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Archive for the ‘lobbyist’ tag

Tea Baggers Are Now Lobbyists for Big Business

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Sketchy ATM Inside

Wow, didn’t even take a year for the Teabaggers to show their true GOP colors.

Tariff-free Asian paper may seem an unlikely cause for a nonprofit Tea Party group. But it is in keeping with a succession of pro-business campaigns — promoting commercial space flight, palm oil imports and genetically modified alfalfa — that have occupied the Institute for Liberty’s recent agenda.

The Tea Party movement is as deeply skeptical of big business as it is of big government.1Yet an examination of the Institute for Liberty shows how Washington’s influence industry has adapted itself to the Tea Party era. In a quietly arranged marriage of seemingly disparate interests, the institute and kindred groups are increasingly the bearers of corporate messages wrapped in populist Tea Party themes.

In a few instances, their corporate partners are known — as with the billionaire Koch brothers’ support of Americans for Prosperity, one of the most visible advocacy groups. More often, though, their nonprofit tax status means they do not have to reveal who pays the bills.

Mr. Langer would not say who financed his Indonesian paper initiative. But his sudden interest in the issue coincided with a public relations push by Asia Pulp & Paper. And the institute’s work is remarkably similar to that produced by one of the company’s consultants, a former Australian diplomat named Alan Oxley who works closely with a Washington public affairs firm known for creating corporate campaigns presented as grass-roots efforts.

 

(click here to continue reading Institute for Liberty – Tea Party Group With Business Agenda – NYTimes.com.)

and I’d quibble with this sentence:

The Tea Party movement is as deeply skeptical of big business as it is of big government.

That’s the talking point anyway. I’d argue the Teabaggers are not that skeptical of big business, because people like the Koch brothers are such big monetary supporters, and if you scratch the surface of any ten randomly selected Teabaggers, you’ll find nine Republicans and one Independent-Leans-Right.

Monkey King

For instance, Monsanto, the enemy of small farmers everywhere on the planet, is a supporter of the Teabaggers

Last year, the two groups also supported the effort by the agribusiness giant Monsanto to ease federal restrictions on its pesticide-resistant alfalfa. (In February, regulators agreed to do so.) Mr. Langer said he decided “to try out our grass-roots method on that, and frame it as a dairy issue and access to affordable food.”

He got a column published in July in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, talking up Monsanto’s product and asking readers to consider the value of bioengineered foods as they “stroll down the aisle of the supermarket.” The institute’s Web site urged members to speak up, and Mr. Langer filed a petition with the Department of Agriculture.

But a close look at that petition illustrates how a “grass-roots” campaign may be something else entirely. He submitted 8,052 comments he said were collected by telephone. The comments, under different names, were identical and began: “I was recently contacted by the Institute for Liberty and asked if I would be willing to lend my voice in support of moving these types of alfalfa to nonregulated status.” The New York Times examined a random sample of 50 names, and found that three of the people were dead when the comments were submitted. Others said they had no idea their names had been used.

“I vaguely remember responding to a survey as to whether or not the affordability of food for my family was important to me,” said Romeyn Jenkins of Iowa. “But that is far different than setting myself up as an authority on specific genetically engineered crops and authorizing my name for submission on form letters.”

and more data from Matt Yglesias:

The question of what, if anything, differentiates a “Tea Partier” from a conventional Republican has attracted a lot of attention over the past year and a half. Research from political scientist Chris Parker sheds light on one aspect of the situation: Tea Partiers are in the grips of apocalyptic fantasies such that “6 percent of non-Tea Party conservatives believe the president is destroying the country versus the 71 percent of Tea Party conservatives who believe this to be true.”

In ordinary times, you might think that an over-the-top grassroots base would be restrained by party elites. But Tea Party millennialism is reinforced, not constrained, by key conservatives. Matt Continetti of the Weekly Standard published a long article this week accusing liberals of “paranoid” dislike of the billionaire Koch brothers, who have emerged as the leading money-men of the American right. But according to Continettit’s own reporting, it’s the Kochs who seem paranoid. David Koch said to Continetti, “He’s the most radical president we’ve ever had as a nation,” he said, “and has done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we’ve ever had.” Koch attributed this to Obama’s admiration for his father, who, he explains “was a hard-core economic socialist in Kenya.”

 

(click here to continue reading The Policy Apocalypse.)

Footnotes:
  1. well, says the talking points. I’d argue the Teabaggers are not that skeptical of big business, because people like the Koch brothers are such big monetary supporters []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 31st, 2011 at 8:25 am

Oil Company Astroturf Rallies

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Loverly

Hard on the heels of the health care protests, another citizen movement seems to have sprung up, this one to oppose Washington’s attempts to tackle climate change. But behind the scenes, an industry with much at stake — Big Oil — is pulling the strings.

The event on Tuesday was organized by a group called Energy Citizens, which is backed by the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s main trade group. Many of the people attending the demonstration were employees of oil companies who work in Houston and were bused from their workplaces.

