HIGHTOWER: Corporate Insiders at the WTO

If the founding fathers were to gather today at Philadelphia's Independence Hall for the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, the atmosphere of the meeting would be quite different than in 1776.This is because no powerhouse governmental gathering occurs these days without an overbearing corporate presence, with logos and CEOs outnumbering the official delegates. In Philadelphia, there would have been a Corporate Host Committee to sponsor the meeting. Sponsors would be entitled to attend special receptions to shmooze with the founders, get daily briefings on the drafting of the document, and be allowed to have private consultations with Jefferson, Franklin, and all the rest. The meeting itself would be in the "Microsoft Independence Hall," and Budweiser would buy the rights to call itself the "Official Adult Beverage of the Founders."If you doubt that this would happen, check out the gathering in Seattle this week of the World Trade Organization, where ministers from 134 nations, along with Bill Clinton and other heads of state are meeting. The public itself is not allowed inside. But the "WTO Seattle Host Organization" is side-by-side with the official delegates. This corporate host group, co-chaired by Bill Gates of Microsoft and Phil Condit of Boeing, has kicked-in some $9 million to defray costs of the WTO confab, and it proudly proclaims that it has worked with "WTO officials every step of the way . . . to maximize interaction between the officials and the private sector."For sponsorships of up to $250,000 each, such giants as IBM, AT&T, GM, and Bank of America have bought their way inside. They get to attend an exclusive dinner with the WTO ministers, receive briefings and updates on the drafting of new WTO rules, and grab private conferences with the ministers.This is Jim Hightower saying ... If you wonder why the WTO is such a servant of global corporate power, it's because the corporations are inside the WTO ... and you're not.

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