Corporate donors try to buy back a GOP Congress

Karl Rove Assistant to the President, Deputy C...

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Much has been made of the “grass roots” Tea Party movement, and its ability to energize and mobilize people angry with big government.  Much less, however, has been written about the anger — and financial clout — of wealthy executives, who are striking back in the face of Obama Administration efforts to roll back some of the tax breaks that have led to obscene inequalities in wealth between the rich and everyone else in this country.

In a front-page article in today’s New York Times on Republican hopes and fears for the next election, reporters Jeff Zeleny and Carl Hulse note that “Republicans raised more money than Democrats last month.”  They attribute this to “a reflection of the optimism about the potential for gains in November among the party’s contributors.’

On The Times opinion page, however, columnist Paul Krugman suggests a different reason for the strength of Republican donations: Greed and a desire to get even. He writes:

What’s going on?

One answer is taxes — not so much on corporations themselves as on the people who run them. The Obama administration plans to raise tax rates on upper brackets back to Clinton-era levels. Furthermore, health reform will in part be paid for with surtaxes on high-income individuals. All this will amount to a significant financial hit to C.E.O.’s, investment bankers and other masters of the universe.

They’ve responded by abandoning much of the pretense of shoveling money at both parties. The tilt, Krugman notes, leans heavily toward Republicans.  He notes that:

— 63 percent of banking PAC money has gone to Republicans this year, according to The Washington Post, as opposed to 53 percent last year.

— 76 percent of oil-and-gas money has gone to Republicans.

— Even traditionally Democratic-leaning securities and investment firms are pouring more into Republican coffers.

Adds Krugman: “These are extraordinary numbers given the normal tendency of corporate money to flow to the party in power.”

Maybe its time to christen the Champagne Party movement?

In a February article on, DePaul University Prof. Paul Buchheit notes that between 1980 (the year of Ronald Reagan’s election) and 2006, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans tripled their after-tax percentage of Americans’ total income.  In all, that 1 percent earned one-seventh (roughly 14 percent) of the country’s total income, he notes.  The bottom 90 percent of Americans, Buchheit reports, saw their share of the nation’s income drop 20 percent.

Apparently many of the super rich are not eager to give any of these gains back.  And so they are pouring their money into the fund-raising apparatus being organized by a most familiar GOP establishment figure, Karl Rove.  In an article in this week’s Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson reports how Rove has run a stealth campaign to gain control of the 2010 Republican campaign by controlling the money behind it.  The piece begins like this:

One afternoon in late April, Karl Rove welcomed an elite group of conservative political operatives and moneymen into his home in Washington, D.C. Along with his protégé Ed Gillespie, who succeeded him as George W. Bush’s top political adviser, Rove had gathered together the heavyweights of the GOP’s fundraising network. In attendance were the political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as the leaders of two new megadollar campaign groups loyal to Rove: American Crossroads and the American Action Network. Rove’s plan was straightforward: to seize control of the party from Michael Steele, whose leadership of the Republican National Committee was imploding in the wake of a fundraiser at a lesbian bondage club. By building a war chest of unregulated campaign cash – an unprecedented $135 million to be raised by these three groups alone – Rove would be able to wage the midterm elections on his own terms: electing candidates loyal to the GOP’s wealthiest donors and corporate patrons. With the media’s attention diverted by the noisy revolt being waged by the Tea Party, the man known as “Bush’s brain” was staging a stealthier but no less significant coup of the Republican Party.

So much for “grass roots” reform. It’s an all too familiar script, one that manipulates ignorance to enhance wealth. Krugman describes it this way:

It’s the same formula the right has been using for a generation. Use identity politics to whip up the base; then, when the election is over, give priority to the concerns of your corporate donors.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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