This was the first of a series of about 20 rallies planned for Southern and oil-producing states to organize resistance to proposed legislation that would set a limit on emissions of heat-trapping gases, requiring many companies to buy emission permits. Participants described the system as an energy tax that would undermine the economy of Houston, the nation’s energy capital.

[Click to continue reading Oil Companies Back Public Protests of Greenhouse Gas Bill – NYTimes.com]

Opposing climate change legislation, how forward thinking!

One such group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity went as far as having their PR agency forge letters from non-profit groups and sending them to Congress. They’ve been caught, and are attempting to blame a “temporary worker”. Uhh, yeah, right.

A public relations firm hired by a pro-coal industry group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, recently sent at least 58 letters opposing new climate laws to members of Congress. An investigation by the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming found that a total of 13 letters sent by the firm, Bonner & Associates, were forgeries. The committee is currently investigating another 45 letters to determine whether they are fakes. The letters purported to be from groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Hispanic organizations.

Industrial Temple

Mother Jones has more:

Rep. Ed Markey’s Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming has released a new batch of bogus letters sent to members of Congress by Bonner & Associates, including one the DC-based PR and lobbying firm previously told the committee was genuine but admitted on Monday was also a fake. The letters claim to be from representatives of local senior citizens groups concerned that climate change legislation will drive up energy costs for the elderly in an already “volatile economy.”

Founded in 1984 by Jack Bonner, a former GOP Senate aide and Republican National Committee staffer, the company specializes in Astroturf campaigns—efforts to create the illusion of grassroots support around the positions of its corporate clients. The firm accomplishes this by, among other things, convincing citizens, nonprofits, and others to sign letters to lawmakers in support or opposition to various issues.

Markey’s committee has been investigating the falsified letters since late July. According to a release issued by the committee on Monday:

The five letters revealed today brings the total number of fraudulent letters to 13, now representing 9 different community groups. The letters released today were staged to appear as if they were sent by groups representing senior citizen services like the non-profit Erie Center on Health & Aging. Previous letters already made public were from the Charlottesville NAACP chapter, Creciendo Juntos, a hispanic advocacy organization, the Jefferson Area Board on Aging, and the American Association of University Women.

In a statement, Markey drew parallels between advocacy efforts to derail health care reform and those opposing global warming legislation. “We’ve seen fear-mongering with our nation’s senior citizens with health care, and now we’re seeing fraud-mongering with senior citizens on clean energy,” he said. “Lately, democratic debate has been deceptively debased by fake facts and harsh rhetoric. We must return to an honest discussion of the issues, and ensure that this sort of campaign does not further poison the well of trustworthy debate.”

[Click to continue reading Bonner’s Latest Astroturf Admission (Plus More Fake Letters) | Mother Jones]

Be Right Back

as does Talking Points Memo

But a closer look suggests a culture at Bonner and Associates that makes such deception all but inevitable. As one former employee put it, at Bonner, distortion “was the norm rather than the exception.”

Internal Bonner documents obtained by TPMmuckraker, and interviews with former employees, shed light on the modus operandi of a firm that’s known as the pioneer of astroturf lobbying — that is, creating the illusion of grassroots support for corporate-backed positions, just as corporate-backed groups like Freedom Works are currently doing in their fight against health-care reform. Bonner’s business model involves using both carrots and sticks in spurring low-paid and poorly-trained employees to convince local groups or individual voters to agree to offer nominal expressions of support for the campaigns of the firm’s corporate clients, which have included Philip Morris, the health insurance industry, and the pharmaceutical industry, among others. Often the voters or local groups know little about the legislation at hand, which is typically obscure to all but the industries affected by it — medical liability reform, say. But the resulting form letters, faxes, or phone calls are then represented to a list of targeted lawmakers — generally drawn up by the client — as genuine expressions of grassroots concern. Bonner then satisfies its client by reporting back to it on the number of communications it’s generated.

[Click to continue reading Behind The Forged Letters: Jack Bonner’s “White-Collar Sweatshop” | TPMMuckraker]

and much more on Bonner and Associates if you’re interested.

You would think such transparently false campaigns would be ineffective once exposed, but apparently Senators and Members of Congress are easily fooled, and don’t have time in their busy schedules of lobbyist dinners and fund-raising luncheons to read much news.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 20th, 2009 at 8:02 am

Rabble Rousing Cost Dick Armey His Job

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Can’t help but be amused that Dick Armey, the smarmy Republican, lost his cushy lobbyist job at DLA Piper because of his connections with the scream-fests at recent Town Hall meetings.

Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader, has quit his job with the lobbying firm DLA Piper amid complaints from its drug company clients about his work opposing President Obama’s health care overhaul.

