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Jim Hightower: If You Put $100 Million Into a Race, Don’t You Get Naming Rights for the Candidate?

The Texas populist talks about our out-of-control plutocracy.

“Populism” can be defined in a number of different ways – conceptually, it's viewed quite differently by scholars, politicians and the media. But progressive champion Jim Hightower, author of The Hightower Lowdown, cuts to the chase in his inimitable Texas style. For him, populism is simply an analysis of how money intersects with, and distorts our politics.

Hightower's been keeping the plutocrats' feet to the fire for a long time now, but he doesn't recall a time when our elites were so brazen in their entitlement, so predacious in their quest for ever more power over our economy and society.

Jim Hightower appeared on this week's AlterNet Radio Hour to talk about where we are, how we got here and how ordinary people can fight back. Below is a lightly edited transcript of the discussion (you can listen to the whole show here).

Joshua Holland: Jim, you recently wrote about this small group of billionaire right-wing sugar-daddies who have played such a pivotal role in the GOP nomination process. They really have shaped the race on the Republican side. They bankrolled Mitt Romney from very early on, giving him a huge advantage over some of the politicians the conservative base really wanted to see in the race -- and probably helped keep some of them out of the race. So we have this process where the candidates went as far as their wealthy benefactors let them go. Do you think we might start to see some buyer’s remorse on the right after the Citizens Uniteddecision?

Jim Hightower: I think some of the saner ones are already feeling that, but you had Mitch McConnell this very week up on his hind legs in the Congress decrying Barack Obama for doing something as modest as saying that if the corporations are going to buy our elections at least they should have to disclose their names. They should have to tell us who they are and not run those multimillion-dollar, negative attack ads in secret. You’re not going to get it from the Republicans. I don’t know what you’re going to get that from the Democrats either. I think it’s got to come from the countryside.

As you indicated, in the Republican primary this spring, we had some $40 million going into super PACs -- these entities allowed by the Supreme Court decision to put unlimited amounts of corporate money or individual money into campaigns of their choice. Of that $40 million, as we detailed in the last issue of The Hightower Lowdown, some seven men put up almost half of it themselves. Just seven individuals. Sheldon Adelson was the big dog, the casino baron from out in Las Vegas, and all the way to China. He has all kinds of special interests and he needs help from the government. He put $21 million into, for God’s sake, Newt Gingrich. Since then he has put $10 million into Romney and says he will spend as much as $100 million. Now I’ve got to ask you Joshua, if you put $100 million in, don’t you get naming rights for the candidate?

Holland: You should. You should get something like that.

Hightower: It’s Mitt “Sheldon” Romney.

Holland: It’s Team Sheldon Adelson. Let me ask you Jim: what do you think these guys want? When you’re talking about putting in that kind of bread into a race, is part of it just an ego thing? It seems like whoever the Republicans nominate these days is going to embrace a very hard-right position on taxes and regulation. With all these positions their whole field already embraces, I’m not sure what they’re getting out of it.

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