If you supported candidate Barack Obama for President back in 2008, you probably got an email like the one journalist Glenn Greenwald received. Provided one was willing to kick in a mere $5 to Obama’s re-election campaign, one could potentially win one of four spots to sit down and have an intimate dinner with the president. Greenwald excerpted the email:
Most campaigns fill their dinner guest lists primarily with Washington lobbyists and special interests.
We didn’t get here doing that, and we’re not going to start now. We’re running a different kind of campaign. We don’t take money from Washington lobbyists or special-interest PACs — we never have, and we never will.
We rely on everyday Americans giving whatever they can afford — and I want to spend time with a few of you.
So, those words sound good, don’t they? But promises are cheap and political campaigns are expensive. Three days before Greenwald published his post, the New York Times published an article titled “Obama seeks to win back Wall Street Cash“. The article notes that Obama had more than two dozen Wall Street fat-cats over to the White House for a couple of hours to discuss whatever hot-button issues they wanted to discuss. Those who couldn’t make the meeting received a personal follow-up call from the President. All part of the President’s plan to get re-elected by pandering to Wall Street executives.
On June 16th, a day after Greenwald’s post, the New York Times again reported on the amazing strides the President has taken with his efforts to raise campaign cash. Roughly 150 new donors to Obama’s campaign raised as much as a half-million dollars each (31 donors raised more than that amount), putting Obama well ahead of his Republican rivals. Despite a cursory nod to the grass-roots fundraising efforts, the article notes that “Mr. Obama’s election filings suggest that the president’s grassroots machinery is being financed by a relatively small group of big-ticket donors.” The Wall Street execs who made the White House meeting a week earlier with Obama came through for him in a big way:
…17 of those guests appeared on Friday’s list of bundlers for Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign, accounting for a minimum of $3.95 million of the $86 million he raised.
“It’s high-priced access to closed policy discussions with deep-pocketed individuals, just like it’s always been,” Ms. [Ellen] Miller said.
and the article concludes:
Mr. Obama, unlike his Republican opponents, has made a point of swearing off contributions from registered lobbyists and corporate political action committees.
But the president’s bundlers include business executives whose companies have substantial interests before the federal government. Marc Benioff, who raised more than $500,000, is also chairman of Salesforce.com, a company whose software the Obama administration has adopted for wide use in federal agencies. Another bundler, Michael Kempner, is president of the MWW Group, a national public affairs company that has a lobbying practice in Washington.
The Center for Responsive Politics has a new report out which indicates the success Obama is having with Wall Street fundraising. More than a third of his re-election funds which have come from “bundlers” (which are themselves a way to skirt campaign finance laws against large contributions) have come from the financial sector.
None of this is new, by the way. Obama was Wall Street’s favorite in 2008 as well, and they threw big money behind his candidacy. One could argue that they got what they paid for, as the too-big-to-fail banks are even bigger today. The top 10 banks hold 77% of all assets, and there are estimated to be more than a thousand banks on the FDIC “troubled banks” list, and more than 60 banks have failed so far this year. Now that all the bullshit about “green shoots” is wearing off, expect bank failures to start to pick up again. And bank failures means we’re heading back into bailout season. Of course, we didn’t solve any of the fraudulent and inequitable problems which got us here in the first place, so why should we expect anything different? Insider trading is still rampant, and corporations are raking in nearly all the gains from whatever moribund recovery we’ve had. Meanwhile, Main Street never left the recession and is still dealing with high unemployment, stagnant wages, and an ongoing foreclosure crisis.
The middle class and the poor do not have a say in this country any longer. The Democratic candidate will mouth progressive platitudes to get elected, the Republican will mouth conservative ones, and then both will go to work serving the corporations and plutocracy that really run this country. Oh sure, they’ll criticize the fat-cats when it’s politically necessary to do so, but they will not actually act to rein in these corporate behemoths that fund their careers. Again, Republican or Democrat, they all rely on money to get elected. Money that the little guy doesn’t have, at least in sufficient quantity. Which is why you end up with the bizarre spectacle of the biggest fundraiser for the Democrats and the Republican mastermind to whom George W. Bush owed his career running the same company (perhaps unsurprisingly, an investment bank).
Go ahead and send Obama $5 if you feel like it, even vote for him if you want, but don’t expect anything different from what you’ve been getting from these psychopaths. They’ve got the best marketing money can buy, but you ought to be smarter than to believe what you’re being sold.