Re: Judicial Corruption

Postby vbattaile » Wed Apr 09, 2014 4:23 am

A government of, by and for the rich people

The Supreme Court is proving again that U.S. politics revolves around legalized bribery.
April 9, 2014

NOW WE know when the U.S. Supreme Court really cares about "free speech"--when it needs an excuse to help millionaires buy more political influence.

In early April, the high court announced a decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that strikes down overall limits on political contributions from individual donors, removing one of the few restrictions remaining from reforms passed after the Watergate scandal brought down Richard Nixon in the 1970s.

By a 5-4 majority, the justices ruled that a $123,200 cap on total donations to all candidates, political parties and political action committees during each two-year election cycle is an unconstitutional constraint on free speech. That now-abolished cap is greater than the total household income for two years of a majority of people in the U.S. So it's clear who this ruling is about: the 1 Percent and its very, very expensive "free speech."

The free speech claim is the same one the right-wing majority of the Supreme Court used to strike down previous campaign-finance restrictions--most infamously, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, which overturned regulations on political spending by corporations, industry associations and other bodies.

The latest ruling was cheered by such champions of justice and equality as failed 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who said it would "equalize the middle class and the rich."

How, you ask? Gingrich didn't elaborate.

He did, however, speak enthusiastically in favor of a concurring opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, who essentially welcomed a future challenge to election law to eliminate the cap on donations to individual candidates, which stands at $2,600 per election cycle. "[C]andidates should be allowed to take unlimited amounts of money from anybody," said Gingrich.

In the world of Newt Gingrich, it's a government of, by and for the rich people.

The McCutcheon ruling fits right in with a society where inequality has spiraled to new highs. Outsized political influence purchased by corporations and the rich helps the 1 Percent to claim an ever more disproportionate share of economic output; that massive pile of wealth in turn buys even more political influence; and on and on.

The not-so-secret reality, however, is that the U.S. political system has always been a tool of the richest individuals and businesses--and that has been true no matter which of the two mainstream corporate parties, Republican or Democratic, has the advantage in Washington.

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"THERE IS no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority opinion in the McCutcheon case.

But according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a grand total of 1,715 donors gave the maximum amount allowed to all party committees ($74,600) for the 2011-12 election cycle, and 591 gave the maximum to federal candidates ($48,600). In other words, this ruling will empower the 0.0007 percent of Americans who were supposedly barred from fully participating in the political process because they couldn't give more.

Last summer, John Roberts was also in the majority when the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, opening the way for voter ID and other laws specifically designed to make it harder for African Americans, Latinos and the poor "to participate in election our political leaders."

Taken together, the intention of these rulings isn't hard to figure out--curb what little political power remains among the powerless, and remove whatever restraints remain on the powerful. As Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig wrote:

Already, we have a system in which Congress is dependent upon the tiniest fraction of the 1 Percent to fund its campaigns. I've estimated the number of relevant funders is no more than 150,000 (about the number of Americans named "Lester"). If aggregate contribution limits are struck [as the Supreme Court did in McCutcheon], that number will fall dramatically. More will be raised from a smaller number of contributors--maybe as few as 40,000 (about the number of Americans named "Sheldon").

So abolishing aggregate limits will move us from Lesterland to Sheldon City, increasing a dependence on the funders, while conflicting with Madison's promise of a branch of government "dependent on the people alone."

The truth is that the super-rich already have ways of circumventing campaign-finance restrictions.

Consider casino mogul and multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson. According to the investigative journalists at ProPublica, Adelson spent at least $98 million on the 2011-12 election cycle, mostly through multimillion-dollar contributions to super PACs and other "dark money" vehicles that allowed him to evade the now-abolished cap on total donations from individuals. Adelson gave $30 million to a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney--and, before that, $20 million to the super PAC backing Newt Gingrich's ill-fated campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

There are more commonplace mechanisms to avoid the individual cap--like "bundling," the practice of businesses funneling "bundles" of the maximum allowable contributions from individual executives, rather than handing over a single check.

"Bundling" was the secret to the fundraising success of the Democratic Obama campaign. The myth was that Obama raised his massive war chest from "small donors" who gave $10 or $20 each. But according to the New York Times, the number of "bundled" donations to Obama's 2008 campaign from wealthy donors nearly eclipsed "the $147 million raised by President Bush's network of Pioneers and Rangers in contributions of $1,000 or larger during the 2004 primary season."

