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“Who Ya Gonna Call?”: Guess Who’s About To Buy Congress

The midterm elections are less than a week away, and money is pouring into contested states and districts at a furious pace. A new analysis from Public Citizen shows the biggest “dark money” spender is none other than the US Chamber of Commerce, a mega-trade group representing all sorts of corporations—and one that is spending exclusively to defeat Democrats in the general election.

The Chamber is a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization, meaning it doesn’t have to disclose its donors. We know from looking at its board, available membership lists and tax forms from big corporations that much of the Chamber’s money has generally come from titans in the oil, banking and agriculture industries, among others.

The Chamber is leaving a huge footprint in almost every race it enters. The report shows that, through October 25, the Chamber has spent $31.8 million. The second-largest dark-money spender, Crossroads GPS, spent $23.5 million:

Among the report’s other findings:

  • The Chamber is averaging $908,000 per race it enters.
  • The Chamber is the biggest dark-money spender in twenty-eight of thirty-five races it entered.
  • Of the twelve contested Senate races, the Chamber is the top non-disclosing outside spender in seven of those races, spending an average of $1.7 million per state.
  • In the twenty-three House races in which the Chamber has spent over $11.5 million, it is the top spender in all but two of them.
  • The Chamber has spent mainly to either support Republicans or attack Democrats. The only money it spent against Republicans came early in the year during GOP primaries to support business-friendly Republican candidates.

Thanks to weak campaign finance laws, however, we will likely never know who exactly is bankrolling this massive presence in the midterm elections. “When large corporations decide they want to get their own candidates into office but they don’t want to be seen doing it, they call the US Chamber,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “These politicians then push for anti-environmental, anti-consumer and anti-health policies and priorities that hurt everyday Americans.”

 

By: George Zornick, The Nation, October 29, 2014

October 31, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Midterm Elections, U.S. Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Monster They Created”: Can Corporate America Break The Republican Radical Right?

Back in the early 1970s, corporate America got together and developed a plan of action to combat the takeover of America by what they saw as an unremittingly radical left. If we don’t act and get politically engaged, these corporate titans said, this country is going down the chute.

Forty years later, corporate America beholds the monster it created. And now, these same institutions need to step up and rein in an unremittingly radical right. Only they can stop this nonsense, and it will take an effort as concerted and well-organized as the one they undertook in the 70s.

Here’s what happened then. In the 1960s and early 70s, a good chunk of America’s corporate elite really did feel that the free-enterprise system was under threat. In 1971, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asked Lewis Powell, then a corporate lawyer in Richmond who would soon be nominated to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon, to tell them how to save America. The result was the famous Powell memo, which urged the Chamber to start fighting back to protect the system before it was too late in the following arenas: on college campuses; in the media; in the courts; at stockholder and shareholder meetings; and in the political realm.

There’s been a lot of interesting debate over the years about how important the Powell memo really was. But whatever centrality one accords it, the fact is that it was right around then that conservatism really started to organize itself politically. The major think tanks got off the ground (Heritage in 1973), or, in other cases like the American Enterprise Institute, were transformed into something much more overtly political. Several media-monitoring outfits were started (Google the name Reed Irvine, if you weren’t around in those days). Groups were created to train young conservatives and fund right-wing campus newspapers. By 1980, they helped elect a president, feed him appointees and judicial nominees (the Federalist Society started in 1982), and create much of his policy agenda. Today, this organized right-wing infrastructure spends more than $300 million a year on politics.

But now, as we’re seeing, the corporatists’ biggest problem isn’t the left. It’s the right—the nativist and ideological right that no longer wants to listen to them. It was encouraging last week to see officials from the Chamber, the National Retail Federation, and other organizations vent their frustrations to the New York Times and vow that they are going to get involved in Republican primaries to try to defeat some crazies.

