Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Swan Song of American Democracy

The Obama re-election campaign and the Democratic Party and their backers, like the organization MoveOn, are bitterly decrying the flood of corporate money going to his opponent, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is out-fund-raising the president by an ever-increasing amount.

But there is a hollow sound to the president’s whining.  Back in 2008, Obama, who had earlier said he opposed corporate funding and had promised to run his campaign using public funds only, in an agreement with his then opponent, Republican Sen. John McCain, broke that agreement and went on to accept what still remains at this point a record sum of corporate money.

By the time the 2008 election was held, Obama’s campaign had collected and spent a staggering $745 million. McCain, who had been a leader in the effort to limit corporate campaign spending, stuck with government funding and thus spent “only” $126 million on his losing general election campaign — the amount that Obama would have also been limited to had he not “opted out” of his earlier promise to use only government funds to run for the nation’s top office.

About 80% of Obama’s campaign cash came from large donors — either individuals or, in most cases, corporations. His second biggest donor, giving a total of $1,013,091, was Goldman Sachs, a company that later provided many of the leading economic and financial advisors to the Obama administration, and that, by late 2008, was already known to have been a key player in causing the 2008 financial crisis, and that also received enormous bailout funding from the government, both during the campaign, when Obama was running for office and President George W. Bush was still president, and then later, when Obama was president.  The second biggest corporate contributor was software giant Microsoft, $852,167, a company which had serious anti-trust issues being pursued by the federal government. Third was Google, which gave $814,540, which had its own anti-trust and other issues, and fourth was JP Morgan & Chase, another mega-bank that both played a key role in causing the financial crisis, and which benefitted mightily from the federal bailout. Both Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have subsequently played key roles in lobbying to water down any kind of serious corrective regulation of the financial industry, to block efforts to break up the too-big-to-fail banks, and to have senior banking executives criminally or even civilly prosecuted for their roles in precipitating and profiting from the global economic crisis.

As Oklahoma Republican Congressman Tom Cole correctly wrote in an opinion article in US News and World Report back in April 2011, “Barack Obama’s candidacy wasn’t just the beginning of the end of public financing. His meteoric fundraising spree rendered the system instantly extinct.”

For the president and his backers to now cry foul because Romney, a corporate executive and member of the $100-plus millionaire club himself, is raking in even more money this election season than the Obama did when he chose to forego public funding in his first campaign and roll over his opponent who took a principled stand and limited himself to federal financing is beyond hypocritical.

Granted, Romney benefits even further by the new US Supreme Court decision allowing corporations and private individuals to secretly contribute unlimited amounts to run negative campaigns against candidates, as long as they aren’t “coordinated” with any candidate’s campaign organization, because the overwhelming amount of that corrupt money is flowing to Republicans, including Romney. That is simply another example of how corrupt the US political system has become.

It is little wonder that American citizens have essentially thrown up their hands in disgust, with many just walking away from the whole thing. Both candidates are at this point owned by corporate America. There may be shades of difference based upon which industries are supporting which candidates, but that is small consolation to the average person, whose interests are for the most part diametrically opposed by those of the rich and of the companies that are buying the candidates.

In 2008, even though it was well-known that Obama was soliciting and accepting huge contributions from Wall Street ($19 million), from the health care industry ($16 million), from real estate companies ($11 million), from the media industry ($16 million) and from the high-tech industry ($9 million), a huge number of voters believed his campaign theme of “hope and change.”

Not surprisingly, though, given all that corporate cash, which amounts to legal bribes, what they got was an industry-vetted, non-reform of the financial industry, a health care “reform” that leaves health care in the hands of the insurance industry, where it was already, continued concentration of the media industry into the hands of a few large media conglomerates, and growing control over and limits on the diversity and freedom of the internet.

Arguably, things will even get worse if, as looks increasingly likely, Romney wins election, even more beholden to corporate America.

The loser is the American public, which is being effectively shut out of government and politics by big money.

Unless something dramatic is done, this election could well be the swan song of American democracy.

Dave Lindorff is a  founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.

 

 


More articles by:

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail