Some people have myriad recurring nightmares about being publicly embarrassed, such as rising to give a speech and realizing you know nothing about the topic — then realizing you’re naked.
You might be surprised to learn though, that corporations also have such nightmares. OK, corporations aren’t really people, no matter what the Supreme Court fabulists claim, so they can’t dream, but their top executives can, and several recently suffered the same chilling hallucination. Only, it wasn’t a dream… it was real.
Perhaps you think that corporations use their campaign donations to buy privileged access to state and national policymakers. Perhaps you even think that their political money actually buys those politicians — after all, they do deliver the public policies the corporate donors want. Perhaps you think this whole monetized political system is corrupt, anti-democratic, and…well, stinky.
You would, of course, be right about all of the above. As Lily Tomlin has put it, “No matter how cynical you get, it’s almost impossible to keep up.”
The corporate purchase of Washington, DC is pretty widely reported, but — keep up now — for the kleptocratic stinkiness fast consuming our statehouses as well. The Republican Governors Association has devised a layaway purchase plan allowing brand-name corporations to make secret donations of $100,000 or more a year to the RGA in support of the corporate-friendly agenda of various GOP governors. And a lot of execs have been buying.
These are chieftains of brand-name corporate giants who have secretly funneled millions of their shareholders’ dollars into the “dark money” vault of the Republican Governors Association. In turn, the RGA channels the political cash into the campaigns of assorted right-wing governors. This underground pipeline has been a dream come true for corporations, for it lets them elect anti-consumer, anti-worker, anti-environment governors without having to let their customers or shareholders know they’re doing it.
But — oops! — the RGA made a coding error in its database of dark-money donors. So in September, a mess of the GOP’s secret-money corporations were suddenly exposed, standing buck-naked in front of customers, employees, stockholders and others who were startled and angered to learn that the companies they supported were working against their interests.
A lifelong champion of political money reform, Fred Wertheimer, put it this way: “This is a classic example of how corporations are trying to use secret money hidden from the American people to buy influence, and how the Governors Association is selling it,”
Feed the RGA’s political favor meter with $250,000 a year (as Coca-Cola, the Koch brothers, and others do), and the association cynically anoints your corporation with the ironic title of “Statesman,” opening up gubernatorial doors throughout the country. Well, sniff the participants, the money buys nothing but “access” to policymakers. But wait — when was that access put on the auction block? Shouldn’t everyone have access to our public officials? Of course, but call your governor and see if you can even get an office intern to call back.
If you’re an RGA corporate “Statesman,” however, you could get a tête-à-tête with Rick Perry, the recently indicted governor of Texas, or a private breakfast with Bob McDonnell, the now-convicted former governor of Virginia. See, membership in the corrupt club has its privileges.
Now let’s call the roll of some of the privileged corporate dreamers that were pulling the wool over our eyes, hoping we would slumber in ignorance: Aetna, Aflac, Blue Cross, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Exxon Mobil, Hewlett-Packard, Koch Industries, Microsoft, Novartis, Pfizer, Shell Oil, United Health, Verizon, Walgreens and Walmart.
The corporate donors to this previously secret scheme of plutocratic rule says it’s OK, for they also give money to Democrats. Oh, bipartisan corruption — that makes me feel so much better… how about you?
By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, October 1, 2014
It’s a number that gives Democrats chills: $125 million. That’s the widely reported number reflecting how much the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity intends to spend on this year’s midterm elections. In practical terms, it means Democrats will effectively be running against two rivals: Republicans and the Republicans’ outside allies.
Reid Wilson reports today, however, that the scope of the AFP operation isn’t done expanding.
Americans for Prosperity, the on-the-ground wing of the network of conservative organizations spearheaded by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, will open new state chapters in South Dakota and Alaska in coming weeks, the group’s president said. In an interview, Tim Phillips said that would bring to 35 the number of states where AFP has permanent offices. […]
Phillips said early reports that his organization will dish out $125 million on the midterm elections understates the actual amount they will spend.
If you’re starting to see AFP as something resembling an actual political party, there’s a good reason – the lines have blurred. The Koch-funded group has hundreds of field operatives, just like a party. It’s opening field offices in dozens of states, just like a party. It’s focusing on GOTV operations, just like a party.
