The US Chamber of Commerce is running a $75 mln campaign to unseat progressives from Congress as it advocates a big business and big oil agenda. Its political spending is supposed to be simply running issue ads during the election season, but a review of 70 Chamber-produced ads found that 93% of them oppose Democrats and/or support Republicans. The money includes foreign corporations whose dues go to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6) account, which is used to fund political ads, but the big money comes from 45 corporations, some of which report to overseas masters. They accounted nearly half the Chamber’s $140 mln in contributions in 2008, but after the Republican Supreme Court relaxed the rules, they have stepped up their game for 2010 as the Chamber plans to spend at least $200 mln this year, the New York Times reported (10/22).

The Times reported that Dow Chemical gave the Chamber $1.7 mln last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting rules that would impose more regulations on chemical plants. Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco and Aegon, an insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 mln in recent years to a Chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending. Prudential Financial’s $2 mln donation last year coincided with the Chamber’s lobbying against elements of the financial regulation bill in Congress. Aetna joined other health insurers wo funnel $20 mln to the Chamber to kill health reform.

The large donations are not publicly disclosed by the Chamber, which is a tax-exempt group that keeps its donors secret and has vigorously opposed efforts in Congress to require groups like it to identify their biggest contributors when they spend money on campaign ads. But the reporters pieced together the contributions through tax filings of corporate foundations and other public records of the corporations.

Using public corporate records, ThinkProgress found more dues-paying members of the Chamber. The numbers below reflect a bare minimum, and in many cases these corporations have paid ten times the amount of their regular dues to the Chamber in the past two years:

• Microsoft’s corporate disclosures state that the company paid the Chamber up to $999,999 in 2009 and up to $999,999 in 2010 in its minimum dues.

• Procter and Gamble paid the Chamber $3.2 mln in 2009.

• Outsourcing giant CSC, which specializes in IT outsourcing, paid the Chamber at least $100,000 in 2009 and $100,000 in 2010.

• Intel paid the Chamber at least $100,000 in yearly dues ($100,000 in 2010, and what appears to be $100,000 in 2009).

• Drug company Merck paid the Chamber $234,000 in 2008, and still counts itself as a dues-paying member.

• Utility company Dominion Resources gave the Chamber $100,000 in 2009.

• On the Chamber’s Egypt Business Council website, Apache Corporation, British American Tobacco, The Blackstone Group, The Boeing Company, Cargill USA, CitiGroup, The Coca-Cola Company, ExxonMobil, Google, Microsoft Corporation, PepsiCo, Intel Corporation, Monsanto Company, Pfizer Inc, Philip Morris International combined committed an additional $375,000 to the Chamber for 2009-2010.

Earlier this year, US Chamber CEO Tom Donohue admitted to ThinkProgress that CitiGroup, a bailed out financial conglomerate that still has not paid back taxpayer TARP funds, is a dues-paying member of the Chamber. Many bailed out banks are in fact dues-paying members of the Chamber. A HuffingtonPost crowd-sourced study of the Chamber found that there are dozens of other large corporations that have indicated membership in the Chamber, but have refused to confess their level of involvement. The Chamber has shilled for BP, and Donohue said after BP’s spill that taxpayers should pay for the clean up. Indeed, BP admitted membership, but has not disclosed how much they pay to the Chamber.

A ThinkProgress investigation found at least 80 foreign businesses have been paying the Chamber at least $885,000 in yearly dues for the last two years. The money went directly to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6), the same account the Chamber is now using to run a $75 mln attack campaign against Democrats. As we have shown, many of the foreign corporations have a direct stake in American public policy; for instance the Chamber has been the most vigorous lobbying operation in DC to promote outsourcing of American jobs. Of course, many other corporation join the Chamber to benefit from its right-wing corporate lobbying campaign, like keeping corporate tax loopholes open (Chamber members CitiGroup, ExxonMobil and Bank of America already paid no corporate income taxes last year) and maintaining the status quo on energy policy so the fossil fuel industry can emit carbon pollution free of charge.

ThinkProgress also reported that large European polluters like BP, BASF, Bayer and Solvay, through US subsidiaries and employees, have donated $240,200 to candidates who have either voiced opposition to addressing global warming, or who have actively blocked legislation that would do so. For example, Bayer, which emitted 2 mln metric tons of CO2 in Europe last year, gave almost 73% of its donations to such candidates, like the $5,000 it gave to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who opposes the EPA finding that greenhouse gases are pollution and opposes a cap-and-trade market to limit global warming pollution. The donations largely favored Republicans, but — demonstrating that stopping progress on addressing global warming was the key goal of these companies — select Democrats were given donations as well. Bayer gave even more money to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who has been a key swing vote in the Senate and also opposes EPA action on global warming pollution.

