January 20, 2012
For decades, lobbies and special interests have ruled Capitol Hill, with PACs effectively steering the outcome of every major political campaign by injecting money and buying influence. Now we find out that Texas Congressman and GOP candidate Ron Paul has been targeted by a new breed of PAC, this time with foreign backing.
In recent years, activists and advocates have won back some ground in terms of placing limits and disclosure on campaign donations from individuals, businesses and have attempted to rein in some of the financial influence of political action committees (PACs). Just when one dragon was slayed, another, more menacing one was born. Enter the world of the Super PAC.
As 501c organizations, these new Super PACs take advantage of recent election funding rulings which allow corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to operate totally independently – and spend as much as they wish on election campaign media packages. Super PACs can also hold fundraisers to solicit money from donors – with no limits. The rise of the Super PAC has meant a complete runaround of any campaign ethics, or campaign finance regulation.
Where the game was often played according to how much special interests could buy a candidate, the game has now shifted into darker areas, namely, how special interests can take down, and eliminate a candidate during the early part of an election cycle. South Carolina residents are currently being slammed with a record number of Super PAC-funded TV adverts, some of which are negative in nature. More shocking is the fact that all these Super PAC ads are being paid for by just a handful of wealthy donors and establishment syndicates.
According to a recent article in the Washington Post this week, David Donnelly, National Campaigns Director for the Public Campaign Action Fund revealed, “There are probably fewer than 100 people who are fueling 90 percent of this outside money right now.” The report also adds:
In total, these new and unrestrained political action committees spent more than $15 million supporting GOP candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire and are now outspending the official campaigns in South Carolina by 2 to 1, according to advertising and expenditure data.
Out of this small handful of mega-rich donors, the Israeli lobby is represented heavily. The Washington Post adds here:
And casino magnate Sheldon Adelson recently dashed off a $5 million check to a group backing former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), marking what may be the largest single political contribution in U.S. history. Adelson is well known for supporting hard-line policies favoring Israel while also advocating measures that would benefit the gambling industry.
This level of allowable interference in US campaigns has seen Super PACs propping up certain alternate horses in the political race, in order to take votes away from the any serious rival to Establishment’s front-runner of choice. Based on election results and major polling, Mitt Romney’s only serious rival coming out of New Hampshire would be Ron Paul, yet, large sums of money are still flowing elsewhere in the field. Why?
In terms of the remaining GOP field, one could not find a more unappealing and unpopular candidate to commit millions in PAC funds for the duration of the primaries than Rick Santorum. Similarly, a complete non-runner and failure in all polling, John Huntsman, managed to bag a cool $2.5 million late in the game from the Super PAC, ‘Our Destiny’, which floated his campaign through Iowa and New Hampshire. Both men have secured some heavy backing, but skeptics should really be asking after these primaries have concluded, how a candidate with no real national support base could continue through the primaries – at such a great expense.
Likewise, the career of Newt Gingrich has long since peaked, with many mainstream political pundits even categorizing him as ‘unelectable’, but his recent record-breaking PAC donation from the Israeli lobby establishment figure Sheldon Adelson now begins to make sense. Note that Adelson is also an active financial supporter and media arm for Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career in Israel.
Ron Paul is the only GOP candidate who is not overtly ‘pro-Israel’ in the popular neoconservative sense. On January 13, in the run-up to the pivotal South Carolina GOP primary, the Emergency Committee for Israel, run by neoconservative thinker William Kristol, released an ad in which its Director Gary Bauer makes a plea to voters – not endorsing any candidate, rather, telling conservatives that they must reject Congressman Ron Paul as their GOP candidate, deriding his foreign policy views with respect to America’s ‘special relationship’ with Israel, and fighting the War on Terror – concluding that, “We can do better than Ron Paul”. See their advert here:
In reality, Ron Paul has broadcast a consistent message over the years, one which firmly places America first, and foreign entanglements last. He is the only GOP candidate who pledges to bring the troops home, cut off foreign military aid to countries overseas and lastly, he is not supporting any form of military showdown with Iran. For these reasons, his platform comes into direct conflict with the state of Israel – who is advocating the opposite, making him a target of this latest foreign interest Super PAC attack.
From this event, one can state as fact – not theory, that Israel and its supporters in the US are actively working to derail Ron Paul’s race towards the GOP nomination, and the Presidency. This fact alone, should be cause for alarm from even the most moderate of public corridors.
Should a foreign country, in this case Israel, be allowed to buy a significant influence through the media in American democratic elections? Should candidates be allowed to accept donations – even indirectly, from foreign interest PACs or agents thereof, thus creating a serious conflict of interest, and threat to national security?
Democracy for hire?
Once the GOP primaries are finished and the opposition nominee is selected, you will then see the pro-Democratic Super PACS sprung into action. President Obama’s hands will remain clean until that time, but the Democrats could very well fall on this same sword should public outrage in America reach significant levels.
With such an over-arching umbrella of influence determining its outcome, one can only conclude that the American democratic system of elections has been manipulated and twisted to such a degree by powerful special interests, that major elections in the US cannot be classed as either free or fair. Rather they have warped into cynical, stage-managed events, engineered by the few in order to achieve a particular outcome.
What does this say about the state of America in 2012? To this point, Donnelly sums it up: “When you think about the amazing impact that this small number of people have on deciding the election, on the information that people will have on who to vote for, it’s mind-boggling.”
Surely, the American people cannot be a winner in this current climate of campaign high finance and open corruption. Much worse however, in this current set-up the true winner of a genuine democratic race – can never be known.
Many will be understandably outraged to know how this game is being played behind the scenes. If there was ever a time for election reform, it is 2012.
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