Corporate push to buy Congress gets even bigger in home stretch

The flood of secret corporate contributions into Republican campaign coffers is bigger than ever in the final week before Election Day.

The New York Times reported Oct. 24 that much of the money is being put into 80 House races that are key to a Republican majority and that “the groups have started to place their final advertising bets in ways carefully coordinated to fill openings left by the more financially limited official (Republican) party and candidate committees.”

“They intend to force Democrats to spend money in districts they presumed safe. They (GOP candidates) are going to be very much indebted to these special interest groups that have come into these races,” said Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

Revulsion at the unprecedented flood of secret money continues to grow.

“Secret money is dangerous,” said the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne. “Secret money corrupts. Secret money is antithetical to the transparency that democracy requires.”

“An election is a public good, not a private exchange,” said Charles Kolb of the Committee for Economic Development. “If I want to buy a car from you, that’s an exchange between you and me. But elections are not a private commodity, candidates aren’t private commodities.”

As disturbing to progressives as the flood of secret cash, however, is the tidal wave of contributions this week that can be traced.

Firms that were bailed out with taxpayer dollars are spending heavily to elect Republicans.

Reports in the press Oct. 25 show that among companies with PACs, the 23 that received $1 billion or more in federal money through the Troubled Assets Relief Program gave a total of $1.4 million to candidates in September, up from $466,000 the month before. Most of those donations are going to Republican candidates, although the TARP was approved mainly with Democratic support.

The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson documented how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is literally being fueled by “Foreign Oil.” The Chamber’s donors, he said, “who send their checks to the same account from which the political campaign is run – include multinational oil corporations, and even oil companies owned by the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

Investigators in Britain reported in the Oct. 24 Guardian that BP, just months after polluting the Gulf of Mexico with the worst oil spill in U.S. history, is busy now funding Tea Party candidates who deny global warming and oppose the president’s energy agenda.

Among the beneficiaries of BP’s generosity are Jim DeMint, the Republican senator from South Carolina and GOP Sen. James Inhofe, the infamous climate-change-denier from Oklahoma.

Only a day before the revelations about BP’s role in the midterms, at a California rally, President Obama had warned, “Oil companies and other special interests are spending millions on a campaign to gut clean-air standards, jeopardising the health and prosperity of this state.”

Against the onslaught, labor and its allies are not sitting idly by. Phone banks, literature drops, mailings and canvassing are happening across the country.

With some 3 million having already cast ballots in early voting, indications are that Democrats are holding up against the corporate onslaught.

In Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in the most watched Senate race in the nation, observers give him a good chance of holding off a powerful challenge from a corporate-backed tea partier, Sharron Angle. “Obama’s team organized Nevada, better than anybody ever has,” Prof. Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia told TPMDC. “Those lists are fresh. Democrats have kept the lists fresh. If Reid wins narrowly we’ll probably attribute the victory to the get out the vote effort.

Progressives of every stripe are urging a huge turnout.

“Suppose the friends you dragged to the polls helped America reject the anonymous corporate dollars that threaten to drown our democracy?’” asked the Huffington Post’s Paul Loeb. “If you did, and enough others did as well, we’d have an infinitely more hospitable landscape going forward while we continue to work for the changes our country needs.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.