Later On

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Why corporations have taken over the government

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Because corporations spend $34 on lobbying for every $1 spent by any other entity (unions, public interest groups, etc.). Lee Drutman reports in the Washington Post:

To judge from polls, Americans are deeply concerned about political corruption. They share a widespread belief that members of Congress are unethical, with lobbyists as the only group seen as more unethical. The implicit understanding of politics is that the “special interests” and their lobbyists “buy” politicians, sort of like you’d buy a candy bar or a bag of chips out of a (very high-dollar) vending machine.

The problem with this view is not only that is it wrong, but also that it misdirects us. In short, it asks us to analyze politics without the actual politics –without the competition between competing interests, without the shifting alliances and coalitions, without parties and ideology, without any sense of there being a policy process, and without the many unpredictabilities and uncertainties that make politics actually interesting. It asks us to analyze transactions between individual politicians and individual special interests, as if they were separate and independent events (they are neither) that can be described as either “corrupt” or “not corrupt” (a useless dichotomy).

In so doing, we miss the bigger and more important story. The real story is not that lobbying or special interests are inherently bad. We have had them as long as we’ve had politics.

The problem is that one set of interests routinely overpowers the rest. In particular, corporate lobbying has metastasized over the last four decades, and this increasingly over-crowded and hyper-contested lobbying environment benefits the large corporations who have the most resources to participate in the day-to-day workings of Congress. This problem is compounded because Congress increasingly lacks its own capacity to keep up.

Organized interests collectively report $3.2 billion a year in lobbying expenditures, and probably equally or greater amounts on non-reported lobbying-related activities. The most active organizations are now hiring upwards of 100 lobbyists to represent them. These statistics alone should tell us that special interests don’t “buy” politicians with campaign contributions. If they did, there’d be no point in spending all that money to hire lobbyists.

The reason to hire so many lobbyists is that genuine political influence is actually hard work. It requires building a compelling case and then making that case over and over and over again. It means being in multiple places at once. Most of the time in Washington, not much is happening at the measurable surface.

But in the slow churn of the “war of position,” relationships are being maintained. Coalitions are being built. Worldviews are being reiterated. Legislation is being drafted and vetted. Carefully selected constituents are being brought in to tell carefully rehearsed stories. People are talking to other people, trying to figure out who will do what, what ideas are “serious” and “not serious,” what has a chance of moving, what isn’t going anywhere, what the press will cover, what voters might care about, and countless other attempts to shape the “common knowledge” of Washington.

The most active participants have many different goals they’d like to achieve: some long-term, some short-term. Scrutinize the lobbying reports of any major lobbying entity, and you will see an impressive range of issues and bills. Like a good venture capitalist, these major lobbying entities are investing in many possibilities, engaging in “spread betting” with the knowledge that one big tax break or patent extension or stalled regulation can more than justify a decade of government relations for a large corporation. Often, the main goal is keeping an issue off the agenda.

To focus only on the campaign contributions as transactional “buying” activity misses all this rich detail. Certainly, campaign contributions help, and all else equal, members of Congress are more likely to listen to those who contribute to their campaigns than those who don’t. But congressional offices get contributions from more people than they can effectively respond to. Often, they get contributions from interests on both sides of an issue.

Lobbyists also gain access because they have personal relationships with members or staff. Or because they have useful policy information or analysis – an especially valuable resource for young staffers who are stretched far too thin and happy for any help. Or because they just keep showing up. For the last 15 years, companies have consistently spent 13 times more on lobbying than they have on PAC contributions.

While considerable empirical work finds that there is no consistent correlation between money spent on outcomes in any given case, it would be a tremendous mistake to then conclude that resources are irrelevant. The key is to understand resources in the aggregate. More resources allow you to hire more lobbyists, to work on more issues – to do more of everything.

