Last year when Democratic insiders looked forward to Election 2016, they expected a run-of-the-mill Republican, possibly even legacy candidate Jeb Bush. So they countered with their own “safe” next-in-line legacy candidate, Hillary Clinton, who would supposedly win by playing up the prospect of the first woman president.
In such an expected match-up, the concern of rank-and-file Democrats about Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy would be negated by the GOP nominee still defending President George W. Bush’s Iraq War and again surrounded by neocons pounding the drums for even more wars. With both parties putting forward war candidates, anti-war Democrats would accept Clinton as the lesser evil, or so the thinking went.
The likely Republican nominee also would be burdened by reactionary domestic proposals, including GOP plans for privatizing Social Security and Medicare. By contrast, centrist Clinton would look reasonable in promising to protect those popular programs, albeit with some modest trimming of benefits to please the budget hawks.
But the Democratic insiders didn’t count on the unlikely emergence of populist billionaire Donald Trump, who repudiated Bush’s Iraq War and the GOP’s neocon foreign policy and rejected Republican orthodoxy on “entitlement reform,” i.e., slashing Social Security and Medicare.
The unabashed Trump also has made clear that he is not afraid of countering Clinton’s “woman card” by playing his own “man card,” including attacks on her troubled marriage and her tolerance of Bill Clinton’s notorious womanizing, even claiming that she was her wayward husband’s “enabler.”
At first, the Democratic hierarchy couldn’t believe its luck as the Republican Party seemed to splinter over Trump’s disdain for the GOP’s neocon interventionism and rejection of the party’s cutbacks in Social Security and Medicare. Trump’s mocking attacks on his rivals also shattered the decorum that Republican leaders had hoped would mark their primary campaign.
So, the Democratic insiders initially rubbed their hands with glee and imagined not only an easy presidential victory but major gains in the House and Senate. However, new polls show Trump running neck-and-neck with Clinton nationally and in key battleground states, while other polls reveal strong public doubts about Clinton’s honesty, thus wiping the premature smiles off the Democrats’ faces.
Indeed, some Democrats reportedly are slipping into panic mode as they watch Clinton’s poll numbers tank and the Republican Party come to grips with the Trump phenomenon. The new storyline of Campaign 2016 is the tale of top Republicans reconciling to Trump’s populist conquest of the party. At least, these GOP leaders acknowledge, Trump has excited both average Republicans and many independents.
The obsessive media coverage of Trump’s meetings on Thursday with senior congressional Republicans made the narcissistic real estate mogul and reality TV star look like some major world leader being received in Washington as a conquering hero. And, with the GOP rallying behind Trump, the likelihood is that his poll numbers and favorable/unfavorable ratings will continue to improve.
So, instead of Democratic dreams of a landslide victory, the party insiders are worrying now about their decision to coronate a deeply flawed and wounded candidate in Hillary Clinton. Not only could she lose to Trump but she could take many of the House and Senate candidates down with her. It’s dawning on some Democrats that they may have squandered a historic opportunity to realign American politics to the left by promoting the wrong person in 2016.
At a moment when the American people are demanding change – even willing to risk entrusting the White House to the unorthodox and inexperienced Donald Trump – the Democratic Party may be stuck with an uninspiring status quo candidate who also is pro-war, indeed far more hawkish than President Barack Obama.
Thus, in the fall election, not only would Trump be in a position to bait Clinton about her dysfunctional marriage, reminding the nation of the messy scandals of the 1990s, but he could challenge her on her warmongering positions, including her years of support for the Iraq War and her hawkish policies as Secretary of State, including her instigation of the disastrous “regime change” war in Libya. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Yes, Hillary Clinton Is a Neocon.”]
This November could be the first time in modern American history when the Republican nominee would be the relative “peace candidate” and the Democrat would be the “war candidate.” That changing places could lose Clinton much of the “anti-war left,” a significant faction within the Democratic coalition with many “peace Democrats” either voting for Trump or choosing a third party, such as the Greens.
Of course, the Democrats didn’t have to be in this position. The party leaders could have encouraged a more competitive primary contest instead of trying to keep alternative candidates, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and some younger Democratic prospects, on the sidelines, all the better to give Hillary Clinton an unimpeded path to the nomination. The party insiders treated Clinton like an incumbent president seeking reelection, a foregone conclusion.
But the best laid plans of mice and politicians often go astray. How weak Clinton is as a candidate has been underscored by her struggle to put away a progressive challenge from Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old “democratic socialist” from Vermont, who isn’t even technically a Democrat, listing himself as an Independent.
Even though the vast majority of “super-delegates” – i.e., party insiders – have lined up behind Clinton and she leads in pledged delegates, Sanders continues to win primaries, including recent ones in Indiana and West Virginia, and he could roll up a series of victories in upcoming western state races.
Clinton could stagger to the Democratic convention in July with a dispirited party lining up glumly to witness her long-delayed coronation. The onlookers might sense that they had made a terrible mistake but couldn’t correct it. They would be left to grit their teeth and hope that Clinton’s self-inflicted wounds, such as her private emails as Secretary of State, don’t fester and become fatal.
Arguably, it is the Democrats who would benefit the most from a contested convention, one that might give them an opportunity to reconsider the choice of Clinton and either nominate Sanders, who fares much better against Trump in poll match-ups, or pick someone else, possibly a fresh face like Sen. Warren.
While that may be highly unlikely – even if Sanders sweeps the remaining primaries – it is beginning to dawn on Democratic insiders that their scheme to grease the skids for a Clinton nomination might end up slipping Donald Trump into the White House.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Donald Trump’s ascension to the Republican presidential nomination has created an enormous rift between the Republican elites and the rank and file. This process is a welcome development that could lead to the end of that party.
While the Republicans implode Hillary Clinton moves towards the Democratic party nomination by moving ever more towards the right. She and former president Bill Clinton have made it clear. They intend to get votes from independents and Republicans who can’t stomach the idea of a Trump presidency. That has been her modus operandi throughout her political career. She bragged about being a teenaged Goldwater girl and now brags about killing in Libya.
She ignores the Bernie Sanders phenomenon because she has no reason to do otherwise. From the moment he started his campaign he said he would endorse her if she won the nomination. Of course Sanders followers might change the trajectory of history by refusing to go along with the charade. If they stand firm they can also send their party into the historical dustbin where it belongs.
Trump’s supporters epitomize white nationalist sentiment but they are also driven by personal need. They have been left behind by the machinations of both parties. The trade deals concocted by Republicans and Democrats have taken the living wage jobs they expected to have forever. While they prosper more than any other group in the country they still feel affronted by their change in fortune. They don’t care about the imperial project and wouldn’t mind if Trump made good on his pledge to cease invasions and regime change plots.
Democrats on the other hand are less likely to send their party packing. They have been hypnotized by years of lies which have allowed wars, austerity, and mass incarceration to be considered acceptable, small prices to pay to keep the Republicans at bay. Black voters in particular are so fearful of Republican victory that any Democratic Party policy, no matter how damaging to them, gets the go ahead.
The election of 2016 should be historic not just because two people who are disliked by millions will run for president. It should be ground breaking because it will mean that Americans who love to think of themselves as independent will finally live up to that self-image.
The Sanders people in particular claimed to want a revolution. Now is their chance to make good on this assertion. Their task is a simple one. They must not support or vote for Hillary Clinton in November and they must say so loudly and clearly. They can vote for another party’s candidate or write in one of their own. They may exhort Sanders to deny her an endorsement. Any tactic will do. But if they follow tradition and vote for a conservative Democrat they will have made a mockery of their demand for change.
Liberal Democrats who like to think of themselves as leftists must put up or shut up. They should know by now that their party cannot be reformed. It must be done away with for good. The duplicity of the Democrats is fully on display for everyone who really wants to see it. On the one hand they will use the infamous Koch brothers to strike fear, raise money and keep their voters in line. Will they continue to do that now that Charles Koch has declared Hillary Clinton to be possibly more acceptable than Donald Trump?
In reality the Bernie Sanders campaign held more pretense than reality. Sanders isn’t really a socialist and neither are most of his voters. Yet they found it appealing to be connected to a candidate who gave them political cache. Neither are Sanders or his supporters revolutionary. The word revolution was more of a marketing ploy than anything else and continued the mirage of the possibility for change.
Sanders was always the sheep dog, as Black Agenda Report said in 2015. That does not mean his followers have to follow suit. The necessary rejection of Hillary Clinton will also mean a rejection of the man they admired and voted for if he does as he promised and endorses her.
Sanders voters can be the revolutionaries they aspired to be if they loudly and publicly state that they won’t vote for Hillary Clinton. They will need a great deal of determination as they will surely be scapegoated, guilt whipped and blamed for her defeat. But those attacks should be considered as a badge of honor in what may well be a revolutionary effort.
Of course if people “felt the Bern” only because they hoped for a better Democrat then this effort is for naught. By now everyone should know that the corruption in the Democrat party cannot be cut out. The party doesn’t want to change itself and makes sure that opponents end up just driving the sheep.
It is time for the Sanders supporters to make good on calls for revolution. They can do that by actively and openly denying Hillary Clinton the presidency. When they are called spoilers they must proudly own the charge and declare that they meant what they said. They are fighting for a revolution.