Corporate America and its two political parties were figuring out ways around campaign finance laws before they were even enacted. The Supreme Court rulings like McCutcheon that dismantle those laws only make matters easier for the elite--and expose the system for what it really is: legalized bribery.

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THROUGHOUT U.S. history, political power in Washington has been the private preserve of those who can afford it. Mark Hanna--the first modern political fundraiser, who helped the Republican Party to win a landslide victory over Democrats and Populists in the 1896 election--put it best: "There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can't remember what the second one is."

That's every bit as true today as ever--only the sums are bigger than ever. The average cost of a winning campaign for the House of Representatives--and remember, the overwhelming majority of House races are uncompetitive--was more than $1.4 million in 2008, three times greater than 20 years before.

But in some ways, campaign donations are small potatoes, compared to the real big-money game in Washington: lobbying.

Corporate interests from any and all sectors of the economy have lobbying operations in Washington that work all the days of the year in between Election Day. Unions and political organizations representing liberal causes are free to lobby, too--but they can't come close to the resources of Corporate America.

In 2009, as the Obama administration and Congress were beginning to debate health care legislation, the major health care industry groups were spending an average of $1.4 million--the average cost of a winning House campaign, remember--every single day on lobbying, according to Common Cause. That works out to about $2,600 per day per member of the House and Senate.

The health care industry got what it wanted, too--reform measures that might have threatened profits were kept "off the table," and the proposal that comprised the core of the eventual legislation was written by a former insurance company executive working for Democratic Sen. Max Baucus.

Is it any wonder, therefore, that the mainstream political discussion is confined to an incredibly narrow spectrum that rarely if ever challenges corporate power--and elections become a competition between candidates and parties which agree on the substance on almost every issue, and differ only over details, when they differ at all?

With the Supreme Court unraveling even the inadequate restrictions on Corporate America buying political influence, it's clear that there's no hope for a solution by working within the system. The game has been rigged from the beginning.

But money isn't the only factor in politics. Throughout U.S. history, as around the world, movements for social justice--the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, to name some examples--have all achieved significant change, by relying on the power of mass struggle, rather than the deep pockets of the U.S. ruling class. That's where the hope for an alternative to the status quo lies. ... ich-people
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Re: Judicial Corruption

Postby vbattaile » Wed Apr 09, 2014 7:39 pm

Where's the Black Rage on McCutcheon?
Posted by Reniqua Allen on April 8, 2014

When the McCutcheon ruling came down I was sitting in a room with several young African American men and women East Harlem talking about their struggles with employment in a world they said was stacked against them. They constantly talked about race, class, and power—but ultimately believed they couldn’t do much about it. All too often in fact, they shrugged off the notion that they any agency to change the system, with one guy noting, “we’ve just gotten the short end of the stick.”

These folk in East Harlem, however, weren’t outraged by the McCutcheon decision. In fact, most didn’t even know it was happening or if they did they brushed it off as “politics as usual.” Moreover, they didn’t connect the ruling to inequality and their personal struggles to make a living on the minimum wage—and that’s a failure that progressives, black organizations, and media elites need to fix.

Sure, there are racial justice advocates like Demos’ Heather McGhee, Congressman Keith Ellison, the NAACP, and scholar Peniel E. Joseph that have spoken out against the McCutcheon ruling, which will eliminate aggregate spending limits in campaigns, but it doesn’t seem to be translating down to the black community at large. Instead of roaring passion and urgency in communities of color, the fight against money and politics in our political system seems like more of a whimper.

It’s understandable why this is happening: black folk are overwhelmed with so many other problems like unemployment, a failing criminal justice system, and an education system not educating its kids, but it seems compounded by the fact that we’re not making this decision a big story in our own communities. Just look at the news coverage of the decision, particularly black news sites. Outside of the usual cable news show coverage when the story broke, precious few made the connection between the ruling and the potential impact it will have in the black community.

There were some exceptions. This week at the TheRoot had a very solid analysis connecting McCutcheon and last year’s Shelby decision that will make voting efforts harder for African Americans, noting:

If Shelby represents a 'bottom-up' assault against citizenship and democracy, the McCutcheon decision is a 'top-down' consolidation of political power, asserting that the efforts of multi-billionaires and multi-millionaires to illegally influence our political process is a constitutionally protected right.

While we need more pieces like this in all news outlets, it's important that black outlets play a bigger role.

