Oct 31, 2012
It’s called “Corporatocracy” and as I’ve written for more than two years now, it is alive, well and on the rise. Corporate involvement in government controls, regulations and programs has become dominant over the past two decades – and in the past four years it has increased exponentially following the election of America’s first African-American President.
Over the aforementioned twenty plus years, corporations have diversified their interest(s) from strictly business and manufacturing to an agenda of creating and urging the passage of pro-corporate friendly legislation beneficial to their bottom line(s) – regardless of the impact upon consumers, patients or voters.
Today more than three hundred and fifty multi-national companies are “officially” members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) where they take part in crafting/drafting legislation that limits consumer rights, suppresses voter rights, increases gun sales, privatizing; education (K-12 & college), prisons, prison services and public utilities. Others are hidden members of ALEC including the businesses, companies and corporations who are members of the Chamber of Commerce, the National Foundation of Independent Business (NFIB – which claims a membership base of 350,000) and PhRMA (listing 53 member pharma companies) that has membership and key positions within ALEC. This organization serves as the legislative voice of corporate interests, the “go to” charity used by companies such as Coca~Cola, Koch Industries, Microsoft, AT&T, PhRMA and Eli Lilly to lobby for and secure legislation reducing regulations on operations, lower taxation and less oversight and consumer protections.
Numerous other initiatives are pursued by these corporate players but this article isn’t about their anti-consumer activities or the legislation they have managed to pass (though for purposes of demonstration tort reform is explained below). Rather it is about the pursuit of controlling our Legislative, judicial and executive branches of government (state and federal). They are no longer content with paying huge sums of money to get the legislation passed…they want to cut out the middlemen.
Historically we have elected politicians who we believed would adequately and properly represent the rights and interests of our state citizens and the US population collectively. Since the general election in 2008 all that has changed. Corporations and businesses are no longer content with “owning” lawmakers with campaign contributions, bribes and expensive organizations such as ALEC. Today they want to replace actual political candidates with current or former corporate executives and owners – who will advance a free-market, pro-corporate agenda.
In 2010 we saw a pursuit by two former CEO’s running for office in California; Meg Whitman (eBay CEO) running for governor of California and Carly Fiorina (former HP CEO) ran for the US Senate. Using personal funds acquired while sitting as CEO’s these two candidates tried to buy their way into office. Of particular note is the fact that Hewlett Packard and eBay are (or were if HP is to be believed) members of ALEC and holding seats upon ALEC’s Communications and Information Technology Task Force.
In addition to pursuing those two positions, two of ALEC’s now infamous alumni (Scott Walker and John Kasich) won the governor’s race in Wisconsin and Ohio, respectively, putting staunch ALEC/corporate supporters and enablers in those top state offices. Kasich was an investment banker serving as the managing director of Lehman Brothers’s Columbus office until the firm collapsed in 2008.
Rick Scott ran for governor of Florida (former Columbia/HCA CEO and Venture Capitalist) in 2010 and won. As the link shows, Scott’s company that defrauded taxpayers through Medicare is a member of ALEC.
In the 2010 and now current election cycle the number of former CEO’s running for public office (in addition to Fiorina, Kasich, Scott and Whitman) is impressive – as is the individual and corporate ties to ALEC; eBay, HP, Columbia HCA
- Herman Cain – for President (former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and frequent ALEC Speaker)
- Mitt Romney - for President (former Bain Capital/Company CEO & Venture Capitalist)
- Linda McMahon - as Connecticut Senate Rep. (former WWE CEO)
- Rick Perry – for President (ALEC 2010 “Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award” recipient)
- Newt Gingrich – for President (key speaker at ALEC’s 2009 Annual Conference and again at ALEC’s 2010 States and Nation Policy Summit)
- Michele Bachmann - for President (ALEC Alumni)
- Tommy Thompson - for US Senate from WI. (ALEC long time Alumni)
- George Allen – for US Senate from VA. (ALEC Alumni and first Co-Chair of ALEC’s Federal Forum Task Force).
- Scott Walker - for WI. Governor (ALEC alumni)
As I’ve noted, corporations are no longer satisfied with being regulated or controlled by government oversight. Governments represent citizens and look after their rights, safety and financial interests, among other objectives – which are responsibilities opposite those of today’s companies. Companies wish to see the rights of consumers limited in recovery for defective products or services, limited damage awards in those cases of wrongful death, medical malpractice or dangerous products. To begin to grasp the reason for the strong pursuits by corporations to put current or former executives in public office, we have to understand what is at stake. Consumer rights is one category where that reasoning is perhaps best representative of the stakes.
The corporate efforts of limiting such rights to consumers is termed by ALEC as “Tort Reform” legislation. This is one of the mainstays of ALEC’s legislative pursuits covered by their 2011 “Tort Reform Boot Camp” document. This report informs us:
“Since 1999, forty-three states have enacted legislation based on ALEC Civil Justice Task
The Tort Reform project is headed by ALEC’s Director of the Civil Justice task force, Amy Kjose. She also heads up ALEC’s “Disorder in the Court” project that they describe as:
“Disorder in the Court Project, which educates hundreds of lawmakers on the necessity of civil justice reform and the consequences of an overly-litigious society. She (Kjose) serves as a liaison for legal reform groups nationwide and interfaces with legislators, the private sector, coalition groups, and the media to promote legal reform efforts.”