Margaret Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
From the moment he announced, it was obvious what newly christened Democrat Bernie Sanders would become: The Great Progressive Hope who would fight to slay Wall Street’s champions and reclaim the party for some long ago or long imagined liberal greatness. And it was obvious how his campaign would end, as it is now wrapping up, with Bernie begrudgingly conceding that he cannot win against Hillary’s oligarchy backing and the rigged process of establishment SuperDelegates designed to make sure no self-proclaimed democratic socialist-type ever wins the nomination.
It’s the Democrat’s political equivalent of the Bill Murray movie classic Groundhog Day, except the progressive candidate never wins the girlfriend, er, nomination, in the end. Instead, the Sanders, Deans, Browns, and Jacksons, the progressive champions of their election cycle, only change themselves from watchdogs and guard dogs to lap dogs, ensuring that cynical and outraged progressives follow their champion-cum-Pied Piper to become advocates for defeating the Republicans in November.
This is the death spiral the Feel the Bern movement, the 2 million who have forked over time and money, has now entered. The Democratic apparatchiks who run Bernie’s campaign are preparing their masses for the inevitable, pulling them into the ceremony that, not unlike a religious grieving event, prepares them for death and eventual resurrection, post-convention, to transform them into a saintly rationalizing army of supporters for, in this case, Hillary.
All this I predicted (as could any objective fool) the day of Bernie’s announcement. Yes, it has been heartening to see the extent of his support as he attacks the banks and the Democratic establishment. But, of course, it is all for naught. In four months Hillary’s army will command Bernie’s list of 2 million, and Bernie and his loyal Democratic minions will be weaving memes of how the Party will soon be in the hands of the FeelTheBern rebellion. Not this year, not next, but soon, brothers and sisters, soon, the revolution will occur!
As frustrated nationalist populism tears apart the Republican Party, the co-opting power of the Democrats ensures that there will be no similar rebellion from the true believing Progressives in the Democratic Party.
Bernie is an old man. He has lived a fine and worthy public life, but unfortunately he will fade into the sunset without taking the brave step of leading his supporters into finally forming a viable left party in the United States. That would be a true legacy and accomplishment. Even the right wing oligarchs of the Republican Party have realized that the shared monopoly both corporate parties wield over the political process makes a viable third party almost impossible.
Yet, for all the noble tirades of the Progressives from Bill Moyers to Bernie Sanders about the power of money and how it must be removed from the process, it is the process itself that is the problem. Two parties, both pro Wall Street and pro military-industrial complex, control the political system. A majority of voters opted out of this farce democracy long ago, so only a minority votes for these parties. Big money has ensured ever tighter domination by the super rich, but even with the dream of meaningful finance reform, the shared monopoly that corporate oligarchs control with their phony two-party system is the real problem.
So thanks Bernie, you ran a good race, and now you can hop onto Hillary’s pant suit and become the latest kept progressive champion, the Pied Piper, trying to convince the left and progressives that real change is possible within the Democratic Party. And the tragedy is that 95% of your supporters, the Feel the Bern Movement, will follow you down that Blue Brick Road past the intoxicating poppies on to celebrate the great achievement that electing Hillary shall be deemed.
And so the same damned movie script plays out again, and the bipartisan oligarchy wins again, as brilliantly planned. Just ask Charles Koch if he can live with Hillary, because he already has said he can. A neoliberal neocon in the White House may not be the Koch Brothers’s favorite choice, but they and their money can live with it very well!
Pluto-Zionism is the three-way marriage of plutocracy, right-wing Zionism and US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, a serial war criminal, racist and servant of Wall Street. How did this deadly ménage-a-trois come about? The answer is that a stratospherically wealthy donor group, dedicated to promoting Israel’s dominance in the Middle East and deepening US military intervention in the region, has secured Clinton’s unconditional support for Tel Aviv’s ambitions and, in exchange, Hilary receives scores of millions to finance her Democratic Party foot soldiers and voters for her campaign.
Pluto-Zionism and Clinton
Pluto-Zionists comprise the leading financial backers of Clinton. Her million-dollar backers, among the most powerful financiers and media moguls in America, include: George Soros ($6 million), Marc Benioff, Roger Altman, Steven Spielberg, Haim and Cheryl Saban ($3 million and counting), Jeffrey Katzenberg, Donald Sussman, Herb Sandler, Jay and Mark Pritzker, S. Daniel Abraham ($1 million), Bernard Schwartz, Marc Lasry, Paul Singer, David Geffen, Fred Eychaner, Norman Braman and Bernie Marcus. Waiting in the wings are the Republican billionaire ‘king-makers’, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, the Koch brothers as well as the ‘liberal’ multi-billionaire, Michael Bloomberg who had contributed $11 million in 2012 elections. These erstwhile Republican funders are increasing frightened by the anti-‘free trade and anti-intervention’ rhetoric of their party’s front-runner, Donald Trump, and are approaching the solidly pro-Israel, pro-war and pro-Wall Street candidate, Madame Clinton.
Israeli-First Ideologues and Clinton
In addition to the powerful Pluto-Zionists, a vast army of Israel-First ideologues is behind Clinton, including ‘veteran’ arm-chair war mongers like Victoria Nuland Kagan, Donald and Robert Kagan, Robert Zoellick, Michael Chertoff, Dov Zakheim among so many other promoters of Washington’s continuous wars on many fronts. Ms Nuland-Kagan, as US Undersecretary of State for East European Affairs, openly bragged about using hundreds of millions of dollars of US taxpayer money to finance the right-wing Ukrainian coup. Michael Chertoff, as head of Homeland Security after 9/11, jailed thousands of innocent Muslims while freeing five Israeli-Mossad agents arrested by the FBI for suspected involvement or pre-knowledge of the attacks in New York after they were seen filming the collapse of the towers and celebrating the event from a warehouse rooftop in New Jersey!).
Pluto-Zionists and the Israel-First ideologues support Ms Clinton as a reward for her extraordinary military and economic activities on behalf of Tel Aviv’s quest for regional dominance. Her accomplishments for the Jewish State include the promotion of full-scale wars, which have destroyed Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan; economic sanctions and blockade against Iran (she threatened to ‘obliterate Iran’ in 2007; and her own repeatedly stated unconditional support for Israel’s devastation against the people imprisoned in Gaza, which has cost thousands of civilian lives and rendered hundreds of thousands homeless. (In a letter to her ‘banker’, Haim Saban, Hillary stated: “Israel didn’t teach Hamas (the people of Gaza) a harsh enough lesson last year”).
Clinton versus Trump: ‘Moderation’ is in the Eyes of the Deceiver
The Pluto-Zionists, Israel-First ideologues, the US mass media and their acolytes on Wall Street and the Republican and Democratic Party elite are all on a rampage against the wildly popular Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, labeling him as ‘a danger to everything America stands for. (sic)’ Apart from savaging his persona, the anti-Trump chorus contrast his ‘extremism’ with warmonger Clinton’s ‘pragmatism’.
A careful examination of the facts reveals who is the ultra-extremist and who deals with reality:
Madame Clinton’s much touted wars against the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya have killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of women and children and uprooted millions of households. This bloody and undeniable record of mayhem was cited by Donald Trump when he argued that his policies would be much better for women than the Feminist Clinton’s had been.
So far, Trump’s worst offenses against women are his crude rhetorical misogynist quips, which pale before Hillary’s bloody record of devastation.
Clinton is backed by the leading black politicians who have long fed out of the Democratic Party patronage trough while selling the Clintons to the black electorate as ardent protectors of civil rights. In fact, as Steve Lendman has written, Hillary had referred to marginalized black youth as “super predators (with) no conscience, no empathy”. During her husband Bill’s presidency, she was on record supporting his draconian ‘three strikes’ crime laws, leading to the mass incarceration of hundreds of thousands of young blacks; and she backed his ‘welfare reform’ program, which shredded the social safety net for the poor and forced millions of impoverished mothers to work for sub-poverty wages, further eroding the stability of black female-headed households. On the African front, ‘Sister’ Secretary of State Hillary’s war on Libya led to the displacement, rape and murder of tens of thousands of black women of sub-Saharan origin at the hands of her jihadi war-lord allies. Millions of black sub-Saharan migrants had lived and worked in Gadhafi’s Libya for years, tens of thousands becoming Libyan citizens. They endured the horror of rampant ethnic cleansing in Clinton’s ‘liberated’ Libya.
Trump, at worst, has done nothing of direct harm to African Americans and remains an enigma on black issues. He opposes Clinton’s war on Libya and has vividly blamed her policies as responsible for the chaos and human misery in post-NATO bombing Libya.
Under the Obama-Clinton administration almost 2 million Latino immigrants have been seized from their homes and workplaces, separated from their families and summarily expelled. As Madame Secretary of State, Clinton backed the Honduran military coup that overthrew the elected government of President Zelaya and led directly to assassination of over three hundred activists, including feminist, indigenous, human rights and environmental leaders, like Berta Caceres. Clinton actively backed unsuccessful coups against the democratically elected Bolivian and Venezuelan governments.
Trump has verbally threatened to extend and deepen the Obama-Clinton expulsion of whatever remains of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrant Latino workers after Obama’s expulsion of the 2 million and the hundreds of thousands who have voluntarily gone home. His ‘extremist’ vision is completely in line with that of his allegedly ‘pragmatic’ opponent whose State Department promoted the destruction of so many Latino families in the US.
