The much-talked-about blue wave has the anti-Trump resistance ready to pop champagne at the White House gates, but if candidates should be judged by the company they keep—and the cash they take—we might be ushering in the same old Republican-lite Democratic Party of yesteryear on November 6th.
In a Status Coup investigation of political fundraisers held ahead of the midterms, red flags were found linked to some of the leading darlings of the #Resistance.
On September 12th, Texas Senate candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke held a reception in New York City with a who’s who of lobbyists and Democratic powerbrokers. There were 18 listed hosts for the party—held at the swanky music venue The Cutting Room—at $10,000 a pop for event chairs, $5,000 for chairs, and $2,500 for hosts.
One attendee was Tonio Burgos, a fossil fuel lobbyist who has served as one of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s biggest donors, giving at least $85,000 to Cuomo personally and another $201,800 through his lobbying firm Tonio Burgos & Associates. In addition to lobbying on behalf of hydraulic fracking pipelines, Burgos has also lobbied on behalf of United Water Inc. (now Suez North America), a privatized water company that has wreaked havoc on Atlanta and Pennsylvania to name a few. From price hikes for consumers to sewage overflows in Milwaukee to contaminated drinking water in Gloucester, Massachusetts, “serious problems have afflicted the municipalities across the country after they turned their water or sewage systems over to Suez-owned United Water,” according to Food and Water Watch.
O’Rourke dining for dollars with fossil fuel fat-cats like Burgos is certainly at odds with his clean energy branding: his website touts “comprehensive energy reform” with a focus on new and renewable energy. It also pushes for stronger EPA regulation on fracking and new pipeline construction, which Status Coup is undoubtedly sure O’Rourke pushed to his fracking and privatized water lobbyist donor between dinner and dessert!
Not to be left alone at the table, big bankers joined big oil: Adrian Stewart, an executive director and Assistant General Counsel at J.P. Morgan. Stewart had himself quite a busy few years representing his criminal bank in multiple lawsuits over their pawning off of toxic, subprime mortgages—those dogshit, eventually-defaulted-on-mortgage-loans—onto unwitting investors and U.S. taxpayers (via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac). J.P. Morgan settled with the Justice Department for $13 billion—pennies on the dollar for J.P. Morgan compared to the $70,000 every American lost.
Now, a banker paying $10,000 for fancy bread and brushing elbows with Beto isn’t necessarily sinister. But, Mr. Stewart isn’t just any banker: he’s an executive director at the biggest bank in the Americas. In fact, he sent heartfelt props recently to his “president,” J.P. Morgan Chairman Jamie Dimon; the very person who presided over the grand larceny the investment bank perpetrated onto the American people, along with misleading government regulators on the bank’s exposure to toxic subprime mortgages. As Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi put it so well: Dimon is a “blow-dried, tirelessly self-regarding” CEO who, after causing $20 billion in sanctions for the bank—and helping to shatter the lives of millions of Americans—got a 74 percent raise! This was the equivalent of bank robbers having a parade thrown for them after getting caught.
Status Coup assumes Stewart didn’t toss Beto $10,000 out of kindness. And like the fracking lobbyist in attendance not aligning with O’Rourke’s campaign promises, dining with complicit big banker execs doesn’t particularly jive with O’Rourke championing stronger banking oversight and regulations. Neither does the $824,000 he’s taken from Wall Street in his seven years in Congress.
Now, now, let’s not things too twisted: a paper bag would make a better Senator than Ted Cruz, a slimy, corrupt, faux-constitutionalist who is bought off by just about every special interest known to man. Although Status Coup doesn’t tell its audience how to vote or who to vote for, you should know Cruz has way more corrupt folks stuffing his face with cash: from evil hedge-funder Robert Mercer (main donor behind $31 million in Super Pac donations during 2016 campaign), to the blood-on-its-hand NRA ($77,450), to the fracking billionaires who double as anti-choice, religious fanatics who fund the religious right ($15 million).
Mercer, in particular, is of Koch-like stature: a greedy, extreme conservative who’s funded such white nationalist hubs—i.e. racist, misogynist, and Islamophobic outlets—as Breitbart.com (sold his ownership shares to his daughter Rebekah), the bat-shit crazy Media Research Center, and the Government Accountability Network founded by Steve Bannon. Mercer also founded and funded Cambridge Analytica; yes, the same Cambridge Analytica that essentially served as the Trump campaign’s data and digital analytics team… by unethically leveraging private information of more than 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge or permission.