And, of course, it’s investing millions in anti-Democratic attack ads, just like a party.
But unlike other national far-right forces, the Kochs’ group (just like a party) also intends to help “influence the makeup of state legislatures.” Tim Phillips told the Washington Post, ”A lot of times a local property tax battle will bring a whole new group of people out. It’s easier to get movement on the state level.”
All of this, incidentally, doesn’t include the AFP’s “action fund.”
Remember this one?
During a closed-door gathering of major donors in Southern California on Monday, the political operation spearheaded by the Koch brothers unveiled a significant new weapon in its rapidly expanding arsenal – a super PAC called Freedom Partners Action Fund.
The new group aims to spend more than $15 million in the 2014 midterm campaigns – part of a much larger spending effort expected to total $290 million, sources told POLITICO.
As we talked about at the time, the “action fund” will allow the Koch brothers and their donor allies to be more explicit in their backing of like-minded Republicans, while devoting more of their campaign dollars to actual campaign activities.
This isn’t to say the beneficiaries of the Kochs’ support always win; the results from the 2012 cycle clearly show otherwise. But we’re nevertheless looking a formidable political force that Democrats and the left will simply never be able to keep up with financially.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 18, 2014
“The Banana Republicans”: Appalling Content Of Policies Aside, When Not Torturing, They Lie, They Cheat, They Steal
If they can’t offer policies that a majority of voters will support without relentless brainwashing, they free up the billionaire beneficiaries of the policies they actually offer to help them buy elections.
If buying elections won’t give them a majority, they rig the districting so they can hold a minority of seats with a minority of votes.
If they can’t win even in gerrymandered districts, they try to keep Democrats from voting.
If they still lose, they resort to outright bribery.
In the latest case, they offered a Democratic state senator in Virginia – whose vote resulted in a tied chamber, giving the Lieutenant Governor the deciding vote – a cushy job for himself and a judgeship for his daughter if he’d resign, giving the GOP 20-19 majority.
Similar deals have been done recently in New York and Washington State, though in those cases the bribes were legislative leadership positions rather than external jobs.
I can confidently predict that a not a single elected Republican, and few if any Red-team pundits, will speak out against this grossly corrupt deal. If the state AG or the U.S. Attorney decide that it’s a prosecutable quid pro quo, Fox News and the National Review will howl about the “criminalization of policy differences.”
“Puckett” deserves to enter the language alongside “Quisling.”
The appalling content of its policies aside – the latest dirty trick is part of an effort to deny medical coverage to the working poor – the modern Republican Party is a threat to the principles of republican government. Even when they’re not torturing, they lie, they cheat, and they steal.
Footnote And note the way the Washington Post uses the morally neutral “outmaneuver” to cover the payment and acceptance of a bribe. Did the Communists “outmaneuver” Jan Masaryk? Did the House of Guise “outmaneuver” the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day?
By: Mark Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy at The University of California Los Angeles: Washington Monthly, Ten Miles Square; Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]; June 12, 2014
It’s undeniable that American women are facing a dire crisis when it comes to reproductive healthcare. From 2011 to 2013, a record 205 abortion restrictions were enacted throughout the country – topping the total of 189 abortion restrictions enacted in the entire preceding decade. In 2013 alone, 39 states enacted 141 provisions related to reproductive rights, and half of those restricted abortion care specifically. Unfortunately, 2014 is right on trend so far. According to the Guttmacher Institute, legislators have introduced a combined 733 provisions related to sexual and reproductive health and rights so far this year, and it’s only May.
As the war on reproductive rights wages on, the types of restrictions proposed and passed in state legislatures have grown increasingly egregious and some, outright preposterous. Here are a few of 2014’s most outrageous laws so far:
1. South Carolina tries to extend “Stand Your Ground” to fetuses
Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has been widely criticized, particularly in response to the deaths of unarmed black teens Travyon Martin and Jordan Davis. But a State Senate committee in South Carolina has apparently decided that not only do they support the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, but that it doesn’t go far enough.
Last month, the committee voted to expand South Carolina’s “Stand Your Ground” law to specifically include fetuses. Proponents of the bill claim that the state’s current “Stand Your Ground” law isn’t broad enough to protect pregnant women who use deadly force to protect themselves and their fetuses – even though the law already authorizes the use of deadly force to protect oneself or another from “imminent peril of death or great bodily injury.”