Clinton has launched or promoted more simultaneous wars than any Secretary of State in US history. She was the leading force behind the US bombing of Libya and the brutal ‘regime change’ that has fractured that nation. She promoted the military escalation in Iraq, backed the violent seizure of power in Ukraine, ‘engineered’ the military build-up (pivot to Asia) against China and negotiated the continued presence of thousands of US troops in Afghanistan.
Clinton has repeatedly pledged to her supporter Haim Saban and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Victoria Nuland Kagan, Donald and Robert Kagan, Robert Zoellick, Michael Chertoff, Dov Zakheim that she will give Israel with “all the necessary military, diplomatic, economic and moral support it needs to vanquish Hamas” regardless of the many thousands of Palestinian civilian casualties. The ‘pragmatic feminist’ Hillary is a fervent supporter of the Saudi despotism and its genocide war against the popular forces in Yemen. Hillary tried to pressure President Obama to send US ground troops into Syria. She promotes the continuation of harsh trade sanctions against Russia.
Trump opposes any further direct US intervention in the Middle East. During his debate in South Carolina, he repeatedly denounced President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq – as based on ‘deliberate lies to the American people’, to the shock and horror of the Republican Party elite. He has rejected Pluto-Zionist financing, arguing that only as an independent ‘honest broker’, who doesn’t take the side of Israel in its conflict with Palestinians, can he be effective in brokering a ‘deal’. He opposes sending ground troops overseas to Europe or Asia, which imposes a huge financial burden on the US taxpayers. He has gone on to suggest that European and Asian powers can and should pay for their own defense. Trump argues that the US could work with Putin against radical Islamist terrorism and he regards Russia as a potential trading partner. His anti-interventionism has been labeled as ‘isolationist’ by the Pluto-Zionist ideologues and militarist warlords holed up in their Washington think tanks, but Trump’s ‘America First’ resonates profoundly with the war-weary and economically devastated US electorate.
Clinton has totally and unconditionally pledged to widen and deepen US subordination to Israel’s war aims in the Middle East and to defend Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories and within apartheid Israel. As a result, Clinton has built a coalition made-up of unsavory mafia-linked, gambling, media and speculator billionaires, whose first loyalty is not to America but Israel. She denounces all critics of Israel as ‘anti-Semites’.
Trump has never been a critic of Israel but he has called for greater ‘evenhandedness’, which is anathema within Zionist circles. For that reason he has not secured a single Pluto-Zionist supporter. So far, he has not been labelled an anti-Semite…. perhaps because his own daughter converted to Judaism following her marriage, but his lack of effusive philo-Zionism has him marked as ‘unreliable’ to the Jewish State. As a subterfuge for his lack of servility to Tel Aviv, Democratic Party Zionist hacks emphasize his ‘racism’ and ‘fascist’ tendencies…
The Democratic Elections: The Real Muck
Clinton currently leads Sanders for the Democratic nomination mostly on the basis of non-elected delegates, the so-called ‘super delegates’, who are party loyalists appointed by the bosses and elite politicians. Sanders’ call for a “political revolution in America” has no traction unless there is first a political revolution within the Democratic Party. But the Democratic Party is like the Augean Stable – a clean up requiring a Herculean effort and a loud pugnacious leader with a big broom. Senator Sanders is no Hercules.
As a positive beginning, Sanders has mobilized grass roots support, raised progressive health, education and tax policies that adversely affect Clinton’s billionaire Wall Street backers (Big financier Jaime Diamond called Sanders ‘the most dangerous man in America’), and secured millions of contributions from small donors. But he has failed to target and demand the exit of the Pluto-Zionists, the Wall Street bankers and speculators and venal black politicians controlling the Democratic Party. They run the elections of US presidents and will make sure Hillary Clinton secures the nomination by hook or (more likely) crook.
Clinton is backed by this formidable authoritarian (profoundly anti-democratic) electoral machine. She is totally embedded in the process. Clinton has a track record of enthusiastic support for the barbarism of torture – laughing at and cheering on the torture-death of the wounded Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. In the pursuit of wars and war crimes, Hillary Clinton knows no limit and has borne no accountability. What makes Hillary so terrifyingly dangerous is that she could be ‘Commander in Chief’ of a great military power. While Clinton may be no Hitler, the US is vastly more engaged in world politics than Weimer Germany ever was. Her dictate would bring on global destruction.
If the Democratic primaries are as profoundly undemocratic as they have been in the past, the Republicans and their plutocrat partners are openly planning and plotting to ‘Dump the Donald’ and prevent Trump from obtaining an electoral victory. They have been discussing ways to use convention procedures to undermine a majority vote, and set up a ‘brokered convention’, where the ‘big-wigs’ jigger the delegates, rules and voting procedures behind closed doors robbing the populist front-runner of his party candidacy.
The US presidential primaries reveal in all their facets the decay and corruption of democracy in an era of imperial decline. The ascendancy of a financial oligarchy in the Democratic Party, backing a psychopathic militarist, like Hillary, cannot disguise her track record by labeling their candidate a ‘pragmatist’; the majority of Sanders supporters have no illusions about Madame Clinton. Panic and hysteria among an unsavory elite in the Republican Party and its efforts to block a sui-generis conservative Republican isolationist speaks to the fragility of imperial rule.
If the psychopathic war-monger Clinton is crowned the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, there is no way she can be considered the pragmatic ‘lesser evil’ to Donald Trump or any Republican – their bosses decide to spew out. At best, she might be the ‘equal evil’. In this case, more than 50% of the electorate will not vote. If, after being robbed of his growing movement for the Democratic Party candidacy, ‘Bernie’ Sanders does not break out with an independent bid for the White House, I will join the minuscule 1% who vote for Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein.
James Petras is author of The Politics of Empire: The US, Israel and the Middle East.
Hillary Clinton was widely quoted telling a handful of Iowans on April 14: “We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all — even if it takes a constitutional amendment.” The Washington Post identified this statement as “one of several pillars of her 2016 presidential campaign.” CBS based its headline for this Clinton story on the quote that this pillar represented one of “four big fights that I think we have to take on.” Her communications director, elaborating on the transcript of Clinton’s spare comments on the subject, added “It’s something she’s really concerned about.”
It is safe to assume that after months crafting the four policy pillars of her candidacy, and the way the message itself was tightly controlled from Iowa, that Clinton’s particular phrasing for her “unaccountable money” pillar was precisely as intended by her campaign team.
The Post’s headline writers and others converted Clinton’s hypothetical statement, “if it takes a constitutional amendment,” into a far more definite “support for a constitutional amendment,” as if Clinton is expected to propose or endorse a constitutional amendment during her campaign.
Slate‘s dog-whistle headline, relying on nothing more than the above quote in the Post, transformed her statement even further: “Hillary Clinton Hints at Support for Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United.” The Post, and presumably Clinton in Iowa, said nothing at all about Citizens United, let alone support for any “amendment to overturn” it. What Clinton did say is closer to the opposite of either of those two concepts.
Clinton’s statement “supports” not getting all or any part of interested money out of politics, which is what people advocating an “Amendment to Overturn Citizens United” think they are supporting. Clinton is speaking solely about “unaccountable money.” Such money can become fully “accountable” without being exluded from the pay to play system of US politics. Clinton is simply advocating its disclosure.
Under her proposal the embarrassing flood of money into US politics, anticipated to explode even further in her own campaign, will not be stanched. It would be accounted for by disclosing its provenance, which is now often left undisclosed by use of 527‘s and other IRS conduits. She considerately wants Americans to know who is buying the power to operate their erstwhile democracy against their every interest. There is no assurance that such disclosure would have any significant impact on the pervasive corruption of U.S. politics.
Under systemic corrupion, disclosure actually can help circumvent one of the few remaining inconveniences to plutocrats. Plutocrats who feel their “freedom of speech” constrained by new $5 million contribution limits per person per election cycle jointly endoresed by Congress and the Supreme Court can spend as much as they want on “independent” electioneering provided, so the cover story goes, they do not “coordinate” their expenditures with the campaigns. But to buy influence the candidate needs to know who is paying them off. By bridging this inconvenient gap in the system, formal disclosure required for everyone by law is a perfect solution for legalized coordination. Accordingly, disclosure is the reform that Democrats and their allies are selling to their supporters, and the reform the plutocrat justices of the Roberts Court also promote with no fear of significantly upsetting the corrupt political system they maintain.
Where corruption is systemic, Clinton’s proposition that actual “accountability” is even possible, other than in the sense of mere disclosure, is itself highly dubious. When the system requires all competitors to be on the take, disclosure alone fails to create any effective new options for making politicians actually accountable to voters. In this system where the Supreme Court legalizes corruption and the mass media collects a toll to mediate their messages, only the proxies of plutocrats are on offer to voters.
As a lawyer, Clinton must already understand that no constitutional amendment is required to accommodate a legislative remedy for her “unaccountable money” pillar. Laws under the existing Constitution can require all the additional disclosure that she could possibly want. Disclosure requirements for campaign contributions have existed in federal law since the Progressive Era’s Publicity of Political Contributions Act of 1910, 36 Stat. 822. The constitutionality of such disclosure laws has never been doubted.
