Sunday, January 27, 2013

Billionaires secretly fund attacks on climate science

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By Steve Connor

Audit trail reveals that donors linked to fossil fuel industry are backing global warming sceptics.

A secretive funding organisation in the United States that guarantees anonymity for its billionaire donors has emerged as a major operator in the climate "counter movement" to undermine the science of global warming, The Independent has learnt.

The Donors Trust, along with its sister group Donors Capital Fund, based in Alexandria, Virginia, is funnelling millions of dollars into the effort to cast doubt on climate change without revealing the identities of its wealthy backers or that they have links to the fossil fuel industry.

However, an audit trail reveals that Donors is being indirectly supported by the American billionaire Charles Koch who, with his brother David, jointly owns a majority stake in Koch Industries, a large oil, gas and chemicals conglomerate based in Kansas.

Millions of dollars has been paid to Donors through a third-party organisation, called the Knowledge and Progress Fund, with is operated by the Koch family but does not advertise its Koch connections.
Some commentators believe that such convoluted arrangements are becoming increasingly common to shield the identity and backgrounds of the wealthy supporters of climate scepticism – some of whom have vested interests in the fossil-fuel industry.

The Knowledge and Progress Fund, whose directors include Charles Koch and his wife Liz, gave $1.25m to Donors in 2007, a further $1.25m in 2008 and $2m in 2010. It does not appear to have given money to any other group and there is no mention of the fund on the websites of Koch Industries or the Charles Koch Foundation.

The Donors Trust is a "donor advised fund", meaning that it has special status under the US tax system. People who give money receive generous tax relief and can retain greater anonymity than if they had used their own charitable foundations because, technically, they do not control how Donors spends the cash.

Anonymous private funding of global warming sceptics, who have criticised climate scientists for their lack of transparency, is becoming increasingly common. The Kochs, for instance, have overtaken the corporate funding of climate denialism by oil companies such as ExxonMobil. One such organisation, Americans for Prosperity, which was established by David Koch, claimed that the "Climategate" emails illegally hacked from the University of East Anglia in 2009 proved that global warming was the "biggest hoax the world has ever seen".

Robert Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University in Philadelphia, has estimated that over the past decade about $500m has been given to organisations devoted to undermining the science of climate change, with much of the money donated anonymously through third parties.

The trust has given money to the Competitive Enterprise Institute which is currently being sued for defamation by Professor Michael Mann of Pennsylvania University, an eminent climatologist, whose affidavit claims that he was accused of scientific fraud and compared to a convicted child molester.
Dr Brulle said: "We really have anonymous giving and unaccountable power being exercised here in the creation of the climate countermovement. There is no attribution, no responsibility for the actions of these foundations to the public.

"By becoming anonymous, they remove a political target. They can plausibly claim that they are not giving to these organisations, and there is no way to prove otherwise."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Five-Step Process to Cheat the Middle Class Worker

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By Paul Buchheit

It's so artfully done, and so diabolical, that one can picture secret seminars in subterranean Wall Street meeting rooms, guiding young business recruits in the proven process of taking an extra share of wealth from the middle class. Their presentation might unfold as follows:

1. Boost productivity while keeping worker wages flat.

The trend is unmistakable, and startling: productivity has continued unabated while wages have simply stopped growing. Improved technologies have reduced the need for workers while globalization has introduced the corporate world to cheap labor. In effect, the workers who built a productive America over a half-century stopped getting paid for their efforts.

Paul Krugman suggests that a "sharp increase in monopoly power" is another reason for the disparity. As John D. Rockefeller said, "Competition is a sin." That certainly is the rule of thumb in banking and agriculture and health insurance and cell phones. Yet despite the fact that low-wage jobs are increasingly defining the American labor market, apologists for our meager minimum wage claim an increase will worsen unemployment. So it remains at $7.25. A minimum wage linked to productivity would be $21.00 per hour.

2. Build up a financial industry that has no maximum wage.

This is where the money is. In 2007, before the financial crisis, a Harvard survey revealed that almost half of the school's seniors aspired to careers in finance. The industry's share of corporate profits grew from 16% in 1980 to an astonishing 45% in 2002.

And there's no limit to the earning potential. Hedge fund manager John Paulson conspired with Goldman Sachs in 2007 to bundle sure-to-fail subprime mortgages in attractive packages, with just enough time for Paulson to collect other people's money to bet against his personally designed financial instruments. He made $3.7 billion, enough to pay the salaries of 100,000 new teachers.

3. Keep accumulating wealth created by the financial industry.

Experienced schemers have undoubtedly observed that over the past 100 years the stock market has grown three times faster than the GDP. The richest quintile of Americans owns 93% of such non-home wealth.

In the last 25 years, only the richest 5% of Americans have increased their share of non-home wealth, by the impressive rate of almost 20 percent.

In just one year, the richest 20 Americans earned more from their investments than the entire U.S. education budget.

4. Tax yourself as little as possible.

The easiest and least productive way to make money - holding on to investments - is also taxed at the lowest rate. In addition to the capital gains benefit, tax ploys like carried interest, performance-related pay, stock options, and deferred compensation allow hedge fund managers and CEOs to pay less than low-income Americans, and possibly even nothing at all.

The richest 400 taxpayers doubled their income in just seven years while cutting their tax rates nearly in half. U.S. corporations can match that, doubling their profits and cutting their taxes by more than half in under ten years. The 1.3 million individuals in the richest 1% cut their federal tax burden from 34% to 23% in just 25 years.

5. Lend out your excess money to people who can no longer afford a middle-class lifestyle.

As stated by Thom Hartmann, "The 'Takers' own vast wealth, and loan it out at interest to everybody from students to governments.." Overall, Americans are burdened with over $11 trillion in consumer debt, including mortgages, student loans, and credit card liabilities.

Wealth has largely disappeared for the middle- and lower-income classes. More than $7 trillion has been lost in the decline of home prices since 2006. Young college graduates have an average of $27,200 in student loans, and the 21-35 age group has lost 68% of its median net worth since 1984, leaving each of them about $4,000. Median net worth for single black and Hispanic women is a little over $100.

So we're hanging on by the frazzled thread of debt that indentures us to the rich and makes it harder and harder to fight back against the theft of our middle-class wealth. As we struggle to support ourselves, the super-rich remain on the take, driving us ever closer to the status of most wealth-unequal country in the world.

Mitt Romney Would Be Toast Without This Man

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Charlie Spies is not a household name. He prefers it that way. But this DC lawyer and longtime ally of Mitt Romney's has left his mark on the 2012 presidential race as much as any one political operative could hope to. His super-PAC steamrolled the competition during the wacky Republican primary, and it kept Romney alive at his most vulnerable point in the general election. If Romney wins next week, Spies could be rewarded with a prominent role in the Romney administration as a top aide or a trusted counsel. He may not stay little-known for long.

Spies—together with strategist Carl Forti and veteran ad-maker Larry McCarthy—cofounded Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super-PAC. The group has blown its rivals out of the water in the money chase: It has raised a record $131.6 million and spent a record $107 million. On Tuesday, in the final stretch of the 2012 election, Restore Our Future unveiled a weeklong, $20 million ad blitz—the largest-ever single-race buy by a super-PAC, according to Spies. And when the Romney campaign found itself pinched for cash at the end of the summer, Spies and Restore Our Future spent $30 million throughout August on ads to blunt the Obama campaign's attacks on Romney. "In the month of August, we were one of the key factors keeping Gov. Romney afloat," Spies says. "That's the time period that traditionally the underfunded candidate gets knocked out."

