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Moyers: How the 1% Is Buying Our Democracy

A handful of very rich people plan to buy our elections. What happened to our democracy?
 
 
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If you’re visiting a candidate this summer and looking for a thoughtful house gift, might we suggest a nice super PAC? Thanks to the Supreme Court and  Citizens United, they’re all the rage among the mega-wealthy. All it takes is a little paperwork and a wad of cash and presto, you can have, as  The Washington Post describes it, a “ highly customized, highly personalized” political action committee.”

It’s easy — super PACs come in all amounts and party affiliations. You don’t have to spend millions, although a gift that size certainly won’t be turned aside.  Cable TV tycoon Marc Nathanson got a super PAC for his friend, longtime Democratic Congressman Howard Berman from California, and all it cost was $100,000. Down in North Carolina, Republican congressional candidate George Holding received a handsome super PAC that includes $100,000 each from an aunt and uncle and a quarter of a million from a bunch of his cousins. Yes, nothing says family like a great big, homemade batch of campaign contributions.

You can start a super PAC on your own or contribute to one that already exists. Super PACs are available for every kind of race – presidential, congressional or statewide. But there are other ways you can help buy an election. Look at the Wisconsin recall campaign of Republican Governor Scott Walker. At least fourteen billionaires rushed to the support of the corporate right’s favorite union basher. He outraised his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, by nearly eight to one. Most of his money came from out of state. More than $60 million was spent, $45 million of it for Walker alone.

Here are just a few of the satisfied buyers:

Wisconsin billionaire  Diane Hendricks contributed more than half a million dollars on Scott Walker’s behalf. Her late husband built ABC Supply, America’s largest wholesale distributor of roofing, windows and siding.  Fearful the United States might become “a socialistic ideological nation,” she’s an ardent foe of unions and, in her words, “taxing job creators.” True to her aversion to taxes, she paid none in 2010, despite being worth, according to  Forbes magazine, about $2.8 billion.

Before he launched his crusade against the collective bargaining rights of working people, Governor Walker had a conversation with Diane Hendricks, in which she asked, “Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions… and become a right to work [state]? What can we do to help you?”

Walker replied, “We’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is, we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.”

And so he did.

Walker also hauled in checks for nearly half a million from the Texas oligarch  Bob Perry. He made his fortune in the home building business and is best known nationally for contributing four and a half million to the Swift Boat campaign that smeared the Vietnam War record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry back in 2004.

In Texas, Bob Perry is known for his cozy relationship with the state’s Supreme Court.  He once gave money to every one of its nine elected judges.  And guess what?  Those same nine judges later overturned an $800,000 judgment against his building company for faulty construction.  Bob the Builder, who’s naturally eager for help in the cause of tort reform — that is, making it hard for everyday people to sue corporations like his for malfeasance — has so far given four million to the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, and millions to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC.

 
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