Co-Chairing ALEC’s Civil Justice task force on behalf of the private sector is Victor Schwartz of the law firm Shook, Hardy and Bacon. A glance at the corporations, companies and interests represented by Schwartz and SHB can be found at CMD’s SourceWatch page at ALEC Exposed:
“Co-Chair: Victor Schwartz, Private Sector Chair; (Chairman, Public Policy Group at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, L.L.P.) and registered lobbyist for Peabody Energy, Eli Lilly & Co, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. An international law firm with branches in the United States and internationally, with headquarters in Kansas City, MO. Shook, Hardy & Bacon has expertise in corporate litigation related to climate change, nanotechnology and pressures on global water supplies as well as in tort reform. They represent coal and other energy industry companies against regulation of carbon pollution. Philip Morris, now Altria Group, is a longtime client; as are pharmaceutical companies Eli Lilly and Company, Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, Guidant and Wyeth; Sprint Nextel; and Microsoft. In 2010, Shook, Hardy & Bacon’s PAC gave $5,400 to Republicans and $500 to Democrats.”
All of the companies mentioned except for Guidant are known and documented ALEC corporate members. So the corporations have their own legislative advocacy group in ALEC and membership in ALEC comes with expert representation by one of the top international law firms – that also just happens to head ALEC’s Civil Justice task force and a leading advocate for “tort reforms.” Membership also allows corporate members to sit down across from elected lawmakers to craft legislation that will increase their profits while reducing the risk of loss due to litigation brought by customers or consumers. Truly a “one-stop-shop” for everything pro-business and anti-consumer.
It isn’t just the individual companies holding memberships in ALEC either…take a look at the huge number of “Trade Groups” affiliated with ALEC or think tanks and “non-profits” sitting upon their various boards, task forces or working committees.
Today corporations seek direct control by running current or former business administrators and officers for key public office. With former business leaders sitting as Congressional representatives and quite possibly serving as our President, these companies are closer than at any time in our history to actually acquiring overall control of all three branches of the U.S. government.
By “educating” U.S. judicial officials with all expense paid trips to lavish resorts where they are instructed on the pro-corporate positions concerning key topics such as environment, economics, labor and consumer protections (tort reforms), they seek to influence our judiciary (and part II), corporations have been able to influence key court opinions. Too often of late critical decisions have been handed down in favor of corporations, such as the Citizen’s United SCOTUS decision. This case has been used to give corporate money a “voice” in the 2010 and 2012 elections…a LARGE and influential voice being used to drown out the voices of citizen voters. Our federal court system from the District to Supreme Court level has become politically polarized.
More ominously, our courts have slowly become “pro-corporate” in many of the rulings and key decisions handed down – taking the side of corporate interests over public or government interests. Since the 2000 election cycle courts have involved themselves in deciding election law…examining “hanging chads” and half filled boxes on ballots and using judicial reviews based upon political leanings, to circumvent in place and legal state and federal election laws. The Supreme Court “elected” George W. Bush in 2000 – not we the people. That single decision demonstrated that impartiality and protecting the rights and choices of the American people had begun a downward spiral…leading to where we are right now in November 2012.
Influencing legislation, corrupting judges, buying our lawmaker’s through corrupting “campaign contributions” – trips, gifts, extravagant ALEC meetings with special interest dinners, liquor and wine parties – has served to change the judicial and legislative fabric of our nation. “Career” or “lifetime” politicians within Congress have become subservient to many of ALEC’s corporate members and affiliates, introducing legislation favorable to private enterprise and voting to pass such crap, has become standard of late.
It used to be all of us – regardless of party affiliation – looked to the judicial system to protect the interests of all Americans. It is an integral and necessary part of our check-and-balance form of government, designed to serve as a “last review” of laws and legislation that could unfairly affect the rights of Americans. Controversial policies and legislation are introduced to our courts for a final vetting and approval before being accepted as the law(s) of the nation. Unfortunately due to these corrupt influences brought to bear upon our court system, litigation and appeals have become just another form of review in a final political venue. More and more justice now depends upon which political party or faction a litigant belongs to.
Now as Election Day swiftly approaches all of the ALEC agenda is in place and being used to full advantage by corporate interests; ALEC’s voter ID legislation, unlimited and unreported campaign expenditures by corporations, pro-life and person-hood legislation, proposed or pending laws to privatize public utilities, legislation to deregulate government oversight and regulations and public facilities…and a corporate controlled media network.
The latter is perhaps the most disgusting, misleading and thus potent tool in the ALEC cabal’s corporate arsenal – the ability to formulate, regulate and control information provided to the masses – and is playing a huge part in our electoral processes. The slow erosion of factual, investigative reporting or journalism has resulted in a voting public that is misinformed and thus formulates candidate choices based upon what can only be described as propaganda disseminated by a corporate owned media. It is not merely chance that Rupert Murdoch’s “News Corp” is a member of ALEC, or that Verizon, Brighthouse, AT&T, Comcast and other “entertainment” and information sources are members of ALEC.