Spies, 40, discussed Restore Our Future, money in politics, and his history with the Romneys over an hour-long interview at his office in a big, bright conference room—which Spies says once belonged to Al Gore—a few blocks from the US Capitol. Spies, wearing a dark tailored suit, red pocket square, and "MITT" cuff links, refuses to credit Restore Our Future for Romney's late surge. (He chalks that up to Romney's performance in the first debate on October 3 and his "leadership and vision" in the final weeks of the campaign.) But there's no denying that Romney owes a debt to Spies and Restore Our Future—at the very least for keeping alive the possibility of any comeback at all. "They've been Romney's Air Force," says Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation, "all over the airwaves whenever he needs them to help his campaign."

Spies is a Romney loyalist. Like Mitt, he grew up in Michigan. His dad worked as a US attorney—until President Jimmy Carter fired him. "I was too young at the time to understand how political appointees worked," Spies once told a reporter, "I just knew that Jimmy Carter was a bad man." He attended the University of Michigan in the early '90s (his cellphone ringtone plays Michigan's fight song, "The Victors"), and as an undergrad volunteered with the 1994 US Senate campaign of Ronna Romney, Mitt's former sister-in-law, who lost in the GOP primary. Later, while at Georgetown law, he worked on Ronna's '96 Senate run, also unsuccessful. (Ronna divorced Scott Romney, Mitt's older brother, in 1992.)

Spies went on to clerk at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and then in 1999 plunged into the thicket of American election laws at the Federal Election Commission, where he advised chairman Darryl Wold. Wold remembers Spies as a "bright" and "energetic" attorney eager to climb the ranks of DC's elite political lawyers. (Today Spies leads the Clark Hill law firm's political law practice.) Spies' says his FEC stint pitted him against the so-called "reform community"—the lawyers and activists fighting for tighter regulations on political money. He derides them as the "reform industry," a self-interested crew that cares more about sounding righteous and squelching free speech than enforcing the law.

In 2005, Spies joined the Republican Governors Association as its first in-house attorney. There he left his mark in a big way. He and his team crafted a mind-bendingly complex money-moving machine that allowed the RGA to shuffle around the country the tens of millions it raised from big corporations and wealthy individuals. Spies' strategy in effect sidestepped state laws banning corporate campaign cash, while maximizing the RGA's impact. Campaign finance watchdogs, for their part, have slammed the RGA's tactics as a legal "money-laundering scheme" and a "deliberate strategy to keep the public in the dark about who is really buying our elections."

The effectiveness of that strategy is hard to argue: In 2010, the RGA targeted 10 races and helped Republicans win 9 of them. The group unloaded $132 million that cycle—more than the five biggest conservative super-PACs and nonprofit groups combined.

Mike Pieper, the RGA's executive director in 2005, says Spies' handiwork at the RGA shows he's "a rare breed" of DC political operator. "Charlie is a great combination of a guy who knows the law but also has a very good political sense and really gets how campaigns work," Pieper says.

Spies worked with Mitt Romney in 2005 and 2006, when Romney vice-chaired and then chaired the RGA. A few years later, Spies moved to Boston to control the purse strings on Romney's presidential campaign as its chief financial officer. He misses his old Boston office and the friends he made on Team Romney, he told me. In between presidential campaigns, Spies hosted Mitt and "the Romney gang," as he affectionately called other Romneyland alums, for an informal reunion on the terrace of his downtown Washington loft.

But Spies says that, along with fellow Romney '08 alums Forti and McCarthy, he's done far more to elect Romney with a super-PAC than he could in Boston as part of the campaign firmament. "Together we've probably been able to have more of an impact working through an independent group than any one person or a group of people could have within the structure of a large campaign," he says.

At the outset, Spies says, Restore Our Future had one goal: help Romney win the GOP primary. The super-PAC pummeled then-front-runner Newt Gingrich with ads (some of them deemed misleading by fact-checkers) before the Iowa caucuses in January, paving the way for Romney's caucus night victory. (Caucus organizers would later name Rick Santorum the winner, but that did little to slow Romney's momentum.) In Florida, Restore Our Future mowed down the competition on the way to Romney's critical primary win. In all, Restore Our Future spent $55 million during the primaries.

Once Romney had clinched the nomination, Spies and his team knew they needed to shore up Romney's standing over the summer. Underfunded presidential candidates historically get hammered after locking up the nomination—so badly, in some cases, that they never recover. (Think Bob Dole in '96, John Kerry in '04, John McCain in '08.) Spies warned his donors of this vulnerability; they responded by opened their wallets wide.

Casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and wife, Miriam, ponied up $10 million in post-primary money for Restore Our Future. Texas homebuilder and GOP bankroller Bob Perry gave $6 million. In all, 14 people or corporations chipped in more than a million dollars since Romney won the nomination. (Spies refused to discuss any of his super-PAC's donors.)

Restore Our Future's historic spending hasn't just kept Romney in the running; Spies believes it's expanded the electoral playing field and given Romney more routes to 270 electoral votes. The super-PAC ran the first ads of the general election in Wisconsin in August, which Spies says helped nudge the state toward Romney. And the super-PAC continues to run ads in Michigan where, in Spies's view, Romney, a native son, continues to be competitive. Spies points to RealClearPolitics' "toss-up" rating as evidence of Restore Our Future's impact. (Not everyone agrees: the Cook Political Report rates Michigan "likely Democratic," and polling guru Nate Silver gives Obama a 98.1 percent of winning there.)

Spies won't discuss life after Election Day—the fate of Restore Our Future, his own plans. The days, hours, and minutes until polls close on November 6 are all that matter. But you don't need to know the election's outcome to see how Restore Our Future has rewritten the playbook for future presidential campaigns. As long as super-PACs are around, any serious presidential challenger will need one, with a roster of millionaires and billionaires to fill its coffers.

For that America has Restore Our Future—and Charlie Spies—to thank.

American Crossroads PAC Rakes in Big Bucks from Rich Texans

Original Link:

By Sonia Smith

American Crossroads, Karl Rove’s Super PAC, has raised $56 million since its inception in 2010. And three Texas business moguls—Harold Simmons, Bob Perry, and Robert Rowling—have collectively given $30.5 million, more than half of that total, the Hill’s Cameron Joseph reported.

Reclusive Dallas billionaire Simmons, who given away more than $18 million dollars this election cycle, gave a full $14 million of that to American Crossroads, according to Michael Beckel of iWatch News. Simmons’s “contributions include $10 million from his own checkbook and $4 million from corporate accounts that he controls — Contran Corp. ($2 million), Dixie Rice Agricultural Corp. ($1 million) and Southwest Louisiana Land, LLC ($1 million).”

Houston-based homebuilder Bob Perry gave $7 million to American Crossroads in 2010 and has given an additional $2.5 to the group this election cycle. Writing about Perry in 2010, Clare O’Connor of Forbes said the homebuilder “stays below the radar, hitting headlines only for his huge campaign expenditures.” Previous to 2010, “Perry was best known for financing the Swift Boat campaign that halted John Kerry’s presidential run in 2004.”

Robert Rowling, the billionaire founder and CEO of TRT Holdings, clocks in as American Crossroads’s number three donor. Rowling, who is based in Dallas, gave a total of $7 million in personal and corporate contributions, Beckel wrote. (TRT Holdings owns Omni Hotels, Gold’s Gym, and Tana Exploration Co.)