Looking at lobbying in the aggregate, what jumps out is the stark imbalance in resources. Corporations blow everyone else out of the water. Business accounts for roughly 80 percent of all reported lobbying expenditures, about $2.6 billion dollars a year now.

Certainly, there has always been “bias in the pressure system” (political science shorthand for the fact that not all interests are equally represented). But what’s new is just how much the steady and continued expansion of business lobbying over the last several decades has outpaced the traditional forces that once kept it in check.

The amount of political activity on behalf of large corporations today is truly unprecedented. The $2.6 billion in reported corporate lobbying spending is now more than the combined under $2 billion budget for the entire Senate ($820 million) and the entire House ($1.16 billion).

Meanwhile, the types of organized interests who we might expect to provide a countervailing force to business — labor unions, groups representing diffuse public like consumers or taxpayers — spend $1 for every $34 businesses spend on lobbying, by my count. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying annually, consistently 95 represent business. In interviewing 60 corporate lobbyists for my book The Business of America is Lobbying, I asked them to identify the leading opposition on an issue on which they were currently working. Not a single lobbyist volunteered a union or a “public interest” group.

Even if we take the most benign view of lobbying as merely providing information and legislative support, these data suggest that, on many issues, policymakers hear significantly more often from one side than another. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 April 2015 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Business, Congress

22-Year Old Commits Suicide at Capitol to Send Congress a Message

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Corporate media know how to avert their gaze. Pam Martens reports in Wall Street on Parade:

At approximately 1:07 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, April 11, during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival celebrating springtime in the Nation’s Capitol, a 22-year old man took his own life with a gun on the Capitol grounds with a protest sign taped to his hand. According to the Washington Post, the sign read: “Tax the one percent.”

Yesterday, the Metropolitan Police Department released the young man’s name. He was Leo P. Thornton of Lincolnwood, Illinois. Based on what is currently known, the young man had traveled to Washington, D.C. for the express purpose of making a political statement with his sign and then ending his young life.

The Chicago Tribune reported that “Thornton’s parents filed a missing persons report on the morning of April 11 after he never came home from work on April 10, Lincolnwood Deputy Police Chief John Walsh said.”

Those are the tragic facts of the incident itself. But there is a broader tragedy: the vacuous handling of this story by corporate media. The Washington Post headlined the story with this: “Rhythms of Washington Return after Illinois Man’s Suicide Outside Capitol.” The message he delivered to his Congress – tax the one percent – has yet to be explored by any major news outlet in America in connection with this tragedy.

Was the message of Leo P. Thornton of Lincolnwood, Illinois a critical piece of information for this Congress to hear at this moment in American history. You’re damn right it was. Outside of Wall Street’s wealth transfer system, provisions in the U.S. tax code are the second biggest wealth transfer system to the one percent. Together, these two systems have created the greatest income and wealth inequality since the economic collapse in the Great Depression. They threaten a repeat of the 2008 financial collapse because the majority of Americans do not have the wages or savings to support the broader economy.

President Obama clearly understands what is going on. Whether he can get Congress to act is quite another matter. In his January 20, 2015 State of the Union speech, Obama stated:

“…let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth. We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college. We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together. We can achieve it together.”

The President was talking about one of the two biggest tax giveaways to perpetuate the one percent in America – the “step up in basis” at death. Having previously advised regular working folks on investments for 21 years, I can assure you that the majority of Americans have never heard of this giveaway to the rich which has been in effect for decades.

Here’s how it works: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 April 2015 at 10:36 am

Wall Street’s Wealth Transfer System Is Imperiling the U.S. Economy

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UPDATE: Here’s a specific example of how the wealth-transfer system works, in a NY Times Editorial:

The New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer, went public last week with news that some financial reporters found blindingly obvious, but it still should get the rest of the public steaming mad. It is that billions of dollars have been leaking out of the city’s five public-employee pension funds, in payment for Wall Street money management that wasn’t worth it.