Mercer is also accused of being a dime-a-dozen racist oligarch: in a lawsuit filed by a former research scientist at his hedge-fund Renaissance Technologies, Mercer was accused of saying the U.S. began moving in the wrong direction after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s—and that black people were doing just fine in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s period before the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Mercer allegedly added that the law “infantilized” black people, making them dependent on government. Oh, and of course, Mercer allegedly concluded that post-civil rights, the only racist people left in America were black.
Ahhh…the ol lesser of two evils at its peak: vote for a political rock star like Beto, draped with those hopeful progressive platitudes—while cozying up with the very corrupt special interests keeping America in tip-top-oligarchic-shape— OR vote for…the devil.
No wonder the majority of Americans don’t vote!
In the other main-event contests on November 6th, Tallahassee Mayor and Democrat Andrew Gillum is vying to become the first African American Governor of Florida. In his way is a Trump mini-me, Ron DeSantis, who creepily exploited his children in a campaign ad, reading them Trump’s “Art of the Deal” bedtime stories while also helping them to “built the wall” via lego set. DeSantis should arguably be getting a call from Child Protective Services rather than potential donors, but here Status Coup digresses.
Gillum, who achieved one of the biggest upsets in 2018 by winning the Florida Democratic Primary on a bold, progressive platform, unsurprisingly moonwalked away from said progressive platform for the general election. As Status Coup previously reported, while debating DeSantis, Gillum refused to stand by his primary pledge to enact a Medicare For All system if elected Governor. And by the looks of who he’s fundraising with, it’s beginning to make more sense why.
Gillum held a fundraiser on October 23rd with former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who infamously ran for president on the inspiring promise that Medicare For All would “never, ever come to pass.” Besides Gillum’s seriously questionable decision to fundraise with a figure his progressive base disdains, the hosts of the fundraiser also raise eyebrows. The luncheon was held in the home of Henry and Marsha Laufer, a Florida super couple that’s showered the Democratic Party with cash over the years. Mr. Laufer was the co-founder of Renaissance Technologies, which the aforementioned Robert Mercer ran before resigning amidst pressure from colleagues over his political contributions.
Laufer’s work as the chief scientist at Renaissance and VP of research made him a billionaire four times over. So, obviously, he spent his money on bold, progressive change, right?
Since 2012, Mr. Laufer donated $6.5 million to Priorities USA, the Super Pac that served as a combo-cash-platter for President Obama and Hillary Clinton. In the case of Clinton, Priorities USA broke all sorts of laws that bar coordination between Super Pacs and campaigns, but, SHOCKER!, the corporate media and Federal Election Commission yawned in response. Laufer also gave some crumbs ($500,000) to Correct the Record in 2016, the Super Pac run by conservative-turned-Clinton-worshipper David Brock. Among other things, CTR paid $1 million to create a paid online troll army to spread disinformation about Bernie Sanders and his supporters (i.e., those misogynist, racist “Bernie Bros.”)
Like the rest of our plutocratic friends in this report, Mr. Laufer isn’t providing millions to centrist Democrats out of kindness. In return for him and other Renaissance heavyweights donating to Obama, Clinton, and Democratic Party Super Pacs, Renaissance lobbied for and received plush tax breaks from the Obama administration totaling nearly $7 million. It didn’t stop there: then-Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who is now the stumbling, “lead with our values” DNC Chair, granted Renaissance a lucrative waiver that allowed the company to move investment earnings into Roth IRA’s, meaning no taxes on future earnings of the company’s cash-cow Medallion Fund, which averaged a nearly 72 percent annual return from 2004 to 2014.
Democracy in action, or more simply: money well spent Henry!
Gillum is also taking pounds of cash from George Soros, and environmental billionaire Tom Steyer, who, through his self-aggrandizing impeach Trump commercials, has arguably worked harder to raise his profile for a possible 2020 presidential run than trying to get actual progressives elected.
Like in the O’Rourke-Cruz contest, Gillum’s opponent Ron DeSantis is 100 times worse for Floridians. As your humble author said in a Status Coup report, I personally would vote—despite the troubling abandonment of his progressive promises and cozying up with Democratic oligarchs big on supporting Republican-lite Democrats—for Gillum in Florida if I lived there (although Status Coup nor I advise people on who you should vote for).
