Political Chicanery From Citizens United Through Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Michigan
Political Chicanery - Citizens United Through Wisconsin
This is the first time I am writing about a strictly political subject. I have tried to stick to writing about issues and examining them from both sides while attempting to discover sensible solutions. I also tend to stay clear of conspiracy theories from both liberals and conservatives. However there has developed a confluence of events that has been troubling me greatly. It began to pick up steam and show itself more after Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States in 2009. He had won a convincing victory in November 2008 with a clear advantage in campaign funding. Naturally President Obama had an agenda that he had campaigned on and his administration immediately began work to fulfill it. The Republicans and the Far Right felt demoralized and began searching for ways to rebound.
Conservative leaders began meeting in private in an effort to develop strategies to stop this perceived Democratic juggernaut. The results of these clandestine meetings are culminating now in Wisconsin and several other states and they are disturbing me greatly. Some of these problems the Democrats have brought on themselves. Most of it involves deceptive, immoral, and very possibly illegal tactics hatched by conservative leaders of government and industry. They are being executed brilliantly.
The following article is my assessment of what they are doing with a chronological description of the steps they have taken to execute their plan along with the consequences resulting from it. Finally I will explain what I feel all American citizens need to do to stave off this assault on both our democracy and on our middle and lower classes.
Corporations and the wealthy class enjoyed a sustained period of very favorable treatment from President George W. Bush and the Republicans in Congress between 2001 and 2008. The massive 2001 tax cuts were the first of many favorable pieces of legislation passed to benefit these constituencies. This ushered in a period of explosive growth in the disparity of wealth between the rich and poor in the United States. The Bush Administration also gutted or allowed to lay dormant most regulatory functions of the federal government. This was accomplished by staffing the regulatory agencies predominantly with former industry executives.
Then came the 2008 Presidential and Congressional elections. Senator Obama was able to raise $748,000,000 due to his overwhelmingly popular support and a very well organized internet fund raising campaign. Millions of ordinary citizens contributed small amounts to his campaign creating a formidable grassroots movement. Granted there were also large contributions from unions and others but the predominance of these funds were from smaller contributors. The Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, raised $353,000,000 through the usual avenues of corporations and rich donors. This was a large amount of money that Senator McCain raised but it paled in comparison to Senator Obama's total. The Republican leadership and their corporate supporters vowed to never let this happen again. They soon began to strategize ways to close this gap and cripple future Democrat election prospects.
President Obama and his administration hit the ground running on inauguration day and began the implementation of the policies he campaigned on. The economy was flat on its back after the stock market and housing market collapses of the previous year. The Democrats and Keynesian economists felt a strong stimulus plan was desperately needed to revive the economy. President Obama asked Congress to put together a stimulus package and they did. On February 17, 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed into law containing $787,000,000,000 worth of stimulus funds. Only three Republican Senators voted for this bill and no Republicans in the House voted for it.
The Republicans felt steamrolled and they were enraged. The Tea Party organizations were created directly after this legislation was passed with the benefit of millions of dollars from the billionaire business tycoons, David and Charles Koch. The Koch brothers have been financing political campaigns and organizations that advocated for their concerns for decades. Their primary issues are government deregulation and extreme tax cutting. The Koch brothers belief in these issues borders on religious zealotry. They are famous for holding political conclaves with numerous Republican and conservative political leaders in attendance. This even included Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. These gatherings primarily involved discussions relating to developing methods that would advance the Koch Brothers issues.
Another person centrally involved with the Tea Party movement is former House of Represenatives Majority Leader Dick Armey. Rep, Armey formed FreedomWorks in 2003 to advance the same issues as the Koch brothers. He became strongly involved with the Tea Party groups after the stimulus bill was passed. Armey went into high gear when the Healthcare Reform bill was being formed and debated. He and FreedomWorks crafted the manual that taught the Tea Partiers the methods to disrupt the Town Hall Meetings that House Representatives were conducting. These meetings were being held to inform their constituents on the progress of the bill and to receive feedback from them regarding it. Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, formed her conservative organization Liberty Central around this same time. Mrs. Thomas had worked for Rep. Armey in the 1990's as a Policy Analyst. The Koch brothers have helped fund her organization and many more over the years to the tune of many millions of dollars.