What this expansion of “Stand Your Ground” would really do is apply personhood to fetuses by defining an embryo as an “unborn child,” a deliberate tactic to challenge Roe v. Wade and the right to a safe and legal abortion. No state has ever successfully passed a personhood amendment, and the American public continues to outright reject them, even in conservative states like Mississippi. Instead of openly championing the incredibly unpopular fetal personhood legislation, a South Carolina Senate committee has chosen “Stand Your Ground” as the in-road to this dangerous legal precedent that threatens women’s rights and access to reproductive healthcare.
2. Kansas lawmaker proposes a ban on surrogate pregnancy
Though abortion restrictions tend to get the most attention, the attack on women’s reproductive rights doesn’t stop there. A recent Kansas bill, championed by staunchly pro-life state Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee), would outlaw surrogate pregnancy. Kansas Senate Bill 302 would render all surrogacy agreements, whether verbal or written, null and void and would make it a misdemeanor to hire or work as a surrogate – an offense punishable with up to a $10,000 and a year in the county jail. Shockingly, Pilcher-Cook’s proposed bill isn’t the first in the nation, but is based on Washington D.C.’s highly restrictive laws regarding surrogate pregnancy. Even so, this bill appears unlikely to pass due to opposition from the Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita).
For those who struggle with infertility or have other health issues that preclude a safe and healthy pregnancy, surrogacy is one of the few options afforded to them in order to conceive and bear biological children. Attempts to ban surrogate pregnancy, whether legitimate or to “start a conversation,” reveal the paternalism that underwrites opposition to women’s reproductive rights. Women are perfectly capable of making their own reproductive decisions, whether to bear their own children, adopt, live child-free, have an abortion, or enter into a consensual agreement with a surrogate.
3. Tennessee votes to criminalize drug use by pregnant women
In response to a burgeoning drug abuse problem, the Tennessee legislature has passed a bill that would criminalize the use of narcotics by pregnant women and allow them to be prosecuted for assaultive offenses if their baby is found to be born “addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug.” If signed by Republican Governor Bill Haslam, it would be the first law of its kind in the nation.
While the use of narcotics by pregnant women is obviously a health concern, prosecuting pregnant women for drug abuse is roundly opposed by major medical associations and reproductive rights advocates alike. Medical associations state that punitive measures like Tennessee’s bill do not improve pregnancy outcomes and advocates caution that criminalization will only deter drug-addicted pregnant women from seeking treatment or prenatal care, for fear of being arrested and incarcerated.
What’s more, this bill only criminalizes the use of illegal narcotics by pregnant women, which doesn’t account for the majority of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a group of problems associated with drug use during pregnancy. According to the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health Dr. John Dreyzehner, 60 percent of babies born with NAS in Tennessee had mothers who had a prescription for the medication they were taking. This bill only criminalizes a certain type of drug use – and critics warn that it will hit black women the hardest.
Criminalization sets a dangerous precedent and hinders drug-addicted pregnant women’s access to vital healthcare and potentially life-saving treatment.
4. Louisiana bill would keep brain-dead pregnant women on life support against family’s wishes
On the heels of the tragic case of Marlise Muñoz, a brain-dead pregnant woman in Texas who was kept on life support for eight weeks against her family’s wishes, Louisiana lawmakers have advanced a bill that would force physicians in the state to keep a brain-dead pregnant woman on life support against her family’s wishes and regardless of how far along her pregnancy is. This bill essentially turns brain-dead pregnant women into incubators against their will, compounding the trauma that their families are likely experiencing.
Unfortunately, Louisiana isn’t alone. Twelve states currently have similarly strict laws that automatically invalidate a woman’s advanced directive about her end-of-life care if she is pregnant. While a provision that would have superseded pregnant women’s “do not resuscitate” orders was dropped from the legislation, Louisiana’s bill would still override the family’s wishes. It’s a dangerous law that destroys brain-dead pregnant women’s personhood and renders her family utterly helpless.