George Zornick noted at ThinkProgress that many of these companies are involved in the debate over controlling global warming in Europe, and perversely, often cite inaction in the United States as a reason that serious efforts shouldn’t be made in Europe. “The strategy for these companies is clear: stop progress on global warming in the United States by supporting these candidates, and then blame that inaction when arguing that nothing should be done in the rest of the world to address global warming,” Zornick wrote.

BIGGEST MYTHS ABOUT OBAMANATION. Dave Johnson of OurFuture.org (10/22) compiled “Eight False Things the Public ‘Knows’ Prior to Election Day.” The eight biggest myths include:

1) President Obama tripled the deficit.

Reality: Bush’s last budget had a $1.416 tln deficit. Obama’s first budget reduced that to $1.29 tln.

2) President Obama raised taxes, which hurt the economy.

Reality: Obama cut taxes. 40% of the “stimulus” was wasted on tax cuts which only create debt, which is why it was so much less effective than it could have been.

3) President Obama bailed out the banks.

Reality: While many people conflate the “stimulus” with the bank bailouts, the bank bailouts were requested by President Bush and his Treasury Secretary, former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson. (Paulson also wanted the bailouts to be “non-reviewable by any court or any agency.”) The bailouts passed and began before the 2008 election of President Obama.

4) The stimulus didn’t work.

Reality: The stimulus worked, but was not enough. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus raised employment by between 1.4 mln and 3.3 mln jobs.

5) Businesses will hire if they get tax cuts.

Reality: A business hires the right number of employees to meet demand. Having extra cash does not cause a business to hire, but a business that has a demand for what it does will find the money to hire. Businesses want customers, not tax cuts.

6) Health care reform costs $1 tln.

Reality: The health care reform reduces government deficits by $138 bln.

7) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, is “going broke,” people live longer, fewer workers per retiree, etc.

Reality: Social Security has run a surplus since it began, has a trust fund in the trillions, is completely sound for at least 25 more years and cannot legally borrow so cannot contribute to the deficit (compare that to military budget!) Life expectancy is only longer because fewer babies die; people who reach 65 live about the same number of years as they used to.

8) Government spending takes money out of the economy.

Reality: Government is We, the People and the money it spends is on We, the People. Many people do not know that it is government that builds the roads, airports, ports, courts, schools and other things that are the soil in which business thrives. Many people think that all government spending is on “welfare” and “foreign aid” when that is only a small part of the government’s budget.

WHY DOES SOCIAL SECURITY DRIVE REPUBLICANS CRAZY? Bill Scher of OurFuture.org (10/22) compiled the Top 10 Crazy Things Conservatives Say About Social Security:

10) “ We need to phase Medicare and Social Security out in favor of something privatized.”“ — Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle

9) “I don’t know whether it’s constitutional or not. It is certainly a horrible policy … I don’t know that the federal government should be involved in a retirement plan … the idea that the federal government should be running healthcare or retirement … is fundamentally against what I believe and that is that the private sector runs programs like that far better.” — Colorado Senate candidate Ken Buck

8) “How is Social Security different from a giant Ponzi scheme?” — Wisconsin Senate candidate Ron Johnson

7) “You’re going to have to have eligibility changes for the younger people.” — Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul.

6) “…getting the retirement age to 70 is a step that needs to be taken.” –House Minority Leader John Boehner

5) “Babies that are born today, I don’t think we have that security net for them. We tell them, take personal responsibility. We put some incentives in place for private retirement accounts and health care accounts.” — South Carolina congressional candidate Jeff Duncan.

4) “I would argue that you don’t really have to worry about a fluctuation in the stock market” — Pa. Senate candidate Pat Toomey defending his plan to privatize Social Security.

3) “What I’m hearing from the oil patch is they’re not allowing drilling on a lot of their acres … maybe if the federal government would increase its permitting, and take that asset that they’ve got as minerals now, shift that asset to shore up Social Security, it would make sense to do that.” – North Dakota congressional candidate Rick Berg.

2) “…1937 the Social Security Act was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt … And it started at age 65, but the average life expectancy for the American male was only age 59. It was never intended for them to get it. This was about patronage. This was about buying votes. It was never intended to be a legitimate program ever.” — Wisconsin congressional candidate Reid Ribble

... And Number 1! CNN: “How about an American born tomorrow or born the day after Joe Miller was sworn in in Washington? Would that person perhaps grow up in an America where there is not a federal Social Security program if you got your way?” Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miler: “Absolutely.”

GOP PLAN WOULD CUT SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS. The Social Security Administration’s chief actuary analyzed the Republican proposal to overhaul Social Security and found that it would substantially reduce expected benefits for people now entering the workforce. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), ranking Repub on the Budget Committee, has proposed raising the retirement age by linking it to life expectancy and slowing the growth in Social Security benefits by changing the way they are indexed.

