HIGHTOWER: Political Consultants

Remember the old movie, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," with Jimmy Stewart playing the honest citizen who battles corruption in our Nation's Capitol? How times have changed. Today, Mr. Smith has become not a reformer, but a political consultant, and far from being an innocent in the capitol, he is part and parcel of the big-money machine that is corrupting American politics. On my radio talk show, callers often ask why politicians have to raise so much money to run for office. Well, television ads eat up a big chunk of change, but so do consultants, who are hired for everything from running polls to raising money. Meet Rodney Smith. During the last election cycle, Mr. Smith served as a fundraising consultant to the National Republican Campaign Committee, which paid him at the rate of $200,000 a year. Wow! Of course you have to raise a dumpster load of cash if you're paying consultants $200,000-a-pop!Mr. Smith also convinced the NRCC that it should hire InfoCision, a telemarketing outfit that was paid $30 million by the committee. Guess who has a consulting arrangement with InfoCision? Right ... Rodney Smith. According to the Wall Street Journal, this busy-bee of a consultant also ran a fundraising project for the Republican Party called the National Candidate Trust, with Tricky Dick Nixon listed on the letterhead. Smith's Trust raised nearly $6 million for Republican candidates, but -- here's the tricky part -- only $300,000 of that actually ended-up in the hands of candidates. The rest went to assortedb middlemen, including $325,000 to Mr. Smith's own company, and nearly $1.5 million to InfoCision. Plus, the Trust paid Smith up to $15,000 a month, and he also put his daughter and her husband on the Trust's payroll as -- What else? -- consultants. This is Jim Hightower saying ... Consultants are to the political system what fleas are to dogs -- bloodsucking pests. Source: "Influential GOP Fund-raiser wears many hats, an approach that irks even some Republicans" by David Rogers. Wall Street Journal: January 27, 1997.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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