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Exposed: The insidious cancer at the core of democracy that could take down Biden – Raw Story

If President Biden’s Build Back Better plan goes down in flames, you can blame the US Supreme Court. Their Citizens United decision, in fact, is destroying both American politics and the planet.
Case in point: Oil industry executives testified before Congress this week, suffering a barrage of questions, including particularly intense ones from Reps. Ro Khanna, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Katie Porter.
The CEOs exhibited the same sort of arrogant insolence Mark Zuckerberg displayed in July of last year when he was hauled before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. It was, basically, a smug, “Screw you, Congressperson.”
Why were the representatives of Big Oil and Big Tech unafraid of the power of Congress?
Because, at the end of the day, they own that power. The Supreme Court gave it to them with their poisonous Citizens United decision.
It turns out that Big Oil has spent, just over the past decade, over $450 million lobbying the federal government. We used to call this political corruption or even bribery until the Court ruled in Citizens United that money in politics isn’t money: it’s “free speech.”
And, the Court added, corporations aren’t corporations: they’re persons, complete with a First Amendment right to free speech.
Representative Khanna repeatedly asked the CEOs of Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell Oil, and BP America if they’d stop funding advertising and PR efforts that are filled with outright lies about climate change. Pretty much every time he asked, he was met with a “screw you” silence.
These CEOs effectively own multiple members of Congress, as the world could see when it was the turn of the meek and obeisant Republican members to ask questions that mostly amounted to, “May I fluff the pillow you’re sitting on, sir?”
And it’s not just Big Oil. Every industry in America laughs at Congress.
Our elected representatives are there, in the minds of corporate America, to hand out subsidies and tax breaks, but if they take the smallest step toward protecting the American people from giant corporations or predatory billionaires they’re simply brushed aside like troublesome lint.
The majority of Americans don’t want Medicare privatized: but we’re more than 40% of the way there through Bush’s “Medicare Advantage” scam.
The majority of Americans don’t want our Post Office gutted: Congress sucked tens of billions out of its budget in 2006 after the PO said they were going to electrify their fleet of cars (the largest in America) and DeJoy is using that as an excuse to cut service and raise prices.
The majority of Americans would like debt-free college like every other developed country in the world: the $1.5 trillion student loan industry just makes a few phone calls and the effort dies.
The majority of Americans want a national healthcare system that actually works at little cost to citizens: the health insurance industry hands Joe Lieberman over a million dollars and he kills the public option so we’re left with an entirely corporatized Obamacare with $5000 annual deductibles.
The majority of Americans want something done about high drug prices: Big Pharma calls up Kurt Schrader, Scott Peters, Kathleen Rice, Kyrsten Sinema and a few other wholly owned members of Congress and that’s the end of that.
The majority of Americans want their banks to stop hitting them with absurd fees for the smallest errors and would like some occasional customer service: Big Banking pulls a few strings and Senators are dancing like marionettes.
The majority of Americans want something done about climate change before our planet becomes uninhabitable: Big Coal and Gas light a fire under Joe Manchin and the entire GOP and that’s the end of that.
The majority of Americans would like open and transparent elections and for their democracy to work like in other countries, without barriers to voting or bought-off politicians: neofascist rightwing billionaires will have the final say on that and it’s not looking good.
The majority of Americans would like net neutrality and for corporations to stop spying on them: Big Tech just leans on the members of Congress they own and that effort comes to an abrupt halt.
The majority of Americans would like well-funded public schools that teach things like civics and critical thinking skills: the multi-billion-dollar Charter School industry gets last word.
The majority of Americans would like to be free of gun violence in our homes and streets: the gun industry gets final say here.
The majority of Americans would like good union jobs: the nation’s giant employers have paid off politicians to gut union protections.
The majority of Americans would like a food supply free of toxic chemicals that harm children and cause cancer: giant fast- and processed-food companies laugh at us while their buddies in the chemical industry hold their beer.
Hell, the President of the United States would like all these things and a few more. He will almost certainly not get them because the Supreme Court gave corporations and rightwing billionaires final say over every single piece of legislation that goes through Congress.
We’re ripped off left and right, from airline tickets to cell phone service to cable TV and the internet: citizens of Europe, South Korea and Japan pay, on average, about half of what we do because they all enforce competition and don’t allow monopolies.
Here, every industry is now dominated by 3-5 major corporations that function as a monopoly or oligopoly, which is why the average American family pays around $5000 a year more for everything as I documented in The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream.