A worker born in 1985 whose earnings averaged $43,000 would receive 17% less at retirement than promised under current law as a result of Ryan’s proposal to change the inflation index. His proposed increase in the retirement age would reduce benefits by another 8%, according to the actuary’s analysis.

The combined effect of the proposals would be to reduce benefits by 24% for someone at the $43,000 income level, according to a separate study released by the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (cbpp.org).

Ways & Means Social Security Chairman Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) noted that Social Security is a self-financing program whose trust fund can pay current benefits at least through 2037.

Progressives have proposed lifting the $106,800 cap on earnings subject to the payroll tax as the least disruptive solution to any projected shortfall.

DEFAZIO EYES SUPREME IMPEACHMENT. It might be late, but Amanda Terkel at HuffingtonPost.com reported Oct. 22 that Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) is investigating grounds for impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for perjury during his confirmation hearings in 2005. “I’m investigating articles of impeachment against Justice Roberts for perjuring during his Senate hearings, where he said he wouldn’t be a judicial activist, and he wouldn’t overturn precedents,” he said.

In his 2005 confirmation hearings, Roberts fsaid, “Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire.”

According to DeFazio, Roberts hasn’t stood by his own doctrine. He pointed to former Justice John Paul Stevens’s dissent in the Citizens United case. “Justice Stevens makes the point that Roberts decided a case that wasn’t even before the Court, and invited the issue before the Court,” said DeFazio. “It was the most extraordinary condemnation I’ve ever read of a perverted majority on the Supreme Court, at least in recent years.”

DeFazio is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, which would likely be responsible for impeachment, but he has been targeted with attack ads by an independent group bankrolled by a hedge fund manager. DeFazio opposed the 2008 bank bailout and has been one of the House’s most dogged advocates for holding banks and speculators accountable.

VOICEMAIL REVIVES 19-YEAR-OLD PERJURY CASE. In other potentially perjurious statements by Supreme Court justices, a former friend of Justice Clarence Thomas has stepped forward to corroborate Anita Hill’s testimony in 1991 that Thomas sexually harassed her. Lillian McEwen, former assistant US attorney and Senate Judiciary Committee counsel, dated Thomas for years. She held her tongue back then, but now she says Thomas often said inappropriate things about women he met at work, Michael A. Fletcher reported in the Washington Post (10/22). McEwen changed her mind after news broke that the justice’s wife, Virginia Thomas, had left a message on Hill’s office phone at Brandeis University seeking an apology for Hill’s accusations against Thomas’ husband 19 years earlier.

In her Senate testimony, Hill, who worked with Thomas at two federal agencies, said that Thomas would make sexual comments to her at work, including references to scenes in hard-core pornographic films.

Thomas denied it. “If I used that kind of grotesque language with one person, it would seem to me that there would be traces of it throughout the employees who worked closely with me, or the other individuals who heard bits and pieces of it or various levels of it,” he told the committee.

McEwen said Thomas was obsessed with porn and he would tell her about women he encountered at work. He was partial to women with large breasts, she said. In an instance at work, Thomas was so impressed that he asked one woman her bra size, McEwen recalled him telling her.

Paul Rosenberg of OpenLeft.com noted (10/24) that Thomas also is widely believed to have perjured himself during the confirmation hearings when he claimed he had never discussed or even thought about Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion in 1973. In 2001, a conservative author, Andrew Peyton Thomas (no kin) published Clarence Thomas: A Biography, which included evidence that Thomas had discussed Roe and thus had perjured himself.

CHINA THREATENS US ACCESS TO HIGH-TECH MINERALS. China apparently has responded to US complaints about its trade practices by embargoing exports of rare earth minerals to the US and Europe, the New York Times reported (10/20). Previously, China had cut off their exports to Japan. The minerals are crucial to the manufacture of clean-energy technology products and China has a near-monopoly on their production.

China’s official stance remained unclear, but reports indicated that shipments to the US and Europe were being held up by customs officials for tighter inspections, one of the explanations given in blocking shipments to Japan recently. The signals of a tougher trade stance from China came after US trade officials announced they would investigate whether China was violating World Trade Organization rules by subsidizing clean energy exports and limiting clean energy imports in an attempt to force multinational corporations to produce more high-tech goods in China.

The United Steelworkers has complained that China has used hundreds of blns of dollars in subsidies, performance requirements and other illegal activities to dominate the renewable energy market.

The US has extensive rare earth deposits, but production was shut down in the past decade. Resuming production could take three to five years and require financial support.

HANDICAPPING 2012 FIELD. At the Texas Book Festival in Austin (10/17), Jonathan Alter, the Newsweek writer who has written The Promise: President Obama, Year One, on Obama’s first year in office, drew groans from the Austin audience when he said there was a “decent chance” that Obama would face Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2012, assuming Perry is re-elected. “He is a telegenic candidate in a field where ... who else is there?”