Beckel elaborated on the role these tycoons have historically played as political donors:
Simmons and Perry have long been financiers of conservative causes. Their beneficiaries have included the Swift Boat Veterans group that infamously attacked Democratic presidential candidate Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry in 2004 and helped keep President George W. Bush in the White House.
Rowling, too, has long been among the GOP’s premier moneymen. He was a “bundler” for Bush’s presidential campaigns in both 2000 and 2004, which means he solicited friends and business associates for contributions to Bush and was credited for raising a total greatly exceeding what he could personally give.
Want to know more about who else donated to American Crossroads? Sift through the donations yourself at

Super PAC, Big Donors Propel Romney to Florida Victory

Original Link:

By Ari Berman

Want to know how Mitt Romney won Florida and why he’ll almost certainly be the GOP nominee? There’s an easy answer: a Super PAC and deep-pocketed donors.

According to the latest disclosure reports, the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future, raised $30 million in 2011, 98 percent from donors who gave $25,000 or more. The PAC got $10 million from ten donors who gave a million bucks each, including from Houston Republican Bob Perry, the major funder behind the vile Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004.

Here’s the recap from the New York Times:
Millions of dollars came from financial industry executives, including Mr. Romney’s former colleagues at Bain Capital, who contributed a total of $750,000; senior executives at Goldman Sachs, who contributed $385,000; and some of the most prominent and politically active Republicans in the hedge fund world, three of whom gave $1 million each: Robert Mercer of Renaissance Technologies; Paul Singer of Elliott Management, and Julian Robertson of Tiger Management.

Harlan Crow, the Texas construction magnate, gave $300,000 personally and through his company. William Koch, whose brothers Charles and David are among the country’s most prominent backers of conservative causes, gave $1 million personally or through Oxbow Carbon, the energy company he founded. Members of the Walton family, founders of the Walmart chain, gave over $200,000, while Bob Perry—a wealthy home builder who has long been the top patron of Mr. Romney’s erstwhile rival, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas—chipped in $500,000 in early December.

This elite Super PAC money, financed by the 1 percent of the 1 percent, allowed the pro-Romney forces to outspend the pro-Gingrich forces by 5 to 1 on TV ads in Florida. Romney’s side ran 13,000 ads in Florida compared to only 200 for Gingrich. Ninety-six percent of the total ads in Florida were negative in nature, with 68 percent targeting Gingrich. Gingrich’s advocacy of the Citizens United decision, which has led to the creation of Super PACs, ironically hastened his demise.
The Romney campaign itself is almost as dependent on big money as the pro-Romney Super PAC. According to Open Secrets, just 8.8 percent of Romney’s $24 million fourth-quarter haul in 2011 came from donors who gave $200 or less. Thirteen lobbyists, on the other hand, gave $1.2 million to Romney’s campaign, which Michael Beckel of Open Secrets said accounted for “about $1 out of every $20 he raised.” Overall, sixteen corporate lobbyists raised $2 million for Romney in 2011. Of the $56 million that Romney has raised this year, $51 million, or 91 percent, came from contributions giving $200 or more. Romney’s top three campaign contributors are Goldman Sachs ($496,430), JPMorgan ($317,400) and Morgan Stanley ($277,850). Romney’s fundraising further confirms how the candidate is an unabashed proponent of Wall Street and the 1 percent.

Barack Obama’s fundraising, in contrast, paints a more nuanced version of the candidate, telling the story of two campaigns—one financed by a select group of incredibly rich bundlers, the other bankrolled by the small donors who helped propel Obama to the White House in 2008.
On the big donor front, 445 bundlers raised at least $74.4 million for Obama and the DNC in 2011. Sixty-one bundlers raised $500,000 or more. Last night Obama held his twelfth and thirteenth fundraisers of the month, where the price of admission was $35,800 a head.

On the flip side, of the $39.9 million the Obama campaign raised in the fourth quarter of 2011, 43 percent came from donors spending $200 or less, giving Obama a major small-donor advantage over Romney. (Obama raised $68 million for his campaign and the DNC, but the DNC figures, which are more dependent on large donations, are not yet available.) In total, of the $125 million Obama raised in 2011, 47 percent came from donors giving $200 or less, and 54 percent from donors giving $200 or more. The president’s top three contributors are Microsoft ($188, 643), DLA Piper ($151,375) and Google ($139,030).

The big-money race is only going to intensify from here on out. According to Josh Kraushaar of The Hotline, Obama plus Democratic Super PACs have $98 million to spend in 2012, while GOP groups have $94 million on hand. The GOP has received a major boost from the Karl Rove–founded American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, who raised $51 million last year. Newt Gingrich now likes to say that “people power will defeat money power.” In 2012, I’m afraid the opposite may be true.

Quietly, ‘Swift Boat’ donor throws big money behind Romney

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The leading donor to Mitt Romney’s super PAC is not a hedge-fund manager or Bain Capital executive. It is Bob Perry, a Houston home-building magnate who was also the top donor to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, in 2004.
Along with Foster Friess, who was Rick Santorum’s benefactor, and Sheldon Adelson, Newt Gingrich’s patron, Perry has become one of the most important, if least known, members of an elite class of Republican moneymen who are almost single-handedly reshaping the race for the White House.
He has doled out $80 million to political candidates and committees over the last decade. That includes $4 million to Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Romney that has systemically obliterated his opponents with negative ads.
Perry is also the second biggest donor to American Crossroads, the super PAC founded by Karl Rove that is planning a major ad blitz attacking President Obama. He has poured $9.5 million into that group.
But unlike Friess and Adelson, who have risen to prominence in this presidential election, Perry has always shunned attention. Associates say he never shows up at fund-raisers and rarely grants interviews.
“He’s an unassuming and very quiet person who you couldn’t pick out of a grocery store,’’ said Dave Carney, a Republican strategist who has known Perry since the 1990s.
Yet his vast fortune, combined with the new rules that allow unlimited donations to super PACs, means the reclusive businessman, 79, could play an even bigger role than he played in 2004, when the Swift Boat ads accused Kerry of lying about his record in Vietnam and helped sink his candidacy.
“I don’t speculate about the future, but he’s done quite a bit already, and clearly believes Romney would be much better for America’s future than another four years of President Obama,’’ said Anthony Holm, a Perry spokesman.
Perry has a habit of quietly giving money to recipients he has never met or even spoken with. Two weeks ago, he sent an unsolicited $10,000 check to the Texas Tribune, a nonprofit news organization in Austin. In a two-sentence letter, he praised the organization for its balanced political coverage. Associates said the donation was quintessential Perry.
“Bob Perry just does his own thing - you never know how much, how big, or when,’’ said Bill Miller, one of Perry’s lobbyists in Austin. “That is the way he operates.’’
Democrats are trying to use the specter of a new wave of Perry-financed attack ads to energize their donors. Last month, the Obama campaign sent a fund-raising e-mail from Kerry in which the senator said he wished the term “swiftboating’’ could be retired from the American lexicon.
“But guess what: Bob Perry, the deep-pocketed funder of the ‘Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,’ just gave $3 million to Mitt Romney’s Super PAC,’’ Kerry wrote. “Their multimillion dollar smear tactics were new in 2004; in 2012 we know their playbook, and shame on us if we don’t tear it into shreds.’’
In the last decade, Perry has dropped $31 million on races in Texas, helped fuel the rise of Governor Rick Perry, who is not related, and given $4.5 million to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, according to Texans for Public Justice, a campaign finance watchdog group that has called him the “King of Dirty Politics.’’
A believer in lower taxes, less regulation, and tort reform, Perry supports affirmative action and “an immigration solution that gives hope to those that need it most,’’ according to his biography. He has a particular interest in supporting Hispanic Republicans and, outside of politics, has donated to Latino studies programs and orphanages in Mexico.
“He’s clearly a conservative, but he’s not an ideologue, and I’m not aware of any purity test or anything like that,’’ Carney said.
The son of a school principal, Perry was raised in a rural farmhouse in Central Texas, where he raised and sold rabbits, goats, sheep, and bantam hens.
He started Perry Homes in 1967. The company is now the second-largest home builder in Texas and the 23d largest in the nation, with about $380 million in revenue last year, according to Denise Dersin, editor-in-chief of Builder Magazine, a trade journal.
Perry first entered politics as a supporter of conservative Democrats in the 1970s and has been a force since then, showering some Democrats, but mostly Republicans, with money.
In 2006, for example, Perry gave Joseph Nixon, a Republican member of the Texas House, $262,500, a massive sum for a state legislator, after Nixon authored and passed a bill that could have benefited the home-building industry by sharply limiting personal injury claims. Nixon said he had never even met Perry when the donations rolled in.
“That’s his deal,’’ Nixon said. “He doesn’t call you and ask you to do this or that. He will support you financially and leave you alone.’’
Critics say that, with his financial clout and well-connected lobbyists, Perry does not have to pick up the phone to influence elected officials.
“His money speaks for him,’’ said Craig McDonald, the director of Texans for Public Justice. “And it’s well known where Perry stands on most issues.’’
In 2003, after Texas home builders were hit with a spate of mold-related lawsuits, Perry’s lawyer, John Krugh, helped draft a bill creating the Texas Residential Construction Commission to screen buyers’ complaints before they could sue for damages in court.
Consumer groups complained the agency was tilted heavily in favor of the building industry, and the Legislature abolished it in 2010.
Last year, Bob Perry helped kill Governor Perry’s effort to prohibit Texas from allowing “sanctuary cities’’ where police are barred from asking about the immigration status of people they detain. Many pointed out that the home-building industry relies heavily on immigrant labor.
Perry has supported Romney since 2005, when the former Massachusetts governor became chairman of the Republican Governors Association. While associates declined to predict how much he would donate, they say if Perry is committed to a cause, he tends to go all in. “I always say small is not in his vocabulary,’’ Miller said.