The US Supreme Court brought us all of this with the vile Citizens United decision and its progenitors, Boston v Bellotti, Buckley v Valeo, and Santa Clara County.
Thus, we now face a real crisis.
The Court gave control of Congress over to billionaires and their companies, and only Congress can overrule the Court (Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution). But how does Congress do that when none of the corporations or billionaires who now own Congress want it to happen?
There is only one force that can make this happen now: citizen outrage.
People are genuinely disgusted by this corruption, and they’re voting with it in mind.
Even Donald Trump was elected on a promise to “drain the swamp” of big money corruption in DC. He claimed that he knew how the game was played because he played it himself, buying off politicians whenever necessary.
During the August 2015 GOP primary debate, he called out all the other Republicans on the stage, saying: “I gave [money] to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.”
In September he ran that line again at the next primary debate, saying: “The donors, the special interests, the lobbyists have very strong power over these people,” as he waved at the other Republicans on stage. “I am not accepting any money from anybody. Nobody has control of me other than the people of this country.”
Sadly, enough Americans believed that professional grifter to get him into the White House (with a little help from Russian oligarchs), but the principle remains: even Republican voters are disgusted by this crisis of corruption the Supreme Court has foisted upon us.
More than a decade ago I did a fundraiser for the Congressional Progressive Caucus with its then-chair, Rep. Raúl Grijalva. It was a small affair with a half-dozen politicians and around 100 activists.
Because of citizen outrage with how corrupt and bought-off our politics have become since the Supreme Court rewrote the rules of politics, today almost 100 members of Congress have been elected on “no corporate PAC money” pledges and become members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Today we’re watching an epic battle to rebuild America being fought valiantly by progressives like Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Mark Pocan, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They may lose this one battle, but the path they’re on is steadily upward.
This is the only way we can now claw back our democratic republic from the corrupt billionaires and corporations.
We have to get money out of politics and the only way to do that is to get more people in office who are not addicted to or corrupted by money.
There’s an election coming up in a year, and primaries will be conducted in the months ahead. We must do everything we can to identify, elect and support politicians who openly and sincerely pledge never to sell their souls to the devil of Big Money.
The first woman and first person of color to become US vice president, Kamala Harris made history on November 3, 2020. But a year later, she is still trying to figure out what part to play in a role that is by definition thankless.
President Joe Biden, by teaming up with the 57-year-old former California senator, sent a clear message to an electoral base eager for more diverse representation in power.
But with his choice, the 78-year-old Biden — who had served as second-in-command to Barack Obama during the first Black president’s two terms — has also turned the spotlight full-force onto Harris.
A serial trailblazer, she was the first woman and first Black person to become California’s attorney general. She was also the first senator of South Asian descent.
But Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, has yet to break another mold — one into which political customs and the US Constitution have locked her.
“There is no such thing as vice presidential success,” said Elaine Kamarck, a senior research fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Vice presidents rise or fall on the record of the president that they serve.”
Kamarck, who has written a book on the role of the vice president, pointed out, however, that the job has evolved from being merely ceremonial.
For a long time, “that used to be the joke, that the vice president went to funerals around the world on behalf of the president,” Kamarck explained.
But then Al Gore changed the model by taking on “substantive assignments” that would typically have been the priority of President Bill Clinton, she said.
After that came Dick Cheney, whose influence on George W. Bush was so clear that he even got his own movie, the 2018 film “Vice.”
As for Obama, he made his “bromance” with Biden clear.
And Biden has put his respect for his own deputy on full public display.
He has lunch with Harris once a week, and his staff makes a point of always mentioning the “Biden-Harris administration” in their communiques — although this inevitably becomes just the “Biden administration” in news media.
Biden also entrusted Harris — who holds the Democratic Party’s majority vote in the Senate — with an extremely politically sensitive issue: tackling the roots of illegal immigration, in the face of a surge in arrivals at the southern US border.
In June, as part of this mission, Harris traveled to Guatemala and Mexico. But far from winning her accolades, this first-ever international mission earned her a barrage of criticism.
The progressive wing of her party slammed her as being too harsh after she told potential undocumented immigrants, “Don’t come.”
But the Republican Party said she hadn’t been hard enough.
There was also buzz about a television interview she gave on immigration issues in which she appeared nervous and unprepared.
The conservative-leaning Washington Examiner had a field day, mocking her short-lived presidential campaign in the Democratic primary.
