Just 158 families have provided nearly half of the early money for efforts to capture the White House.
Today the New York Times did what it’s great at doing: in a thorough investigative piece of journalism, Nick Confessore
I’ve labeled this madness as the Neu Wannsee Conference.
Although I’ve laid this on the (private gated community of mega-mansions) doorstep of the Koch Brothers, the Times is expanding and identifying the members of this secretive cohort, the stated purpose of which is the final solution to democracy. That is, to buy it and wreck it.
This article could be a depressing read for American citizens, but it shouldn’t be. Because our government, our presidents are elected by us. Despite the GOP’s repulsive efforts to suppress the vote among likely Democratic voters in red states (thanks to yet another lousy Supreme Court decision), we still vote in massively larger numbers than do the 158 families who are oiling the campaigns and trying to buy our vote, or scare us into voting for the candidates they own, or be so scared we stay home and don’t vote at all.
So everyone, everyone should read this article and get angry. Get angry, and vote. (Note: The Times is developing a new format for its digital edition, so when you click on the link to this article, you’ll need to move the scroll bar down a tad before a really lively illustration of a pile of Monopoly money in front of the White House pops up and out, and delivers the article.)
Here are a couple of paragraphs from this article that really got to me:
They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth, exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy.
Now they are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, according to a New York Times investigation. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago.
One of those financiers is Charles Schwab. Given my stated objection to spending my money at companies I oppose (there are so many: if you want a fuller list, search on the Sidelines category Don’t Spend Your Money Where?), I suggest if you have an account with Schwab, move it somewhere else, like Fidelity.
But regardless of industry, the families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlements. While such measures would help protect their own wealth, the donors describe their embrace of them more broadly, as the surest means of promoting economic growth and preserving a system that would allow others to prosper, too. [My bolding but I don’t think the Times should be using the word “entitlements,” if referring to Medicare and Social Security: we paid into those programs, just as we pay into IRAs and other retirement accounts, and the only “entitlement” is: we’re entitled to reap the benefit from those investments.]
In marshaling their financial resources chiefly behind Republican candidates, the donors are also serving as a kind of financial check on demographic forces that have been nudging the electorate toward support for the Democratic Party and its economic policies. Two-thirds of Americans support higher taxes on those earning $1 million or more a year, according to a June New York Times/CBS News poll, while six in 10 favor more government intervention to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly seven in 10 favor preserving Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are.
“The campaign finance system is now a countervailing force to the way the actual voters of the country are evolving and the policies they want,” said Ruy Teixeira, a political and demographic expert at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.
So, very rich people are attempting to buy our votes…so that we’ll vote against what most of us support. Let me cite, not for the first time, Thomas Frank’s stunning and prescient What’s The Matter With Kansas?