The following is an excellent excerpt from the book “DOLLAROCRACY: How the MONEY ELECTION COMPLEX Is DESTROYING AMERICA” by John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney from Chapter 3 on page 78 and I quote: “Vast Right-Wing Networks With Corporate Clout – Frequently cited as “the inspiration” for the remaking of the foundation of old right-wing families—the Coors, the Olins, the Bradleys, the Scaifes, the Kochs—as new-right political powerhouses, the Powell memo made the case for the recommitment of resources that would usher into existence in 1973 the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council, which framed the conservative agenda in the form of proposed bills and resolutions at the national and state levels. Then came the ramping up of Accuracy in Media, after Richard Mellon Scaife, an heir to the banking fortune associated with his middle name, began to pour money into the group in 1977. The Cato Institute formed in 1977. The Manhattan Institute came into being in 1978. In 1982, the Federalist Society began to take shape as a force for countering a perceived “liberal bias” in the nation’s law schools; it would eventually become one of the most potent forces in defining the nation’s judiciary, encouraging the rise of members such as Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito.
There was more: the Koch-brothers-funded Citizens for a Sound Economy (which would eventually evolve into the defining force behind the supposedly grassroots Tea Party movement, Americans for Prosperity) swung into operation in 1984. In 1985, Accuracy in Academia, a group that channeled Powell’s proposal not just for “educational programs” but also for a relentless assault on academics who did not follow the corporate line, was created. Two years later, the American Tort Reform Association stepped into the fray and began to establish a nationwide network of state-based liability “reform” coalitions that have succeeded in dramatically undermining the constitutionally protected right to petition for the redress of grievances in civil courts. And in 1987, there arrived the Media Research Center, which channeled conservative Bradley, Olin, and Scaife foundation money into the Powell-inspired project of proving “through sound scientific research—that liberal bias in the media does exist and undermines traditional American values” and moving to”neutralize its impact on the American political scene.”
But the whole point of all these exercises was to reshape the political system so that it would be far less likely to generate policies contrary to the interests of large corporations and wealthy investors. Following the Powell memo, corporate political action committee spending on congressional races increased “nearly fivefold” during the late 1970s and early 1980s. But even more importantly, Powell argued that corporate America needed to forcefully enter and dominate the political process—a crucial idea the chamber and its members embraced. In 1971, according to David Vogel, only 175 U.S. Corporations had registered lobbyists in Washington, DC. A decade later, there were 2,500. By the mid-1970s, most of the industrial trade associations not already located in Washington had moved there. The key to trade association hires became knowing politics rather than knowing the industry the group represented. In the late 1960s, there were about 100 corporate public affairs offices in Washington; by 1978, there were more than 500.
A whole industry was born of lobbying shops, primarily serving corporate clients, to such an extent that the term K Street came to symbolize an industry in a manner similar to Wall Street or Madison Avenue. Suddenly, Washington and especially Capitol Hill were crawling with tens of thousands of very-well-paid representatives of industry trade associations and specific corporations or the lobbying firms that served them.
Where did corporate America find talented people who could greatly influence members of Congress and maneuver effectively around regulatory agencies? Former government employees—regulatory agency personnel and congressional aides and the like—provided a tried-and-true supply of labor, and there was a longstanding tradition of the “revolving door” already in place. But for the big job of dominating the commanding heights of Congress, corporate America needed middle-of-the-order home-run hitters. Where better to find people who could influence Congress than Congress itself? In
the early 1970s, 3 percent of retiring members became lobbyists; that quickly changed, and by 2012 the figure had grown to the 50 percent range. The annual incomes for these postcongressional jobs generally start at mid six figures and are not infrequently seven figures. The days of stepping down from Congress and taking a college teaching job or just simply retiring were over. “The dirty secret of American politics,” the Roosevelt Institute’s Matt Stoller noted, “is that, for most politicians, getting elected is just not that important—what matters is post-election employment.”
“Corporate headhunters are sizing up the K Street prospects of the retiring members of the 112th Congress,” The Hill reported in 2012, “and they like what they see.” “We are doing a mock draft with some of our clients,” Ivan Adler, a principal at K Street’s McCormick Group, said. “As a retiring class goes, this is a valuable class. A lot of these members are marketable and will be welcomed by K Street with open arms.” the going rate for former senators in 2012 was between $800,000 and $1.5 million in annual salary; for House members the range was between $300,000 and $600,000.
Of course, to be eligible for this lucrative life, members have to prove while in Congress that they are willing to advance industry’s agenda. This provides powerful implicit incentives for them to embrace specific priorities and to temper their criticisms of specific interests; if members play their cards right, they can cash in serious chips in their next job. This calculus applies, we regret to say, across lines of partisanship and ideology. Sure, someone as principled as Dennis Kucinich on the antiwar left or Ron Paul on the libertarian right might be immune to the pressures. But liberal partisans who imagine that only conservative corporatists cash in are fooling themselves. When Connecticut liberal Democrat Chris Dodd left the Senate in 2011 after five terms, he was recruited by ten firms before he finally accepted a $1.5 million annual salary to run the motion picture industry lobby in Washington.