And it’s great to hear Tom Donohue, the head of the chamber, say things like these remarks, which he recently made on C-SPAN: “You’ve got to go into the primaries not just to affect this race or that but to send a message on who we are and what we believe. We want to get a better result for the American people and get people there who give the arguments a fair shake.” His ultimate goal, said Donohue, is a “more governable Republican Party.”

Hallelujah to that. But the Chamber and the others are going to have to put lots of money behind this. And they’re going to have to dig in for lengthy trench warfare. Can they reach, and energize, the half of the GOP electorate that isn’t driven by resentment? The half that’s conservative, which is fine, but not boiling over with rage? The half that would accept and embrace an immigration-reform bill and investments in infrastructure, as the Chamber does, even though Barack Obama wants them, too?

This is the biggest political issue of our time. Others are close—the corrupt hold of money on our system is admittedly a pretty close second. But this is the biggest one, because a reasonable GOP would make the country governable again. A critical mass of conservative compromisers, with maybe a few genuinely moderate Republicans thrown in, would end this dysfunction more quickly than anything else.

And the only way for that to happen is for Republican officeholders to fear that segment of the GOP electorate more than they fear the radical segment. That’s going to take a long time and lot of money and organization. But we do know from polls that those Republican voters exist. They’re just intimidated right now.

But to lead this fight, the Chamber needs to see it in just the historical terms I’ve laid out. It’s 1971 all over again. Who is the Lewis Powell who will save corporate America from the rage machine it helped create?

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 14, 2013

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Big Business, Corporations, U.S. Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The GOP Magical World Of Voodoo ‘Economists’: Repeal The 20th Century

If you came up with a bumper sticker that pulls together the platform of this year’s crop of Republican presidential candidates, it would have to be:

Repeal the 20th century. Vote GOP.

It’s not just the 21st century they want to turn the clock back on — health-care reform, global warming and the financial regulations passed in the wake of the recent financial crises and accounting scandals.

These folks are actually talking about repealing the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency, created in 1970s.

They’re talking about abolishing Medicare and Medicaid, which passed in the 1960s, and Social Security, created in the 1930s.

They reject as thoroughly discredited all of Keynesian economics, including the efficacy of fiscal stimulus, preferring the budget-balancing economic policies that turned the 1929 stock market crash into the Great Depression.

They also reject the efficacy of monetary stimulus to fight recession, and give the strong impression they wouldn’t mind abolishing the Federal Reserve and putting the country back on the gold standard.

They refuse to embrace Darwin’s theory of evolution, which has been widely accepted since the Scopes Trial of the 1920s.

One of them is even talking about repealing the 16th and 17th amendments to the Constitution, allowing for a federal income tax and the direct election of senators — landmarks of the Progressive Era.

What’s next — repeal of quantum physics?

Not every candidate embraces every one of these kooky ideas. But what’s striking is that when Rick Perry stands up and declares that “Keynesian policy and Keynesian theory is now done,” not one candidate is willing to speak up for the most important economic thinker of the 20th century. Or when Michele Bachmann declares that natural selection is just a theory, none of the other candidates is willing to risk the wrath of the religious right and call her on it. Leadership, it ain’t.

I realize economics isn’t a science the way biology and physics are sciences, but it’s close enough to one that there are ideas, principles and insights from experience that economists generally agree upon. Listening to the Republicans talk about the economy and economic policy, however, is like entering into an alternative reality.

Theirs is a magical world in which the gulf oil spill and the Japanese nuclear disaster never happened and there was never a problem with smog, polluted rivers or contaminated hamburger. It is a world where Enron and Worldcom did not collapse and shoddy underwriting by bankers did not bring the financial system to the brink of a meltdown. It is a world where the unemployed can always find a job if they really want one and businesses never, ever ship jobs overseas.

As politicians who are always quick to point out that it is only the private sector that creates economic growth, I found it rather comical to watch the governors at last week’s debate duke it out over who “created” the most jobs while in office. I know it must have just been an oversight, but I couldn’t help noticing that neither Mitt Romney nor Perry thought to exclude the thousands of government jobs included in their calculations — the kinds of jobs they and their fellow Republicans now view as economically illegitimate.