The Republicans' Dark-Money-Moving Machine

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Inside the GOP group that skirts election rules by shuffling millions across state lines and then "wiping the fingerprints off the money."

Michigan's 2010 elections had just concluded, and Rich Robinson, the state's leading campaign finance reform advocate, was conducting his usual postmortem. As he tallied the big money behind the conservative groundswell that swept Republican Rick Snyder into the governor's mansion and placed the state Legislature solidly under GOP control, one particular political action committee caught his eye.

Created in December 2009 and shut down shortly after the election, RGA Michigan 2010 had come out of nowhere to spend nearly $8.4 million—54 percent more than any other PAC had poured into any election in Michigan history. Ninety-six percent of the group's donors lived outside the state, and its top three funders included Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, Koch Industries' David Koch, and New York City hedge fund CEO Paul Singer. On the other side of the ledger, RGA Michigan 2010 had given $5.2 million to the Michigan Republican Party—no surprise there—but, mysteriously, it had also funneled $3 million into the campaign coffers of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Robinson, the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, began to connect the dots. He remembered the phone calls from reporters in Maine and Florida asking if Robinson knew why money from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce had ended up with PACs in their states. The state's Chamber, which usually spent more than $1 million on TV ads during Michigan elections, officially didn't spend a dime on ads in 2010, according to Robinson. But it had given an unprecedented $5.37 million to a national organization that, Robinson now realized, was at the root of the anomalous spending he'd uncovered: the Washington, DC-based Republican Governors Association.

During the midterms, while many campaign finance observers were fixated on the proliferation of super-PACs and shadow-spending groups, the RGA spent $132 million—more than the five biggest conservative super-PACs and 501(c) groups combined. It was instrumental in electing a slate of GOP governors—Wisconsin's Scott Walker, Ohio's John Kasich, Georgia's Nathan Deal, and Iowa's Terry Branstad, among others—who hastened to crack down on public-sector unions and roll back environmental regulations. These electoral successes were fueled in part by the creative campaign finance strategy that Robinson began to piece together.

Since 2008, he explains, the RGA has used a network of at least 15 state-level PACs to shuffle campaign cash around the country. Doing so serves a couple of purposes. First, it enables the RGA to scrub the identity of a donor to avoid image issues. For instance, Rick Perry taking $3 million from a Texas oil baron might be controversial, but if that baron gives $3 million to the national RGA, which then diverts the money to RGA Michigan PAC and then to Perry? Harmless.

The RGA's cash shuffle also allows it—and its corporate allies—to skirt campaign finance laws. For instance, in Michigan, corporations can't donate directly to candidates or political parties. But the state's Chamber of Commerce donated millions to the national RGA, which then directed some of the money to its PACs in Florida and Maine, where no such corporate-money bans exist. Why would a Michigan group want its money flowing to races in other states? Chamber CEO Rich Studley told Maine Public Radio that its members supported funding "pro-business" candidates outside Michigan.
Robinson has a different theory. During the 2010 election cycle, the Michigan Chamber donated more than $5 million to the RGA. In turn, the RGA's Michigan PAC directed $5.2 million—contributions that largely came from individuals outside the state—to the Michigan Republican Party. Robinson believes that, through this roundabout process, the Chamber's corporate money was swapped out with individual contributions, allowing it to be deployed in Michigan in a more potent form. (The Chamber acknowledges that the RGA called the shots on where its money was spent. Studley says his group's political spending "has been in full compliance with all Michigan and federal laws." The RGA did not respond to a request for comment on this practice.)

Robinson and other campaign finance watchdogs liken the RGA's methods to the corporate-contribution laundering scheme that got former GOP congressman Tom DeLay indicted. "The whole thing," Robinson says of the RGA's tactics, "was about wiping the fingerprints off the money."
An RGA spokesman, Mike Schrimpf, says the group and its network of PACs "aren't really unique," but he declined to respond to specific questions. "The RGA and the [Democratic Governors Association] both have to use state PACs in some states to comply with the state campaign finance laws," he says. The RGA, however, is by far the more powerful of the two, outspending the DGA in the last four election cycles by anywhere from $10 million (2004) to $67 million (2010).
The RGA wasn't always a political juggernaut. Founded in 1963, the group for decades was content to convene meetings and publish the occasional white paper. That began to change in the early 1980s, when Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh became chairman and the RGA started to raise serious money. With the RGA's backing, the GOP netted seven governor's seats in the 1986 election.
In 1994, while Newt Gingrich and Co. took control of Congress and rang in the Republican Revolution, the RGA was instrumental in the election of 11 GOP governors and successfully defended every Republican incumbent. When the dust settled, Republicans controlled 30 governorships, their first majority since 1970. The last time Republicans had performed so well in gubernatorial races was 1867.

Beyond its electoral victories, the RGA established itself as a launching pad for Republicans with presidential aspirations. The group helped to foster alliances between GOP governors and gave them access to deep-pocketed donors and top fundraisers, helping to catapult politicians like Ronald Reagan (an RGA chairman), George W. Bush, Rick Perry (twice chairman), Mitt Romney (2006 chairman), and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (current vice chair) onto the national stage.
The RGA's rise has been fueled by a close alliance with corporate America—especially tobacco companies and Big Pharma. In the mid-'90s, the organization awarded seats on its board to executives from Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, which each donated $40,000 a year. In November 1995, tobacco lobbyists swarmed the RGA's annual meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire, pressing governors to write letters opposing pending tobacco regulations from the Food and Drug Administration. In exchange for their support, the tobacco companies pledged financial backing when election time rolled around. They came through: In February 1996, Philip Morris held a Washington, DC, gala for the RGA that raised $2.6 million.