Mr. Stringer’s office did an analysis of the funds over the last 10 years and found that the high fees of managers and failure to reach performance goals had eaten away $2.5 billion of the pension systems’ value. If you take the funds’ gains since 2004, and subtract the fees, the analysis said, you end up basically at zero.

To be more precise: The analysis found that over the 10 years, the managers of “private” asset classes, such as hedge funds and real estate, fell $2.6 billion short of target benchmarks after fees were accounted for. Over the same period, managers of public asset classes, like stocks and bonds, slightly exceeded their benchmarks. “However, those managers gobbled up more than 95 percent of the value added — over $2 billion — leaving almost no extra return for the funds,” Mr. Stringer’s office said.

It’s commonly known that active investment management is expensive, that Wall Street wolves always take their bite, and that they can make bad bets as often as good ones. But it seems fair to ask why it has to be this way with this giant pool of taxpayer money, a pension system of nearly $160 billion that is supposedly run by the best minds the city can find, for the benefit of 715,000 retired cops, firefighters, teachers and others.

Even nonexperts can grasp a primal personal-finance principle: buy low-cost funds linked to the overall performance of the stock market, be patient and don’t try to outsmart the market or pay someone an arm and a leg to do it for you. That a succession of city comptrollers and fund trustees — who, it should be noted, once included Mr. Stringer, a trustee in his old job as Manhattan borough president — would never have thought of this before and found ways to reduce the damage done by excessive fees, is incredible.

Mr. Stringer told The Times that the problem stems from bad decisions and overlooked data. Relevant information about fees lay buried deep in footnotes of financial reports that no previous comptroller’s office had ever bothered to extract or publicize. Which leads to the obvious next question: Mr. Stringer announced the bad results, but he did not name names or firms behind them. . .

Continue reading. I think the fix is in…


Congress has cooperated with Wall Street to create a scheme to rob the public to benefit the few. Pam Martens reports at Wall Street on Parade:

For nine years now we have written about Wall Street’s institutionalized system of transferring wealth from decent, hardworking Americans to the denizens of Wall Street and those it selectively chooses to favor in the one percent class. The methods of wealth transfer are as diverse as they are diabolical, thus even well intentioned members of Congress cannot stem the havoc on the financial well being of the average American and the overall economy.

One facet that all of these wealth transfer systems have in common is that they all masquerade under a benign sounding name. The 401(k) plan is viewed by most Americans as a way to save for retirement. That’s a good thing – right? It is not a good thing when two-thirds of your savings over a working lifetime end up in Wall Street’s pocket, as carefully demonstrated by Frontline and math-checked by us.

The very same Wall Street banks that are asset-stripping 401(k)s are the same banks that asset-stripped the equity in homes across America through illegal foreclosures and mortgage fraud and then were allowed to decide on their own how much to pay their victims.

If you attempt to legally challenge being ripped off by Wall Street, you will end up in aprivate justice system created by Wall Street lawyers and run by a self-regulatory agency. You will not be allowed to take your claim to one of the nation’s courts where juries are randomly selected from a large pool of fellow citizens. You will have limited discovery and the arbitrators of your claim do not have to follow legal precedent or case law.

Even when serious financial crimes are committed against our cities and counties, causing mass layoffs and economic suffering to millions, no one will go to jail. Prosecutors will allow Wall Street to pay a fraction of the amount stolen and walk away.

After each illegal cartel on Wall Street is exposed, removing any doubt that this is an institutionalized wealth transfer system, new Wall Street cartels crop up faster than you can say “where are the customers yachts.” Today, Wall Street is under investigation for the following cartels: rigging interest rates (Libor); rigging precious metals trading; rigging foreign currency trading; hoarding physical commodities – and that’s likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Add dark pools, high frequency trading, and stock exchange collusion to the 401(k), private justice system and cartel fleecing activity and you have an almost perfect system for criminal financial wealth transfers with impunity.

