I am now officially pissed off at our elected officials. Not only are they not hearing my voice, they are following an agenda that has been—for me—hidden, and now has hit me between the eyes. I want to know why.
Many years ago, the New York State legislature was considering a pro-choice bill, I sent my first letter to my representative, a name I’ve forgotten but his response killed my appetite for politics. He said that although he appreciated my input, he would have to vote his conscience.
His conscience and not his constituency would dictate his choice. I ripped up the letter. While I voted every year, I knew that my elected officials at all levels would vote as individuals and not as representatives of the people. Overall, I wanted to believe that deep down government was for the people and, worked toward taking care of its citizens.
Corruption, graft, self-interest, greed, and power-dirtied politics slowed the process. Yet, over time, the needs of the people were met. Therefore, I remained outside the world of civics, unhappy that my taxes were paying for stalled, petulant, do-nothing legislatures at all levels of government. This is what comes, I told myself, of people who forgot why they were elected and what their jobs actually were.
And then, along came the 2016 election. On November 8, I finally got it. This nation, at its core, did not care one whit about anything that wasn’t white Evangelical Christian conservative blessed or supported by the corporate elite. Thus, through machinations that have yet to be fully disclosed, the electoral college allowed confirmed a misogynistic, bigoted, lying, self-aggrandizing, greedy, politically ignorant, narcissistic head of state, who is taking apart all federal programs that protect all the citizens of this country.
Okay, I said to myself. Relax. The legislative and judicial branch will keep his craziness under control. Not true. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, did nothing prior to the election when they knew of Russian interference with our election process, and continue to advance the appalling agenda of the White House.
Why? It turns out because they can.
Our government, for the people and by the people, has used the people as commodities to support corporate American and the financial institutions that underwrite it. It has nothing to do with what America stands for, and everything to do with greed, power, and the economic control that comes with that.
How much does any one person require? When is enough enough? How low on the self-esteem scale do the owners of American corporations have to be to believe that owning their fifth house is more important than children without school lunches or health care? Or, the profits from cotton justify slavery, the cheapest labor force ever? Or, the unimaginable gain to the bottom line by supplying the German government with the components to carry out the holocaust?
Today, emboldened by the past, these very same “me first” billionaires have their own chess games going, with winning the game more important than the pieces, the pawns, and even the board. And, because of their long game, we have never had a choice. Sure, there have been flares of indignity, shouts of abuse, successful movements, and occasional legislative victories. Crumbs, as the dark money and dark agendas, reached into every crevice of the system.
Dreams of those corporate utopian times, when they controlled everything, from workers hours, wages housing, education, stores, and the town, have inspired a network designed to return complete control to corporate whim. The tools: money and influence.
McConnell has just invoked the Nuclear vote to push through Neil Gorsuch, a corporate advocate for Supreme Court Judge. Everyone in the Senate that day knew what was going on. They knew this nominee would never adjudicate for the rights of people over business—the people they are supposed to represent. Why? How could McConnell push this through? Answer: The Senate Conservatives Fund –$5,848,520; Senate Leadership Fund Super PAC — $116,991,968. And Paul Ryan is backed by the Prosperity Action PAC — $3,177,098. 2/3 went to him and 1/3 went to others.
In fact, when it looked like democrats were winning in 2016, McConnell sounded the alarm. Within weeks, the Senate Leadership Fund and its non-profit arm, One Nation, raised $165 million dollars and Republicans won in districts where Democrats were favored. Steven Law, the former McConnell chief of staff who runs both outside groups, said McConnell “sent up a flare” at a key moment.
Many republican senators owe their seats to McConnell and they know they’ve been bought and paid for. So much for constituent input … or is it?
Consider this graphic from Opensecrets.org. Center for responsive Politics. It targets the Koch Brothers’ empire and presented as the most expansive and expensive example.