To review the facts of this case: the drug companies who helped defeat the Clinton administration health care effort 15 years ago have now turned on Mr. Armey, who then was one of their most important Congressional allies. Now, having cut a deal with this administration to limit their share of the costs, the drug companies are on the other side. Foreseeing new profits from the expansion of health coverage, they are spending as much as $150 million on advertisements to support the president’s plan.

To their embarrassment, however, Mr. Armey has continued to oppose the plan as the chairman of the independent conservative group FreedomWorks. The group has helped turn out rowdy demonstrators at town-hall-style meetings with lawmakers around the country.

Click to continue reading Drug Firms Cost Dick Armey His Lobby Job – NYTimes.com]

Not Every Object Contains Meaning

Somewhat annoyingly, David Kirkpatrick, the journalist who filed this story, didn’t bother to cite the blogs who broke the story:

And some liberal Web sites began connecting Mr. Armey’s fight against the health care legislation to his other work for DLA Piper’s drug company clients.

Would it have been that difficult to name these “liberal Web sites”? If Reuters or The Washington Post or even Bill Moyers had first reported the connection, the New York Times would have mentioned them by name, like in this story about a possible competitor to Nielsen:

The plan was first reported by The Financial Times.

A simple declarative sentence giving credit where credit is due.

I still don’t know who first reported the news. Was it Talking Points Memo? or somebody else.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 15th, 2009 at 9:14 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Blue Dog Democrats and Their Master

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AT&T was thankful to the Blue Dog Democrats, and others, who gave the telecom corporations retroactive immunity for breaking the law, and spying on Americans without warrants, before 9-11 even happened, so AT&T threw a lavish, private gala. A group of blogger activists tried to find out exactly who was invited to this special FISA party, but even though the party was held on public land, they were thrown out by Denver Police.

Last night in Denver, at the Mile High Station — next to Invesco Stadium, where Barack Obama will address a crowd of 30,000 people on Thursday night — AT&T threw a lavish, private party for Blue Dog House Democrats, virtually all of whom blindly support whatever legislation the telecom industry demands and who also, specifically, led the way this July in immunizing AT&T and other telecoms from the consequences for their illegal participation in the Bush administration’s warrantless spying program. Matt Stoller has one of the listings for the party here.

Armed with full-scale Convention press credentials issued by the DNC, I went — along with Firedoglake’s Jane Hamsher, John Amato, Stoller and others — in order to cover the event, interview the attendees, and videotape the festivities. There was a wall of private security deployed around the building, and after asking where the press entrance was, we were told by the security officials, after they consulted with event organizers, that the press was barred from the event, and that only those with invitations could enter — notwithstanding the fact that what was taking place in side was a meeting between one of the nation’s largest corporations and the numerous members of the most influential elected faction in Congress. As a result, we stood in front of the entrance and began videotaping and trying to interview the parade of Blue Dog Representatives, AT&T executives, assorted lobbyists and delegates who pulled up in rented limousines, chauffeured cars, and SUVs in order to find out who was attending and why AT&T would be throwing such a lavish party for the Blue Dog members of Congress.

Amazingly, not a single one of the 25-30 people we tried to interview would speak to us about who they were, how they got invited, what the party’s purpose was, why they were attending, etc. One attendee said he was with an “energy company,” and the other confessed she was affiliated with a “trade association,” but that was the full extent of their willingness to describe themselves or this event. It was as though they knew they’re part of a filthy and deeply corrupt process and were ashamed of — or at least eager to conceal — their involvement in it. After just a few minutes, the private security teams demanded that we leave, and when we refused and continued to stand in front trying to interview the reticent attendees, the Denver Police forced us to move further and further away until finally we were unable to approach any more of the arriving guests.

[From AT&T thanks the Blue Dog Democrats with a lavish party – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com]

Shriveled

Video of the event is now available, and a transcript of Democracy Now!’s video of the same event here

GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, it’s amazing. And essentially, we probably tried to interview twenty-five, thiry people going in, and every last person refused to even give their name, identify themselves, say what they’re here for, what the event is for. It’s more secretive than like a Dick Cheney energy council meeting. I mean, it’s amazing.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what are you here for? Why do you want to interview people?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, because, I mean, it’s extraordinary that the same Blue Dogs that just gave this extremely corrupt gift to AT&T are now attending a party underwritten by AT&T, the purpose of which is to thank the Blue Dogs for the corrupt legislative gift that they got. So AT&T gives money to Blue Dogs, the Blue Dogs turn around and immunize AT&T from lawbreaking, and then AT&T throws a party at the Democratic convention thanking them, and then they all go in and into this exclusive club.

and:

