CORPORATE FOCUS: A Corrupt Tribute to Clinton

Last Wednesday, we walked down to the MCI Center to catch the "National Tribute to President Clinton."

Out in front of the MCI Center, Doris Haddock, Granny D., the grandmom who walked across the country protesting money in politics, was being interviewed by reporters.

Granny D and about 12 of her supporters had just been sentenced to a $10 fine for protesting earlier this year under the Capitol Rotunda.

The sentencing judge said he felt guilty that he wasn't with the defendants protesting that day, and so he let them off easy.

Fresh off that sentencing victory, the troops, led by Granny D, stormed down to the MCI Center, where Clinton and the Democratic National Committee were in the process of raising $26.5 million in one night.

This event reeked of corruption, coming as it did at the end of a day when Congress made it easier for American corporations to put down their collective footprint on China -- and in exchange, American corporations funneled big money into the two major parties. (The word went out that the vote had to be taken during the day so Members of Congress and the lobbyists could make it to the MCI Center and across town to a similar Republican fundraiser in time for dinner and the festivities that followed.)

Outside on F Street, we chanted and carried signs, but President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Hillary and Tipper, and Terry McAuliffe, of course, were out of sight and out of earshot.

So, we needed to get in, and like beggars at a NCAA Final Four tournament game, we found ourselves walking up and down the sidewalk whispering "need two tickets." And we came across a union guy who had a stack, and handed us three.

So, three of us walked in to witness an amazing spectacle.

There on the ground floor, where people usually play basketball and hockey, were people eating dinner. To get to eat dinner down there, we learned, you would have to raise $50,000 to $500,000 for the Democratic Party.

Up above, in the rafters, were the regular folks -- 13,000 regular types who the Dems said paid $50 and $100 a piece. (In reality, the only way they got that many people in to watch Bill and Al and Lenny Kravitz and Robin Williams was to give away the tickets for free. Our ticket says "Price: 0.00" How many of those do you have to sell to raise $26.5 million?)

Anyway, a grotesque spectacle it was. And especially sickening was the performance of Terry McAuliffe, the fundraiser who pulled the whole thing off. He went on and on about how the Dems are different from the Republicans. We wear blue jeans, they wear tuxedos. We take the subway, they come in limos. We eat ribs, they eat steak. What a crock.

In fact, Terry, you both are marinated in Fortune 500 cash and you both stink for it.

So, after Terry made his fake populist case that the Dems are with the people, and the Republicans are not, President Bill was introduced.

Then, out of the darkness of the MCI Center, a group of dissenters began chanting -- "Stop Corruption Now, Stop Corruption Now, Stop Corruption Now."

A visibly angry Bill, not wanting America to hear the dissenters, shouted to sidekick Terry -- "Turn this (microphone) off, and turn this one on -- if you turn this on, they can hear me instead of them."

Then the Great Corrupter defended himself against the dissenters' charge of corruption.

"I don't believe it's corruption to take money to pass the Brady bill," he said. "To pass the Family and Medical Leave Bill, so people can take some time off when their family members are ill. To pass the Patient's Bill of Rights ... I don't think that is corruption. That's good for America." And then he turned to Terry and smirked. As if to say -- teach them wimps to holler during my speech.

Those, of course, are not examples of corruption, Bill.

It is, most recently, the China bill that reeks of corruption, with Big Business spending big money on both parties and both parties delivering at the other end, despite compelling arguments that granting Permanent Trade Status to China would injure workers and farmers in both countries, while further fattening the pockets of the people eating dinner on the floor of the MCI Center.

Which way out of this quagmire? One first step is to organize to open up this year's Presidential Debates to different voices. Al Gore and George Bush walk in unison on many issues dear to corporate America -- as the China vote made clear. Third party candidates not beholden to corporate power must be heard.

George Bush and Al Gore fear such an open-ended debate. But the alternative is mass boredom, a further decline in the percentage of Americans who vote, and corrosive drip from a corrupt political machine that threatens the remnants of democratic government.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor.

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