Logo Lowdown from the 2012 elections. Part 1–donors on the record
The spark that ignited tea party wrath in 2008 was not such right-wing bugaboos as “Obamacare,” the federal deficit, or states’ rights, which were added on later by Koch-created front groups. Rather, the uprising sprang directly from the public’s raw outrage over Washington’s flagrant coddling of Wall Street banksters.
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People were affronted by the most naked example in recent times of the power of corporate campaign cash to buy an obscene injustice. Here were America’s most privileged elites in plain view, jetting into the capitol city to call in all of the favors they were owed for the political “donations” they had previously made. That binding, ongoing dependence of lawmakers on Big Money is what allowed the Wall Street titans to (1) escape jail for their reckless selfishness, which crashed our entire economy and destroyed millions of our jobs; (2) keep their top-executive jobs, their grossly inflated paychecks, and their even-more-inflated sense of self-worth; and (3) be handed trillions of dollars from us taxpayers and Federal Reserve “regulators” to bail them out while workaday people were left to sink.
Brandishing the tea party banner in 2010, a bevy of new candidates parlayed the public’s fury into a Republican takeover of the US House. However, having gained the power to push for a little less corruption, one of the very first actions these fire-breathing “reformers” took after being sworn in was to make special-interest political money more influential than ever by voting to kill the Presidential Election Campaign Fund (PECF), the sole financing mechanism for clean elections in national law. It disburses no-strings-attached public funds to presidential candidates so they don’t have to debase themselves by dragging a sack down K-Street, through Wall Street suites, and into the penthouses of the super-rich–literally selling themselves to private interests, one check at a time.
It’s the most god-awful human activity that doesn’t involve physical pain. —- FORMER REP. BARNEY FRANK, remarking on constantly having to solicit campaign donations from wealthy interests, which he candidly calls “begging” and “debasing yourself.”
Admittedly, the presidential fund has been greatly weakened since it was enacted in 1974. But, in the wake of the Wall Street bailout scandal, the logical step to take would’ve been to strengthen and extend that public financing alternative as a way to limit the spoilage that inevitably flows from special-interest political spending.
But no. Such pinheaded potentates of the House as Majority Leader Eric Cantor strutted out to declare that killing public financing was “a no-brainer” (a phrase that, ironically, admitted the mindlessness of his move).
The supremacy of private-interest funding has turned our elections into a crass auction of government power to the wealthiest of moneyed elites.
Who are these masked men? We the People have a right to follow the money, right down to the brand names that take our consumer dollars and convert them into political donations that produce anti-consumer, anti-worker, anti-environment, anti-democracy public policies. This month and next, the Lowdown will name as many of these heavy hitters as we can unmask, including some of the severely shy ones trying to hide their self-serving corporate donations by funneling them through secretive “dark money” front groups.
In this issue, we chart the flow of publicly reported contributions that corporations make through their executives, PACs, and “soft money” channels. The numbers here are drawn from the comprehensive compilations of our country’s two preeminent trackers of political money: OpenSecrets and the Sunlight Foundation. We break the brand name donors into industry groups, listing major corporations that gave $100,000 or more to the GOP’s presidential and congressional campaigns, with at least two-thirds of their money going to Republican presidential and congressional candidates, party groups, or outside electioneering fronts.
John Deere Tractors, mowers, tools, bbq grills, chemicals, wagons and toys for children, etc.
Monsanto Pesticides (especially its “Roundup” brand) and seeds (top maker/marketer of corn, soybean, cotton, and others seeds that have had their DNA altered with genetically modified organisms). These seeds, branded as “Roundup Ready,” are bio-engineered to make the plants they produce able to absorb heavier doses of “Roundup” pesticides.
Cargill Global grain trader. Also markets animal and food processing ingredients. Brands include Purina, Nutrena, LNB, Provimi, Cargill.
Sanderson Farms Chicken products.
Agri Beef Packaged beef products include Snake River Farms, Double R Ranch, St. Helens, Rancho El Oro.
PictSweet Brand of frozen vegetables.
Peace River Citrus Fresh citrus and frozen juice products.
J.R. Simplot Major supplier of potatoes to McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s.
Case New Holland Tractors, other agricultural equipment, and construction equipment.
Altria Group Tobacco giant (Philip Morris), but also owns such wineries as Chateau Ste. Michelle, 14 Hands, Antica Napa Valley, Antinori, Col de’Salici, Columbia Crest, Conn Creek, Distant Bay, and Erath.
Dean Foods Owns dozens of milk brands including Borden, Oak Farms, Meadow Gold, TruMoo, Swiss Premium, Dean’s, Garelick Farms, Lehigh Valley, Shenandoah’s, Morning Glory, Alta Dena, PET, Purity, and Hygeia. Also owns Horizon, the largest seller of organic milk products, and Silk, which makes soymilk, almondmilk, and coconutmilk.
Tyson Foods America’s biggest factory farm operator and meat processor. Brands of poultry, pork, and beef include Tyson, Bonici, Mexican Original, Wright, IBP (formerly Iowa Beef Processors), and Lady Aster.
SABMiller Miller beers, Blue Moon, Coors Light, Hamm’s, Henry Weinhard’s, Icehouse, Leinenkugel’s, MGD 64, Mickey’s Malt Liquor, Milwaukee’s Best, Old English 800 Malt Liquor.
International Paper Hammermill, Springhill, Williamsburg, etc.
Koch Industries Its Georgia-Pacific division owns such paper-product brands as Brawny, Dixie, Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Soft ’n Gentle, Sparkle, Mardi Gras ,Vanity Fair napkins, Zee, Advantage, and Spectrum. Also owns Stainmaster carpets and the Lycra line of clothing.
Sierra Pacific Industries Lumber, millwork, building materials.
Altria Group Marlboro, Basic, Benson & Hedges, Cambridge, Chesterfield, Commander, Dave’s, English Ovals, L&M, Lark, Merit, Parliament, Players, Saratoga, Virginia Slims, Copenhagen, Cope (smokeless), Skoal, Red Seal, Husky, John Middleton cigars, Prince Albert’s pipe tobacco, Nu Mark tobacco mints, etc.
Timken car parts
Reynolds American Camel, Pall Mall, Winston, Salem, Doral, Kool, Misty, Capri, Grizzly, Kodiak, Cougar, American Spirit.
Lorillard Tobacco Newport, Kent, True, Maverick, Old Gold.
Swisher International Swisher, Santa Fe, King Edward, Goodies, Blackstone, Keep Moving Goodies, Kayak, Silver Creek, Casino Gold, Clasico, La Intimidad, Macbeth, Miramar, Vieja Tradicion, Swisher Sweets.