From realkochfacts.com: Last week, the Kochs effectively admitted that their supposedly non-partisan “constituency groups” are fronts for promoting the brothers’ agenda. Furthermore, American Bridge 21st Century Vice President Eddie Value issued the following statement on the Koch Network’s front group consolidation: “…These ‘constituency groups’ that the Kochs set up only serve one purpose, and that is to allow them to spend tens of millions of dollars to deceive Latinos, veterans, and young people to organize them against their own self-interests for the benefit of the billionaires’ agenda.”
From Sourcewatch: “Tied to the Koch-funded Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity is DonorsTrust (DT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit started in 1999 ‘to ensure the intent of donors who are dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.’ DT is an ‘associate’ member of the State Policy Network, a web of right-wing ‘think tanks’ in every state across the country.
“Along with its supporting 509(a)(3) organization Donors Capital Fund (DCF), it is a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable, a coordinating body for conservative foundations founded by Whitney L. Ball, who passed away in 2015. The current president and CEO of DCF and DT is Lawson R. Bader, former president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
“Both [DT and DCF] funding organizations are “donor-advised funds,” which means that the fund creates separate accounts for individual donors, and the donors then recommend disbursements from the accounts to different non-profits. They cloak the identity of the original mystery donors because the funds are then distributed in the name of DT or DCF, contributing another step to what has been called a “murky money maze.
“The twin Donors organizations are advertised as a way for very wealthy people and corporations to remain hidden when ‘funding sensitive or controversial issues,’ creating a lack of accountability … if donors neglect to give DonorsTrust an intent statement, the Trust is free to distribute the funds as it sees fit.” DonorsTrust is an “associate” member of the State Policy Network, a web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country.
- Total Revenue: $67,869,616
- Total Expenses: $58,239,511
- Net Assets: $140,390,762
Each of the Koch constituency groups and PACs, disbursed over 35 states, reach out to convert voters and support allies. That’s their “Now” strategy. Their future building support campaign starts with education.
The Kochs’ mistrust of public education is inherited (and advanced) from their father, Fred, who believed the National Education Association was a communist group spreading propaganda through public-school and all unions, President Eisenhower and the “pro-communist” Supreme Court. To further their cause, they created the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC’s model legislation reflects parts of their agenda that pushes taxpayer-subsidized school vouchers. It’s an extension of their ongoing attacks on public education.
When the Kochs’ are not attacking education, they are infiltrating colleges. According to IRS tax filing data compiled by Greenpeace, Charles Koch has given over $68 million in grants to over 300 universities from 2005 to 2013 (although they started in 1998).
Again, from Sourcewatch: The goals and objectives of these grants were to support ‘research into the causes, measurements, impact and appreciation of economic freedom,’ with faculty hired with this money expected to advance ‘the understanding and practice of those free voluntary processes and principles that promote social progress, human well-being, individual freedom, opportunity and prosperity based on the rule of law, constitutional government, private property and the laws, regulations, organizations, institutions and social norms upon which they rely.’
“To Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors and Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, such language violates academic freedom and poses problems because of its unspoken agenda.
“‘Although the Koch Foundation’s objectives are written so as to sound upbeat and cheerful, they amount to code words calling for the dismantling of the welfare state,’ Nelson wrote in an e-mail.’ ‘Economic freedom,’ sounds like mom and apple pie until you realize it means the government shouldn’t collect taxes, and ‘free voluntary processes’ means buy health care on your own if you can afford it.
Before I close, I have also looked at the Liberal funding. Many fewer PACS and invasive state strategies. There are wealthy donors but not nearly as many front organizations, hiding agendas, or undermining democracy.
After all this work, I am still pissed off. The difference is I better understand how the money moves and the agenda it supports. From here, I can move forward, with more awareness, and continue to #RESIST and add a caveat. As fight continues against this administration, the resistors must envision the democracy for the soon-as-possible future, where policy is not dominated or dictated by greed.
Photo: Getty Images