In Ex Parte Curtis (1882) (8-1) the Supreme Court ruled, without even bothering to argue the point, that the power of Congress to prohibit political corruption outweighs any asserted First Amendment interest in allowing political donations. If the First Amendment argument made by the petitioner in Curtis, and dismissed by the government’s brief as unworthy of serious attention, albeit accepted by a lone dissenter, could not legalize money in politics against a total ban, then certainly requirements that political investments merely be disclosed could have raised no conceivable objection before the Nixon Court reversed the Curtis rule without mentioning it nearly a century later.
The Supreme Court held disclosure laws to be constitutional in Burroughs v. United States (1934) (9-0) when it upheld the strengthened disclosure requirements of the 1925 Federal Corrupt Practices Act. As that Court explained, disclosure requirements are “calculated to discourage the making and use of contributions for purposes of corruption.” This most conservative of any Supreme Court majority prior to the current Roberts 5 resoundingly rejected the very idea that disclosure requirements might be constitutionally invalid, calling the “proposition so startling as to arrest attention.” Quoting from another deeply conservative Gilded Age Court lineup in Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651 (1884), the 1934 Court explained that “government … must have the power to protect the elections on which its existence depends from violence and corruption … the two great natural and historical enemies of all republics.”
Later in United States v. Harriss, 347 U.S. 612, 625 (1954) the Supreme Court again expressly approved mandatory disclosure of political investments connected with some actual speech in the context of lobbying. See also National Association of Manufacturers v Taylor (D.C. Cir. 2009) (upholding lobbying disclosure under Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007). Chief Justice Warren held in Harriss that,
the voice of the people may all too easily be drowned out by the voice of special interest groups seeking favored treatment while masquerading as proponents of the public weal. This is the evil which the Lobbying Act was designed to help prevent… Congress… is not constitutionally forbidden to require the disclosure of lobbying activities. To do so would be to deny Congress in large measure the power of self-protection.
Since the outset of the current era of systemic corruption of politics the Supreme Court responsible for making that corruption systemic has nevertheless, without reservation, reaffirmed the same principles. Disclosure was endorsed by Buckley v Valeo (1976), the judicial mother lode for legalizing systemic corruption, and again by Citizens United (2010), the bete noir of all professional activists working the campaign finance silo. When the Roberts Court overturned aggregate limits for political investors in McCutcheon (2014) , Justice Roberts lauded this “less restrictive alternative” which also “given the Internet, … offers much more robust protections against corruption” than ever.
Though the constitutionality of disclosure laws has for a century been of little or no demonstrable utility in preventing the current systemic levels of political corruption, it is nevertheless regularly trotted out in this manner as a cure-all by politicians and other operatives of this corrupt system. Clinton has built her “unaccountable money” pillar on this well-worn tradition, and nothing more. Current disclosure laws are certainly inadequate. But this is because Congress is now too mired in systemic corruption, and the FEC too deadlocked, to enact even tepid and marginal reforms necessary to make disclosure even potentially more effective.
Clinton surely knows the Supreme Court’s historic, consistent, and virtually unanimous, rulings make clear that there is no need for a constitutional amendment to require full disclosure of currently “unaccountable” or “dark” money. She must have spent some tiny fraction of what has been projected to be an over $2 billion campaign to do some elementary initial research and strategy development about one of her expensive campaign’s four basic policy pillars – which she offers as her reason for running. Her issues team must have advised her to use the hypothetical “if” when mentioning an amendment because they know that an amendment is not necessary to accomplish the limited Clinton disclosure agenda. Hypothetical mention of an amendment does help obfuscate the limited nature of her agenda. Besides, mentioning the Constitution makes her proposal sound more important. Amendment advocacy, however hypothetical in the case of the “unaccountable money” pillar, does help distract constituents’ political energies to futile pursuits, while also deflecting responsibility to others. This is the strategy that has worked for Democrats on the corruption issue.
The rush to enlist Clinton in their cause by the Democrats’ professional activist allies who have committed themselves to an amendment approach suggests that they either do not know, or do not care, that no amendment is necessary to achieve the mostly useless “accountability” for money in politics that Clinton supports. Clinging to their futile amendment approach such activists mistakenly insist there is “no question that an amendment will be needed.” They do not know or care that it would be a counter-productive waste of time to confirm, by constitutional amendment, the validity of general powers of Congress which have never been seriously questioned on constitutional grounds and only recently exalted by the defender of plutocracy himself, Chief Justice Roberts. Presumably at the behest of such mistaken activists, Bernie Sanders has proposed an amendment that does include such a provision that risks not just wasteful but also counterproductive results.
Given the uninformed quality of the constitutional amendments that have been proposed on this subject by Democrats and their professional activist allies, one can easily imagine that an amendment for this purpose, although unnecessary, could well do more harm than good. The close parsing by a hostile Roberts Court of any particular new constitutional text on this subject could be turned on its head to reduce Congress’ current unrestricted authority to mandate all the disclosure of money in politics they may desire.
Clinton’s mention of the amendment should be no surprise. The constitutional amendment idea has been used as a theatrical prop to give cover to Democrats who are mired in the corrupt system as deeply as Republicans. Republicans embrace plutocracy as some surreal 21st century manifestation of the founders concept of “freedom of speech,” a notion formed long before there was a mass broadcast media to be bought for the political propaganda of marketing specialists. Accepting the Republican’s game, Democrats misleadingly propagate the idea that a constitutional amendment is the sole means by which they could limit money in politics. The resulting stalemate from this diversion absolves Democrats’ failure to advance far more effective and available legislative measures. By such deceit about their support for a futile amendment, a majority of Senate Democrats in the 113th Congress were empowered to vote on behalf of Wall Street in December 2014 to increase, by an order of magnitude, the money that plutocrats can give to buy political parties. Democratic support for the “CRomnibus” Act betrayed the notion that Democrats’ professed commitment to “campaign finance reform” meant that they would seek laws mandating less, not considerably more, money in politics. But the betrayal met with little, if any, protest from their activist allies who keep their eyes safely diverted to the futile amendment approach that would not even have stopped Congress from increasing money in politics as they did in 2014 even if it had been adopted.
Amendment advocacy has served to divert attention from corrupt Democrats for five years. The eventual, and inevitable, collapse, on September 11, 2014, of the Democrats anti-”Citizens United” constitutional amendment theatrics caused those professional activists who got the memo to pivot to a new advertising slogan for 2015. Their new advertising campaign promotes disclosure of “Dark Money,” while attempting to make that slogan sound even worse than their “Citizens United” soundbite. This latest piecemeal fad by non-profit fundraisers for what is actually a much reduced new demand ignores Justice Elena Kagan’s koanic axiom: “Simple disclosure fails to prevent shady dealing…. So the State remains afflicted with corruption.” But it serves Clinton’s straddle between disclosure and amendment.
The recent solicitations from political non-profits have reduced expectations so far as to ask that you send them money to help eliminate Dark Money electioneering by government contractors. This is a reform Obama could accomplish on his own, as a matter of seeing that the law are executed, and should have long ago when the subject first arose in 2011. The activists scrambled on board after the New York Times recently approved this approach. This reform would, they say, “unmask major corporate political donors with a simple executive order.” Of all the plutocrats and their corporate agents who make political investments, this reform would only reach the subset of government contractors. Instead of demanding mere disclosure of political investments from government contractors, activists should at the very least demand policies for this subset that would totally abolish political kickbacks from the procurement system. Their demand should be for strengthening and robust enforcement of — while disqualifying any federal contractor that “directly or indirectly … make[s] any contribution …to any person for any political purpose or use” in violation of — 2 U.S. Code § 441c (“Contributions by government contractors”). Demanding mere disclosure in this context, as it usually does, serves to divert attention from more meaningful reform.
Even this anti-corruption best-practice no-brainer for disclosure, let alone disqualifying firms with a history of conflict of interest electioneering expenditures, has been too much for a Democratic President. Obama uses highly contingent and distancing language whenever he mentions money in politics, such as his statement (emphasis added) about: the “need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight on the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”
The multiple italicized contingencies Obama employed indicate that he understood an amendment to be little more than political theatrics. By mentioning Citizens United, not Buckley, and Super-PACs instead of the whole corrupt system, he slices and dices the problem into its manageable but piecemeal soundbites. As a former constitutional law lecturer and record-setting fundraiser, Obama must know that the independent corporate electioneering legalized by Citizens United had very little to do with Super-Pacs, which are overwhelmingly funded by a handful of rich individuals and their non-profit proxies, with very little (only 12%) coming from for-profit corporations. Moreover Super-Pacs already have adequate spotlights on them from a largely outraged public. If in any event the “amendment process” is expected by him to “fall short,” then exactly what is the “change” that Pres. Obama believes can be obtained by “pressure” that might arise from this failure?
Failure due to misdirection usually depletes energy, causes frustration, and alienates voters, which only relieves the “pressure” on politicians. But Obama presumably knows that. His latest tepid statement, sounding like a bystander to the process of policy making, was that he would “love to see some constitutional process that would allow us to actually regulate campaign spending the way we used to, and maybe even improve it.” This could mean almost anything while committing Obama to nothing. One suspects that Obama’s “love” will not give birth to any effective strategy; nor will Clinton.
By mentioning a constitutional amendment without endorsing anything specific Clinton is doing little more than what Obama and his party has done. In formulating her disclosure pillar, Clinton adopted similar language to, while cleverly promising considerably less than, the commitment made in the 2012 Democratic Party platform: “We support campaign finance reform, by constitutional amendment if necessary.” The rubric of “campaign finance reform” could include disclosure of “unaccountable” money as one tactic. But that would need to be accompanied by a more comprehensive legislative package to accomplish any actual “reform.”