GLENN GREENWALD: Absolutely. I mean, I found the symbolism of the event very revealing. First of all, as you say, there was a very intended-to-be-intimidating wall of private security surrounding the event, and they were actually infinitely more aggressive and angrier than the Denver police were. And in fact, I was there with Jane Hamsher, the blogger from FireDogLake, who at one point was trying to speak with one of the individuals entering the party, and she was physically pushed by one of the private security members, notwithstanding the fact that the Denver police had been there the entire time, navigating and negotiating where it was that we could stand. The other aspect of it was, was that what the police had been clearly trained to do is create this façade of being accommodating and cooperative and pleasant, but what it really does is it masks the fact that their strategy is to ensure that any sort of dissident voices, or people off script, are relegated to places where they can’t really be heard.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s very hard to figure out in these situations. You know, you have a sidewalk, which is owned by the private venue, and where the public can use the public sidewalk, they’re showing you the cracks, the crevices in the sidewalk, and they’re saying that’s theirs, this is yours.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right, well, I mean, I found that very odd, too. At first, we were told that we could stand in a certain place that was on one side of one of the cracks that appeared in the sidewalk, and I was kind of amazed that the Denver police knew with such precision, based on the cracks in the sidewalk, where private and public property were demarcated. But when it turned out that where we were told to stand originally still enabled us to accost the people who were exiting the cars and try to interview them, suddenly the cracks in the sidewalk shifted to a place further away, and then suddenly that became the public-private line, and then we were told to stand there.

Who needs civil liberties when there are pageants to present!

Written by Seth Anderson

August 26th, 2008 at 10:56 am

The McCain We Still Don’t Know

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Frank Rich marvels at the wholly, demonstrably false portrait of John McCain that so many moderately informed people still have.

What is widely known is the skin-deep, out-of-date McCain image. As this fairy tale has it, the hero who survived the Hanoi Hilton has stood up as rebelliously in Washington as he did to his Vietnamese captors. He strenuously opposed the execution of the Iraq war; he slammed the president’s response to Katrina; he fought the “agents of intolerance” of the religious right; he crusaded against the G.O.P. House leader Tom DeLay, the criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and their coterie of influence-peddlers.

With the exception of McCain’s imprisonment in Vietnam, every aspect of this profile in courage is inaccurate or defunct.

McCain never called for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired and didn’t start criticizing the war plan until late August 2003, nearly four months after “Mission Accomplished.” By then the growing insurgency was undeniable. On the day Hurricane Katrina hit, McCain laughed it up with the oblivious president at a birthday photo-op in Arizona. McCain didn’t get to New Orleans for another six months and didn’t sharply express public criticism of the Bush response to the calamity until this April, when he traveled to the Gulf Coast in desperate search of election-year pageantry surrounding him with black extras.

McCain long ago embraced the right’s agents of intolerance, even spending months courting the Rev. John Hagee, whose fringe views about Roman Catholics and the Holocaust were known to anyone who can use the Internet. (Once the McCain campaign discovered YouTube, it ditched Hagee.) On Monday McCain is scheduled to appear at an Atlanta fund-raiser being promoted by Ralph Reed, who is not only the former aide de camp to one of the agents of intolerance McCain once vilified (Pat Robertson) but is also the former Abramoff acolyte showcased in McCain’s own Senate investigation of Indian casino lobbying.

Though the McCain campaign announced a new no-lobbyists policy three months after The Washington Post’s February report that lobbyists were “essentially running” the whole operation, the fact remains that McCain’s top officials and fund-raisers have past financial ties to nearly every domestic and foreign flashpoint, from Fannie Mae to Blackwater to Ahmad Chalabi to the government of Georgia. No sooner does McCain flip-flop on oil drilling than a bevy of Hess Oil family members and executives, not to mention a lowly Hess office manager and his wife, each give a maximum $28,500 to the Republican Party.

[From Frank Rich – The Candidate We Still Don’t Know – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com]

and there is this:

Most Americans still don’t know, as Marshall writes, that on the campaign trail “McCain frequently forgets key elements of policies, gets countries’ names wrong, forgets things he’s said only hours or days before and is frequently just confused.” Most Americans still don’t know it is precisely for this reason that the McCain campaign has now shut down the press’s previously unfettered access to the candidate on the Straight Talk Express.

To appreciate the discrepancy in what we know about McCain and Obama, merely look at the coverage of the potential first ladies. We have heard too much indeed about Michelle Obama’s Princeton thesis, her pay raises at the University of Chicago hospital, her statement about being “proud” of her country and the false rumor of a video of her ranting about “whitey.” But we still haven’t been inside Cindy McCain’s tax returns, all her multiple homes or private plane. The Los Angeles Times reported in June that Hensley & Company, the enormous beer distributorship she controls, “lobbies regulatory agencies on alcohol issues that involve public health and safety,” in opposition to groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The McCain campaign told The Times that Mrs. McCain’s future role in her beer empire won’t be revealed before the election.