Ari Berman, political correspondent with The Nation and author of Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, predicted Sarah Palin as the GOP nominee. “I think the Tea Party has proved that they can win primaries and in 2012 they can win Republican primaries,” he said. “And I think that would be the best thing that could happen to Barack Obama.”

William Jelani Cobb, an associate professor of history at Spelman College in Atlanta and author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, said he was not certain that Obama would run for re-election, noting that the president has said he was not beholden to the idea of running again, but Alter noted that Obama told a close friend, “I’m going to have to run because I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Mitt Romney get credit for all the good things we’ve started after we’ve been through all this crap.”

TRANSPORTATION BUILDUP COULD CREATE 3.7M JOBS. Rebuilding the nation’s transportation infrastructure would create 3.7 mln jobs, including 600,000 in manufacturing, at a cost of $40 bln a year for six years, according to the Apollo Alliance (apolloalliance.org).

The Clean Transportation Manufacturing Action Plan calls for investment of $40 bln a year over the next six years to modernize and shore up the nation’s roads, bridges, mass transportation and advanced vehicles. The plan was developed by a bipartisan group of union members, business owners, environmental and community activists and political leaders.

Since 2005, US companies and governments have spent more than $10 bln to purchase rail cars, tracks and other mass transit equipment overseas, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard said in a press conference. That $10 bln should have been spent here. Existing US bus, rail and truck supply chains support some 40,000 US manufacturing jobs and there are more than 375 existing companies that could scale up to meet expanded demand if Congress is willing to put the plan into action, Gerard said.

FORD HAS A CENTRIST IDEA. During 2009, Meet the Press had one guest on more than any other: Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who left office more than a decade ago, made five appearances on NBC’s Sunday morning show, Steve Benen noted at WashingtonMonthly.com (10/25). This year, with more than two months left, Jon Chait of The New Republic noted that Harold Ford, a former congressman who lost a bid for the Senate in 2008, already has been on MTP six times. Chait wrote, “I believe Meet The Press always invites Ford for the same reason there are so many Olive Gardens — you always know exactly what you’re going to get.”

Steve Benen added, “That sounds about right, but I’d add one thing: Harold Ford Jr. is the chair of the Democratic Leadership Council. The Sunday shows tend to go out of their way to avoid Democrats, but when they find a conservative Democrat who’ll argue that the party should move to the right, the bookers are bound to keep bringing him back.”

LOUISIANA STILL BUILDS BERMS AS OIL DISPERSES. Three months after BP capped its runaway well in the Gulf of Mexico, the state of Louisiana is still building a chain of sand berms off its coast to block and capture oil even as federal officials and many scientists argue that the $360 mln effort will prove pointless, the New York Times reported (10/22). Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) exhorted federal officials to approve the project, with BP footing the bill. So far, the berms have captured only 1,000 barrels of oil, according to official estimates, compared with the nearly five mln barrels believed to have spewed from the BP well over all. By contrast, more than 800,000 barrels of oil were captured by BP at the wellhead, and roughly 270,000 barrels of oil were burned off by Coast Guard vessels offshore. Skimming operations, meanwhile, recovered at least 34 mln gallons of oil-water mixture.

Jed Lewison noted at DailyKos.com (10/23) that Jindal’s dumb idea cost $360,000 per barrel of oil captured. “Talk about government waste! I’ll guarantee you this: before this thing is done, we’re going to find out that Bobby’s idiotic idea actually ended up lining the pockets of one of his biggest political contributors.”

MONTANA JUDGE TOSSES CORPORATE POLITICS BAN. A state district judge in Helena, Mont., has followed the US Supreme Court’s lead in the Citizens United decision and overturned the state’s 98-year-old, voter-initiated ban on corporate political spending.

Meteor Blades noted at DailyKos.com (10/21) that one of the plaintiffs, Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, said before the ruling, “There’s a difference between groups like us and the Exxons of the world. ... We don’t want to recreate the Copper Kings era, when they owned Montana and we were servants.”

But Blades noted that another plaintiff, Western Tradition Partnership, promises to keep its contributors secret as it sees to turn back the efforts of what it calls “radical environmentalists.” “The First Amendment was intended to protect citizens from the government, not to shield politicians from criticism,” said Donald Ferguson, Western Tradition Partnership’s executive director (Helena Independent Record, 10/19). “The court has restored fairness and balance to elections by allowing employers to speak freely about the radical environmentalist candidates and issues that threaten your right to earn a living.”

In September, the Billings Gazette reported that an investigation by the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices found evidence that WTP is seeking contributions from officers of corporations based in Canada, South Africa and Britain.

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2010


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