By mentioning a constitutional amendment in this context, although the inadequacy of disclosure laws has nothing to do with the text of the Constitution, Clinton not only blows the dog-whistle for those diverted to that futile approach by professional activists for the past five years, but also prepares a convenient exit for herself from even the truncated “dark money” issue. As one commenter observed, she can “endorse the concept without too many expectations about personally making an amendment happen.” A president has no formal role in adopting an amendment so it serves to shift responsibility for the issue away from her, as it has done for Obama.
Clinton should be asked to disclose her legislative plan, since in fact no amendment is necessary, whether to force disclosures of money in politics, or to enact far more robust prohibitions than any amount of disclosure could possibly accomplish. It is those other, strategic legislative solutions for banning money from politics, such as strengthened conflict of interest recusal rules, and Exceptions Clause or Eleventh Amendment jurisdiction-stripping, that Clinton, along with the Democratic Party, can be safely expected to avoid at all costs.
Democrats using effective strategy to get money out of politics would be even less likely than landing a gyrocopter on the White House lawn by a “showman patriot” would dramatize the issue effectively in the complicit mass media. The Wall Street masters would not consent to any effective strategy to restrain their plutocracy.
Rob Hager is a public interest litigator who filed an amicus brief in the Montana sequel to Citizens United and has worked as an international consultant on anti-corruption policy and legislation.
Over the past few decades, insurgent mass movements reflecting political discontent with the domestic economy and imperialist foreign policy have emerged to challenge the leadership and policies of the Democratic Party (DP). There are good reasons for this: The Democratic Party in power in Congress and the White House presided over (1) the deepening of inequality between labor and capital; (2) the decline of real wages; (3) the approval of repressive legislation; (4) the reduction of trade union membership by two-thirds; (5) deepening inequality between the races, (6) a trillion dollar (and counting) bailout of the banks and Wall Street; (7) mortgage foreclosure against millions of homeowners; (8) endless ‘police state’ abuses by federal and local police; (9) deregulation of the financial system and (10) the off-shoring of manufacturing jobs and service employment.
Over the same period, the Democratic Party has supported wars and invasions against Indo-China, Panama, Grenada, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia and scores of ‘clandestine’ military operations – including the recent and current proxy-wars in Georgia and Ukraine.
Popular movements have emerged and mass public opinion has expressed hostility toward both major parties. Hence, the third parties struck a responsive note among the electorate to which the Democratic Party leadership felt threatened by a possible defection by wage and salaried voters, especially to supporting Ralph Nader.
Yet in the end, nothing came of the discontent. Despite large-scale and deeply felt anger and popular outbursts of protests, including the million-strong street demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq in 2002-2003, the Democratic Party continued to dominate the ‘progressive’ electorate or relegated it to demoralized abstention.
This essay addresses the following questions:
(1) Why have mass movements and genuinely disaffected progressive voters and activists been unable to break with the Democratic Party, despite its consistently abominable record on foreign and domestic policy.
(2) How was the pro-Wall Street, pro-imperialist Democratic Party able to retain the support of an electorate, which overwhelmingly polls in favor of health care reform via a national, single-payer health plan, a living minimum wage, the end to police-state surveillance and against serial wars and invasions?
From Protest to Political Hostages
American mass movements have been successful in mobilizing hundreds of thousands in opposition to Washington’s support of the South African apartheid regime, Central American dictators, wars in the Middle East and racist legislation. Progressives have educated and organized millions to oppose Wall Street and the Democratic Party’s more recent bailout of banks.
Without fail every time mass movements and the popular electorate have opted for independent social action outside of the Democratic Party, a ‘dissident’ politician has emerged from within the Party mouthing many of the criticisms and demands of the social movements and the critical electorate.
These Democrat ‘dissidents’ organize ‘grass roots’ campaigns in popular venues, soliciting small scale contributions and making promises to put an end to ‘Big Money and Big Business’ domination of the electoral process.
Such Democrat ‘dissidents’ round up millions of votes and hundreds of delegates to the Democratic Convention and then…they inevitably lose to the Party machine and meekly submit…reasserting their loyalty to the ‘greater good’ against the ‘greater evil’.
The radical rhetoric used during the campaign is consciously designed to obscure the ‘dissidents’ fundamental loyalty to the Democratic Party, its military machine, its billionaire fundraisers and its Wall Street economic policy strategists.
The pre-ordained primary campaign defeat of the Democrat ‘dissidents’ is not the real issue here: The essential political consequence is that the “dissidents” channel mass social disaffection back into the Democratic Party thereby undermining any independent political initiative capable of breaking the duopoly stranglehold. In animal husbandry, they are like the handsome goat who tricks the flock into entering the big slaughter-pen of their social and political aspirations.
By endorsing the crowned Party nominee, these ‘dissidents’ discredit the very critical ideas and social programs they claimed to promote. They demoralize and depoliticize important segments of the electorate. They demobilize and disorient the social activists who had worked for the social transformation promised by their campaign program.
Most important, by reorienting the peace and justice movements and the neighborhood and anti-racism community organizations into Democratic Party electoral politics, they empty the streets, neighborhoods and workplaces of effective activists.
A brief survey of presidential campaigns over the past thirty-five years confirms this analysis.
Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Hustle: 1984 and 1988
Jesse Jackson was an important leader-activist in the civil rights movement. Based in Chicago, he helped organize tens of thousands of Afro-Americans and develop ties with other minorities, white progressives and trade unions.
Jackson opposed President Reagan’s assault on the trade unions, especially the firing of thousands of air controllers. Jackson’s opposition to Apartheid South Africa and Reagan’s invasion of Grenada and the escalation of military spending gained him credibility in the peace movement.
Millions looked to Jesse Jackson for political leadership and a new political direction. He negotiated with the bosses of the Democratic Party for his entry into the primaries. The deal was that he would compete with the traditional politicians, but immediately submit to the leadership if he lost the nomination.
Jackson mobilized hundreds of thousands of activists from the northern ghettos to the Ivy League college campuses and from the textile factories of North Carolina to the cotton fields of Mississippi. He rolled out the rhetoric about social justice, raising the minimum wage, a single payer (Medicare for All) national health plan and a massive transfer of public funds from the Pentagon to domestic social programs.
He secured an impressive 18% of the vote in the 1984 Democratic primaries. Upon defeat, he immediately capitulated and endorsed the Wall Street Cold Warrior Walter Mondale. He campaigned for Mondale with the promise that the ‘Rainbow Coalition’ would influence the campaign and subsequent Mondale presidency. Nothing of the sort happened. Mondale lost. Reagan was re-elected. The ‘rainbow coalition’ was as ephemeral as its namesake.
Four years later, a recycled Jesse Jackson trotted out the same rhetoric, the ‘grass roots’ organizing, the ghetto gab, the poverty hustle and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow coalition with white and black togetherness… to the amusement of the party bosses and corporate funders.
It was ‘All hands on deck’: The street movements shifted from concrete local struggles to door-to-door voter registration for the Democrats. Trade union locals were attracted to Jackson’s ‘save American jobs’ rhetoric. Middle class progressives were attracted to Jackson’s promise to cut the military budget.
Jackson received a substantial 29% of the Democratic primary vote. Michael Dukakis won the nomination and, as promised, Jesse Jackson endorsed the party’s choice and instructed all the civil rights, social justice and peace activists and anti-Wall Streeters to work for his election. Dukakis was resoundingly defeated by George Bush Sr. in the 1988 election.
At the end of the ‘rainbow’ and over a demoralized and de-politicized peace movement, the Bush Administration led the US into the First Gulf War. The wreckage from the popular movements- turned- electoral machines offered little resistance.
Confused by Jackson’s double discourse, the disaffected masses fractured. Four years later, the few pieces were picked up by Wall Street flunky “Bill” Clinton. Once in office and after tooting his victorious saxophone, President ‘Slick Willy’ proceeded to decimate welfare programs, roll back the Glass-Steagell Laws and deregulate the banks, launch a merciless ninety day war to break up Yugoslavia and maintain ten years of bombs and starvation sanctions against Iraq – causing the deaths of 500,000 children and many more adults.
Cowboy Dennis Kucinich and the 2004 Primaries: Keeping Progressive Livestock in the Democratic Party Corral
Just when disgust at the consequences of Clinton’s rotten policies and peccadilloes and George Bush, Jr’s grotesque wars were beginning to unite the disaffected, Dennis Kucinich popped up ‘from nowhere’ to launch a white working class version of the Jesse Jackson ‘Rainbow Coalition’ in the Democratic Party primaries of 2004. Saving a lot of money on placards, he re-cycled the same slogans about a national health system, minimum wage boost, higher taxes for the rich, anti-Wall Street rhetoric and public ownership of utilities – from the Jacksonites.
Since there was still a substantial strong anti-war movement, he called for the impeachment of President Bush (Jr.) for lying to the American people about Iraq. He criticized Congressional Democrats for supporting the fabricated pretexts to invade Iraq and called for the withdrawal of US troops from the Middle East.
