Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Runaway SuperPACs and the Devolution of Mitt Romney

by Nomad
In yet another case of an "evolving" opinion, Republican Mitt Romney has once again betrayed the high-minded rhetoric of his past campaigns in favor of a more corrupt but lucrative political strategy. Romney has now made it quite clear, he has a price and he is ready to take bids.

Back in 1994 in Burlington, Massachusetts, Mitt Romney spoke about the growing influence of political action lobbying organizations. He told the gathered businessmen the Burlington Business Round Table, 
“I also would abolish PACs. You probably have one – I don’t like them. I don’t like the influence of money – whether it’s business, labor or any other group. I do not like that kind of influence. Lobbyists, I want to register, know who they are. I want to make sure gifts are limited. I think we have to really become much more vigilant in seeing the impact on money – and I don’t care how it’s organized – on politics.”
The "evolved" Romney of today is, however, far less idealistic and, with the Supreme Court's support of Citizens United, he seems quite willing to sell himself to whomever has the cash. Romney's SuperPAC (the nonsensically named) Restore Our Future announced in June that it had collected $100 million. Late last year, I wrote a detailed post on the early million dollar contributors to Restore our Future and the methods they used to remain covert. Open Secrets has a updated list of the names and amounts of the top contributors.

Paul Blumenthal, writing for the Huffington Post, recently noted that one notable donor, Sheldon Adelson international casino magnate and eighth richest person in the United States, may have a good motive for purchasing the presidency for Romney. There are reportedly three different investigations into his casino operations in Macau, China, regarding violations to Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)- a 1977 anti-corruption law. 
Campaign finance watchdogs warn that limitless contributions to super PACs today could influence future priorities at the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, where FCPA investigations originate.
The billionaire's business, Las Vegas Sands Inc., faces three FCPA investigations into casino operations in Macau, China. It is alleged that Adelson engaged in bribery of Chinese officials in order to obtain the necessary permission for construction and licensing.
Those investigations center on allegations made by the former Sands China chief executive officer, Steve Jacobs, that payments were made by company representatives in Macau to government officials and deals cut with members of the Chinese mafia known as the Triads.
Adelson, in a character-revealing remark, said he would disprove those claims against him and then "go after" his accuser "in a way that he won’t forget." In other words, it's cement galoshes for you, Bugsy.

And this Adelson case is not alone. Individuals connected to for-profit colleges h
as been generous to Romney in recent months, according to an article from USA Today.   
For-profit colleges and individuals with ties to them have donated $430,000 to a super PAC spending millions of dollars to help elect Republican Mitt Romney to the presidency — as the industry faces intense federal scrutiny over recruitment practices, educational quality and the amount of debt its students incur.
It's safe to assume that such contributors are expecting an "easing off" of pressure when Romney becomes president. However, other donors may have other reasons for delivering the funds to his campaign. The Citizens United decision has made a muddle of previous long-standing laws limiting the amounts of campaign donations from federal contracted corporations. The LA Times explains:
At least five companies with government contracts gave a combined $890,000 to Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney super PAC, a review of federal contracting records and campaign finance data shows.
The article also gives this example:
Oxbow Carbon, a major coal and petroleum company, gave $750,000 to Restore Our Future last year. The private company has sold more than $10 million worth of coal over the last 13 years to the Tennessee Valley Authority, a federally owned corporation created by Congress.
Oxbow's founder, Palm Beach, Fla., billionaire William Koch, gave the super PAC another $250,000 personally, a donation that is not prohibited by the ban. His twin brother, David, and older brother, Charles, are famous for their lavish support for conservative causes.
Bill Burton, a co-founder of Obama's SuperPAC, Priorities USA Action, told CBS News:
"It is no surprise that wealthy Republicans from Wall Street and the oil industry are investing millions in false and misleading attacks on President Obama,..Millionaire Republicans have high stakes in this election -- they know that in a Romney administration, they will make millions when their industries are deregulated, regardless of the devastating impact on the middle class."
*   *   *   *
Thus the much-feared outcome of the dangerously-misguided Citizens United decision has now come to pass. The ever-ambitious Romney has made it clear- despite those fine words in 1994- that he has evolved into something he once rallied against. (How much he meant it then is another matter, of course.) The Romney of this moment would eagerly change any and all of his principles in order to seize the executive branch of government. 

What would once have been considered an influence-peddling scandal in Nixon's time is now accepted election practice for the Republican party. Raising money from highly questionable sources is now not something to hide but something to brag about.  

Update: Only four years, candidate Romney in a Republican debate told the American voters:
I’ve been successful in life, enough to be able to save enough money. I’m using that money in a campaign for a presidency to try and change this country... I’m by far the biggest contributor to my own campaign. People can count on the fact that there’s no nobody that can call me and say, “Hey, look, you owe me,” because they don’t.

But that was before Citizens United changed everything.

Congratulations goes out to the Supreme Court who aided and abetted in the attempted murder of the American Republic. In the short term, Romney might go down in flames. Perhaps in the next election, those that would dole out the dough needed to influence justice or regulations will use a bit more caution, or spend a little more carefully. But until the travesty of Citizens United is modified by an amendment, then it is only a matter of time before the Republic as we know it is gone forever. (And you may trust that once it is gone, that door to go back and correct the problem will also be locked.) 

Under the present circumstances, it is unclear whether this judicially-approved corruption can actually be stopped before it does permanent damage.

It now seems that the remaining question is exactly how much it will cost to buy the presidency and whether the American voters will have to courage to do anything to put a stop to this auction, or whether they will stand around and watch.

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