The increasing influence of corporate donors turned off some Republican governors, including Arne Carlson, Minnesota's governor from 1991 to 1999. Carlson recalls attending a few RGA meetings, but he stopped going due to the group's increasingly partisan tenor and insistence that donors be given access to the governors. "It was no longer Republican governors getting together," Carlson says. "It was the moneyed interests getting together with governors. I found it detestable."
In June 2002, the McCain-Feingold Act went into effect, banning federal party committees from raising "soft money"—donations from labor unions and corporations outside the scope of federal campaign finance law. So to keep the corporate cash flowing, the RGA officially broke away from the Republican National Committee (of which it had been an affiliate) and established itself as a 527 tax-exempt group. That way it could continue raising soft money from banks, drug companies, and energy companies. (A few years earlier the DGA had parted ways with the Democratic National Committee for the same reasons.)

Today, RGA's donor list reads like a who's who of corporate titans: Koch Industries, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, AT&T, and Pfizer. The organization's largest donor in both the 2008 and 2010 elections was Perry Homes, the homebuilding empire run by Bob Perry, which plunked down $1.15 million in 2008 and $8 million in 2010.

But as the corporate money gushed in, the RGA ran afoul of the law. In 2008, a top official with the North Carolina state elections board testified that the RGA had illegally funneled contributions to its North Carolina PAC. (The elections board ultimately declined to pursue the matter.) Last October, a Vermont judge ruled that the RGA violated state elections law when it ran ads supporting the Republican gubernatorial candidate without registering as a state PAC. (The RGA argued the spots were merely issue ads.)

In 2012, the RGA promises to be a force to be reckoned with. Led by chief fundraiser Fred Malek, the finance co-chairman of John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, the RGA had by last fall raised $22 million (twice as much as the DGA) for the 2012 election cycle. Don't be surprised if that money starts turning up in odd places again, says Mike McCabe, who tracks money in state politics at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign: "It's a deliberate strategy to keep the public in the dark about who is really buying our elections."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lies, Deceit and Corporate Politics

Original Link:

Harold Simmons is an 80-year old billionaire. Harold Simmons has donated $18 million to Republican super PACs in the last year. Harold Simmons hates President Barack Obama with a passion.
Any of these Republicans would make a better president than that socialist, Obama,” Simmons told the Journal, in what is the piece’s most provocative quote. “Obama is the most dangerous American alive … because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country.”
Alright, got it. Barack Obama is a capitalist-hating socialist and Simmons is a businessman, sorry, job-creator, and in that regard has every right to spend all he wishes (so says the Roberts’ SCOTUS) to prevent the President from winning a second term. Few, I believe, would fault a man for taking care of his own best interests…except that in the period 2006 to 2011, Harold Simmons’ net worth went from $4 billion to $10 billion. Not bad when considering that those profits were made in the midst of the worst economic downturn in 80 years. Now that the economy is slowly recovering under Chairman Obama’s rule, I imagine Simmons is concerned about his bottom line.

Harold Simmons is a delusional, lying billionaire who, in 2004, contributed $4 million to one of the largest, most blatant campaigns of lies and deceit ever to take place in U.S. presidential politics — the Swiftboater’s takedown of John Kerry. And now, in 2012, Simmons and his fellow millionaires and billionaires are doing it once again, this time with the help of the Citizen’s United ruling which has made it that much easier to pour millions into another campaign of lies and deceit.

Welcome to corporate politics by the unelected in 2012. Isn’t it pretty?

Big money America at it again with bribes

Original Link:


Court rulings have allowed an obscene amount of money to corrupt U.S. elections. Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan contributors include American millionaires and billionaires and “anonymous” foreign backers who expect huge returns on their investments, buying “behind the curtain” control.

President Obama’s unfriendly rhetoric threatening enforced regulation has resulted in 21Wall Street bankers switching their allegiance to Romney promising “no rules!” Obama believes, “politicians who spend too much time among the wealthy risk losing touch with the hardship of the 99 percent I entered public life to serve.”
Democrats generalize that liberals make political donations for altruistic reasons, whereas Republicans campaign contributors often make self-serving investments to protect future profits.

Tea Party funders/puppet-masters David and Charles Koch, purposely “buy Congress, fund any lie, fight any law, bust any union, despoil any landscape (Koch Industries is a Top 10 polluter) or shirk any tax burden to push their free-market religion to increase profits.” - Rolling Stone

Koch billionaires recruited Paul Ryan in early 2000s and may have ‘encouraged’ his VP selection. The Kochs detest the EPA and need favorable treatment regarding Justice Department (DOJ) international criminal investigations — see below.

SuperPac donor, mega-homebuilder, Texas billionaire Bob Perry, emphatically opposes EPA and consumer safeguards which affect his profits. Homebuyers, beware.

Texas billionaire, Harold Simmons, promises to “invest” $36 million to defeat Obama. Harold plans a subterranean nuclear waste dump in Andrews County, Texas, but he needs to abolish pollution regulations protecting the Ogallala Aquifer, the massive, shallow underground reservoir directly beneath the toxic contaminant dump.

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson demands durable pro-Israel policies and, with Vegas, Macau, and Singapore casinos, he’s purchasing favorable tax/trade policies, IRS audit exemption, DOJ corruption amnesty, permanent tax credits for overseas profits, and estate tax elimination — Obama proposes ending these hand-outs. Adelson’s proposed $100 million Romney/Ryan investment could reward him 2000 percent.
Romney’s energy adviser, multi-state oilman Harold Hamm covets guaranteed fossil fuel subsidies, plus the EPA’s demise. Jim Davis, New Balance CEO, could garner Pentagon sneaker contracts with $1 million donation; Foster Friess pushes intolerant “Christian” policies; and Islamaphobic Frank Gaffney spreads hate in print.

DOJ investigates U.S. companies for criminal violations committed under Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, working with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Several RNC mega-donors are currently struggling with corruption investigations, securities penalties, and IRS audits which the “right” Attorney General and impotent SEC would alleviate.

The Waltons are battling bribery allegations in their Mexico Walmart empire. DOJ is investigating Adelson’s Macau casino operations, the world’s biggest gambling hub where a former empire executive has alleged illegal dealings with Chinese officials, including ties to organized crime.

The Kochs foreign hazard is damning evidence of improper payments, dating to 2002, securing contracts in six countries through their Koch-Glitsch French affiliate. Another sticky Koch Industries wicket involves foreign subsidiaries selling mega-millions in petrochemical equipment to Iran. “Papa” Fred Koch perfected the family business prototype under Stalin, then founded the John Birch Society.

GOP candidates will kowtow to benefactors coveting retention of preferential tax treatment and unfettered finance opportunities. Environmentally, “big money” manufacturing, mining, and drilling crave freedom from regulations which monitor heavily polluting/cancer-causing processes, threatening profits.

“Corporate GOP” doesn’t care about Smitty’s Paint Shop employees, endangered by lung-damaging pollutants, though rhetoric might convince Smitty his small business costs are championed. Big profit polluters want autonomy.

As Romney’s puppet-masters pull his strings, behind-the-scenes Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, NRA, Chamber of Commerce, Defense contractors will insure corporate supremacy always trumps working class concerns.

“Obama’s anti-capitalism socialism” has enriched more than 400 U.S. billionaires. Of 33 billionaire donors, 30 finance Romney/Ryan, who must decide — benefactors or country? Imagine if these billionaires had invested in ending poverty in America over pure self-interest — their return on investment would be millions of thriving American customers.

Republican America is big money America, where most of us will simply experience a steeper uphill struggle. Monied manipulators each have but one vote — you must decide if their bribes are acceptable payment for your vote.

Which Billionaires Got Their Money's Worth in the Election?

Original Link:

By Alexander Abad-Santos

Figures of Romney/Obama donors are from this AP report unless otherwise noted.