And how wonderfully precise they can be when it comes to job numbers. Romney is way out front when it comes to this kind of false precision. His new economic plan calculates that President Obama would “threaten” 7.3 million jobs with the ozone regulation that, in fact, the president had just canceled. By contrast, Romney claims his own plan will create 11 million jobs in his first term — not 10, not 12, but 11 million.

When you dig into such calculations, however, it turns out many are based on back-of-the-envelope extrapolations from industry data that totally ignore the dynamic quality of economic interactions.

One recent example comes from the cement industry, which now warns that new regulations limiting emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide could close as many as 18 of the 100 cement plants in the United States, resulting in the direct loss of 13,000 jobs.

Then again, where do you think all those customers of the 18 plants will get their cement? Do you think they might get some of it from the other 82 plants, which in turn might have to add a few workers to handle the additional volume? Or that a higher price for cement might induce somebody to build a modern plant to take advantage of the suddenly unmet demand? Or perhaps that higher prices for cement will lead some customers to use another building material produced by an industry that will have to add workers to increase its output? And what about the possibility that the regulation will encourage some innovative company to devise emissions-control equipment that will not only allow some of those plants to remain open but generate a few thousand extra jobs of its own as it exports to plants around the world.

Such possibilities are rarely, if ever, acknowledged in these “job-scare studies.” Also left out are any estimates of the benefits that might accrue in terms of longer, healthier lives. In the Republican alternative universe, it’s all costs, no benefits when it comes to government regulation. As they see it, government regulators wake up every morning with an uncontrollable urge to see how many jobs they can destroy.

If consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, then these Republican presidential candidates are big thinkers, particularly on fiscal issues.

In the Republican alternative universe, allowing an income tax cut for rich people to expire will “devastate” the U.S. economy, while letting a payroll tax cut for working people to expire would hardly be noticed. Cutting defense spending is economic folly; cutting food stamps for poor children an economic imperative.

My favorite, though, is a proposal, backed by nearly all the candidates along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to allow big corporations to bring home, at a greatly reduced tax rate, the more than $1 trillion in profits they have stashed away in foreign subsidiaries.

“Repatriation,” as it is called, was tried during the “jobless recovery” of the Bush years, with the promise that it would create 500,000 jobs over two years as corporations reinvested the cash in their U.S. operations. According to the most definitive studies of what happened, however, most of the repatriated profits weren’t used to hire workers or invest in new plants and equipment. Instead, they were used to pay down debt or buy back stock.

But fear not. In a new paper prepared for the chamber, Republican economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin argues that just because the money went to creditors and investors doesn’t mean it didn’t create jobs. After all, creditors and shareholders are people, too — people who will turn around and spend most of it, in the process increasing the overall demand for goods and services. As a result, Holtz-Eakin argues, a dollar of repatriated profit would have roughly the same impact on the economy as a dollar under the Obama stimulus plan, or in the case of $1 trillion in repatriated profit, about 3 million new jobs.

It’s a lovely economic argument, and it might even be right. But for Republican presidential candidates, it presents a little problem. You can’t argue, at one moment, that putting $1 trillion of money in the hands of households and business failed to create even a single job, and at the next moment argue that putting an extra $1 trillion in repatriated profit into their hands will magically generate jobs for millions.

It took a while, but even Richard Nixon came around to declaring himself a Keynesian. Maybe there is still hope for Perry and the gang.

By: Steve Pearlstein, Columnist, The Washington Post, September 10, 2011

September 14, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Banks, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Economic Recovery, Economy, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Budget, Global Warming, GOP, Government, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Medicaid, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Regulations, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, Taxes, Tea Party, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Unemployed, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Can Anyone Take The GOP Seriously: The Dismal Republican Record On Taxes

“In the present weak economic climate,” a group of conservatives, including Newt Gingrich, wrote in an open statement, “we believe that to restore the health of the economy and put Americans back to work, America should follow a course against high taxes and federal spending.”