DeSantis is a Trump mini-me, tossing out a mix of Islamophobia and pretend concern for working people. He’s also hoarding money from all the usual greedy GOP plutocrat bosses, including Marvel Chairman Isaac Perlmutter, who has handed DeSantis his private plane to jet around Florida and campaign. Perlmutter is part of a plutocrat trio frequently spotted at President Trump’s “White House of the South” Mar-a-Lago; horrifyingly, instead of taking in the sun and girly-cocktails (my favorite during my college experience in Florida), Perlmutter and fellow plutocrat Bruce Moskowitz and Marc Sherman were essentially running Trump’s Veterans Affairs Department from the lavish Florida beach resort!
According to a ProPublica investigation, the trio “spoke with VA officials daily, the documents show, reviewing all manner of policy and personnel decisions. They prodded the VA to start new programs, and officials traveled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to hear their views. “Everyone has to go down and kiss the ring,” a former administration official said.”
ProPublica reported that Perlmutter is the first-person Trump goes to on veterans issues— by phone and over dinner when he returns to Mar-a-Lago. Perlmutter, who fought in the Six-Day-War in 1967 for his home country of Israel, has unsurprisingly helped guide Trump in efforts to privatize the VA. DeSantis also got $750,000 from Richard Uihelein, a hardcore anti-abortion, crush-the-unions conservative whose family foundation gave $2 million to the Illinois Policy Institution, which was exposed for having dubious accounting practices that very well may violate tax code rules for non-profits.
TRANSLATED: just another day in the oligarchy!
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In the case of Gillum-DeSantis, Florida voters are left with another lesser-of-two-evils paradigm. Gillum will undoubtedly be better for working people, and the environment, than the dangerous DeSantis. But, clearly, by his associations, political donors, and clear moonwalking away from progressive policies, Florida voters who vote Gillum will have to hold his feet to the fire—if he’s elected—the moment he starts rebranding himself as a donor-approved centrist who’ll work around the edges to provide itty-bitty incremental change. And that moment might come relatively quickly.
So, like Texans, Floridians are left with the riveting choice of a progressive-turned-centrist overnight or…Trump’s evil step-son.
No wonder the majority of Americans don’t vote!
Ultimately, the 2018 midterms, like the 2008 presidential, 2010 midterm, 2012 presidential, 2014 midterm, and 2016 presidential election has been widely dubbed as the “most important election of our lifetime.”
Make no mistake about it: President Trump has proven himself to be a dangerous reality-star-turned-extremist-demagogue. Although the rigged oligarchy we at Status Coup dub the United Corporations of America began long before the Donald, his presidency has taken a machete to working people while threatening black people, Latinos, Muslims, and immigrants.
Trump has been empowered by an equally deranged, bought-off Republican Party, led by Mrs. Ayn Rand (Paul Rand) and the original Thanksgiving turkey neck (Mitch McConnell). It would be good for all Americans if these extremists were not in power.
But, make no mistake about it: re-inserting neoliberals-in-progressive-cloth to take the reins in Congress, or Governors’ mansions around the country, isn’t going to lift the thousands of people your humble author has interviewed over the years. The bipartisan systemic corruption in this country has led to soaring income inequality, environmental genocide, land theft through eminent domain, minimum wage stagnation, poverty, hunger, crumbling infrastructure, gentrification that disenfranchises working people, and economic and social brutality toward minorities.
But, as friend of Status Coup Jimmy Dore has repeatedly pointed out, Bill Clinton signed right-wing bills into laws that Republicans and Ronald Reagan could’ve only dreamed of achieving—from banking deregulation to a regressive welfare “reform” to a racist crime bill and a “free” trade deal that decimated industrial workers throughout the country.
And with a great depression on the horizon and a massive progressive election mandate, President Obama enacted an insurer-friendly healthcare law hatched out of a right-wing think tank; a “stimulus package” that was predominately tax cuts rather than badly-needed government jobs programs, a band-aid over a gunshot wound in Dodd-Frank, a blanket get-out-jail-free card for criminal bankers, an extension of George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, the creation of a secretive and murderous drone program, an extension of the now indefinite war in Afghanistan, and many other neoliberal/neocon goodies.
Are Gillum and O’Rourke better for Florida and Texas than their toxic opponents? Absolutely. But are either change agents offering radical change?
Follow the money, and you’ll find the answer.