McCutcheon is a big freaking deal, and will give even more political power to white wealthy donors, once again jeopardizing America’s aspirational dream of true democracy and equality. The ruling will practically guarantee that the political voices of African Americans, the poor and other minorities, will be even more muted in a society where money increasingly means power. But I’m afraid that message, and most importantly that rage, hasn’t reached the black community in the way that it needs to in order to ensure that this idea of political equality for all can truly come to fruition.

As Demos’ report Stacked Deck revealed, black and brown folk contribute far less to political campaigns with 90 percent of political donations coming from white neighborhoods in 2012. Only four percent of people in Latino communities and three percent in African Americans donated to political campaigns.

Stacked Deck also found that the affluent have more influence over policy outcomes, and that people in the bottom third of the income distribution—53 percent whom are African American and 45 that are Latino—virtually have no say in the decisions of politicians. But where is the outrage? Where were the masses of black and brown folk rallying against this increase of money in our political system?

I went to one of the many rallies held across the country the day the ruling came down. It was shocking that in New York City, a city with some of the largest minority populations in the country, the number of black and brown faces were few and far between. There was Heather, New York City Public Advocate Leticia James and a few others, but I didn’t see a movement that looked like a reflection of America.

There’s been a debate going on about rage, pessimism, and anger in the black community and this cause is no less worthy of that rage. I understand that the black community has its hands pretty full right now, but McCutcheon and the problem of money in politics, and its connection to race and class should not be a quick story in passing. Rather, it should be a constant feature, a prominent narrative that media outlets, civil rights organizations and community groups need to push every single day as jeopardizing the political voice of black America. ... mccutcheon
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Re: Judicial Corruption

Postby vbattaile » Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:46 pm

Julie Goldman • 44 weeks ago

The legal headaches besetting billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. now include a grand jury in Los Angeles, part of a federal money-laundering probe of his Nevada-based casinos, The Huffington Post has learned. The involvement of a federal grand jury, not previously reported, suggests an escalation of the money-laundering investigation into Sands and one of its executives, being led by the U.S. attorney for Los Angeles, according to a person with direct knowledge of the inquiry.

Bribery, Money-Laundering, And Islamophobia:

Sheldon Adelson has a history of illegal behavior and controversial comments -- facts that were left out of mainstream print reporting on GOP candidates trying to win his favor last week.

The Republican Jewish Coalition met March 27-29 in Las Vegas, and the event was dubbed the "Adelson Primary" as GOP presidential hopefuls used the meeting to fawn over magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., a casino and resort operating firm, who reportedly spent nearly $150 million attempting to buy the 2012 election with donations to a super PAC aligned with Mitt Romney and other outside groups (including Karl Rove's American Crossroads). Before switching allegiance to Romney, Adelson had donated millions to Newt Gingrich. He has also given generously in the past to super PACs associated with a variety of Republican politicians, including Scott Walker, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, George W. Bush, and Eric Cantor.

Hoping to benefit from Adelson's largesse, potential 2016 Republican candidates including Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush gathered at Adelson's casino to "kiss the ring."

While Republicans' efforts to court Adelson made big news in print media over the past week, none of the articles mentioning Adelson in The New York Times, Washington Post, Politico, or The Wall Street Journal mentioned that he has come under investigation for illegal business practices, including bribery, or his history of extreme remarks.

A search of the Nexis and Factiva databases from March 24 to March 31 turned up several articles in the papers ­mentioning the billionaire, none of which mentioned Adelson's checkered past. The New York Times called Adelson "one of the Republican Party's most coveted and fearsome moneymen" and detailed his current fight against online gambling, while The Washington Post's March 25 preview of the event simply reported that Adelson was "driven by what he has said he sees as Obama's socialist agenda. He is a fierce opponent of organized labor and is currently embroiled in a fight to ban online gambling."

In 2012, Adelson's corporation came under three different investigations from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Justice Department, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), an anti-bribery statute. Additionally, the Times reported at the time that several of the company's subsidiaries also "came under investigation by Chinese regulators."

Adelson allegedly attempted to bribe the Chief Executive of Macau, where a substantial portion of his casino business was located, and reportedly instructed Sands Corp. to bribe a Macau legislator with about $700,000 in "legal fees." (ProPublica reported that "several Las Vegas Sands executives resigned or were fired after expressing concerns" about the fee.) A former Sands Corp. executive also alleged that Adelson fired him after he refused to engage in illegal activity and protested the presence of Chinese organized crime syndicates in Sands' Macau casinos.