One of the most telling metrics is that there are Republicans who know McCain well, and they are campaigning for Obama:

Some of those who know McCain best — Republicans — are tougher on him than the press is. Rita Hauser, who was a Bush financial chairwoman in New York in 2000 and served on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board in the administration’s first term, joined other players in the G.O.P. establishment in forming Republicans for Obama last week. Why? The leadership qualities she admires in Obama — temperament, sustained judgment, the ability to play well with others — are missing in McCain. “He doesn’t listen carefully to people and make reasoned judgments,” Hauser told me. “If John says ‘I’m going with so and so,’ you can’t count on that the next morning,” she complained, adding, “That’s not the man we want for president.”

Written by Seth Anderson

August 17th, 2008 at 11:47 am

Chevron and McCain

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Saint McCain and his lobbyist pals, topic de jour. This time, trying to help out poor little Chevron from court ordered obligations to pay for its environmental disasters in Ecuador. Chevron, and friends, wants the Bush Administration to “quash” the case.

In 1993, a class action lawsuit on behalf of an estimated 30,000 Amazon residents was filed against oil giant Chevron, who at the time had recently purchased Texaco. The lawsuit alleged that Chevron was responsible for Texaco intentionally dumping “more than 19 billion gallons of toxic wastewaters” and “16.8 million gallons of crude oil” into Ecuador’s environment.

[snip]

Chevron’s lobbying offensive is being led by former senators Trent Lott and John Breaux, along with Wayne Berman, a top fundraiser for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ):

Chevron is pushing the Bush administration to take the extraordinary step of yanking special trade preferences for Ecuador if the country’s leftist government doesn’t quash the case. A spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab confirmed that her office is considering the request. Attorney Steven Donziger, who is coordinating the D.C. opposition to Chevron, says the firm is “trying to get the country to cry uncle.” He adds: “It’s the crudest form of power politics.”

Chevron’s powerhouse team includes former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, former Democratic senator John Breaux and Wayne Berman, a top fund-raiser for John McCain—all with access to Washington’s top decision makers.

So far, Chevron’s power push has resulted in “a senior Chevron exec” meeting with Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte “on the matter.” “One Chevron lobbyist” told Newsweek that the company’s argument to the Bush administration is: “We can’t let little countries screw around with big companies like this—companies that have made big investments around the world.”

[From Think Progress » Top McCain Fundraiser Lobbying Bush Admin To Help ‘Quash’ Toxic-Dumping Case For Chevron ]

Written by Seth Anderson

July 29th, 2008 at 11:49 am

Lobbyist Love McCain to the Tune of $181,000, so far

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More to come of course. Much, much more to come.

Loneliness is an ATM

Registered lobbyists have donated large amounts of money to Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign, even as he denounces their profession.

[From Lobbyist Reports Show $181,000 for McCain – NYTimes.com]

Saint McCain loves the lobbyists right back, of course.

So far, Mr. McCain, who has locked up the Republican presidential nomination, has received more than $181,600 from lobbyists and trade groups, while Mr. Obama has received just over $6,000. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who ended her bid for the presidency in June, got more than $87,000.

The gifts are disclosed in “lobbying contribution reports” filed with Congress under the ethics law, which was adopted last year in response to scandals involving the lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Under the law, lobbyists must itemize their contributions to political candidates and committees, presidential libraries and events honoring members of Congress. Lobbyists face criminal penalties for failure to comply with the disclosure requirements.

Employees at Republican lobbying firms like Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock have made many contributions to Mr. McCain and other Republican lawmakers, including the Senate and House minority leaders and the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Some lobbyists chafe at being asked for money by the McCain campaign while he disparages lobbyists as agents of “big-moneyed special interests.” But they know that such criticism is a staple of politics.

Implication being, all the fulminations are just for show, and Saint McCain really loves lobbyists underneath it all. A big fat hypocrite, to be blunt.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 29th, 2008 at 9:39 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

McCain: Lobbyist’s Bitch

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John McCain never met a lobbyist he didn’t like, especially ones who are affiliated with the International Republican Institute.

Beer Money at the MCA

Over the years, Mr. McCain has nurtured a reputation1 for bucking the Republican establishment and criticizing the influence of special interests in politics. But an examination of his leadership of the Republican institute — one of the least-chronicled aspects of his political life — reveals an organization in many ways at odds with the political outsider image that has become a touchstone of the McCain campaign for president.

Certainly the institute’s mission is in keeping with Mr. McCain’s full-throated support for exporting American democratic values. Yet the institute is also something of a revolving door for lobbyists and out-of-power Republicans that offers big donors a way of helping both the party and the institute’s chairman, who is the only sitting member of Congress — and now candidate for president — ever to head one of the democracy groups.

Operating without the sort of limits placed on campaign fund-raising, the institute under Mr. McCain has solicited millions of dollars for its operations from some 560 defense contractors, lobbying firms, oil companies and other corporations, many with issues before Senate committees Mr. McCain was on.