Romney's Top Donors:

Sheldon Adelson, Owner of Las Vegas Sands

Net Worth: $25 Billion
The Bill: He spent somehwere betwen $70 million and $100 million, which is no more than 0.4 percent of his net worth.
  • $34.2 Million to Romney/super PACs supporting Romney 
  • $10 million to Restore our Future
  • $24 million to committees backing one-time Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich
  • $10 million promised to Karl Rove's American Crossroads
  • $5 million to Boehner super PACs
  • $5 million to Cantor super PACs
Why He Said He Spent It:
  • He's Likes to Win: "I suppose you could say that I live on Vince Lombardi’s belief: ‘Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.’ So, I do whatever it takes, as long as it’s moral, ethical, principled, legal." Adelson was quoted as saying in a profile by Politico
  • He Really Liked Newt Gingrich and Wanted to Use the Word "Islamofacism": "I’m in favor of Newt Gingrich, because I like people who make decisions. He’s a decision-maker. You don’t have to worry about using the word ‘Islamofascism’ or ‘Islamoterrorist’ when that’s what they are," Adelson said at a Las Vegas event back in March. 
  • He Thinks Obama Dissed Las Vegas: Obama, had said something to the effect that Wall Streeters shouldn't be taking free trips to Vegas on taxpayer's dime around three weeks after his inauguration. This did not go over well with Adelson. "From that point on, Vegas started to go down ...And he’s got the nerve, the chutzpah, to come here and raise money here. He should follow his own advice and not come to Vegas. He hurt me. He hurt 200,000 people working in the hospitality industry in this town." Adelson said in the Politico profile. 
The Payoff: If Adelson likes to win, he obviously is not going to be happy sinking close to $60 million on two losers. His money didn't even help Romney win Nevada, which probably made him more mad.

Harold "The Ice Man" Simmons, owner of Contran Corp, a Dallas-based waste/chemical management company

Net Worth: $9 Billion
The Bill : Between $30 million and $50 million which is between 0.3 percent and 0.5 percent of his net worth.
Why He Said He Spent It: 
Karl Rove Told Him To: In February, Simmons saw the Santorum surge. And then he called Karl Rove, and it was a done-deal from there, as per The Wall Street Journal's Monica Langley:
Watching a TV news report that Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum was rising in polls last month, Mr. Simmons wondered about the prospects of the former Pennsylvania senator. He called his personal political muse, Republican strategist Karl Rove.
He Believed/ Believes Obama Was/Is a Socialist: "Any of these Republicans would make a better president than that socialist, Obama ... Obama is the most dangerous American alive…because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country." Simmons told the Langley
He Didn't Care, He Just Wanted Obama Out: "That helps explain why the biggest chunk of his political contributions in this election cycle have gone not to individual candidates but to Mr. Rove-advised super PAC American Crossroads—its stated mission to defeat Mr. Obama and elect "majorities in both the House and the Senate'" writes Langley.
The Payoff: Well, the Republicans retained power in the House. That's something to hang your hat on right?

The Koch Brothers

Net Worth: William ("Bill")- $4 Billion, Charles and David-$31 Billion
The Bill: ????
  • Charles and David Koch are special.  As Rolling Stone's Tim Dickins pointed out, Charles and David have promised to spend $60 million to defeat President Obama, but "but their off-the-book contributions don't appear in any FEC filings." And Politico had reported they promised to spend $400 million this term in elections across the country. But because they fund tons of things through their PACs, like Americans For Prosperity, it's hard to tabulate exactly how much of their money is going where. And then there's shady stuff like this new piece of news that a secret $11 million donation in California actually has ties to them, which we only found out because of a tricky legal hearing. It all underscores the term "dark money."
Why They Said They Did It:
They're Libertarians: "The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation." wrote The New Yorker's Jane Mayer in 2010.
They're In It for Themselves: "Rather, they are giving to support what they see as being in their business or personal financial interest: lower taxes, less regulation, smaller government," wrote the Washington Post's Carter Eskew.
The Payoff: Well, Republicans kept control of the House. And Scott Walker, who the AFP backed during his recall, kept his gubernatorial seat. So that's good right? But Obama is still in office and whatnot, which is a total $400 million bummer.

The Top Four Obama Donors:

Jeffrey Katzenberg: $2.566 million
Irwin Jacobs: $2.122 million
Fred Eychaner: $2.066 million
Jon Stryker: $2.066 million
Combined Total: $8.82 million (about a quarter  of what Adelson gave Romney and Romney-affiliated super PACs)
The Payoff: Well, obviously.

"I don't believe that there's ever been an effort in our party that can compare with what you have done over these past years," Romney said in concession speech last night referring to "the volunteers, the fundraisers, the donors, the surrogates." And he's right, on the last part at least. As the Sunlight Foundation reported on November 1, $213 million has been spent on "dark money" groups to influence election—$172 million of which was spent to help Republicans and just $35.7 million to help Democrats. Taking those numbers into account, Romney's concession speech might be the nicest way to gloss over the fact that outside conservative groups spent so much and tried so hard and couldn't even manage to get a Senate majority—a massive fail.

Now, this isn't to say the Obama campaign didn't spend a ton of money on its own. It did. As our John Hudson reported, $874.6 million went toward the Obama campaign this season "with the Obama campaign burning through $553.2 million, the DNC spending $263.2 million, and the biggest Obama Super PACS spending $58 million."  It's just, that, well, some money is just better spent than others.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Harold Simmons Calls Obama a ‘Socialist’

Original Link:


Meanwhile, Simmons is set to open a monopolistic radioactive waste dump.

Harold Simmons in today’s Wall Street Journal:
“Any of these Republicans would make a better president than that socialist, Obama,” said Mr. Simmons during two days of rare interviews at his Dallas home and office. “Obama is the most dangerous American alive…because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country.”
In other news: Today, a state commission gave permission to Waste Control Specialists, a Texas company owned by Simmons, to import and bury radioactive waste from 36 states.
  • The state of Texas will own the waste and be responsible for managing it for the next few millennia. 
  • A team of state engineers and geologists have warned that the dump is likely to leak into nearby water tables.
  • Waste Control stands to pull in billions in revenue.
  • The primary financial assurance for the dump is stock in one of Simmons’ own companies. The Texas Legislature privatized radioactive waste disposal in Texas for Simmons after he pumped millions into state elections and hired an army of lobbyists.
  • Waste Control faces no real competition in its bid to become the nation’s one-stop radioactive waste dump.
  • The construction of the dump was financed, in part, by the people of Andrews County.
In short, by plying polticians with dollars Simmons engineered himself a monopoly business that privatizes profits and socializes the risk.

You tell me, is this “free enterprise” or corporate socialism?

Texas Billionaire Simmons Bankrolling Multiple Republican Causes

Original Link:

By Julie Bykowicz & Greg Giroux

Harold Simmons, a Texas billionaire, gave $8.5 million in the last six months of 2011 to support two Republican presidential contenders and a political action committee founded with help from Karl Rove, U.S. Federal Election Commission filings released yesterday show.

The donations make Simmons, 80, a standout in a roster of executives and wealthy investors who are taking advantage of loosened campaign-finance regulations to sink millions of dollars into political committees seeking to influence the 2012 presidential race, according to the disclosure reports.

Such donors include Jon Huntsman Sr., a chemical company executive and father of candidate Jon Huntsman Jr.; Paul Singer, president and founder of hedge fund Elliott Management Corp.; and Steven Spielberg, co-principal of DreamWorks Animation SKG. (DWA)
The four main Republican presidential super-PACs raised $34 million and spent $8.5 million in 2011, FEC reports show. A super-PAC backing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Restore Our Future, raised $30.2 million of that $34 million, or 89 percent.