His presidential primary campaign within the Democratic Party attracted a small army of disaffected voters and contributors who otherwise would have bolted from the party for the Greens and their candidate, Ralph Nader. In the Democratic Party Convention, Dennis (looking more like ‘Alfred E. Newman’ than any righteous working class leader) petered out with nary a mumble. He lost the nomination to the uber-militarist and upper class hero, John Kerry, without even a floor-fight or speech. He endorsed the obnoxious crown prince of the Democratic bosses, Kerry, an ardent pro-war, member of the billionaire class and defender of the US Constitution-shredding Patriot Act.
Kucinich managed to corral the anti-war and anti-Wall Street Democrats into submission, seriously undermining the anti-Bush mass movements, especially the anti-war activists, and the rising tide of Americans who openly favored the Single Payer National Health program – an extension of Medicare for All.
Kucinich ran again in 2008 but he was already damaged goods. His ‘belly crawl’ performance at the 2004 Democratic Convention had alienated most of his backers. But even more important in relegating Dennis to the dustbin was the emergence of a new, slicker and infinitely more persuasive con-man: Barack Obama, the Hawaii-raised, Ivy-league polished and Chicago-crowned chameleon of many colors, cadences and clichés, who burst on the scene playing every instrument in the band!
Barack Obama: The Ultimate Progressive Rabble Rouser and Master of Deceit
Barack Obama’s con-job far surpassed any previous effort by Jackson or Kucinich. His mind-boggling ascension on rhetorical bubbles left rival Hillary Clinton, long used to the cant of ‘Slick Willie’, literally pop-eyed and slack jawed. During the 2008 primary he embraced the progressive demands of the anti-war movement, promising to end the Iraq war, bring home the troops from Afghanistan and close the US torture camp at Guantanamo Bay. He promised to finally develop a national health plan (hinting broadly at a Medicare-for-All model) and regulate Wall Street’s unbridled swindles and speculation.
Easily seeing through his fluffy rhetoric, the Democratic Party’s Wall Street backers secured hundreds of millions from billionaires with which to finance a real ‘grass roots movement in style’ defeating an astonished Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries and swamping the mega-millionaire Republican candidate ‘Mitt’ Romney in the general election.
The Zelig-like Obama adopted the Baptist minister’s deep and musical cadences in front of black audiences while savaging and disowning his militant black religious mentor from his Chicago ‘community-organizing’ days, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who had condemned the war in Iraq in frank Biblical terms and alienated his Chicago Zionist financial backers and Israel-centric inner council. No longer useful, the good Reverend was effectively ‘thrown under the bus’ – an object lesson on introducing Ivy League graduates into mass community struggles and enabling their ambitions.
In office, Obama allocated a trillion dollars to bailout Wall Street while letting two million American householders sink under mortgage debt and foreclosures.
He expanded on-going wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and went on to launch new wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen. He supported the violent coups against popularly elected governments (‘regime changes’) in Honduras, Ukraine and Egypt.
The re-cycled and bamboozled anti-war leaders, who backed his candidacy and lies, were discredited, the remaining “movement” fractured.
Initially upward of 80% of US public opinion expressed support for the anti-Wall Street ‘Occupy Movement’ but they had no mass-based political organization to sustain the struggle after many of their leaders swam and ultimately sank, tied to the lies of Obama.
Under Obama more American blacks have been murdered by police with complete impunity; more abortion providers assassinated and clinics bombed than under any white Republican president. As for ‘humanitarian intervention’: In Libya, tens of thousands of ethnic sub-Saharan Africans (contract workers and Libyan citizens) died in the post-Kaddafi ethnic cleansing of Libya by the racist warlords unleashed by Obama’s air assault.
The bewitched progressives were befuddled by the Ivy League’s ‘black’ president and didn’t notice that social inequalities had deepened at an alarming rate. As for access to health care, the American people were forced to ‘buy private insurance plans’ (many of which were worthless), meanwhile deductibles and co-pays skyrocketed forcing all but the well-salaried to forego necessary medical care. The notion that ‘access to health insurance’ was equivalent to having effective health care has been one of the biggest shams of the Obama era: Life expectancy for large segments of the low income rural and small town Americans has dropped – an unimaginable development in previous eras.
During Obama’s Presidency, the political climate turned rabid right-wing and the progressives turned tail and ran. Right wing extremists swept the Republican Party and then seized control of the Congress and the Senate.
After seven years of failures, frustration and futility under Obama, progressives found themselves without a movement or prospects. Over 92% of US private sector workers were unorganized and faced continued decline in their standard of living. Black, Chicano and Asian neighborhoods were subject to large-scale, brutal police raids and the extra-judicial killing of minority youth, the homeless, mentally ill and the poor continued with impunity. Over 2 million immigrant workers were incarcerated and expelled. Tens of thousands of young immigrant and refugee mothers and their children were held in private prison camps.
The Republicans promised to extend Obama’s reactionary agenda without the smiling blackface mask. They assured greater tax handouts to Wall Street, with none of the embarrassing rhetorical flourishes, and more wars, without the sanctimonious ‘humanitarian’ cant.
Against this expanding panorama of social deterioration and war-weariness, (a backdrop, which would normally open up the possibility for alternative politics…), Bernie appeared. Bernie Sanders was to incarnate the Fourth Coming of the progressive Democratic primary campaigner-messiah and scupper any real movement to the left.
Bernie Sanders: After the Black Con-Artist Bring out the Jewish House Radical!
By 2015, US society was deeply polarized. After seven years of Wall Street pillage, under Democratic President Obama, the mass of working people were looking for an alternative. On the horizon there was only more of the same promised from the rabid right which ran the Republican Party. Massive voter abstention had propelled the Republicans to power in ‘both Houses’ in the elections of 2010, 2012 and 2014. Terror-mongering, the so-called Global War on Terror, no longer cut any ice with a population terrified of losing their miserable jobs or getting bankrupted by an illness in the family. The Pentagon resorted to paying unemployed actors to stage ‘spontaneous’ displays of patriotism at huge sporting events – dressing up as veterans and running about on the fields with huge flags. There has been a big drop in healthy young Americans willing to ‘sign up’ and fight in overseas wars despite the continued prospect of being mired in poverty-wage jobs in the so-called ‘recovered domestic economy’. The mass of disaffected working people were not flocking to the Democratic Party’s plutocrat-of-choice, Hilary Clinton, the war monger, Wall Street favorite and pro-Israel candidate par excellence. The stage was now set for mass voter abstention and a resounding electoral defeat for a deflated Democratic Party with a disgusted electorate. As a presidential candidate Hillary would have to fight tooth and nail to meet the challenge of even the most marginal lunatic candidate from the increasingly bizarre Republican Party – because the Democrat’s disaffected voter base would stay home.
Behold! A raspy rabble rouser, a ‘democratic socialist’, floated in on a cloud of self-righteousness, conjuring up the illusion of a movement with promises of ‘profound (and even profounder) changes’.
Like Jackson and Kucinich before him, Sanders launched right into The Rant: Against Wall Street, for a National Health Plan and a reduction of military spending (but not too much…). He added a few new planks about cancelling student debt, lowering tuition, ending the cap on the social security tax and greater regulation of Wall Street.
Early polls have given Sanders 25% of the Democratic preferences.
Bernie assured his worried Democratic Party handlers that should Madame Clinton win the primaries, Bernie (and his followers) would immediately and unconditionally support the Party’s war mongering, Wall Street candidate of choice.
What are we to make of his promises and his radical program, if from one day to the other he can easily make a 180 degree turn to support the most discredited dregs of the Democratic Party – those largely responsible for the country’s social and economic decline?
The whole history of Democratic Party ‘progressives’ is one of deceit, hypocrisy and betrayal of millions of workers, minorities and other oppressed and excluded groups.
They rant and rave, till the votes are counted and then they dissolve their electoral organization and push their supporters into the Party electoral campaign!
They do not continue the struggle outside of the corrupt party – they simply go belly up, ‘graciously conceding defeat’ and wagging their tails hoping for a reward (like some inconsequential, toothless position within the administration) if the Democrats win.
After every one of the ‘radicals’ defeats, their supporters are left adrift. Indeed, they are worse off than before because their movements had been diverted into the Democratic primaries and away from the communities. The historical record is clear: After Jesse Jackson lost, the Rainbow Coalition fell apart; civil rights movements were weakened; police violence against blacks continued and even worsened.
After Kucinich ran and lost, his grassroots supporters within the trade unions had no mechanism to block the relocation of auto, steel and textile plants overseas.
After Obama conned progressive Americans, the peace and justice movement virtually disappeared. The church, trade union, neighborhood alliances who celebrated Barack Obama’s ‘historic victory’ have in reality experienced historical retreats. The only things “historic” about Obama’s terms in office have been (1) the trillion dollar bailout of Wall Street, (2) the number of simultaneous wars waged by the Pentagon, (3) the millions of people of color slaughtered in Libya, Syria, and Yemen (4) the thousands of minorities killed in cities, big and small of the USA (5) and the tens of thousands lost to premature deaths in economically devastated rural and small town America.
The current “Bernie” Sanders road-show is just recycling the past, right down to the same rhetorical and inconsequential promises of his predecessors.
Some of his gullible followers claim that he is important for “raising issues” – when in fact he will just raise them and then demoralize their advocates.
Other pundits claim he is ‘challenging’ the Democratic Party ‘from the Left’ when in fact he is doing everything possible to prevent millions of disaffected ex-Democratic voters, mostly workers and minorities, from rejecting the Democrats and joining or forming alternative political movements.