The White House was unmoved. “Republicans may feel they can’t go to voters after supporting a tax increase,” one administration official told the New York Times. “We’ve got to convince them that the situation won’t be as devastating as it would be if the tax bill is sabotaged.”

The latest moves in the debt ceiling debate? Not quite: The administration was Ronald Reagan’s, and the year was 1982. With his previous year’s landmark tax cuts having exploded the budget deficit, Reagan had reluctantly backed a tax increase to bring it back under control, prompting a minor conservative uprising led by then Rep. Jack Kemp and which included then backbench House member Gingrich. “You can’t have the largest tax cut in history and then turn around and have the largest tax increase in history,” one conservative rebel groused.

Right-wing economists issued dire forecasts. Arthur Laffer, widely described as the father of supply-side economics, warned that the bill would “stifle economic recovery” and “lengthen and deepen the recession.” The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote that the tax hike would “curb the economic recovery everyone wants,” adding: “It will mean a lower cash flow as more businesses pay more taxes, with a depressing effect on stock prices. It will reduce incentives for the increased savings and investment so badly needed to improve productivity and create more jobs.” As Bruce Bartlett, an early supply-sider and Reagan aide who has since recanted the faith, noted last month, “It would be hard to find an economic forecast that was more wrong in every respect.” Real gross domestic product grew at 4.5 percent in 1983 and 7.2 percent in 1984, while unemployment fell from 10.6 percent in December 1982 to 7.1 percent in 1984.

Just about the only thing the conservative rebels got right back in 1982 was Gingrich’s comment to the New York Times that the skirmish was the “opening round of a fight over the soul and future of the Republican Party.” Looking back, the extent to which the conservatives won the fight within the party while losing the war with economic reality is fairly astounding. In the nearly three decades since, the Republican feeling toward tax increases has moved from Reaganesque dislike but acceptance (he signed tax increases into law in seven of his eight years in office) to their current, blindly absolutist position flatly opposing any tax increases at all, even in the face of spiraling deficits and possible economic default.

Witness comments like House Speaker John Boehner’s that “raising taxes is going to destroy jobs.” The rhetoric hasn’t changed much since 1982, but the accumulated evidence against this GOP dogma is overwhelming.

Gingrich was again at the forefront of the fight against taxes in 1993 when he warned that the Clinton budget plan “will in fact kill the current recovery and put us back in a recession.” Rep. Dick Armey, who would go on to be House majority leader and now is a Tea Party godfather, warned that “the impact on job creation is going to be devastating.” Texas GOP Sen. Phil Gramm warned that the budget deal was a “one-way ticket to a recession,” adding that Clinton’s would be one of the jobs killed by the bill. (Gramm would seek Clinton’s job, but couldn’t best Bob Dole; he was last seen being muzzled by John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008 after calling the country a “nation of whiners.”) Laffer warned that “Clinton’s tax bill will do about as much damage to the U.S. economy as could be feasibly done in the current political environment.” Boehner himself dismissed the Clinton plan as “Christmas in August for liberal Democrats: more taxes, more spending, and bigger government.”

He got the Christmas part right. Unemployment, which had been 7.1 percent in January 1993, fell to 5.4 percent by the end of 1994. Real GDP grew from 2.9 percent in 1993 to 4.1 percent in 1994. The final tally of the Clinton years was 23 million new jobs and a budget surplus.

Clinton and his villainous tax hikes were followed by George W. Bush and his cure-all tax cuts. “Tax relief will create new jobs,” Bush argued in April 2001. “Tax relief will generate new wealth.” When the bill was enacted that June, GOP Rep. Mike Pence (now running for governor of Indiana) gushed that they would “stimulate our economy” and “put the ax to the root of the Internal Revenue Code as it wages war on the American dream.”