[From McCain’s Lobbyst-Laden Group – International Republican Institute Gives Donors Access – NYTimes.com]

A few of the more prominent friends of Saint McCain:

First up that night in September 2006 was the institute’s vice chairman, Peter T. Madigan, a McCain campaign fund-raiser and lobbyist whose clients span the globe, from Dubai to Colombia. He thanked Timothy P. McKone, an AT&T lobbyist and McCain fund-raiser, for helping with the dinner arrangements and then introduced the chairman of AT&T, Edward E. Whitacre Jr., whose company had donated $200,000 for the event.

AT&T at the time was seeking political support for an $80 billion merger with BellSouth — another Madigan client — and Mr. Whitacre lavished praise on Mr. McCain, a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee. When Mr. McCain finally took the podium, he expressed “profound thanks” to AT&T before presenting the institute’s Freedom Award to the president of Liberia, a lobbying client ofCharlie Black, an institute donor and McCain campaign adviser.

The parade of lobbyists and fund-raisers at the dinner is emblematic of Mr. McCain’s tenure at the institute, one of a pair of nonprofit groups — taxpayer-financed and each allied with one of the two major political parties

If anything, the overlaps seem more pronounced in his latest quest for the presidency, and they involve institute board members associated with his campaign and donors with interests before the Senate. Mr. Madigan, the institute’s vice chairman and a McCain fund-raiser, represented the government of El Salvador in 2004, when the institute was monitoring presidential elections there. Mr. Madigan’s firm has represented six foreign governments and sometimes lobbied Mr. McCain’s Senate office.

Among those clients is the government of Colombia, which has paid the firm at least $590,000 over the last 18 months. One issue Mr. Madigan has been pushing on behalf of the Colombians is a pending free trade agreement with the United States. Several weeks ago, Mr. McCain traveled to Colombia and, in keeping with his views on trade, spoke about the need for the accord.

Another board member is the McCain campaign’s chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann. Until March, he was registered as a lobbyist for several foreign governments, and he represented the government of Georgia last January when the institute sent election monitors there. Since joining the institute in 2004, Mr. Scheunemann has spoken with Mr. McCain or his Senate aides at least 42 times on behalf of his foreign lobbying clients

Update – a brief history of the International Republican Institute

Presidential hopeful John McCain is hiding a skeleton in his closet. Not your typical political scandal, Senator McCain’s dirty little secret is his longtime involvement with the International Republican Institute (IRI), an organization that operates in 60 countries and is budgeted by millions of US taxpayer dollars each year. The IRI is “officially” a politically independent entity, though in reality it is aligned in most respects with the Republican Party and its ideals. Senator McCain has been chairman of the IRI since 1993 and Lorne Craner, president of the organization, is one of the presumptive Republican candidate’s informal foreign policy advisors. If McCain’s involvement with the IRI does not worry Latin America yet, it certainly will if the policies that have had such a destructive influence in the past are backed by the power of the presidency. His connection to the IRI could endanger already stressed US-Latin American relations in the event of a McCain victory.

[From A Hidden Agenda: John McCain and the IRI by Sarah Hamburger]

More on that topic later

Footnotes:
  1. for some reason, even though McCain’s love for lobbyist cash has never been hidden, nor his love for Republican talking points []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 28th, 2008 at 3:11 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

Blood, Oil, and Iraq

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Blood, Big Oil, and Iraq met in a back room in Houston somewhere, and agreed that no-bid contracts to drain Iraq of its oil would be a good thing for American taxpayers to fund. I’m sure the Iraqis are thrilled.

BAGHDAD — Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.

Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.

The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations.

The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India. The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts in a country that many experts consider to be the best hope for a large-scale increase in oil production.

There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.

[From Deals With Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back – NYTimes.com]

The Big Oil companies didn’t even make an attempt to seem equitable. There is also suspicion in the non-Arab world that George Bush and Dick Cheney went to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract.

The first oil contracts for the majors in Iraq are exceptional for the oil industry.

They include a provision that could allow the companies to reap large profits at today’s prices: the ministry and companies are negotiating payment in oil rather than cash.

“These are not actually service contracts,” Ms. Benali said. “They were designed to circumvent the legislative stalemate” and bring Western companies with experience managing large projects into Iraq before the passage of the oil law.

A clause in the draft contracts would allow the companies to match bids from competing companies to retain the work once it is opened to bidding, according to the Iraq country manager for a major oil company who did not consent to be cited publicly discussing the terms.

Blood for Oil, in other words.

Written by Seth Anderson

June 19th, 2008 at 11:56 am

Posted in News-esque

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Oil Industry and Congress

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Do Not Oil Probe Shaft
[Do Not Oil Probe Shaft]

Oil Industry and Congress: Bitter friends and fast enemies, err, something like that. Both sides of the aisle have an interest in appearing to do something about the ginormous oil industry profits, and subsequent high gas prices for consumers. Fortunately, they managed to avoid actually making any changes.

A package of measures targeting oil-company profits and market speculators failed to reach a vote in the Senate Tuesday, as Republicans blocked Congress’s first effort to address a record surge in oil prices.