In the process of building up their lobbying armada, corporations and trade associations changed the way members of Congress regarded their own careers and injected the concerns, needs, and dictates of big business into the bone marrow of government, regardless of the party in power, as never before. Politicians did not always need to be pressured to vote against the interests of their constituents; they could simply be encouraged to watch out for themselves—and for the lucrative payouts available at the end of legislative careers. If the whole point of Powell’s memo had been to get corporations focused on the work of influencing the people who make up the government, the K Street hiring hall became a key part of the process. Barely a year after the soon-to-be jurist had argued that “business must learn the lesson. . . that political power is necessary; that such power much be assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination,” The National Association of Manufacturers responded as directed with an announcement that it was decamping from Manhattan to Washington: “We have been in New York since before the turn of the century, because we regarded this city as the center of business and industry. But the thing that affects business most today is government. The interrelationship of business with business is no longer so important as the interrelationship of business with government. In the last several years, that has become very apparent to us.”
This “K Street” carrot has served Dollarocracy well for decades, and in the new post-Citizens United era it has taken on a new dimension. Republican governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Snyder in Michigan, and Rick Scott in Florida no longer need to concern themselves with the popularity of a particular policy—say, eliminating collective bargaining rights for workers—as they toss out decades of legal precedent and practice to create a brave new world. They have no incentive to compromise with Democrats or the few remaining “moderates” in their own party. They know that mega-campaign donors—Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers, and countless others—will provide unlimited funds for the next election if they place the demands of those donors ahead of the interests of their constituents. Moreover, even if they might lose reelection, politicians of modest means, like Walker, are well aware that they are the new “made men” of Dollarocracy. They can rest assured that they will always be taken care with high six-and seven-figure incomes in the heavily financed world of right-wing think tanks, institutes, and lobbying groups for the rest of their working lives. Serving Big money never stops paying off big, as Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina learned when he leapt in late 2012 from the Capitol, where he earned $175,000 a year, to the other side of Capitol Hill, where he would earn more than $1 million annually as the new head of the Heritage Foundation.
Looking backward, we can easily recognize the outlines of Powell’s project and its trajectory. But that was not the case when it mattered. While Powell was busy circulating his memorandum with CEOs and wealthy donors even as his Supreme Court confirmation hearing approached, he did not bother to share the document with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee or the full Senate. A year after Powell’s confirmation, his memorandum was leaked to syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, who wrote a series of articles in which he suggested that the justice.”might use his position on the Supreme Court to put his ideas into practice . . . in behalf of business interests.”
Anderson’s suggestion was hardly unreasonable. In the document that Powell had neglected to share with senators was a section that argued:
American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the
courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government. Under our
constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the ju-
diciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political
change. Other organizations and groups, recognizing this, have been far more
astute in exploiting judicial action than American business. Perhaps the most
active exploiters of the judicial system have been groups ranging in political ori-
entation from “liberal’ to the far left. The American Civil Liberties Union is one
example. It initiates or intervenes in scores of cases each year, and it files briefs
amicus curiac in the Supreme Court in a number of cases during each term of
that court. Labor unions, civil rights groups and now the public interest law firms
are extremely active in the judicial arena. Their success, often at business’ expense,
has not been inconsequential. This is a vast area of opportunity for the chamber,
if it is willing to undertake the role of spokesman for American business and if,
in turn, business is willing to provide the funds. As with respect to scholars and
speakers, the chamber would need a highly competent staff of lawyers. In special situations it should be authorized to engage, to appear as counsel amicus in the
Supreme Court, lawyers of national standing and reputation. The greatest care
should be exercised in selecting the cases in which to participate, or the suits to
institute. But the opportunity merits the necessary effort.”
Just think what could happen if the chamber had a friend, a really good friend, on the Court.
On January 6, 1972, less than five months after he explained “the vast area of opportunity for the Chamber” were it to engage more actively with the courts, corporate lawyer Lewis Powell became Justice of the Supreme Court Lewis Powell. Three years later, his votes would begin the shredding of the Federal Election Campaign Act, with the Buckley v. Valeo decision, a ruling political philosopher John Rawls, a great defender of political fairness and democracy, warned “runs the risk of endorsing the view that fair representation is representation according to the amount of influence effectively exerted.”
Powell took that risk in 1978 when he stepped forward to write the opinion in the First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti case, which struck down a Massachusetts law that gave corporations broad leeway to spend money on issues “materially affecting” their own operations, but that limited the ability of corporations to spend freely to achieve political goals. The state’s attorney general, Francis X. Bellotti, used the law to challenge efforts by banks to influence the outcome of a 1976 referendum on establishing a graduated tax on the income of individuals.