The key to understanding why millions of Americans, fed up with 30 years of declining living and health standards, deepening inequalities and perpetual wars, do not form an ‘alternative party’ is that they have been repeatedly conned and corralled in the Democratic Party by the “house radicals”.
Jackson, Kucinich, Obama, and Sanders promised radical changes in the primaries and then have gone on to hand their supporters, mostly disaffected workers, over to the Party oligarchs, abandoning them without their past social movements or future hope: like cast-off condoms. Is there any wonder why so many abstain!
Nuclear’s greatest hope may be the ‘Clean Power Plan’
Another month, another premature nuclear plant retirement.
About two weeks ago, Entergy finally threw in the towel on the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Scriba, N.Y., a move that came as a surprise to exactly no one who has been paying attention to the merchant nuclear business in the U.S. the past few years. FitzPatrick joined the long-troubled Pilgrim plant in Plymouth, Mass., which Entergy gave up on in October, and Vermont Yankee, which it shut down in late 2014.
Since the end of 2012, the U.S. has lost an astonishing eight nuclear reactors to premature retirements: Kewaunee, San Onofre (2), Crystal River, and Vermont Yankee (all now shut down); FitzPatrick (retiring in late 2016); and Pilgrim and Oyster Creek (both retiring in 2019, well ahead of their planned lifetimes).
Several other reactors are on life support. Exelon’s R. E. Ginna plant in Ontario, N.Y., has been fighting to secure a rate support agreement that would keep it running a few more years, while the company’s Quad Cities and Byron plants got a reprieve after they unexpectedly cleared PJM auctions this fall. Industry observers see anywhere from five to 10 other plants as being at risk of premature retirement.
What’s remarkable about this trend is how it’s come about not from government pressure or mandates as in Germany or Japan—where nuclear is also in retreat—but from pure market pressures. In mid-2013, I wrote a post asking, “Is Cheap Gas Killing Nuclear Power?” Two years later, I’m prepared to answer that question in the affirmative.
In the case of Pilgrim, FitzPatrick, and Vermont Yankee, Entergy specifically named wholesale power prices driven to record low levels by cheap shale gas as one factor in its decisions. As my colleague Kennedy Maize has noted, observers now strongly suspect that Entergy is planning to exit the merchant nuclear business altogether—because it’s clearly become a big money-loser.
If you look at the list of retired and most at-risk plants, one common element jumps out immediately. Most of them exist in deregulated markets where power prices are largely set by the price of natural gas: ISO-New England (Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim), New York ISO (FitzPatrick and Ginna), and PJM (Oyster Creek, Byron, and Quad Cities). The other two plants, San Onofre and Crystal River, operated in more regulated markets, and while both were retired because of mechanical defects that were too expensive to repair, competition from gas-fired generation factored into both decisions to some degree.
Since 2012, when the problems for merchant nuclear really began, natural gas spot prices have stayed below $4/MMBtu except for a brief period last year, when a bitterly cold winter led to low stocks that pushed things up for a few months.
Since then, prices have fallen consistently, flirting with sub-$2 levels this fall. With gas in storage hitting a record high at the end of this year’s injection season, a repeat of 2014 seems unlikely. Meanwhile, gas production hit another record high in August at 81.3 Bcf/day. None of this, according to Energy Information Administration projections, seems likely to change in the short term, as production stubbornly continues climbing ahead of demand growth.
Where is nuclear still viable? That’s best answered by looking at the three states where a total of five nuclear plants are under construction: Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The common denominator there is clear. All three projects are being built in tightly regulated markets where the utility building them enjoys a government-sanctioned monopoly and the ability to recover costs in advance of operation.
The problem for nuclear is that momentum in the electricity markets over the past couple of decades has been toward flexibility and competition and away from monopolies and subsidies.
At the state level, attempts by Exelon and others to secure changes in the law to provide greater support for nuclear have been given the cold shoulder, while solar advocates are prying open previously closed markets like the Carolinas and Florida. Despite the challenges for merchant nuclear plants, no states are even considering an exit from problematic wholesale power markets, and independent system operators like PJM have shown no interest in rigging the game for nuclear either.
At the federal level, the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit, which provided enormous support for renewable generation, appear on their way out one way or another. The odds that the current Congress might pass some sort of nuclear production credit (an idea I mentioned in my 2013 post) would seem to be close to zero.
Nuclear’s greatest hope may be the Clean Power Plan (CPP)—which was revised in its final form to give more credit to nuclear generation—but that is far from a done deal. Even if the Democrats retain control of the White House in 2016, control of Congress is another matter, and the Supreme Court could still throw out or handicap the CPP on a variety of grounds.
Cheap gas is not going away. Greater state-level regulatory support seems highly unlikely. Even if the CPP survives in its current form, it won’t substantially change the economics of merchant nuclear.
The impending loss of nuclear generation presents a problem for a variety of reasons. Loss of generation diversity is never a good thing, and the loss of low-carbon electricity will complicate efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But the solution remains elusive.
—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine).
They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
for trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now — I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan then we take Berlin — Leonard Cohen
Many think they now see through the Democrats’ complicity with the Bush administration’s illegal wars and unconstitutional actions. If they think this is new, they don’t know that half of it.
Exactly twenty years ago today, on July 13, 1987, I witnessed the Democratic Party establishment covering up — and therefore helping — the subversion of the U.S. Constitution. It was actually on national TV, but few seemed to care.
The Iran-Contra hearings were going on. I watched them almost in their entirety, had just graduated from college and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I spent time with my dad, who’d just been diagnosed with a severe heart condition and we watched much of the hearings together.
For a while, I was admiring of the co-chairs of the Iran-Contra committee, the Democrats Sen. Daniel Inouye and Rep. Lee Hamilton — who would go on to co-head the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Commission.
But, following events closely, it became clear Inouye and Hamilton were covering things up things. This became glaring on July 13, 1987 when the following exchange took place as Rep. Jack Brooks, a Democrat from Texas questioned Oliver North:
REP. BROOKS: Colonel North, in your work at the NSC, were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the “<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuity_of_government> continuity of government ” in the event of a major disaster?
BRENDAN SULLIVAN (North’s lawyer): Mr. Chairman?
SEN. INOUYE: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch on that, sir?
REP. BROOKS: I was particularly concerned, Mr. Chairman, because I read in Miami papers, and several others, that there had been a plan developed by that same agency, a contingency plan in the event of emergency, that would suspend the American constitution. And I was deeply concerned about it and wondered if that was the area in which he had worked. I believe that it was and I wanted to get his confirmation.
SEN. INOUYE; May I most respectfully request that that matter not be touched upon at this stage. If we wish to get into this, I’m certain arrangements can be made for an executive session. [Text is here and video is here].
And go into executive session they would. I expected a firestorm about this. It never happened. The media were largely silent, the Chicago Tribune the next day was rare in having a page one story (which I of course didn’t see till years later) leading with:
Members of the Iran-contra congressional panels Monday questioned Lt. Col. Oliver North about his alleged involvement in a highly secret government plan that reportedly included suspension of the Constitution in times of national crisis.
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D., Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Iran, immediately cut off discussion of the plan, saying it touched on a “highly sensitive and classified area.”
The reference by Rep. Jack Brooks (D., Tex.,) to the plan followed comments Friday by chief Senate committee counsel Arthur Liman that the late CIA Director William Casey was attempting to promote “a CIA outside of the CIA” to carry out covert policy.
And the committee did go into executive session at various points. In his questioning, Brooks was referring to a few articles like the Miami Herald piece of July 5, 1987 by Alfonso Chardy, which I didn’t find until much later:
Some of President Reagan’s top advisers have operated a virtual parallel government outside the traditional Cabinet departments and agencies almost from the day Reagan took office, congressional investigators and administration officials have concluded.
Investigators believe that the advisers’ activities extended well beyond the secret arms sales to Iran and aid to the contras now under investigation.
Lt. Col. Oliver North, for example, helped draw up a controversial plan to suspend the Constitution in the event of a national crisis, such as nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition to a U.S. military invasion abroad. [Text is here].
You might have watched the hearings but not remember any of this — that’s probably because most of the media wrote pieces like the liberal Mary McGrory in the Washington Post quoting Inouye shortly thereafter: “We have a job to remind people of the Constitution and what it stands for.”
In fact, just a few days after the Brooks-Inouye exchange, much of Congress went on to Philadelphia for the 200th Anniversary of the Constitution that they were in the process of undermining. ABC reported on July 16:
Two hundred years ago today in Philadelphia the Constitutional convention designed what we now call the Congress of the United States. And for the occasion a delegation from Congress rode a special train to Philadelphia for a ceremony in the same room where the Constitution was written.
The ABC piece quoted Lee Hamilton: “The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. I do not see how your attitude can be reconciled with the Constitution of the United States.”
If the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights are dead, their death did not just happen during one administration or by one political party. It was indicated on national TV by a few brave representatives like Jack Brooks and Henry Gonzalez, written about by some independently minded journalists. And the establishment of both the Democratic and Republican parties with the big media outlets covered it up — while celebrating the Constitution they were killing.
Many of SAM HUSSEINI’s writings are at husseini.org.
The movement that is emerging under the banner Black Lives Matter is not yet one year old, but it will be dead before it reaches the age of two if the Democratic Party has anything to say about it. The movement’s greatest challenge will be to survive the impending mass mobilization of Black Democratic officeholders and operatives in a $5 billion presidential election season.