How’d that turn out? From 2001 to 2007, jobs grew at one fifth the pace of the 1990s, the slowest rate in the post-World War II era. GDP in those years grew at half the rate of the 1990s. Oh yeah, and the deficit exploded. Fully 10 years after the largest tax cuts in history, the economy had shed 1.1 million jobs. It seems Pence’s ax was put to the root of the American dream itself.

Given the historical and economic record, one has to ask: How can anyone take the GOP seriously, especially when they are playing fast and loose with economic disaster in service to a political philosophy that not even their main icon—Reagan—followed with such monomania?

Decrying the Clinton tax plan in 1993, Boehner recalled the quote: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” He went on, “It very appropriately applies to Congress today.” That’s one piece of rhetoric Boehner really should recycle. And learn from.

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, July 13, 2011

July 14, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Increases, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Unemployment, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gov Walker Plans To Celebrate Budget Bill With Felon Until Union Broadcasts Rendezvous

Today, Gov. Scott Walker will sign the controversial state budget bill into law. He was originally scheduled to sign his budget at Badger Sheet Metal Works, a private business operated by a man with six felony tax convictions, in Green Bay, at 2 p.m. on Sunday. However, now that Gregory A. DeCaster’s tax troubles have been publicized, the governor’s office has announced a new locationfor the ceremony: Fox Valley Metal Tech, also in Green Bay.

“While Mr. DeCaster has served his time in jail and paid his debt to society, it is fitting that the governor would choose to sign this budget at a business owned by someone who was once convicted of the felony of tax evasion,” said Marc Norberg, a Wisconsin native and assistant to the general president of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association.

Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch said something quite similar earlier in the day when he told WisPolitics, “Green Bay, and certainly the company that we’re going to, reflects really what this budget and what Gov. Walker’s first term here is all about.”

Will the budget bill be a job creator?
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker chose to sign the budget at a manufacturer “to emphasize the budget’s focus on job creation.”

Gov. Scott Walker boasted that his budget proposals and other controversial policies have created 25,000 jobs in Wisconsin since the start of the year at a discussion led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday in Washington, D.C.

CMD contacted the Center for Wisconsin Strategy, a field laboratory for high-road economic development in the state for a bit of perspective on this spin.

“While we don’t think the governor has that much ability to affect overall employment … to the extent that he has, he has arguably hurt the state,” said Sam Munger, managing director of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy’s Center for State Innovation.

Munger said a significant amount of provisions in the budget will end up destroying the quality of jobs that currently exist.

According to a recent Center of Wisconsin Strategy report, the 8 percent wage cut Walker issued to the 380,000 jobs under his control could cost Wisconsin about 22,000 additional jobs, “because families that rely on the income from their public-sector jobs will have less to spend in their local communities.”

“If you look all the way through the budget … his primary motivation has not been keeping jobs, it’s been remaking the state as a corporate welfare haven,” Munger said, citing Walker’s refusal of federal stimulus money and federal broadband money and his refusal to engage the state in other job-generating projects, while rewarding the wealthy and corporations with a range of tax breaks.

The budget’s cuts to municipalities will suck money out of localities, Munger said, adding that pulling money out of circulation will cost jobs in an indirect or induced way. In contrast to the rosy news coming from the Governor’s mansion, the most recent data from the Department of Workforce Development shows that unemployment increased in most Wisconsin cities in the month of May. The report shows that unemployment rates increased in 25 cities with a population of 25,000 people or more, with only Stevens Point experiencing a slight drop, from 7.9 percent to 7.8 percent.

Other budgetary measures that Munger said threaten job quality are cuts to childcare subsidies for working parents, making it more difficult to obtain unemployment insurance and rolling back child labor laws.

“Everything that he has done in the budget that related to jobs or employment has either killed jobs, destroyed the quality of jobs or been a giant giveaway to corporations,” Munger said.

 

By: Jessica Opoien, Opinion Writer, Center For Media and Democracy, June 26, 2011

June 26, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Corporations, Democracy, Economy, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Labor, Middle Class, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Tax Evasion, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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