Funding Obama: Shekels and the super PACs

Super PAC Shekels

By Victor Thorn

Under the banner of Hope and Change, when Sen. Barack Obama threw his hat into the presidential ring on Feb. 10, 2007 in Springfield, Illinois, he told an energetic crowd, “The cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests who’ve turned our government into a game only they can afford to play, they get the access while you get to write a letter . . . The time for that kind of politics is over.”

But, on Feb. 6—after vowing not to accept super PAC money—Obama flip-flopped, and by doing so he has landed himself in the same shark tank that his GOP rivals currently occupy. Rather than standing on principle and keeping his promise to change the culture of Washington, D.C., Obama’s move guarantees that business as usual will prevail. For all his talk about the evils of the “one-percenters,” Obama has sidled up in bed with them yet again.

Such hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed by Obama’s most ardent supporters. Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), currently an Obama co-campaign chairman, didn’t hide his disappointment in this wishy-washy decision.

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“The President is wrong to embrace the corrupt corporate politics of Citizens United through the use of super PACs—organizations that raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations and the richest individuals, sometimes in total secrecy. It’s not just bad policy. It’s also dumb strategy.”

To insure that his message could not be ignored, Feingold interjected one final comment on Obama’s behavior. “It’s dancing with the devil.”

Such a reversal isn’t the first time Obama reneged on campaign finance reform. In Nov. 2007 the group Common Cause asked, “If you are nominated for president in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?” Obama replied in the affirmative.

However, neither he nor GOP nominee John McCain made even the slightest effort to reach an agreement on negating private funds. Again, business as usual prevailed.

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Upon being elected, Obama then proceeded to reward his major donors and bundlers with lucrative cabinet positions. On June 15, 2011 ABC News reported, “Nearly 80 percent of those who collected more than $500,000 for Obama took key administrations posts as defined by the White House.”

Even more disturbing is mounting evidence that the Chicago Way of pay-for-play or quid pro quo is alive and well under Obama’s watch. This form of crony capitalism is glaringly apparent under the auspices of “green energy” where companies such as Solyndra received multimillion dollar loan guarantees, only then to go belly up, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill.

While the Obama super PAC machine hasn’t yet shifted into overdrive like his GOP foes, they are the recipients of funds being generated by Priorities USA Action. Although it raised only $59,000 in January, last year Jewish businessman and DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg dumped $2 million into this super PAC, while comedian Bill Maher earmarked another $1 million.

Another major Jewish financier that intends to get into the game is Haim Saban, who made his fortune from animated television shows. Journalist Max Blumenthal highlighted some of Saban’s troubling loyalties: “[Saban] funded the construction of the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters. He was the largest individual donor to President Bill Clinton and came forward to support Clinton’s campaign during the impeachment crisis. He was the largest individual donor, I think, to President Barack Obama’s campaign, and Haim Saban says he’s also a donor to the Israeli Army. Every year he gives millions of dollars to Friends of the IDF. Saban has said: I’m a single-issue guy; my issue is Israel. He is funding the Democratic Party to make sure [they] remain in the pro-Israel camp.”

As Barack Obama keeps buckling under pressure from the Democratic Party machine, wealthy super PAC donors and special interest groups that want to land cushy government contracts or loan guarantees, a statement made by reporter Ed O’Keefe on June 19, 2008 resonates even more clearly today. “Barack Obama has failed that test today, and his reversal of a promise to participate in the public finance system undermines his call for a new type of politics.”

In 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt declared, “All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law.” Sadly, Barack Obama doesn’t have the spine to truly change what many voters had hoped for: the way money continues to corrupt our political system in Washington, D.C.

Super  PACs  Further Corrupt  Political  Process

With millions of dollars from super Political Action Committees (super PACs) pouring into the 2012 presidential campaign, a vital question must be asked by all those that want to preserve at least a semblance of free and unfettered elections: how can we keep money out of politics without trampling on our free speech rights? As it stands now, our system is little more than political prostitution where super PACs use various candidates as frontmen in an attempt to buy elections. Ultimately, these men of great wealth view elections as little more than their way of pushing an agenda or political ideology, with money being the primary means to achieve their ends. Rather than voters determining the course our country takes, what we’re now seeing is a war between the elites to decide who occupies the White House.

Although this process has been severely tainted for decades, the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United stated that since money is a form of speech, suppressing the way money is spent results in an infringement on free speech rights.

To succinctly place this decision into perspective, author and journalist Stephen Braun wrote on Feb. 22, “This ruling made it possible for super PACs to raise and spend unlimited sums to support political campaigns. The group must legally remain independent from the candidates they support, but many are staffed with former campaign aides with intimate knowledge of the campaigns’ strategy.”