It is the culmination of years of dedicated planning, scheming and grooming of select legislators to accomplish control of the majority through a government controlled by minority factions; conservative idealists, evangelical Christians, racists and dedicated pro-lifers. These factions and others holding similar views, have converged to allow for small numbers of people with radical views to combine their voices under the GOP banner to lend an appearance of voter strength and provide collective credibility to the views of each – eagerly “reported” as facts to the voting public. All of this is rooted in a “corporatocracy” as defined by the “Urban Dictionary”:
“A type of government in which huge corporations, through bribes, gifts, and the funding of ad campaigns that oppose candidates they don’t like, become the driving force behind the executive, judicial and legislative branches.”
The definition fits; corporations are openly using bribes, gifts (and luxury trips to lawmakers through ALEC); funding political ad campaigns opposing President Obama and any Democrat running against any of “their” supported candidates…and they are now the driving force behind key legislation and judicial decisions beneficial to them.
Corporate owners are more often than not defined as libertarians, not conservatives. Yet over the past couple of decades they have stepped up to finance the will and pursuits of the minorities mentioned above. All of us understand that without such “campaign funding” a Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry could not have afforded a genuine Presidential run…yet there they were for months, each taking their turn as the “favorite” GOP forerunner in a Republican campaign funded primarily with corporate money.
As mentioned above, in 2010 it was the same, with unlikely and totally outside the mainstream GOP candidates challenging long-term sitting politicians – from state legislative seats to key positions within Congress. Again, without corporate funding this would not have been possible with the GOP refusing to support the more radical and their slack being picked up by corporate owners such as the Koch brothers funding of the Tea Party.
I have a belief that corporatists have no real “interest” in abortion or other important social issues. Rather they have a huge interest in profits and dividends paid to investors and to protect and advance these true objectives, they believe it necessary to support the GOP. Republicans have become the party of corporate special interests; advocating lower corporate taxes, eliminating capital gains, inheritance taxes and implementing lower personal taxes upon the wealthiest. The radical nut-cases with their pursuits of “personhood” and denial of women’s rights regarding abortion and healthcare – are convenient diversions, used to distract voters from realizing that the true pursuit and goal is control of all three branches of government and the financial rewards realized by gaining such controls.
Today corporate interests hold great influence in our Congress (100 members are ALEC alumni with another 40 + classified as Koch bought Tea Party members) and they have a 5-4 conservative majority in the Supreme Court that continues to rule favorably on anything “corporate”. All that remains out of their reach is the Executive branch of our government. This last bastion is our only remaining “check and balance” that has the ability to override the actions of the other two branches. In 2012 the Executive office is under a full scale attack as corporate money attempts to put the White House in their hands and with it, total control of the entire U.S. government.
Some would argue that the Democrats are involved as deeply in this as the Republicans, but one has merely to look to the corporate candidates and the party they are running under to dispel that claim. The GOP is the party supporting and offering up former CEO’s, CFO’s, COO’s and administrators as serious candidates for Congress and President. More than 80% of all the corporate campaign funding is directed to the GOP and these candidates.
There is little doubt how a Romney (or any corporate installed) administration would operate regarding businesses, corporations and profits. Most of us now understand that there would be unnecessary wars to fuel profits for the military industrialists and satisfy the legislative “hawks”. Gas and oil companies would get larger subsidies paid for with tax dollars, more public education and schools would come under corporate control.
Corporations are experiencing huge, historic and record profits right now. Even following the 2008-09 financial collapse businesses are making money hand over fist – yet continue to claim current tax laws are stifling them. While enjoying the largest profits, they are not creating jobs as the GOP has claimed all along. They are banking their money or keeping it offshore where they can avoid paying any tax on their international sales and profits…forcing the middle class to make up the lost tax revenues. Yet in such a time of richness, corporations seek to install a former CEO as President – in an effort to realize even greater profits and less regulation.
I believe it is important to oppose all corporate candidates upon the 2012 ballots. Let’s force corporations to go back to manufacturing goods, supplying services for consumers and voters and remove themselves from attempting to also control our government and its branches. The Executive, judicial and legislative departments of our government are there to protect us from consumer frauds, financial exploitation and from unfair laws – everything the corporate interests now pursue. To let them “own” a seat within Congress or the White House is a way around the safeguards that have stood in place protecting American’s rights for over 200 years. .
When we realize that through ALEC these corporate interests have pursued several pieces of legislation designed to suppress American’s right to vote – an activity previously thought of as inviolate – in an effort to further weaken our voices and strengthen theirs, we begin to understand just how advanced their agenda is today. In the past year more than forty corporate members have dropped their membership in ALEC. They didn’t do it out of a sense of corporate responsibility – they did it because activists made the public aware of the involvement of these companies in ALEC’s legislative activities and they were fearful of damaging their “brands” by continuing membership in ALEC.
To me there’s already too many “foxes guarding henhouses” in America…let’s not be stupid enough to install a fox in the office of the henhouse owner – and expect that we as the “hens” will not be fully exploited for our money, labor and the future of our children.