Simmons’ donations differ from other contributors in that he gave to super-PACs backing presidential candidates and American Crossroads, the group backed by Rove, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, that plans to run ads to defeat President Barack Obama. American Crossroads will also weigh in on House and Senate races.

Swift Boat Ads

Long active in Texas politics, Simmons has a history of using his money to influence politics outside the traditional party and candidate structures. In 2004, he gave $4 million to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that questioned Democratic nominee John Kerry’s Vietnam War service.

E-mails to Simmons and his assistant weren’t returned last night.

Simmons and his Contran Corp. holding company were the single-largest contributors to American Crossroads and to independent committees backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Governor Rick Perry during the filing period covered in yesterday’s release.

The $7 million that Simmons and Contran gave American Crossroads accounted for 60 percent of the group’s total haul between Oct. 4 and the end of the year. He also gave the group $1 million in 2010, disclosure reports show.

Gingrich, Perry Donations

Simmons gave $500,000 to a pro-Gingrich group, Winning Our Future, on Dec. 15, and his company wrote two $500,000 checks to a pro-Perry group, Make Us Great Again, on Sept. 23 and Oct. 24.
Dallas-based Contran (CTRW), which has stakes in companies that produce chemicals and manage waste, gave the most to Make Us Great Again: $1 million in two donations, including the one in October. Perry quit his presidential bid on Jan. 19.

Simmons and Perry have a record of supporting each other. Simmons donated more than $1.2 million to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns. Under Perry’s watch in Austin, Simmons’ company was granted a permit to build a radioactive waste dump -- a move that prompted at least three members of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to resign in protest.

The pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future’s latest backer, Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, didn’t contribute to the committee in the period documented by yesterday’s FEC filing. He and his wife gave $10 million to the committee last month, according to Rick Tyler, the super-PAC’s spokesman.

Family Ties

Other Las Vegas residents with family ties to Adelson, Oren and Yasmin Lukatz and Sivan Ochshorn, gave a combined $1 million in December to Winning Our Future, about half the committee’s total receipts for December, the period the committee reported yesterday.

Tyler, a former Gingrich campaign spokesman, said yesterday on Bloomberg Television that he has “no knowledge” of whether more money from Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS), is on the way to the super-PAC.

The super-PAC supporting Romney, the winner of yesterday’s Florida primary, also listed large contributions from business backers in the final three months of 2011.

Among them were checks for $1 million written by Robert Mercer, co-chief executive officer of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies; Singer, Elliott Management’s president; and Julian Robertson, co-founder and president of hedge fund Tiger Management LLC.

Democratic Donors

Priorities USA Action, a super-PAC backing Obama, gained the high-dollar support of several Hollywood fixtures.

Spielberg, the movie director, contributed $100,000 in July, and William Little Jr., chairman of George Little Management LLC in New York, contributed $150,000 in December. Almost half of Priorities’ $1.2 million donations in the final six months of the year came from a $500,000 Dec. 28 contribution by the Service Employees International Union’s Committee on Political Education.

Priorities was founded in April. Among its first contributions was a $2 million check from Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive officer of DreamWorks Animation, a July FEC filing shows.

Bill Burton, co-founder of Priorities USA Action, said in a telephone interview yesterday that he is seeking money from “a community of Democrats” who fear the damaging messages expected to come from Republican-backed super-PACs such as American Crossroads.

‘Open Checkbook’

Foster Friess, a fund manager and evangelical Christian who told Bloomberg Television in a Jan. 27 interview that he has an “open checkbook” for anyone who opposes Obama, contributed $331,000 to a committee supportive of Santorum.

The Red White and Blue Fund also collected $250,000 from John Templeton Jr. to assist Santorum, who on Jan. 14 was endorsed by a group of religious leaders. Templeton runs his late father’s philanthropy, the John Templeton Foundation.

Endorse Liberty, a super-PAC backing U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas, reported raising $1,020,055 last year, the majority of it from two December contributions totaling $900,000 made by Peter Thiel, Clarium Capital Management investor and active Republican donor.

Former Utah Governor Huntsman’s candidacy, which ended Jan. 16, was supported by $1.9 million from his father. The money accounted for about 70 percent of super-PAC Our Destiny’s receipts last year. Huntsman dropped out of the race after placing third in the New Hampshire primary and endorsed Romney.

Congressional Donations

Big donors also are pouring money into Senate and House races.
Majority PAC, which supports Senate Democrats saw contributions of $500,000 in November from James H. Simons, a philanthropist with Euclidean Capital LLC; $100,000 in December from George Soros; and $100,000 in August from Portland publisher Win McCormack. House Majority PAC took in $150,000 in October from Fred Eychaner, a frequent donor.

Bernard Schwartz, a major donor to Bill Clinton’s 1992 election and re-election, made $100,000 contributions to both groups. Schwartz is chief executive officer of BLS Investments, a private investment firm based in New York and was chief executive officer of Loral Space & Communications Inc. in New York.

Harold Clark Simmons Wants To Buy A New President: Seven And A Half Things To Know

Original Link:

By Mark Gongloff

The sun needs about 250 million years to orbit around the center of the Milky Way, but you only need to know seven and a half things each day. Here they are:

Thing One: Killing With Cash: Obama is a dangerous socialist! Without America's helpful campaign finance laws, the only way you could get this important message out would be by screaming it at a Tea Party rally or on a nationally syndicated radio show. Now, thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, you can spend a small fortune to make sure the whole world knows it.

That's what 80-year-old Texas chemical-and-metal magnate Harold Clark Simmons has been doing, according to a Wall Street Journal profile. He and his wife have been tossing off million-dollar checks to Republican campaigns like most of us pay water and garbage bills. No other individual has spent more on this election than Simmons, who has dropped $18 million so far and plans to spend another $18 million by November, all to get rid of "that socialist, Obama," who Simmons says is "the most dangerous American alive."

Nothing inflammatory about that at all, just like there's nothing at all inflammatory about him telling the WSJ that "we could have killed Obama" in 2008. He's talking, of course, about using ads to metaphorically "kill" the president, not anything serious, you guys. He paid money for ads in 2008 tying Obama to Bill Ayers, just as he bankrolled the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004. He obviously can't wait to start making some ads again in this election cycle, probably beneath this patriotic American painting of Obama burning the Constitution, which, again, is not inflammatory in the slightest.

Thing Two: About That Rally: The stock market is a little bit like one of those shows you used to watch and then forgot about and didn't realize was still running. "'Survivor?' That's still on?" People are studiously not putting new money to work in the stock market, which is now cared about mainly by traders and excitable financial journalists. While you were not looking, the stock market recently jumped to new multi-year highs, but in the past few days has struggled. China's economic data have suddenly come a-cropper, as they did again this morning, with weaker-than-expected manufacturing numbers. That has European stocks down this morning and could hit U.S. stocks again. Oh, and Spanish bond yields are jumping, so that whole European debt crisis thing may not be totally solved, either. Just so you know.

Thing Three: Claims On Your Attention: U.S. economic data have been a little mixed lately, too -- not bad or anything, but just not great enough to help keep the stock rally going. We get more today, in the form of weekly unemployment claims data, the FHFA's house-price index and a measure of leading economic indicators from the Conference Board, a private research firm.

Thing Four: Deutsche Bank Dodge: Banks hate the new Dodd-Frank financial-reform law, but European banks seem to have found an easy way out of it: They can simply declare their U.S. units to no longer be "bank holding companies," et voila, they don't have to raise more capital to comply with Dodd-Frank. That's what Deutsche Bank and Barclays have done with their U.S. units, the Wall Street Journal writes, and other banks will probably follow suit.

