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When Corruption is a One-Way Street

David Sirota: Despite Hostile Takeover, He’s Still Not Willing to Let Go of the Democrats

by CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER

Al Gore, Thomas Frank, George Lakoff, Arianna Huffington, William Greider, and Jim Hightower all have nice things to say about David Sirota’s new book: Hostile Takeover: How Big Money & Corruption Conquered Our Government–and How We Take It Back (Crown, 2006).

With corruption stories in the mainstream press almost daily, this book should be a best seller.

Sirota documents the hostile takeover by big business of the country on every major issue that matters to every American.

He documents myths–jury awards and lawsuit costs to the economy are out of control–lies–America can’t afford health care coverage because it is too expensive–pathological lies–our government tries to stop companies from shipping jobs overseas–and fairy tales–companies are forced to pay higher taxes in the United States than in most other industrialized countries.

He highlights twenty public heroes–Costco CEO Jim Senegal, Congressman David Obey (D-Wisconsin), Governor Bob Riley (R-Alabama), ACORN leader Bertha Lewis, Congressman Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota), Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, Wall Street Journal reporter Ellen Schultz, Congressional staffer Warren Gunnels, California State Senator Deborah Ortiz (D), former New England Journal of Medicine Editor Marcia Angell, Pfizer VP Peter Rost, public interest attorney James Love, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration head Jeffrey Runge, Working Families Party founder Dan Cantor, Wal-Mart employee Joshua Noble, Public Citizen Congress Watch’s Frank Clemente, Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan).

By our rough count only two–Riley and Runge–of the twenty heroes are Republicans.

Call them token Republican Party heroes.

And he calls out twenty-two corporate hacks–Governor Sonny Perdue (R-Georgia), Mickey Kantor, Congressman Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Grover Norquist, White House economic adviser Greg Mankiw, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Senator Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), Congressman Jim Moran (D-Virginia), Congressman John Boehner (R-Ohio), Congressman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa), former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia), Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich (R), Medicare administrator Tom Scully, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), former Heritage Foundation president Ed Fuelner, Senator Pete Dominici (R-New Mexico), Missouri Governor Matt Blunt (R), Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (R), Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-Georgia), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), ABC reporter John Stossel.

By our rough count only four–Kantor, Bayh, Moran and Landrieu–of the twenty-two corporate hacks are Democrats.

Call them token Democratic Party hacks.

Get the picture?

Yes, in Sirota, we are talking about a Democratic Party partisan.

The guts of Sirota’s book are ten chapters showing how corporations have used their power to tilt the playing field toward big business on taxes, wages, jobs, debt, pensions, health care, prescription drugs, energy, unions, and legal rights.

It is the kind of book that public interest types–think New York Attorney General candidate Mark Green–have written in decades past–to no avail.

The corporate juggernaut rampages on–unabated.

Why?

Because the people writing these books–like Sirota and Green–and those supporting them–like Hightower and Frank–are Democratic Party loyalists.

They condemn the Democratic Party–as does Sirota–for being corrupted by big money interests.

But they are tethered to its rotting hulk.

And they cannot let go.

There is a war inside the Democratic Party.

On one side, the progressives and anti-corruption forces–led by the likes of David Sirota and Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin).

On the other, big business interests led by the Democratic Leadership Council, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

But what if the big money interests win the war?

We asked Sirota–what if Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic Party’s nomination for President in 2008?

Will Sirota support her?

"I don’t think she is going to get the nomination," he says.

But what if she does?

Would you support her?

"I’d have to see the dynamics of the race," he says.

After a little bit of back and forth, it becomes clear–Sirota will support the Democratic Party–no matter the nominee–against the Republican–no matter the nominee.

To Sirota, the Republican Party is the party of big business.

And the Democratic Party is the party of the people.

The way it has been.

The way it always must be.

Although as he makes clear in his book, there has been a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party by big business.

And Sirota is going to spend his time trying to get it back.

Does he have a breaking point–a point at which he says–this party is too far gone to save?

"I can’t answer that question," he says.

Why not?

"I’m an optimist," he says. "That comes through in the book. Some people call it deluded optimism. Also, because I’ve been around enough good Democratic politicians and activists–people who are trying to do the right thing. I believe that the party can be a means to progressive ends."

Sirota was brought up in a Democratic Party household in the Philadelphia area.

"I was brought up in opposition to Republican policies," he says. "That’s for sure. That was definitely in my house, all the time."

And he is tethered to the Democratic Party and cannot let go.

After graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1998, he worked in various Democratic Party campaigns, did a stint at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, D.C., was the press spokesperson for Congressman Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), and then moved to Montana, where his wife now works for Governor Brian Schweitzer.

Sirota worked to get Schweitzer elected.

Sirota is now a campaigner against corruption in politics.

He will be a featured speaker at an upcoming conference in New Hampshire on state efforts to combat corporate corruption.

He puts out a weekly "corruption digest" that is a compilation of corruption stories from around the country.

But what good is all his good work–if the anti-corruption forces are locked within a corrupt Democratic Party?

(For a complete transcript of Interview with David Sirota, see 20 CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER 19 (10-16), May 8, 2006, print edition only.)

The CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER is edited by Russell Mokhiber.