Congress and the oil and financial industries are locked in an escalating public confrontation over where to fix blame for oil’s run-up. But industry lobbyists are also huddling privately with lawmakers to horse-trade over measures that could attack the oil issue and work to industry’s advantage.

One way the oil industry could be a winner in the end is through an easing of restrictions on domestic drilling. Republicans have long pushed for more domestic drilling as one response to high oil prices — although it could take years for any new U.S. oil find to have an impact on global prices. Industry lobbyists hope exploration will prove newly palatable to Democrats who are under pressure from voters as well as lobbyists from airline, trucking and manufacturing industries.

[From Lawmakers, Industry Clash And Cooperate as Oil Plans Take Shape – WSJ.com]

The NYT had a slightly different angle on the story, concentrating on the $17,000,000,000 worth of tax breaks the poor, poor oil companies require to conduct business. Without the subsidies, Big Oil would go bankrupt in a minute or two. Luckily for Big Oil, Congress is happy continuing the dole.

A Democratic proposal to impose heavier taxes on big oil companies stalled in the Senate on Tuesday as Republicans and Democrats offered different ideas on how to deal with soaring energy costs.

A bill that would have rolled back some $17 billion in tax breaks on Big Oil and pressured the companies to invest in new energy sources by hitting them with a windfall-profits tax if they did not failed to get enough votes to move forward. Fifty-one senators voted to bring the measure up for consideration, but that was nine short of the number needed under Senate rules. Forty-three senators, most of them Republicans, voted “no.”

The oil-tax proposal was one of two energy-related bills that failed to advance. The other was a proposal to amend the Internal Revenue Code by providing “incentives for energy production and conservation, to extend certain expiring provisions, to provide individual income tax relief, and for other purposes,” as the measure to promote new energy sources was officially described. The vote to take up that legislation was 50-44, or 10 “yes” votes fewer than necessary.

The votes were against a backdrop of $4-a-gallon gasoline and oil prices that have gone over $139 a barrel just at the start of the summer vacation season.

[From 2 Energy Bills, Including Windfall Tax, Stall in Senate – NYTimes.com]

Because the bill was so important, everyone didn’t bother to show up to vote:

Senate Democratic leaders were reportedly resigned to defeat on the oil-tax bill and did not ask Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, who just completed their months-long competition for the presidential nomination, to show up for the vote. The other four absentees were John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee for president; Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Democrats who have been ill.

Six Republicans voted “yes” on the oil-tax bill. They were Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, John W. Warner of Virginia, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Susan M. Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, both of Maine. Only two Democrats voted “no,” Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Harry Reid of Nevada. Mr. Reid, the majority leader, may have voted “no” in a parliamentary move to preserve his right to bring up the proposal again.

Back to the Wall Street Journal, which notes both parties heavily depend upon lobbyists to help legislators make informed decisions. Well, informed in the sense of campaign contributions and three hour luncheons.

As the various proposals fly, lawmakers are choosing sides based partly on whether oil or finance companies contribute most to their home states.

Democratic Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has investigators looking into the role of big Wall Street brokerage houses in oil trading. Other Democrats have focused their attacks on oil companies.

Oil- and finance-industry lobbyists have blanketed Washington with advertising deflecting blame for the crisis. In a letter to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee member Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), Exxon Mobil Corp. blamed financial speculators for more than half the price of a barrel of crude.

The American Petroleum Institute is running newspaper ads depicting a crying baby, to imply that oil-company taxes will hurt consumers most. The API also is touting its study by Robert Shapiro, a former undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs under President Bill Clinton, showing that Middle America holds most “Big Oil” shares. The trade group declined to comment.

Outside of camera range, lawmakers are turning to industry lobbyists for guidance on problems rooted in the opaque economics of commodities markets.

[snip]

Congressional staffers in both parties acknowledged the cooperation. “You do not want to do Band-Aid strategies,” said a House staffer. “We’re trying to talk to everyone we need to.”

Written by Seth Anderson

June 11th, 2008 at 12:13 pm

Abramoff Down the Memory Hole

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Just a little taste of how President Obama’s administration is going to be covered. Hint: it won’t be as soft as the coverage of the current Resident, not by a long shot. At least there is a stronger alternative media/blogosphere than existed in the 1990s.

George Zornick writes: Yesterday, a congressional report revealed that disgraced uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion, and remains at the center of one of the largest influence-peddling scandals in recent memory, met with the president of the United States at least six times and that there were over 150 verifiable contacts between Abramoff and White House officials, and probably many more — these contacts included White House officials who went to Abramoff “seeking tickets to sporting and entertainment events, as they did seeking input on personnel picks for plum jobs.” When asked about the report, White House spokesman Tony Fratto’s dismissive response was, “Give me a break.”

Luckily for Fratto, the press largely did. These revelations were not reported on any of the major networks broadcasts last night. Nor could the story be found on the front page of The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, or The Washington Post today.