They also helped fund another conservative organization called Citizens United in the making of their documentary "Hillary, the Movie". The U.S. District Court of D.C. ruled in January of 2008 that the movie violated provisions prohibiting electioneering for the period of thirty days prior to a primary contained in the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act. The United States Supreme Court overruled that court ruling on January 21, 2010. They ruled that the provisions in the act that restricted independent corporate or organizational spending were unconstitutional. The Koch brothers and other corporate contributors were now free to open up their bottomless coffers to spend whatever amounts they wished to elect their candidates and push hard for their agendas. The Supreme Court effectively gave them the same free speech rights as individuals. Unfortunately ordinary citizens do not have anything close to the resources corporations have to advance their interests.
The 2010 elections were the first great test regarding the implications of the Citizens United decision. The corporate money immediately began flooding into Republican, Conservative, and Tea Party candidates. The disparity in spending between Republican and Democrat candidates was stark. Republican contributors outspent their Democrat counterparts 2 to 1. They now controlled 29 Governorships, 30 State Houses, and the federal House of Representatives. The United States Senate remained in Democrat hands but by a much slimmer margin. Most of these new Republican officeholders were strongly influenced and funded by conservative corporate contributors such as the Koch brothers. The officeholders that they had helped elect were now ready to act on their benefactors issues and priorities.
The most prominent and important of these is to restrict or cut off Government Employees Unions influence by taking away their collective bargaining rights. The newly elected Governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, unilaterally stripped his state's Government Employees Unions of their collective bargaining rights in 2005 days after taking office. Legislation is passing through the state houses in Ohio right now to accomplish the same action. Governor John Kasich has promised to sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk. Now the same thing has happened in WIsconsin.
Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans have been involved in a showdown with the Democrats and the Government Employees Unions over legislation that would require these workers to pay for a larger part of their healthcare insurance and to pay into their pensions. The unions representing these workers agreed to these terms early on in these proceedings. They are adamantly against another more critical part of this bill. That section authorizes the repeal of most of the Government Employees Unions collective bargaining rights. One would have thought that Governor Walker and the Republicans would have been ecstatic with the union concessions, declared victory and backed off the collective bargaining rights repeal. This is especially true after they gave corporations in Wisconsin tax breaks that caused the budget deficit to get out of hand in the first place. Governor Walker obviously has ulterior motives. All of the Government Employee Unions endorsed Governor Walker's opponent in the 2010 elections except for the police and firefighters unions. The collective bargaining rights repeal will apply to all the Government Employee Unions except for those two. This sounds like political payback to me. Ironically these two unions are showing solidarity with the other unions and many of them were protesting at the Wisconsin capitol with them. They know that Governor Walker could turn on them at any time if they do not acquiesce to his contract demands.
It is clear to me that conservative Republicans and their corporate benefactors cannot bear the idea of Democrats assuming power anywhere in the United States. They reacted vehemently against President Bill Clinton in 1993 and President Barack Obama in 2009. Why is this? Neither has far left liberal leanings. The rhetoric against these Democrat presidents made them out to be just that. I believe this all comes down to the fact that most executives in Corporate America as well as many in our wealthy class feel that determing the economic and governing policy of the United States should rightly belong in their hands. This is best illustrated by the behind the scenes machinations of the incredibly wealthy David and Charles Koch. Their bi-annual conclaves have been the incubator of their free enterprise and low tax dogmas. Political strategies to achieve these goals were also concocted here.
