GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS-- MONEY POURING INTO DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN COFFERS
I've been watching apprehensively as the Beltway Republican machine fell in line behind GOP politician-turned-lobbyist who wants to turn politician again, Brian Bilbray. They have financed a vicious, misleading and massive-- $800,000-- negative attack campaign against good-government reformer Francine Busby down in CA-50 (northern San Diego County), where she hugely outpaced Bilbray in the first round of voting a few weeks ago. The new ads they are running-- completely false and over the top (trying to paint Busby-- an educator who has devoted her life to protecting children and fighting for their welfare-- as sympathetic to child pornographers). These GOP smear tactics, when backed by enough money, have been very effective in shaking confidence and determination among voters in the past.
So I should be happy to be reading the spate of stories recently about how the Democrats have been out-raising the Republicans this year. I'm glad the Democrats have been raising a lot of money, although I've seen Rahm Emanuel's corrupt, DeLay-like and Stalinist DCCC squander much of it attacking progressive and grassroots candidates to make room for Republican-lite shills and stooges who mirror his own reactionary Inside-the-Beltway politics. Democratic Party rules about letting districts pick their own candidates have been scrupulously observed by Howard Dean and the DNC and completely cast aside by the craven Chicago and NY party bosses Emanuel and Chuck Schumer.
But something scares me even more about this great influx of money. The small contributions coming in to candidates like Ned Lamont and Francine Busby, and even right-of-center Dems like Ben Nelson, from the grassroots warms my heart. The tainted sleaze factor money pouring in-- while much needed between now and November-- also scares me. Bloomberg just reported that the Inside the Beltway sleazy Democrats beat the Inside the Beltway sleazier Republicans in 2005 fundraising on Wall Street. "Democrats outdid Republicans last year in attracting political donations from investment banks, brokerages and fund managers for the first time since 1994, helped by support from hedge funds and companies such as Merrill Lynch & Co. Democrats got $13.6 million, or 52 percent of the financial industry's $26.3 million in political donations in 2005, said the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan Washington group that researches the influence of money on elections and public policy. In the two years leading up to the 2004 presidential election, Republicans received 52 percent of the $91.6 million given by the industry.
The money barons don't hand out money because they favor good government or Democratic Party grassroots values. God only knows what pigs like Emanuel and Schumer are promising to get their hands on this stuff!
The BLOOMBERG story paints a nice picture when they bring up an anecdote by progressive Torrey Funds chairman James Torrey. "Wall Street wants change'' on issues such as the Iraq war and the budget deficit. "I'm finding people who are registered Republicans who are saying to me, 'what can I do to help?'" BLOOMBERG further points out that Bush's catastrophic occupation of Iraq and the blatant corruption by the Republicans in Congress and in the Executive Branch "have helped drive President George W. Bush's public approval ratings to the lowest point of his presidency. That has spurred donations to Democrats."
But when you start digging down a little into the story, it gets less cheery. A big part of the Democratic success has to do with some of the worst elements inside the Democratic Establishment. "Hillary Clinton and Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, both Democrats facing re-election this year, were the two most successful fund-raisers in 2005 on Wall Street, said Sheila Krumholz, acting executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. Senator Charles Schumer, also of New York, heads the Democratic fund-raising arm in the Senate."
A good example of how this sleazy business works is the picture BLOOMBERG paints of Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack's giving habits. A Bush Ranger-- he raised over $200,000 for BushCheney in 2004-- Mack gave Hillary's Senate campaign $4,000, his biggest donation to an individual politician. Has he seen the light? You tell me. He also contributed $1,000 to corrupt, far right maniac Rick Santorum. Furthermore, the article points out, that "while the industry's trend is to give more to Democrats, firms such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the world's second- and third-biggest securities firms by market value, have boosted their giving to Republicans in the past year... So far this cycle, Morgan Stanley's PAC has given 71 percent of its donations to Republican candidates, its highest proportion ever, according to PoliticalMoneyLine."
And, ominously, the story ends with the inevitable warning: "Still, if Democrats take control of at least one house of Congress, bankers and fund managers will have to cultivate relationships among a new set of committee leaders, some of whom have ideas about taxation and regulation that may not be well-received in the industry. 'I would imagine that is one of the calculations they are making now' when financial-industry leaders are planning their donations for the rest of the year." No doubt-- and no doubt they will feel very soothed talking to the likes of Lieberman, Emanuel, Schumer and Clinton, people not known for rocking any corporate boats.
In a not unrelated matter, today's NY TIMES has an editorial about the Republican's sham ethics reform bill, which the TIMES is properly calling "The Lobbyist Empowerment Act." This disgraceful piece of anti-citizen garbage almost makes the Democratic leadership's tepid and pathetic attempts at pseudo-reform look decent. Basically it's the difference between an F for the Republicans and a C- for the Democrats. Sure a C- is better than an F but... not that much better. To me it's just the Inside the Beltway Dems and their horrid, always-sure-to-lose consultants once again playing into Republican hands by not distinguishing themselves from the Inside-the-Beltway Republicans. (Of course, how could they when the Inside the Beltway monsters of both parties have more in common with each other than they do with their own constituents?)
"The House Republican leaders," rails the TIMES, "managed a new feat of cravenness during the recent recess, hollowing out their long promised 'lobbying reform' bill to meet the dictates of-- who else?-- Washington's power lobbyists. During two weeks of supposed inactivity, the leadership bill was chiseled down at the behest of K Street to an Orwellian shell of righteous platitudes about transparency and integrity. The measure to be debated this week has been stripped of provisions to require full disclosure of lobbyists' campaign fundraising powers and V.I.P. access in Congress. The measure buries all attempts at instituting credible ethics enforcement in the House. The nation should not be fooled. The proposal is a cadaverous pretense that Congress has learned the corrupting lessons of Jack Abramoff, the disgraced superlobbyist; Representative Tom DeLay, the fallen majority leader; and Duke Cunningham, the imprisoned former congressman. It makes a laughingstock of the pious promises of last January to ban privately financed junketeering by lawmakers. Instead, these adventures in quid pro quo lawmaking would be suspended only temporarily, safe to blossom again after the next election. The bill's cosmetic requirements for limited disclosure are overshadowed by the brazen refusal to plug the loopholes for lobbyists' gifts or to end their lavish parties for 'honoring' our all too easily seduced lawmakers. The G.O.P. leaders can't even marshal the courage to rein in the shameful use of corporate jets by pliant lawmakers. It's hard to believe that members of Congress mindful of voters' diminishing respect would attempt such an election-year con. One Republican proponent had the gall to argue that we mustn't 'chill' the right of lobbyists, the ultimate insiders, to petition government."