July 31, 2008
-- by Dave Johnson and James Boyce
In a democracy, every person has a single vote. Unfortunately, what is becoming increasingly true is that someone with millions of dollars and the willingness to fund front groups has the ability to influence millions of votes.
Take the issue of the Iraq War - by any and every national poll, millions of Americans want the war to stop as they see through the lies that got us in the war, the lies that have kept us in the war and now with even the Iraqi leadership asking we leave, the vast majority of Americans see no reason to fund billions on dollars in war every month.
However, despite their wishes and their votes, the wishes of the people are countered by the wishes of the few, or in today's example, the wishes of one, Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson is one of the very few wealthy "behind-the-scenes" manipulators that set up phony front groups and fund them with millions and millions of dollars to pollute our country's discourse, smear people, spread fear and lies and the worst kinds of dirty stories. Every politician knows that this ugliness could be directed at them if they dare try to fight this kind of power.
Where do these Republican, pro-war front groups get so much money?
Thomas B. Edsell's July 25 post at Huffington Post, titled Sheldon Adelson: GOP's Answer To George Soros? provides us with a few clues.
Sheldon Adelson, the 74-year-old casino billionaire who has become the third richest man in America and who has strong ties to the hard-line Likud Party in Israel, has emerged this year a major benefactor of the American right.Adelson has been a major backer of right-wing Republicans, including Tom DeLay, and has given $2.9 million to a Newt Gingrich organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future.
And now, according to Edsell,
. . .Adelson, according to the National Journal, has begun channeling cash and fundraising support to Vets for Freedom, which is expected to use the influx of money to finance what it claims will be a multimillion dollar "Four Months For Victory" ad campaign.
Why does a wealthy Jewish casino owner, so rich that he is flown around in his own Boeing 767, support a veteran's organization? Probably because Vets For Freedom isn't really a veteran's organization, but a Republican Party front group working to elect John McCain and keep the Iraq war going.
If Vets For Freedom was a veteran's organization, they would be front and center in holding John McCain responsible for voting against the new G.I. Bill? But they didn't say a word.
If Vets For Freedom was a veteran's organization, they would be concerned with the hundreds of thousands of returning wounded warriors and their need for care and assistance? But they're not.
In fact, Vets For Freedom has only one mission - build public support for continuing the war in Iraq and now it appears they really only have one donor - a hard line neoconservative who is determined to influence US foreign policy in the Middle East.
Adelson is also a major funder of Freedom's Watch, another Republican front group that exists solely to help wealthy individuals like Adelson get around campaign finance laws that are designed to protect our democracy from this kind of dollars-outweigh-votes corrupting influence.
These organizations are allowed to take unlimited donations and not disclose donors because they are supposed to be educating the public about issues, not polluting our elections with ads that support or smear candidates. But, of course, who in the Bush government is going to stop them from breaking our campaign finance laws to support Republicans and smear Democrats?
In Israel Adelson has purchased a newspaper that he uses to try to influence Israeli politics. According to some, he inspires resentment and fear there. A recent New Yorker article about Adelson says,
"In Israel, where political, academic and business leaders tend to be outspoken, there is a striking reticence at the mention of Sheldon Adelson. Even people who are diametrically opposed to his politics refuse to be interviewed. 'There is a discernible amount of self-censorship going on,' the liberal Israeli-American writer Bernard Avishai said. 'There is no ideological justification for what Sheldon is doing among the Israeli intelligentsia and a revulsion at an American weighing in so heavily on Israeli politics, in such a crude, reactionary way. But they won't speak.'"
Post-Script: As we were about to publish it, news comes that Sheldon Adelson has hired Karl Rove with a mid six figure deal to help run "Freedom's Watch" another right wing front group.
Posted by Dave and James at July 31, 2008 9:50 AM
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