First they needed to get the level of Republican campaign funding to surpass President Obama and the Democrats. The Koch brothers were the major funders for the Citizens United movie about Hillary Clinton. They knew the lower courts would rule against this film being shown during the 2008 election season. They also knew there was an excellent chance that the U.S. Supreme Court would eventually take the case when it was appealed. After all, Justices Scalia and Thomas had attended the Koch brothers conclaves in the past. Justice Thomas' wife Virginia received major funding from the Koch brothers. These Justices knew the plan and would take the case. They also knew that there was a 5-4 conservative advantage on the court and therefore victory was probable. Of course they won by 5-4.
The next move is the other side of the coin and is being executed now in Wisconsin and other states. This is depriving Government Employee Unions of their collective bargaining rights and passing "Right to Work" laws. Right to work laws state that an employee could opt out of union membership even when that union negotiated the employee's contract. These new laws were intended to emasculate the unions' source of funding. This will certainly happen and it will then dry up a key source of Democrat campaign funding. Now the Koch brothers have engineered nearly unlimited Republican campaign funding and dried up a major source for the Democrats. I hope you are seeing clearly this scheme that was conceived and executed by them. It is the foundation of their assault on our democracy. But there is more.
The Wisconsin Republican Senate has passed their Collective Bargaining Rights Repeal on 3/9/2011 just as I have been writing this Hub. They did so without the 24 hour notice required and without the quorum of Senators their rules dictate. This action was taken as Governor Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans saw their public support drop precipitously. Clearly the Governor and these Statehouse Republicans had their agenda to follow. They had no interest in addressing their citizens' wishes. Unfortunately this scheme to strip collective bargaining rights is not the only arrow in their quiver.
The Republican New Hampshire Speaker of the House is Bill O'Brien. He is pushing legislation to strip out of state New Hampshire college students of their voting rights. O'Brien argues that they are too young and foolish so they vote liberal. Other states are also considering legislation such as this. Many are requiring proof of residency and photo ID's.
The Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is proposing legislation to replace local town governments in Michigan if they are deemed to be in financial distress. What are the odds that he will only replace Democrat governments? Quite high I believe. The Republican Treasurer will have the power to judge which towns are in financial distress and which must be replaced. These town governments would then be replaced with private corporations. Undoubtedly these corporations will be campaign supporters of Governor Snyder and his fellow Republicans.
Furthermore several Republican controlled states are proposing that new and more difficult to obtain ID's be used for the privilege of voting in that state. This smacks of southern laws during the Jim Crow era that were in place to prevent Blacks from voting in any significant numbers. Do you see a pattern in all of this?
The Republicans now have an unlimited pool of money coming in from Corporate America types such as the Koch brothers. At the same time the Republicans are strangling Government Employee Unions to starve Democratic campaign coffers. Also voters who tend to vote Democrat are being discouraged to vote by various methods previously outlined here in Michigan, New Hampshire, and all around our country. This entire plot is not only anti-Democrat as in the party of Democrats, but anti-Democratic. They are attempting to take away our right to a choice as to whom we elect to be our government leaders. Make no mistake, this is originating with the Koch brothers and their money. They feel they know best. They finance their Republican and Tea Party puppets to do their bidding.
We the people must stand up now and take action. Our voices must be heard now condemning such clandestine machinations. They will strip away all government regulations leaving corporations to do as they wish. Only the bottom line will dictate their actions. Environmental destruction will accelerate. Product safety will disappear. Economic meltdowns will worsen and become more prevalent. Taxes will be even more drastically cut leaving only the very rich and the poor. Good bye middle class. The 2012 elections are approaching fast. Please get involved in these elections if you believe as I do. Make your voices, your pocketbooks, and your votes heard. The Democrats are far from perfect but they do listen and serve the entire populace not just the wealthy and corporations. The changes that the Koch brothers have wrought will become solidified and permanent if we do not vote their Republican hacks out in 2012. Wisconsin has awakened America to some of what is happening here. Please examine this entire picture and take action with me. Nothing less than our Democratic way of life is at stake.