The proof that this institutionalized, unchecked, criminal wealth transfer system is destroying the economy of the United States resides in the fact that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2015 at 2:16 pm

Externalizing payroll costs: Working, but Needing Public Assistance Anyway

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Businesses try very hard to externalize costs—that is, get someone else to pay for the costs the business incurs. For a particularly flagrant example, the toxic waste sites known as the Superfund sites, where business deposited toxic waste for others (i.e., you and me) to pay to clean up. One particularly egregious example is how businesses such as the fast-food industry, Wal-Mart, universities, and others externalize a portion of their payroll costs. Rather than paying a living wage, the business pays a wage too low for a full-time employee to live and support a family, so that the employee must turn to the government (i.e., you and me) for help in order to live. Patricia Cohen reports in the NY Times:

A home health care worker in Durham, N.C.; a McDonald’s cashier in Chicago; a bank teller in New York; an adjunct professor in Maywood, Ill. They are all evidence of an improving economy, because they are working and not among the steadily declining ranks of the unemployed.

Yet these same people also are on public assistance — relying on food stamps, Medicaid or other stretches of the safety net to help cover basic expenses when their paychecks come up short.

And they are not alone. Nearly three-quarters of the people helped by programs geared to the poor are members of a family headed by a worker, according to a new study by the Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California. As a result, taxpayers are providing not only support to the poor but also, in effect, a huge subsidy for employers of low-wage workers, from giants like McDonald’s and Walmart to mom-and-pop businesses.

“This is a hidden cost of low-wage work,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Berkeley center and a co-author of the report, which is scheduled for release on Monday.

Taxpayers pick up the difference, he said, between what employers pay and what is required to cover what most Americans consider essential living costs.

The report estimates that state and federal governments spend more than $150 billion a year on four key antipoverty programs used by working families: Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps and the earned-income tax credit, which is specifically aimed at working families.

This disparity has helped propel the movement to raise the minimum wage and prompted efforts in a handful of states to recover public funds from employers of low-wage workers. In Connecticut, for example, a legislative proposal calls for large employers to pay a fee to the state for each worker who earns less than $15 an hour. In 2016, California will start publishing the names of employers that have more than 100 employees receiving Medicaid, and how much these companies cost the state in public assistance.

“The low-wage business model practiced by many of the largest and most profitable employers in the country not only leaves many working families unable to afford the basics, but also imposes significant costs on the public as a whole,” Sarah Leberstein, a senior staff lawyer with the National Employment Law Project, testified recently before Connecticut lawmakers.

Other states, as well as several cities, including Washington, D.C., have moved to raise the minimum wage above $10, while local activists in fast food, retailing, home care, airport services and other low-wage industries have organized protests to demand $15 an hour. Organizers of the Fight for 15 movement are planning a nationwide wave of protests and strikes for this Wednesday — April 15.

Adriana Alvarez, a cashier at a McDonald’s in Chicago, is among the people pushing for higher wages. After five years with the fast-food giant, Ms. Alvarez, 22, earns $10.50 an hour, well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Still, she depends on food stamps, Medicaid and a child-care subsidy to help get through the week.

“He eats a lot,” Ms. Alvarez said of her 3-year-old son, Manny, with a laugh. He also drinks a lot of milk, she said — “a half-gallon every two days” — and because he is lactose intolerant, he requires a more expensive brand, using up most of her $80 allotment of food stamps.

Continue reading. Informative graph at the link.

Congress should set a Federal minimum wage that is high enough for a full-time worker to support a family of four. Congress will not do that because Congress—particularly the GOP, which controls both houses of Congress—does the bidding of big corporations.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2015 at 1:28 pm

DC continues its devolution: Lobbyists for spies appointed to oversee spies

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Washington now cares little about actual conflicts of interest and even less about the appearance. Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:

Who’s keeping watch of the National Security Agency? In Congress, the answer in more and more cases is that the job is going to former lobbyists for NSA contractors and other intelligence community insiders.