Adelson initially insisted that he was being unfairly targeted, but Sands Corp.'s own audit committee ultimately admitted there were "likely violations" of the anti-bribery law. And in August 2013, Sands Corp. agreed to pay the federal government more than $47 million in a settlement to resolve a separate money-laundering investigation, in which the casinos were accused of "accepting millions from high-rolling gamblers accused of drug trafficking and embezzlement."

Adelson has been described as a "fervent Zionist" for his opposition to any Palestinian state, and his hatred of Islam goes so far that he has said "You don't have to worry about using the word 'Islamo-fascism' or 'Islamo-terrorist,' when that's what they are. Not all Islamists are terrorists, but all the terrorists are Islamists." He has suggested that all Palestinians "teach their children that Jews are descended from swine and apes, pigs and monkeys," and said that "all they want to do is kill" Jews.

As Rick Perlstein has noted in Rolling Stone, Adelson is also vociferously opposed to unions. In 1999, when Adelson built a new casino, he failed to pay so many of his contractors that they filed a whopping 366 liens against the property, in addition to filing complaints with stage agencies and the FBI. When the new casino eventually opened, union workers protested outside -- and Adelson twice demanded that police arrest the peaceful protestors (emphasis added):

Adelson told the cops to start making arrests; the cops refused. Glen Arnodo, an official at the union at the time, relates what happened next: "I was standing on the sidewalk and they had two security guards say I was on private property, and if I didn't move they'd have to put me under 'citizen's arrest.' I ignored them." The guards once again told the police to arrest Arnodo and again, he says, they refused. The Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis, in town to support the rally, said the whole thing reminded him of living in the South during Jim Crow.

Afterwards, Adelson went so far as to allegedly attempt to pay off a hospital when it announced it would honor the head of the Vegas hotel workers union.

Adelson told The Wall Street Journal that the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill which would allow workers to unionize a workplace with majority sign-up, was "one of the two fundamental threats to society." The other was radical Islam.

If print outlets are going to devote space to the fight among Republicans to win Adelson's favor (and money), they owe it to readers to give a more accurate picture of the man holding the wallet. ... e-s/198684

Rusty Shackleford Nerzog • 9 days ago

I'd rather not give him the excuse of a mental illness diagnosis. I think it's more insulting to acknowledge that he is completely sane and lucid in his corruption and hatred. ... 1312207399

CNTL-C_CNTL-V_Rand_Paul Gidawdah • 9 days ago

It is crony capitalism at its worst. ... 1312762881

Gidawdah Nerzog • 9 days ago

Lived in Israel in the early 90s for months. Twice.
Traveled all over. Gaza (can't go there now) & the West Bank.
Very revealing. What actually goes on there. ... 1312230415

slacker_snowboarder • 9 days ago

Adelson is essentially an Israeli citizen and his priorties lay with Israeli rather than those of the United States. The Republcans that kowtow to this guy are pathetic and un-American ... 1312289580
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Re: Judicial Corruption

Postby vbattaile » Wed Apr 09, 2014 9:49 pm

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Re: Judicial Corruption

Postby vbattaile » Thu Apr 10, 2014 4:37 pm

This guy predicts that Chief Justice Roberts will be impeached — by history

The I-word — impeachment — is thrown around with reckless abandon these days, especially by right-wing types who have been bent on politically, if not literally, lynching Barack Obama from the day he moved into the White House.

But historical impeachment, as opposed to the technical kind that falls within the jurisdiction of the U.S. House of Representatives, is another matter. It happens all the time. History is a hard-nosed judge. It can even posthumously condemn a chief justice of the United States. Roger Taney of Dred Scott fame comes to mind.

Our current chief justice, John Roberts, is perhaps not as bad as Taney, but neither is he one of my favorite jurists. In fact, I think he’s awful.

But my opinion of Roberts is almost kind compared to what Brent Budowsky SAYS about him ( ... ch-roberts ):

Roberts and his four conservative Republican brethren will ultimately be impeached by historians who will condemn, and future courts that will reverse, politically illegitimate and constitutionally deformed rulings that would turn America into a constitutional oligarchy.

No court should rule that America can be purchased as property by those with the money to buy it, as black slaves were once purchased by white masters, with judicial sanction from an earlier Supreme Court that was ultimately discredited and condemned.

The founders never intended the democracy of our entire nation to be held hostage by five men who are contemptuous of legal precedent, separation of powers, the cardinal value of one person, one vote, and the timeless truth that all men and women are created equal.

Read more: ... z2yX97dC6z
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