Thing Five: Tweeting Banks: All that pesky compliance with new financial regulations is going to distract banks from their halting embrace of this new thing called "The Twitters." The New York Times writes that banks are tiptoeing into social media, but are still kept from really cutting loose by, um, compliance with regulations.

Thing Six: That's What Friends Are For: China is so darn good at spying on its citizens that it wants to share its knowledge with the world, Reuters reports: "A Chinese telecommunications equipment company has sold Iran's largest telecom firm a powerful surveillance system capable of monitoring landline, mobile and internet communications, interviews and contract documents show."

Thing Seven: Squid Loses Court Fight: As if Goldman Sachs didn't have enough headaches, it lost a court fight yesterday to throw out a lawsuit alleging it stuffed securities full of subprime garbage that it planned to bet against and then tried to sell those garbage-stuffed securities to clients. Goldman has already paid the SEC $550 million to settle such charges.

Thing Seven And One Half: Timmy And The Jets: So Tim Tebow is a New York Jet now. Tebow's new teammates were, let's say, nonplussed. In happier news, you've probably already seen this, but wouldn't you like to watch the Mitt Romney-as-Eminem mashup again?

Big Super PAC Donor Harold Simmons Pays Government To Make His Dump Profitable

Original Link:


Harold Simmons has spent $16 million so far this election season, making him one of the biggest presidential super PAC sugar daddies. Simmons recently said he was prepared to spend at least $36 million to beat President Obama, “for the good of the country.”

But Simmons isn’t just spreading his wealth to help others. He’s hoping to profit from the millions of dollars he’s using to influence the government. Specifically, he wants the government to help him fill a radioactive waste dump he built in West Texas.

According to BusinessWeek, Simmons can’t find enough of the specific kind of radioactive waste to fill his dump, which is bigger than 1,000 football fields. So he’s asking the Obama administration for some help:
To turn it into a profitable enterprise, the Texas billionaire hired lobbyists to urge the Obama administration to expand the types of nuclear waste, including depleted uranium, the dump can accept and award his company disposal contracts. If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission changes the rule, it could open access to a market worth billions. The deadline for a decision is in 2014.
Most of Simmons’ donations have gone to American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-guided super PAC devoted to defeating Obama and other Democrats in 2012. He’s also given money to Restore Our Future, the Mitt Romney-backing super PAC. Romney has called for a “fast-tracked permitting process for new nuclear plants” that could help Simmons and his company, Waste Control Specialists LLC.

Naturally, spending that much means sometimes you make pretty stupid investments. The PAC associated with Simmons’ firm, Contran, gave money to the Rick Perry 2012 Victory Committee, which is an invention of “the nation’s oddest super PAC treasurer,” Josue Larose, and not actually supportive of the Texas governor and former Republican presidential candidate.

Biggest GOP Donor in 2012 Makes Habit of Buying Political Favors

Original Link:

Harold Simmons is a Texas pollutant-mogul with deep pockets, deep enough to fund almost every GOP candidate and campaign this year.

“Follow the money”, is one of the only truisms in politics. If you want to know how a politician is likely to vote, find out who has donated to their campaign. If you want to know why a particular idea is getting a lot of support of opposition, look at who is backing it. If you want to know why one party seems to be unreasonably opposed to things that sound like common sense, look at who is backing their candidates. In this latest case, the person is Harold Simmons, a Texas billionaire who has funded Republican Super PACs to the tune of more than $18 million, making him the greatest single GOP backer in the country in an election cycle that is breaking records for a being big-dollar, low accountability affair.

Harold Simmons has made his money by taking advantage of Texas’ lack of environmental oversight, starting or taking over companies in everything from oil to incineration to waste management; anything that pollutes and makes lots of money doing it. In 2004, according to Mariah Blake of, Simmons applied for a permit to build a nuclear waste dump on the Texas/New Mexico border. The problem was  that this dump was directly over the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest freshwater underground water source in the world and the major supplier of irrigation water for the American Midwest’s bread basket. However, after the Texas Water Development Board “redrew” the official boundaries of the aquifer, it showed that Simmons’ nuclear waste dump was not over the aquifer. Of course, five of the six members of that board authority were appointees of the Rick Perry administration, who had received $1.2 million in campaign donations for his gubernatorial run. Once again, if you follow the money, and you’ll find out what’s going on.

Simmons’ nuclear waste dump is still not operating, because when the Obama administration took over the Nuclear regulatory Commission started impeding his progress. As a result, Simmons seems to have made Obama’s defeat in 2012 a personal vendetta. “Any of these Republicans would make a better president than that socialist, Obama,” Simmons complained to the Wall Street Journal, “Obama is the most dangerous American alive.” As a result Simmons has given to many Republican Super PACs and candidates, not favoring any single one.” However, Simmon’s use of campaign dollars for preferential treatment is part of his business hallmark. In 2004, he gave the Bush inaugural ball $100,000. Afterward, the Department of Energy under Bush’s administration awarded Simmons’ company, Waste Control Specialists (the same one attempting to open the nuclear waste dump), a $15 million contract to clean up nuclear waste at an Ohio plant that had enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. The conflict of interest comes clear when you realize that the Ohio plant was owned by another one of Simons’ companies, NL Industries.

I think it’s fair to say that conservative fund-raising is a shady proposition to begin with, and that there’s little questions as to why the conservative-leaning Supreme Court, with their Citizens United decision, made it increasingly so. Dollars do not necessarily win elections, that’s true. However, it certainly allows a right-wing political bloc the opportunity to hide their dirty laundry and frame the national discourse in their favor. Read the rest of the sordid details around Harold Simmons’ and the dark side of his political donations at The GOP’s nuke-dump donor.

Billionaire Harold Simmons Donations Go Beyond Super PACs

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Billionaires giving to presidential super PACs have been getting a lot of media attention in the last few weeks as the extent of their influence emerges in new Federal Election Commission filings. Among the most prominent: Contran CEO Harold Simmons. So far, Mr. Simmons, known for opening his checkbook for conservative causes, is the biggest donor to super PACs. He’s donated $14 million so far, with recipients including Republican-focused American Crossroads and groups backing three different GOP presidential candidates.

Mr. Simmons’ donations to Republican congressional campaigns, though, are getting a lot less attention this cycle. Since 2011, Mr. Simmons and his wife, Annette, have given $96,200 to 14 Republican congressional candidates. They have donated an additional $111,600 to the National Republican Senatorial and Congressional Committees.

The largest congressional recipient, by far, of the Simmons’ funds is Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA). Mr. and Mrs. Simmons have contributed $32,500 to Rep. Cantor, the House Majority Leader, through his campaign committee, leadership PAC, and a state committee affiliated with his joint fundraising committee. Coming in second is the current lieutenant governor of Texas, David Dewhurst, who is running for Sen. Kay Hutchison’s (R-TX) seat. The couple have poured $20,000 into Dewhurst for Texas so far this election cycle. The couple seem to be prioritizing non-incumbents this time around – more than 40% of the Simmons’ contributions have gone to non-incumbent Republicans, including four of the top six recipients. Presidential super PAC fundraising is obviously a huge story this year, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that plenty of money is still flowing into congressional campaigns.

Here is the complete list of the couple’s donations to congressional candidates in this election cycle, according to data tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics:

Eric Cantor (R-VA) $32,500
David Dewhurst (R-TX) $20,000
Josh Mandel (R-OH) $10,000
Michael Williams (R-TX) $5,000
Pete Sessions (R-TX) $5,000
Marco Rubio (R-FL) $5,000
Roger Williams (R-TX) $4,800
John Thune (R-SD) $4,000
Kenny Marchant (R-TX) $2,500
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) $2,400
Mike Conaway (R-TX) $2,000
Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) $1,000
Lamar Smith (R-TX) $1,000
Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) $1,000