5. Alabama House votes to ban abortions at six weeks
In the last few years, unconstitutional fetal pain bills, which ban abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization, have become increasingly popular in state legislatures. Nine states now have a 20-week abortion ban on their legislative books – and they’re all based on junk science. Even more egregious and outright unconstitutional are so-called fetal heartbeat bills, which outlaw abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected. This can be as early as six weeks post-fertilization, or a point at which many don’t even know that they’re pregnant.
Alabama is the latest state to jump onto this outrageous bandwagon, as the Republican-controlled House passed the Fetal Heartbeat Act and three other abortion restrictions. Similar to North Dakota’s six-week ban that was recently struck down by a federal judge, Alabama’s bill would make it a crime to perform an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Banning abortions at six weeks essentially criminalizes abortion itself, a move that is incredibly unpopular with the American public. Perhaps that’s why this bill ultimately stalled in the Alabama Senate.
Despite their unpopularity and blatant unconstitutionality, it’s unlikely given this political climate that we’ve seen the last of fetal heartbeat bans or other outrageous legislative attacks on women’s healthcare in 2014. After all, May has just begun.
By: Lauren Rankin, Rolling Stone, May 2, 2014
“Night Of The Living Bigots”: Religious Discrimination Laws Are Just Zombie Jim Crow, Legalizing Anti-Gay Prejudice
Back in November, I wrote this piece on so-called “religious discrimination.” In short, a florist in Washington state refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding because it violates her religion. That’s right, she claims she won’t engage in the for-profit business of commerce because her religion tells her not to for certain groups of people. To quote “South Park’s” Mr Mackey “mkay.”
Now I thought maybe this was just a one-off. I mean sure, there are going to be a few folks, a few businesses around the country who won’t serve black people or maybe someone won’t photograph a gay wedding. But these types of things are few and far between, not the norm in society right?
Actually, while they happen more than you may think, as a part of the whole of American society, this isn’t some widespread thing popping up all across the country. What is rearing its ugly head up is the conservative movement’s insistence on using state legislatures to fighti what they claim is gay marriage’s “attack” on family values across the country. Lawmakers in Arizona, Kansas, Idaho, Tennessee, South Dakota and Maine have all debated and/or passed “religious discrimination” bills to protect for-profit businesses from having to serve gays and lesbians. The Arizona legislature just yesterday passed legislation and it’s now on its way to Gov. Jan Brewer.
I know, I know, the states are the incubators of democracy, where great ideas come from but this, my friends, is pure unadulterated crap. Jim Crow was supposed to have died a long time ago but like some horrid episode of “The Walking Dead,” Zombie Jim Crow has arrived with a vengeance.
Do conservatives actually think it’s OK to deny someone a meal, a photograph or a flower arrangement by using God as their reason? Will national Republican leaders try to pass similar legislation in Washington, D.C. or is it better for this type of Jim Crow foolishness to remain under the radar screen (in other words in the state legislatures)? I wonder how Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus feels about these types of bills being promulgated across the country. He is, after all, the national leader of the Republican Party right?
I really don’t have a problem if a business owner thinks I’m gay. I actually don’t have a problem if a business owner doesn’t like that I’m gay. But here’s the deal business owners of America: I have money and you have a for-profit business that opens its doors to the public. That means you that you don’t get to put up a sign in your window that says “We cater to heterosexual trade only” like this one from a Lancaster, Ohio business during Jim Crow. If I walk into your place of business and am willing to pay what you’re asking for your service or product, who I marry is none of your damned business. I’m a huge fan of equality. I don’t get to ask you if you’re a bigot and you don’t get to ask me if I’m, well, gay.
If you want to be a church, a non-profit or a private club, then you have the right to tell me you don’t want my money. That’s really stupid of you but hey, it’s your inalienable right to be stupid in America. I also have the right to tell my friends you don’t want my money because it’s gay money. And they get to tell their friends, and then we’ll treat you like we did Anita Bryant back in the 1970’s. That didn’t turn out so well for her.
I’m not angry about what’s happening in these state legislatures. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised frankly. Like I said, there are a lot of dumb people out there. But what no one in this country should be allowed to do is profit from bigotry. What no business in this country should be allowed to do is tell me their God tells them I’m a second-class citizen.
By: Jimmy Williams, U. S. News and World Report, February 21, 2014