To supposedly guarantee transparency and prevent collusion, super PACs are required to disclose where their funds originate, and are not permitted to directly interact with the candidates they put their money behind.

On Mar. 1 this writer interviewed ProPublica’s news application director Al Shaw, who developed a software package called PAC Track that documents, in real time, every penny funneled into super PACs. When asked how drastically the Citizens United ruling has affected the political process, Shaw replied, “Campaigns don’t need to raise as much money on their own or rely as much on individual donations, which are limited to $2,500. Instead of using bundlers that require a lot more work, it’s now all concentrated in a few hands. So far, Mitt Romney’s super PACs have raised over $28 million.”

Indeed, less than two dozen wealthy individuals have largely controlled the GOP primaries, turning these races into a virtual free-for-all. The undisputed super PAC king is Mitt Romney, who has benefited from third-party supporters such as Ed Conrad of Bain Capital, Bill and Richard Marriott of the famous hotel chain, William Koch, pro-Israeli donor Mel Sembler, and Bob Perry, who crafted the “Swift Boat” strategy that sunk John Kerry’s 2004 campaign.

Perhaps the single most prominent moneyman to support a candidate is Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has single-handedly kept Newt Gingrich’s campaign afloat. Not shy of his intentions, Adelson announced, “I’m against very wealthy people attempting to influence elections, but as long as it’s doable, I’m going to do it.” Adelson said he’s willing to spend “$10 million or $100 million.”

On Feb. 1, Paul Jay—senior editor of The Real News Network—interviewed Max Blumenthal, an author and journalist at the Nation Institute. Blumenthal blew the lid off Adelson’s allegiances. “Adelson’s known as not only a friend of Benjamin Netanyahu, but a major funder of many Zionist organizations. He supports Likud, and he’s been quite a hawk on the issue of Israel attacking Iran.”

Blumenthal next explained how the Gingrich-Adelson alliance developed. “Gingrich was able to get this money after he declared in an interview with an obscure Jewish online publication, which was apparently a calculated event, that the Palestinians are an invented people.”

Taken one step further, Blumenthal added, “Adelson is a big financier of Benjamin Netanyahu’s political campaigns . . . out of anyone in the entire world, [he’s] the greatest supporter of Benjamin Netanyahu.”

If these ties aren’t bad enough, Stephen Braun wrote, “Adelson has important business interests in China, and his casino is under federal investigation by the Justice Department and a civil probe by the SEC for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

Without Adelson’s $11 million given to the Winning Our Future super PAC, Gingrich’s endeavors would most certainly have been over months ago. In fact, Anthony Corrado, who specializes in researching campaign finances, stated on Feb. 22, “Without the flow of super PAC money, the Republican race would be over. Super PACs have become a vehicle for a small number of millionaires and billionaires who are willing to spend large sums in pursuit of their political agenda.”

For his part, Ron Paul’s super PAC, Endorse Liberty, has welcomed nearly $3 million from Peter Thiel, a billionaire California venture capitalist that co-founded PayPal and invested in Facebook during its earliest days. As an ardent supporter of unregulated free trade, Thiel is also a homosexual Christian that has funded artificial intelligence, the legalization of marijuana, and gay rights issues.

The final candidate still standing, Rick Santorum, has aligned himself with the Red, White and Blue Fund super PAC, to which entrepreneur Foster Friess has made significant donations. Santorum’s other sugar daddy is an enigmatic big energy executive named William Dore. Playing both ends against the middle, the Louisiana-based Dore has supported both Democrats and Republicans in the past.

One final individual must be mentioned, a man known as “the architect” who engineered George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns: Karl Rove. After co-founding the American Crossroads super PAC, Rove has not specifically aligned himself with any single candidate. He has, however, accepted more than $12 million from Texas chemical and energy magnate Harold Simmons, who also played a decided role in the John Kerry “Swift Boat” barrage.

Although the notion of campaign finance reform has been bandied about for ages, most recently with 2002’s McCain-Feingold law and the attempted elimination of “soft money,” there still don’t seem to be any viable solutions that politicians are willing to stake their careers on. Instead, super PACs have thus far raised over $60 million. In a Jan. 1, 2011 article, USA Today revealed that one-quarter of all super PAC dollars arose from just five donors. Plus, every single candidate vying for the White House enjoys at least one million-dollar benefactor.

When it comes to GOP candidates, political scientist Cal Jillson summarized those who bankroll various super PACs. “They are extremely wealthy people who put their resources behind their vision of the appropriate relationship between the government and the private sector. That vision is low taxes, small government and personal responsibility.”

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Victor Thorn is a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and the author of many books on 9-11 and the New World Order. These include 9-11 EVIL: Israel’s Central Role in the September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks and Phantom Flight 93 and 9-11 Plot—’Made in Israel’.

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