This is nothing new for coverage of the Abramoff scandal. Recall, back when the scandal broke in 2005, that the press largely refused to hold Republicans responsible for what was clearly a Republican scandal of epic proportions. (None other than the National Review’s Rich Lowry wrote that the Abramoff mess “is, in its essence, a Republican scandal, and any attempt to portray it otherwise is a misdirection.”)

But the press didn’t usually agree. For example:

Chris Matthews asked, while discussing the scandal in January 2006, “[D]on’t you have to be a real ideologue, a real partisan to believe that one party’s more crooked than the other?”
No Democrat ever took money from Abramoff directly. But that didn’t stop NPR’s Mara Liasson from saying it, nor Tim Russert, nor Katie Couric, nor Bill O’Reilly, nor the AP, nor The New York Times.

The Washington Post uncritically reported Grover Norquist’s claim that Abramoff didn’t meet with President Bush in May 2001, even though there was a photo reported to show that Abramoff was there.

David Brooks baselessly claimed Abramoff only met with Bush twice, based on some incomplete Secret Service logs, and Brit Hume did the same, even though the White House itself acknowledged there were more visits not mentioned in those logs.

The press also repeatedly brushed off the scandal — The New York Times’ Anne Kornblut, only hours after the Associated Press reported that Abramoff told Vanity Fair magazine he had close ties with President Bush and White House senior adviser Karl Rove, cited what she called “good news” for the White House, which is that “no one’s talking about Jack Abramoff anymore.” Chris Matthews predicted in early 2006, “It’s not going to be part of a larger story of Washington this year, I think.”

When this same House panel released a preliminary report on the Abramoff/White House connections in 2006, revealing far more ties than previously acknowledged, CBS and NBC didn’t cover it at all. That same report led directly to the resignation of Susan Ralston, a senior adviser to Karl Rove. But the three major networks — on all shows, morning, evening, and weekend — completely ignored the resignation, fulfilling White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino’s prediction that “nothing more will come from the [congressional] report, no further fallout from the report.”

And then there’s the current “break” being given to the White House. Which all, of course, leads to this question: What if this had happened to a Democratic president, and Abramoff’s name was Jim McDougal?

(Here’s a clue: Yesterday on Fox News, the name “Rezko” was mentioned 19 times, and the name “Abramoff” zero times, according to Lexis).

[From Media Matters – Altercation by Eric Alterman]

Can we elect a new national corporate media in 2008 as well? Please?

Written by Seth Anderson

June 10th, 2008 at 1:42 pm

Lieberman and Graham, Conflicted

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Random Colored Lights and Moon
[click to embiggen]

McCain supporters feign surprise that they are expected to follow the candidate’s public policy announcements. They thought they’d be able to continue being as corrupt as before, and nobody would pay attention. Notice – neither paragon of virtue, Lieberman nor Graham, decided to step down until after reporters asked uncomfortable questions.

Senators Joseph I. Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, prominent surrogates for Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign, stepped down Wednesday from their positions with an independent group that released a pair of Internet advertisements attacking Senator Barack Obama on Iraq.

Mr. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Mr. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, were both on the policy advisory board to the organization, Vets for Freedom, which on Wednesday released its second Web advertisement in less than a week attacking Mr. Obama.

The senators’ positions with the group, which describes itself as a grass-roots advocacy organization pushing for victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, seemed to place them in contravention of new conflict-of-interest rules released by Mr. McCain’s campaign that specifically prohibit anyone “with a McCain campaign title or position” from participating in a “527 or other independent entity that makes public communications that support or oppose any presidential candidate.”

After inquiries from reporters, the senators released a joint letter to Vets for Freedom on Wednesday saying they had requested a leave from their positions to come into compliance with the new policy.

[From Lieberman and Graham, Senators for McCain, Leave Group After Ads Attacking Obama – NYTimes.com]

Remind me again why Holy Joe Lieberman is a Democratic Superdelegate? Didn’t the DNC strip Zell Miller of his status after Senator Miller fulminated in support of Bush? Shouldn’t Lieberman lose his chairmanships too? He obviously has little in common with the Democrats anymore. I wonder what Connecticut voters think of him now?


Ooops, my mistake, Lieberman has been stripped of his super delegate status.

Thanks to Zell Miller, there is a rule to deal with Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman’s endorsement of Republican John McCain disqualifies him as a super-delegate to the Democratic National Convention under what is informally known as the Zell Miller rule, according to Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo.

Miller, then a Democratic senator from Georgia, not only endorsed Republican George Bush four years ago, but he delivered a vitriolic attack on Democrat John Kerry at the Republican National Convention.

The Democrats responded with a rule disqualifying any Democrat who crosses the aisle from being a super delegate. Lieberman will not be replaced, DiNardo said.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 29th, 2008 at 8:38 am

Posted in politics

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