The current Black-led grassroots campaign is, in very important ways, even more vulnerable to Democratic cooptation and dismantlement than was the white-led Occupy Wall Street movement, which succumbed to a combination of Democratic infiltration and repression – on top of its own contradictions – in the early months of 2012. Although its slogans remained imprinted in the minds of much of the “99%,” by the time the November election rolled around, Occupy had long been a spent force, swept from the streets and encampments by mainly Democratic mayors acting on orders from their Party leader and president, Barack Obama.
The Democratic Party poses a far greater institutional threat to the Black Lives Matter movement, by virtue of the fact that the Party permeates every aspect of African American civil society. Not only are virtually all Black elected officials Democrats, but all the major civic organizations – the NAACP, the Urban League, most Black local churches and labor organizations, fraternities and sororities, not to mention Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow-Push Coalition and “King Rat” Al Sharpton’s National Action Network – are annexes of the Democratic Party.
Put another way: the nascent Black-led movement for social transformation poses a grave threat to the Democratic Party’s chock-hold on Black politics. Therefore, the movement is inevitably on a collision course with the Democratic Party, although this may not yet be clear to many activists.
As I said at the closing plenary of the recent Left Forum gathering in New York City, the Democratic Party sits atop the Black polity “like a grotesque Sumo wrestler,” squeezing out the Black radical tradition. The Black Lives Matter movement consciously draws on this authentic – and still deeply honored – radical tradition, seeking to put it into practice under 21st century conditions.
In both its resistance to a criminal justice system designed to contain, criminalize and crush Blacks as a people, and its broader demand for social and economic transformation and global peace, the nascent Black-led movement picks up where a previous mass movement left off, two generations ago. The Sixties liberation movements were shut down through a combination of government repression and the rise of a class of Black office-holders and aspiring corporate collaborators whose interests lay in joining the existing order, not transforming it. Their political vehicle was, and remains, the Democratic Party – the organization through which this “Black Misleadership Class” became embedded in local and national power structures. As a loyal and key component of the ruling political duopoly, these Black Democratic politicians and power brokers have facilitated the exponential growth of the Black Mass Incarceration State in all its genocidal aspects, and greased the wheels of gentrification that is dispersing Black populations to the four winds, limiting the geography of effective Black political self-determination.
Malcolm X anticipated the rise of such a class, in the early Sixties, well before passage of the Voting Rights Act. His verbal assaults on the “Big Six” – the NAACP, Urban League, SCLC, CORE, SNCC, and A Philip Randolph – warned against Blacks becoming too close to the white power structure: specifically, the Kennedys and the Democratic Party. Malcolm advocated an independent Black politics:
“It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep.”
Under the political hegemony of the misleaders, the Black polity slumbered, fitfully, for more than 40 years.
As appendages of the Democratic Party, the Black political class has gone from coffee with too much cream, to being the Kahlúa, the coffee liqueur, in the milk. (Or, more like a thin, chocolaty syrup in a foamy, homogenized corporate concoction.)
The mission of the movement is to challenge the legitimacy of the Black Mass Incarceration State, the machinery that killed Michael Brown and thousands of others, imprisons and permanently stigmatizes millions, and makes the entire Black community fair game for every atrocity imaginable at the hands of armed occupiers, the police. This direct confrontation with the State also explicitly rejects the rule of the classes that the police and military protect.
Black America is by far the most radical population group in the United States. History has made us so. The Black radical tradition, which encompasses the whole Left spectrum, is quite sufficient to inform the Black Lives Matter Movement – and to teach something to non-Black allies.
Most importantly, it must be understood that the political battlefield of the movement is largely delineated by a Black internal politics that has for two generations been warped and turned against itself by the deep infestation of the Democratic Party. Blacks in the U.S. cannot move forward, cannot resist the mass incarceration regime, cannot forge truly effective alliances with other groups in the U.S., or join the struggling peoples of the world, except to the extent that they break the internal stranglehold of the Democratic Party and its operatives in Black civil society. These are the lessons of Ferguson and, especially, Baltimore.
To succeed, the Black Lives Matter Movement must transform the politics of Black America. By definition, that means declaring war on the Democratic Party, and forcing Black politicians and activists to choose between the Party and the people’s struggle. The Democrats understand the logic, and have mounted a systematic cooption-repression response that will intensify as the election season – and Black cities – heat up.
As usual, the Democrats will try to make Black people more angry at the terminally racist Republican Party than at the police and local administration of their (typically) Democrat-run city. Hillary Clinton is already making noises of empathy with Blacks suffering under the urban police state. However, the Black Lives Matter movement has no institutional stake in the victory of either party, but is, in fact, locked in mortal political struggle with other Black people in the Democratic Party. These Black Democrats will insist on a truce, a cessation of agitation against national or local Democrats, until after the election. As with the Occupy movement, this will be accompanied by intensified police pressures against activists. At the end of the process, the Black Lives Matter movement is meant to go the way of Occupy, lost in the electoral Mardis Gras – killed by Democrats, not Republicans.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com
Hillary Clinton just announced that she’s running for president. However, this commentary is not really about her. It’s about a nation of more than 300 million people in which politics has become the sole property and domain of the rich. The rich decided some time ago that Hillary Clinton would be the virtually unchallenged presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. The 48 percent of Americans that express an affinity with the Democratic Party have not yet chosen Clinton. There has been no primary election in any state. But, that does not matter because the selection process that counts occurs in the boardrooms and mansions and private clubs and getaways of the rich. Hillary Clinton and her husband, Bill, have spent virtually their entire adult lives on the millionaires’ campaign circuit, the rich man’s primary. In the process of pleasing the rich, they have become rich, themselves.
Hillary hopes to spend two and a half billion dollars of – mostly – rich people’s money in the 2016 campaign. Wealthy people will be just as generous with the Republican candidate. The outcome on Election Day is absolutely certain: the rich man’s candidate will definitely win, and the people will lose – because they have no candidate in the major parties.
The people are not even in the game; the contest is over before the Democratic Party’s formal selection process even begins. And, when primary season does arrive, it will only be a formality. The menu has already been printed, and Hillary will be the main course for Democrats next year.
Democratic voters can say “Yes” to Hillary, but they can’t say “No,” because the party machinery and the rich men who pay for that machinery will crucify and expel any Democrat who seriously challenges her from the Left.
The Democratic Party’s apologists like to call it a big tent with room for Blacks and browns and gays and labor and peace-loving people. But it’s actually a huge trap designed to contain and politically neutralize the folks who might otherwise turn against the rich. The Party has always been a scam, but at least in the old days it put on a populist show to fool the rank and file into believing that they could actually influence the party’s direction. However, Wall Street is determined that there will be no serious Democratic deviation from the corporate agenda set by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton would represent the third Clinton presidency – which, for Wall Street, is just as good as the two George Bush presidencies. Maybe better, because labor and Blacks and that fuzzy cohort called liberals will all think they won the election, when nothing could be farther from the truth. Rank and file Democrats will see the fait accompli of Hillary’s nomination as a sign of unity among Democrats, when in fact it is the triumph of filthy rich campaign contributors. The rich have shown great solidarity in uniting behind a Democratic presidential candidate. Later on, they will unite around a Republican candidate, too. After that, it won’t matter who wins.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Family members of Ecuador’s fugitive Isaias brothers appear to have received preferential treatment in the U.S. thanks to political donations to the Democratic Party, The New York Times revealed Tuesday.
Estefania Isaias — the daughter of Roberto Isaias, one of two brothers wanted in Ecuador for bank fraud — had been barred from entering the United States after committing immigration fraud. That ban was lifted thanks to the intervention of high-ranking officials in the U.S. State Department. The lifting of the ban was made possible thanks to the assistance of Robert Menendez, a Democratic Senator.
The New York Times investigation reveals that the office of Menendez lobbied extensively in support of Estefania Isaias, even reaching out to Cheryl Mills, Hilary Clinton’s chief of staff while Clinton was she was U.S. secretary of state. He succeeded in getting Ms. Isaias into the United States and wrote to her to tell her the news a mere day after the Isaias family gave a donation to the Democratic Party.
Estefania’s sister Maria also faced a ban on entering the United States and Menendez’s office once again worked to intervene in her favor — also after receiving a donation from the Isaias family.
A spokesperson for Menendez told the Times that his office’s advocacy in the case of Ms. Isaias was routine. However, Linda Jewell, former U.S. ambassador to Ecuador, told the Times, “Such close and detailed involvement by a congressional office in an individual visa case would be quite unusual, especially for an applicant who is not a constituent of the member of Congress.”
The U.S. newspaper reported that the family donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns, which were often followed by favorable decisions by the U.S. government.
The Isaias brothers, Roberto and William, were found guilty in absentia for a fraud worth US$400 million. They were sentenced to eight years in prison. The Isaias brothers have been living in the United States, fugitives from Ecuadorean justice. The government of Ecuador has requested their extradition but the U.S. government has denied the request.
Ecuador claims that the political donations made by the family is buying them protection in the U.S. However, The New York Times also reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is currently working to have the Isaias brothers deported.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating Senator Menendez for his support of the Isaias brothers. The senator is suspected of attempting to influence immigration officials in exchange for donations from the fugitive brothers.