FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bill Curry on Corruption in America

When people in power in the United States talk about corruption, they often focus on corruption overseas.

Corruption overseas is usually hard corruption – bribes, kickbacks, public theft.

But then there is what is called soft corruption. That’s corruption American style. Legalized bribery. Corporate money flowing into the political system. The revolving door. Lobbyists. Consultants. Gifts. Travel.

People in power don’t like to talk about corruption in the United States because often, they are the beneficiaries of it.

But at the grassroots, corruption is a powerful political issue. It arguably was the issue that elected Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

That’s the take of Bill Curry, a two-time Democratic nominee for Governor of Connecticut and a White House advisor in the administration of Bill Clinton.

“Corruption is this great hidden tsunami of an issue,” Curry told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week. “Obama ran on corruption at the end of his campaigns. Both Obama and Trump ran on a variety of issues. But at the end of their races, each one of them was in a low single digit race, and each one of them had learned enough from their pollsters to talk about almost nothing else.”

“Obama’s stump speech in the end was all about fixing Washington’s culture. It had been a main theme throughout his campaign. But in the end, he held onto it. It was by far his biggest applause line.”

“Obama made a series of promises. He promised to bring C-Span cameras into the health care negotiations so that the public would know what was going on. He promised to end the revolving door between government and the K Street lobbyists. He promised to end no bid contracts. He promised he would treat whistleblowers as heros. He promised that no lobbyists would work for his administration.”

How many of those promises did he keep?

“None. Not a single one. He also promised to keep a White House log of visitors. There was one. But it was a porous one. And for the most important private meetings and private deals, you couldn’t tell from the logs that the meetings had occurred.”

“The Democrats controlled both houses of Congress for the first two years of Obama’s Presidency. But also, all of those ethics issues were issues for which he could have issued executive orders without anyone complaining about his right to do so. He didn’t do any of them because in some cases he hadn’t really meant it or hadn’t really thought about it. And in other cases, he apparently changed his mind.”

“But his main message down the stretch of that 2008 election was cleaning up Washington. When he got into office, he personally decided not to fulfill any of the promises he made. It was the single issue on which he made the most specific promises. There are very few issues on which he was as detailed in terms of what he was going to do.”

“In fact, he didn’t do any of it.”

“Trump did the same thing. These were the two most historic elections of my adult life – 2008 and 2016.”

“In the industrial states where he pulled enough votes to come out on top, the drain the swamp ad was virtually his entire advertising budget. It wasn’t about NAFTA. It wasn’t about the Mexican wall. It wasn’t about terrorism.”

“At the end, Trump’s consultants, working we now know from the Facebook data that was purloined by Cambridge Analytica, gave Trump both drain the swamp and the wall. Those both came out of the Facebook data analysis.”

“And Trump people told him that of all of those issues, the one that mattered the most was corruption. And Trump ran an ad, almost exclusively at the end of that election in the industrial states, that I could have written, that Bernie Sanders could have written, that anyone working on public corruption and serious about it could have written.”

“It was extremely effective.”

“Finally, there was Bernie’s campaign. People complain that the Sanders campaign was monochromatic, that Bernie had a single rap and he gave it a lot. There is something to that.”

“The rap, however, was really good.  And it was simple. You could fairly distill Bernie’s campaign into three points.”

“One, that democracy is corrupt.”

“Two, the middle class is dying.”

“And three, the reason the middle class is dying is because the democracy is corrupt.”

“That was the Sanders’ campaign in its essence. And it did gangbusters business. If labor hadn’t endorsed Hillary Clinton en mass without consulting its own membership, Sanders would have been the nominee almost certainly. Clinton almost certainly would not have won those early states — Nevada, Massachusetts, Iowa. In all of those states, she would have gone down, without AFSCME and the teachers in particular.”

“Bernie’s message had overwhelming appeal. It’s why Bernie was beating everybody in the general polls. That appeal isn’t just the Democrats –  it’s across the board. It is the most powerful and effective and important political message in America today.”

“The great mystery is – how come no one running for office is saying it out loud?”

But you just said that Obama, Trump and Bernie all said it out loud and did very well.

“They did. Yes they did. Why isn’t every House and Senate candidate running on it?”

What is the answer?

“Both parties have a perceived self interest in never bringing it up. It’s the bipartisan consensus.”

“People keep calling for bipartisanship. I can’t watch cable news or pick up a newspaper without someone calling for more bipartisanship. It’s amazing given the lousy record of bipartisanship that this cliche is still repeated. Bipartisanship has given us deficit spending, the Iraq war, no child left behind, the race to the top, corporate education policies.”

“There is a bipartisan consensus. Our problem is not partisan gridlock or disagreement over the cultural issues that are always in the news. Our biggest problem is the bipartisan agreement at the time on the issues that are structural.”

“Iraq. Deficit spending. Pay to play politics. International trade. Education policy. The leaders of both parties in the executive and legislative branch agreed completely on all of those policies.”

“There is another consensus in America. The grassroots consensus. And that consensus opposed all of those policies.”

[For the complete Interview with Bill Curry, see 32 Corporate Crime Reporter 15(12), Monday April 9, 2018, print edition only.]

This piece first appeared at Corporate Crime Reporter.

More articles by:

Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter..

December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail