Jim Hightower: If You Put $100 Million Into a Race, Don’t You Get Naming Rights for the Candidate?
Continued from previous page
Hightower: It is ego, but you can stroke your ego with a lot less than $100 million and a lot less than $21 million. They have very special interests.
One example we pointed out is Harold Simmons here in Dallas, Texas. An 80-year-old multibillionaire who is just a hardcore right-winger and a corporate buccaneer who has been Rick Perry’s sugar-daddy for a number of years. Simmons got very special benefits from backing Perry, putting several million dollars into his races. Among his conglomerate holdings is something called Waste Control Specialists. This is an outfit that handles nuclear waste and other kinds of waste. There was a bunch of low-level nuclear waste (by the way, there is really no such thing as “low-level” nuclear waste) in a facility that the state was going to run. After Perry came into office, it was changed to where a private corporation could run the facility and the legislation was written in such a way that only one corporation was eligible for it, and that would be Waste Control Specialists.
A little later on, once he got the contract and began burying waste in West Texas, in this facility, he got another addition to the law. Initially the waste could only come from the state of Texas and Vermont. They had a compact between the two. He got that changed, so that now 34 states can go to Waste Control Specialists out in West Texas. So Harold Simmons is making billions off this one deal, and that deal could not have happened if he wasn't the big money behind Rick Perry.
Holland: I think a lot of people understand the way campaign finance works. The way lobbying works. I think it’s less understood the way corporate money plays out in our courts. In the 1970s, these wealthy right-wing donors started investing in what you might call intellectual infrastructure in legal circles. They endowed academic chairs; held conferences; and published academic journals. They started the Federalist Society, which has had a huge impact.
We’ve seen this bear fruit with things like Citizens United . There was a report out this week that the court had ruled with the position of the US Chamber of Commerce in 100 percent of the cases it took an interest in during the current term. I’m not sure how you make progress in that environment. Do you see the courts going too far and kind of opening up some eyes? Maybe provoking a backlash? How do we get out of this?
Hightower: You saw another report this week that the court approval rating is at perhaps an all-time low. Certainly in modern times. A court that normally the public doesn’t know much about and says they’re in black robes and sitting up there so they must be important. They do good things. They helped desegregate the schools. They helped liberate women from discrimination. Now they’re below 50 percent in approval rating and falling because they are totally on the side of corporate interests.
As you indicated, Joshua, that’s not by accident. That’s because the Federalist Society and other entities -- many of which by the way are funded by the Koch brothers -- they have been the instigator for 30-40 years behind this movement to try to infiltrate the courts. Initially it was at a state and district level, but now it goes all the way up to the Supreme Court. These are their boys. John Roberts, Scalia, Alito and Clarence Thomas. Clarence Thomas and Scalia had gone to the Koch brothers biannual retreat out in the desert to meet these billionaires and politicians to frame a strategy for taking over the entire government. If you’ve got the Congress, which they do in the House, and you’ve got Mitt Romney and his surge for the presidency, and if you’ve got the courts that pretty much wraps it up.