A wave of recent appointments has placed intelligence industry insiders into key Congressional roles overseeing intelligence gathering. The influx of insiders is particularly alarming because lawmakers in Washington are set to take up a series of sensitive surveillance and intelligence issues this year, from reform of the Patriot Act to far-reaching “information sharing” legislation.

After the first revelations of domestic surveillance by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, President Obama defended the spying programs by claiming they were “subject to congressional oversight and congressional reauthorization and congressional debate.” But as Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., and other members of Congress have pointed out, there is essentially a “two-tiered” system for oversight, with lawmakers and staff on specialized committees, such as the House and Senate committees on Intelligence and Homeland Security, controlling the flow of information and routinely excluding other Congress members, even those who have asked for specific information relating to pending legislation.

The Intercept reviewed the new gatekeepers in Congress, the leading staffers on the committees overseeing intelligence and surveillance matters, and found a large number of lobbyists and consultants passing through the revolving door between the intelligence community and the watchdogs who purportedly oversee the intelligence community. We reached out to each of them earlier this week and have yet to hear back:

House Intelligence Committee top staffer lobbied for intelligence contractors like Boeing

In January, Jeffrey Shockey became the most powerful staffer on the House Intelligence Committee after Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., named him Staff Director, the highest ranking staff assignment. Shockey has gone in and out of lobbying and congressional work for overtwo decades. As a staffer for Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., back in 1996, he was one of several staffers to vacation in the Northern Mariana Islands on a trip sponsored by Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist later convicted on corruption charges, who was then representing the Mariana government in a bid to downplay concerns over labor conditions on the island’s factories, which included allegations of sweatshop-like environments and forced abortions. Shockey later became a lobbyist himself, helping his military industry clients win over $150 millionin earmarks from Lewis’ appropriations committee, an arrangement that led to a federal investigation. In recent years, Shockey launched his own lobbying firm, and a partnership with former General Stanley McChrystal, torepresent a number of companies that work on behalf of the military and in some cases intelligence agencies like the NSA, including Academi (the firm formerly known as Blackwater), Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, United Launch Technologies and United Launch Alliance. Disclosures show Shockey earned over $1.2 million last year and is set to receive over $1.1 million in three installments as a payout for leaving his firm to become a public servant.

Lead House overseer of information technology worked for the CIA

After winning an upset victory in the midterm election last year, Rep. Will Hurd, R-Tex., was appointed to become chairman of a new House Oversight Subcommittee on information technology. As Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, explained to Roll Call, this new subcommittee will have jurisdiction over anything dealing with technology, from NSA data collection to cybersecurity. Hurd is no ordinary Member of Congress. Before running for office, Hurd worked in offensive cyber operations as a CIA officer, joined the Crumpton Group, a private intelligence firm led by a former CIA official, and later helped build a cybersecurity company called FusionX.

Last year he advised an NSA contractor, this year he is a leader of Senate Intelligence Committee staff

Sen. Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, appointed as the committee’s Deputy Staff Director Dr. Robert Kadlec, a consultant who earned $451,000 last year advising a number of intelligence-related companies, including Invincea, a DARPA project, and Scitor, a contractor to the NSA. Another recently minted Senate Intelligence Committee staffer is Matthew Pollard, who previously worked as a lobbyist for Orbital Sciences Corporation, a company that provides “space-based military and intelligence operations,” according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Intelligence Online, a trade publication for the intelligence industry, reported that DARPA contracts with Orbital to work on round-the-clock global imagery technology. Pollard is bipartisan staff member, meaning he serves both the majority and minority members on the committee.

Ex defense- and cybersecurity- industry staffers lead staffers at Homeland Security committees . . .

Continue reading.

