better speak up fast.

Jim Fuller

Published by the LA Progressive on June 29, 2010
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About Jim Fuller

James Clay Fuller is a sort-of retired journalist who has worked in newspapers and magazines for more than 45 years. His day job for 30 years was at the Minneapolis StarTribune, where he was a business and economics reporter, features writer, and sometime music critic, as well as an editor in charge of several specialized sections of the newspaper and a number of investigative projects. He was nominated for Pulitzer Prizes in 1977 and 1992, and was the instigator and senior editor on a project that was nominated for a Pultizer in 1997. He has written for many national publications.

Professionally, Fuller has been known throughout his career as Jim Fuller. However, when applying for the URL of that name, he learned it has been hijacked by a Web squatter who is using it in an extremely offensive way. In addition, Web searches for "Jim Fuller" turn up thousands of others with the same name, so he is now using his full name - James Clay Fuller - to make it easier to find him online.

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