“As a candidate, she is a paper tiger. As a politician, she is an out-of-touch weather-vane,” the paper wrote. “She has failed upward to this point, and it’s clear that she has hit her ceiling.”
But since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, all eyes have returned to Biden
“Because she’s the first woman of color… I think she’ll get more hostility and more scrutiny,” said Kamarck, the vice presidential researcher. “I don’t think that she made any serious missteps. And I think they will be forgotten relatively quickly.”
For now, it is Harris herself — like many vice presidents before her — who seems to be forgotten.
She travels frequently on official business: in November, she will go to Paris to continue Biden’s reconciliation efforts after France became outraged when Australia signed a deal for US nuclear submarine technology, throwing out a mega-deal for French conventional submarines.
Harris has also given speeches, presided over ceremonies and received important guests. And she has had some affectionate Twitter exchanges with her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff.
But in public, she sticks close to protocol and does not open up to journalists — no surprise in a White House that carefully controls all communication.
Backers of former president Donald Trump — who had called Harris a “monster” and spread unfounded doubts, seemingly with racist undertones, about her American citizenship — have jumped at the chance to mock the vice president’s demeanor, calling it forced.
After all, for Republicans, Harris is not just the vice president. She is also the most likely candidate to take up the staff of the Democratic Party should Biden choose not to run in 2024.
According to a report from Rolling Stone, a former employee of one of Donald Trump’s golf courses claims the Trump Organization has been bilking their insurance company with inflated damage claims.
Based on claims by two insiders — both of whom wished to remain anonymous — the accusations stem from a flooding incident at the former president’s Briarcliff golf course in 2011 where the Trump Org received $1.3 million to repair the damage that they spent a minimal amount to fix.
According to Rolling Stone’s Hettena, “When a deluge flooded the Trump Organization’s Westchester County golf course and a nearby town in 2011, the organization used a wildly inflated claim to score an insurance payout of nearly $1.3 million, pulling in far more than what it spent to repair the course,” adding, “The previously unreported insurance claim at Trump National Golf Club in the Village of Briarcliff Manor far outstripped the cost to repair the damages, which were about $130,000 to $150,000, one of the sources says.”
The former golf course employee stated, “The work was never completed. They basically band-aided it.”
According to Hettena, the Trump Org had actually filed a larger claim but the insurer refused payment when they couldn’t provide receipts.
The report goes on, “Questions around the claim could spell more legal trouble for a Trump Organization already eyeball-deep in lawsuits and investigations. The Westchester County District Attorney’s office has opened a criminal investigation into financial dealings at Trump’s Briarcliff club. The New York Times, which first reported the investigation, said it appears focused at least in part on whether the Trump Organization misled local officials about the value of the property to reduce its taxes,” adding, “The organization’s alleged insurance shenanigans at Briarcliff may help explain how the Trump Organization, year over year, took in more from insurance than it paid out in premiums. One of the sources said the company would routinely gather overinflated repair estimates, often from members of Trump’s clubs, that could be used to justify insurance claims. In a conversation with top company officials, the source learned that the Trump Organization calculated that it got more than $2 back from insurers for every dollar it paid in — a return of more than 100 percent. Broadly, the source says, the company viewed insurance not as an expense, but rather as an ongoing source of profit.”
Hettena goes on to explain the new accusations of fraud grew out of a lawsuit filed by the Village of Briarcliff Manor against the Trump Org, putting blame on them for the flood due to modifications at the club — with the water damage also affecting neighbors.
You can read more here — subscription required.
Republicans are still throwing money at firms involved with planning “Stop the Steal” rallies ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Donald Trump used the firm Event Strategies to help set up his rally that day, and it’s become the preferred staging group for the former president and other Republicans despite its ties to the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, reported The Daily Beast.
Trump’s fundraising organizations have paid the firm about $800,000 since the insurrection, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, including a $31,358 payment on Aug. 13 by Make America Great Again Action, a the super PAC previously run by Corey Lewandowski shut down last month amid sexual assault allegations.
The National Republican Congressional Committee reported spending about $3,675 for “facility rental” with the firm and $6,000 for “audio visual/staging” in late June, and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) paid $200,000 and $7,038 to the company in late August.
Trump groups paid more than $4.3 million to individuals and companies involved with organizing the Jan. 6 rally, including about $2.8 million to Event Strategies.
The former president’s campaign also paid out travel reimbursements to nearly 60 people, including many who had not previously appeared on the payroll, the day after the Capitol riot.
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