This will not end well: the snake is devouring its tail, and agencies are in effect now overseeing themselves—and when agencies do that, they find it extraordinarily difficult to see that they are doing anything questionable, much less wrong.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 April 2015 at 8:30 am

We may finally see an end to the DOJ’s prosecution of state-legal marijuana

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Despite President Obama’s words (never a reliable guide in any case) and despite AG Eric Holder’s explicit memo, both of which directed US Attorneys not to pursue marijuana cases in which the provider or patient was following state law, US Attorneys—particularly in California—have vindictively prosecuted people who were in total compliance with state law. No actions have been taken against such prosecutions by Obama or Holder, so it is clear that neither of them really had any serious intention of preventing the problem—just more broken promises from Obama and his administration.

But now there may be help. Eric Eckholm reports for the NY Times:

Charles C. Lynch seemed to be doing everything right when he opened a medical marijuana dispensary in the tidy coastal town of Morro Bay, Calif.

The mayor, the city attorney and leaders of the local Chamber of Commerce all came for the ribbon-cutting in 2006. The conditions for his business license, including a ban on customers younger than 18 and compliance with California’s medical marijuana laws, were posted on the wall.

But two years later, Mr. Lynch was convicted of multiple felonies under federal law for selling marijuana. He is one of hundreds of defendants and prisoners caught up in the stark conflict between federal law, which puts marijuana in the same class as heroin with no exception for medical sales, and the decisions by many states to authorize medical uses.

“I feel so left out of society,” said Mr. Lynch, 52, who is out on bond and appealing his conviction, from a battered trailer behind his mother’s house here in northwestern New Mexico. He is waiting to see if he must go to prison.

Now, though, a legal wild card has been injected into his case and those of several other defendants in California and Washington State.

In December, in a little-publicized amendment to the 2015 appropriations bill that one legal scholar called a “buried land mine,” Congress barred the Department of Justice from spending any money to prevent states from “implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

In the most advanced test of the law yet, Mr. Lynch’s lawyers have asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to “direct the D.O.J. to cease spending funds on the case.” In a filing late last month, they argued that federal officials continuing to work on his prosecution “would be committing criminal acts.”

But the Justice Department strongly disagrees, asserting that the amendment does not undercut its power to enforce federal drug law. It says that the amendment only bars federal agencies from interfering with state efforts to carry out medical marijuana laws, and that it does not preclude criminal prosecutions for violations of the Controlled Substances Act. [This is the same Justice Department whose head, Eric Holder, instructed attorneys not to pursue cases against marijuana vendors and patients who are in compliance with state law, with President Obama promising that such cases would not be pursued. But it’s clear that both Holder and Obama are being ignored with impunity. This is bade: they are simply not in control. Holder and Obama cannot enforce their own specific instructions. – LG]

With the new challenge raised in several cases, federal judges will have to weigh in soon, opening a new arena in a legal field already rife with contradiction and paradox. At latest count, 23 states plus the District of Columbia permit medical marijuana. Four states have authorized recreational sales as well.

“If any court, especially the Ninth Circuit, declares that the provision precludes federal prosecution of state-compliant individuals, this will be huge,” said Douglas A. Berman, a professor at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University and editor of the Marijuana Law, Policy & Reformblog.

Such a ruling could put federal courts in the odd position of determining “when a state actor is complying with state law,” said Mr. Berman, who used the metaphor of a buried land mine.

In Mr. Lynch’s case, prosecutors have urged the appeals court to put off considering the issue until the hearing on his criminal appeal and sentence — which is not likely until late this year at the earliest — but also indicated they will not back down.

In a March 23 brief, Mr. Lynch’s federal public defender, Alexandra W. Yates, wrote that any delay would mean that “the Department of Justice’s illegal actions — and their chilling effects on California’s medical marijuana system — would continue unabated.”

Some also call the government’s quest for delay a cynical ploy as officials wait to see whether the provision is renewed by Congress in the next fiscal year.