Bellotti argued that the banks were overstepping their bounds, and lower courts agreed with him. But Powell led a Supreme Court majority that effectively dismissed any debate about whether corporations enjoy the same rights as citizens. “The proper question therefore is not whether corporations ‘have’ First Amendment rights and, if so, whether they are coextensive with those of natural persons,” wrote Powell. “Instead, the question must be whether [the statute] abridges expression that the First Amendment was meant to protect. We hold that it does.
Asserting the right of corporations to spend as they choose to achieve political ends, the former corporate lawyer who had encouraged corporations to engage in politics explained that the Court majority could
find no support in the First or Fourteenth Amendment, or in the decisions of this
Court, for the proposition that speech that otherwise would be within the protection
of the First Amendment loses that protection simply because its source is a cor-
poration that cannot prove, to the satisfaction of a court, a material effect on its
business or property. The “materially affecting” requirement is not an identifi-
citation of the boundaries of corporate speech etched by the Constitution itself.
Rather, it amounts to an impermissible legislative prohibition of speech based
on the identify of the interests that spokesman may represent in public debate
over controversial issues and a requirement that the speaker have a sufficiently
great interest in the subject to justify communication.”
Powell was making a case for corporate speech that suggested it was protected at least in part because citizens needed input from multinational corporations when deciding whether to fund after-school programs or repair potholes on Main Street. But what if the corporations, with their access to vast amounts of money, did not merely provide information but instead overwhelmed the electoral process in a way that might dictate results?
Powell had an answer for that concern. “Appellee advances a number of arguments in support of his view that these interests are endangered by corporate participation in discussion of a referendum issue,” the justice wrote.
They hinge upon the assumption that such participation would exert an undue
influence on the outcome of a referendum vote, and—in the end—destroy the
confidence of the people in the democratic process and the integrity of govern-
ment. According to appellee, corporations are wealthy and powerful and their
views may drown out other points of view. If appellee’s arguments were supported
by record or legislative findings that corporate advocacy threatened imminently
to undermine democratic processes, thereby denigrating rather than serving First
Amendment interests, these arguments would merit our consideration. . . But
there has been no showing that the relative voice of corporations has been over-
whelming or even significant in influencing referenda in Massachusetts, or that
there has been any threat to the confidence of the citizenry in government.””
(ISN’T THIS A WONDERFUL WRITTEN HISTORY OF JUST EXACTLY WHAT’S GOING ON IN OUR GOVERNMENT WHERE THE BILLIONAIRES ARE TAKING OVER OUR ECONOMY FOR THEIR BENEFIT AND SINCE THEY REALLY DON’T HAVE ANY HONOR AMONGST THEMSELVES, OTHER THAN EXPLOITING ONE ANOTHER, THEY ARE ELIMINATING THEIR OWN COMPETITION THAT BRINGS IN NEW IDEAS BECAUSE NOT ANY ONE PERSON HAS THEM ALL? PROBLEM IS THAT THESE MULTINATIONALS DON’T SEEM TO REALIZE THAT AND THEIR GREED HAS GOTTEN SO OBVIOUS THAT THEY CAN’T COVER IT UP MUCH LONGER BECAUSE OF THE CLASS WARS POPPING UP ALL AROUND THE WORLD. CAN YOU IMAGINE THEIR PAID LOBBYIST GROUP WHERE IN 1971, 175 U.S. CORPORATIONS HAD THEM AND BY THE MID-1970s, 2,500 CORPORATIONS HAD THEM. SINCE THEIR ENTIRE PURPOSE IS TO NOT PAY INCOME TAX, THEY HIRE PEOPLE, LIKE GROVER NORQUIST, TO GET REPUBLICANS OR ANY ELECTED OFFICIAL, TO SIGN THE “NO NEW INCOME TAX PLEDGE,” WHICH IS A DUMB IDEA BECAUSE NOBODY CAN PREDICT WHAT THE FUTURE MIGHT BRING. IT’S LITERALLY COMMITTING SUICIDE, BUT DON’T TELL THIS TO THE TEA PARTY AND THEIR RIGHT-WING REPUBLICANS. NOBODY WINS IN A CIVIL WAR. IT ONLY COMES ABOUT BECAUSE OF A MEDIA BREAKDOWN AND OF NO NEW IDEAS BEING EXPLORED ANY MORE, OTHER THAN THE REPUBLICAN OR SO-CALLED CONSERVATIVE VIEW, WHICH IS ‘LOOK AT ME, I’M THE RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD AND I DON’T NEED ANYONE ELSE.’ SINCE I’M A REALIST, I THINK THIS MAN SOUNDS LIKE HE’S GOING TO RUN THE WORLD BANKRUPT BECAUSE JUST A FEW PEOPLE HAVE ALL THE MONEY.. THAT’S WHY I’M PUTTING MY VIEWS ON MY BLOG SITE TO SHOW THAT THESE BILLIONAIRES ARE NOT THE SMARTEST GUYS in the ROOM BECAUSE THEY FORGOT HOW TO WORK TOGETHER WITH THE 99 PERCENT.
LaVern Isely, Overtaxed Independent Middle Class Taxpayer & Public Citizen & AARP Members