Thursday, March 31, 2011

Koch brothers buying our government

An editorial in today's NY Times really caught my attention. If you want a clearer picture of what is going on in our state, where Koch Industries opened a lobbying office in downtown Madison as Walker was being inaugurated, here's another example.

Koch Industries' home base is Wichita KS. Mike Pompeo is a new member of the House of Reps and, according to the editors, is known as 'the Congressman from Koch.'  The now-infamous brothers donated $80,000 to his campaign.  Now they are getting their payback.
"[Pompeo's] contributions to the House Republicans’ budget-slashing legislation included two top priorities of Koch Industries: killing off funds for the Obama administration’s new database for consumer complaints about unsafe products and for a registry of greenhouse gas polluters at the Environmental Protection Agency."
Remember, too, that the Supreme Court ruled last year in the notorious Citizens United case that corporations pretty much have unlimited 'speech,' meaning can spend unlimited funds trying to influence the outcome of elections. President Obama and many others rightly called this a threat to our democracy, a major unbalancing between the power of the richest, biggest corporations in the world and, you know, us.

Photo: Margaret Swedish
It has been suggested that a major reason for busting public sector unions is to remove one of the few organized voices of the folks, a voice with some considerable funds available to lift up an alternative to the corporate media blitz. Crush unions, corporate bosses crush a major opposition voice. Crush unions, crush a source of campaign donations for candidates who oppose their corporate agenda.

And you see from the actions of Pompeo what that agenda looks like, what the intent is - to gut the role of government to regulate the worst corporate practices, to protect citizens and consumers from their toxins and waste, from their bad products and threats to our environment. Also, to protect the rights of workers by defending their rights to collectively bargain over their contracts, basics like decent wages and benefits, working conditions, grievance procedures, and more.

In an article for The New York Review of Books last year, Ronald Dworkin wrote a long, disturbing analysis of the Citizens United ruling. He writes:
"Though the Court’s decision will do nothing to deter corruption in that way, it will do a great deal to encourage one particularly dangerous form of it. It will sharply increase the opportunity of corporations to tempt or intimidate congressmen facing reelection campaigns. Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi had great difficulty persuading some members of the House of Representatives to vote for the health care reform bill, which finally passed with a dangerously thin majority, because those members feared they were risking their seats in the coming midterm elections. They knew, after the Court’s decision, that they might face not just another party and candidate but a tidal wave of negative ads financed by health insurance companies with enormous sums of their shareholders’ money to spend."
We are seeing the results of this power grab by corporations now here in Wisconsin.  This is why I cannot say strongly enough: if organizations of all kinds all around the country do not get focused on issues like campaign finance reform, if taxpayers continue to resist public financing of campaigns, if we continue to appoint Supreme Court justices who believe that corporations have rights to speech as 'persons' under the Constitution, our democracy is in grave danger, indeed.

The political reform needed is becoming more urgent and profound. We are only beginning to realize the extent to which our democracy is being stolen from us by corporate money.

I urge you to read carefully all the linked articles on this post. Our futures are at stake. We need to know what's going on in order to meet the challenges effectively.

And vote on April 5!

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