The California sponsors of the December amendment, including Representatives Sam Farr and Barbara Lee, both Democrats, and Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican, say it was clearly intended to curb individual prosecutions and have accused the Justice Department of violating its spirit and substance. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 April 2015 at 1:09 pm

When money from the few supplants the will of the people

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The US is in the process of devolving to a state governed by an economic elite, with the will of the people simply ignored in favor of getting large sums of money from the few. This will all end in tears, I’m sure.

Eric Lipton reports in the NY Times:

As the proposed agreement over Iran’s nuclear programis debated in coming weeks, President Obama will make his case to a Congress controlled by Republicans who are more fervently pro-Israel than ever, partly a result of ideology, but also a product of a surge in donations and campaign spending on their behalf by a small group of wealthy donors.

One of the surprisingly high-profile critics is Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who burst to prominence with a letter signed by 46 Republican colleagues to leaders of Iran warning against a deal. Mr. Cotton, echoing criticism by Israeli leaders, swiftly denounced the framework reached on Thursday as “a list of dangerous U.S. concessions that will put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons” — words, his colleagues say, that expressed his deep concern about Iran’s threat to Israel’s security.

But it is also true that Mr. Cotton and other Republicans benefited from millions in campaign spending in 2014 by several pro-Israel Republican billionaires and other influential American donors who helped them topple Democratic opponents.

Republicans currently in the Senate raised more money during the 2014 election cycle in direct, federally regulated campaign contributions from individuals and political action committees deemed pro-Israel than their Democratic counterparts, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics and analyzed for The New York Times by a second nonprofit, MapLight. The Republican advantage was the first in more than a decade.

The alliances in Congress that pro-Israel donors have built will certainly be tested as they lobby lawmakers to oppose the deal with Iran and perhaps even expand sanctions against the country, despite objections from the Obama administration.

Donors say the trend toward Republicans among wealthy, hawkish contributors is at least partly responsible for inspiring stronger support for Israel among party lawmakers who already had pro-Israel views.

“Absolutely, it is a factor,” said Marc Felgoise, who manages the Philadelphia Israel Network, a campaign fund-raising group, and whose own contributions have shifted to Republicans, though he still supports many Democrats. “They are trying to cater to people who are ultimately going to support them.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, saw his donations from pro-Israel donors soar to about $285,000 in the 2014 election cycle from less than $100,000 in 2008, during his previous election, the analysis by MapLight shows. Pro-Israel contributions to Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, plummeted to less than $150,000 in 2014, when he was also re-elected, from nearly $300,000 in 2008, according to this count.

But few candidates have benefited as much as Mr. Cotton.

The Emergency Committee for Israel, led by William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, spent $960,000 to support Mr. Cotton. In that same race, a firm run by Paul Singer, a hedge fund billionaire from New York and a leading donor to pro-Israel causes, contributed $250,000 to Arkansas Horizon, another independent expenditure group supporting Mr. Cotton. Seth Klarman, a Boston-based pro-Israel billionaire, contributed $100,000 through his investment firm.

The political action committee run by John Bolton, the United Nations ambassador under President George W. Bush and an outspoken supporter of Israel, spent at least $825,000 to support Mr. Cotton. That PAC is in part financed by other major pro-Israel donors, including Irving and Cherna Moskowitz of Miami, who contributed 99 percent of their $1.1 million in 2012 races to Republican candidates and causes.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, said this relatively small group of very wealthy Jewish-Americans distorted the views among Jews nationwide who remain supportive of the Democratic Party and a more nuanced relationship with Israel.

“The very, very limited set of people who do their politics simply through the lens of Israel — that small group is tilting more heavily Republican now,” he said, adding, “But it is dangerous for American politics as too many people do not understand that of the six million American Jews, this is only a handful.”

The deepening support for Israel among congressional Republicans reflects . . .

Continue reading.

The Mideast Conflict seems destined to destroy democracy in the US.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2015 at 3:34 pm


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