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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A stunning surprise coming out of this year’s elections is that the most dominant contenders were not glad-handing braggarts, but the least likely of participants: Shy people.

That’s strange, since running for office these days is assumed to be an ego game, attracting the loudest of self-promoters. But the big winners on Tuesday were a group that actually campaigned anonymously, not even whispering their names to the voters.

Indeed, these were not the candidates listed on your ballot, but shadow candidates that are not even people. They are corporations that have been empowered by the Frankenstein-majority on our Supreme Court to exercise the political rights of us real human-type persons. Only they’ve been endowed with far more political power than you and me, for the Court decreed that these corporate “persons” can spend unlimited amounts of their shareholders’ money on TV ads and other campaign tools to elect or defeat whomever they choose — without disclosing their names to voters.

What we have here is the rise of a stealth oligarchy in America. These politically shy corporations are pumping untold millions of dollars out of their practically bottomless corporate treasuries to elect congresscritters, governors and ultimately presidents who will serve their narrow special interests at the expense of the public interest. You would know these cagey corporate campaigners, for they are major brand names from Big Oil, Big Food, Big Pharma, etc. Normally, they’re not at all timid about promoting themselves, but — shhhh — they don’t want us to have any inkling that they’re running surreptitious, multi-million-dollar campaigns that have become a deciding factor in who holds public office in America.

One reason they hide their names is that they run overwhelmingly negative campaigns, degrading our so-called political discourse with the most disgusting, mendacious and vitriolic smears against the opponents of the corporate-friendly candidates they hope to elect. They would never want such slime attached to their corporate brands, for it would anger and repel their customers, employees and shareholders. That’s why their lawyers pushed the Supreme Court so hard to let them do their repugnant politicking, yet not have to be accountable for it.

Another reason that corporations want to “vote” in our elections without showing their identities is that honest disclosure would tarnish their favored candidates as shameless corporate toadies. If Exxon Mobil Corp. had to reveal that it put up $50,000 or $100,000 or more to elect Bob Bogus from Bogullusa to Congress, voters would surely suspect that Bob was going to back Exxon Mobil’s plan to frack their community. With the legalization of secret campaigns, however, Exxon Mobil can hitch Bob to its wagon without voters even knowing.

We’re about to see this formula of secret money equals election, equals bad policy in action. Just in terms of campaign donations it disclosed, Wall Street put more money than ever into this year’s elections, and a bigger portion of that than ever went to Republicans. We don’t know how much dark money the banksters donated to the GOP because, obviously, the donors can keep that their little secret. But we do know that the new Republican Congress has gleefully declared Wall Street reform one of its top priorities.

Following the greed-fueled financial meltdown of 2008, reformers passed the Dodd-Frank bill, imposing modest restrictions on Wall Street’s reckless speculation and setting up a new consumer watchdog to protect people from predatory financial greed. Even though both reforms have proven beneficial, and even though no GOP candidate dared to promise voters that “I’ll kill those protections and unleash the arrogant greedmeisters on you again” — that’s exactly what the Republican majority will now vote to do.

The message of this election is that money matters — it matters more than what We The People want lawmakers to do, or not do. At the very least, shouldn’t we be told the truth about who’s buying what with their massive, self-serving political spending?

How ironic that cynical lawmakers demand that us commoners show our picture on an official “voter ID” card in order to be allowed to cast a ballot, yet they allow enormously rich corporations to buy our elections (and, therefore, our public policies) without showing a “Donor ID” card. If you’re wondering who’s in charge, there it is.

To battle oligarchic rule-by-money, connect with Public Citizen:

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

AFP Photo / Stan Honda

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  • Dominick Vila

    There is no doubt that money plays an important role in American politics, and that savvy political strategists and demagogues are often able to persuade the most naive among us to vote against their best interests, but if this is the conclusion that will influence our 2016 strategy, we deserved to lose and we will lose badly in 2016.
    Many mainstream Americans have not benefited from our economic recovery, many are earning meager salaries and struggling to make ends meet, and many are so worried about the future that they have lost the ability to dream.
    Our challenges cannot be overcome by embracing facile conclusions. Our war chest was large enough to preclude the political debacle we just saw. The problem we had, and apparently still have, is that we ignored what the people were clamoring for, we ignored the circumstances that so many Americans are in, and we failed to address their concerns with actions that would convince them that something was being done to help them.
    One of our biggest problems, and the most difficult to solve expeditiously, is the fact that a large segment of our population is not qualified for the many high paying jobs our economy is producing. Our industrial might has transitioned from old fashioned assembly line work to high tech. Demographic changes (an aging population) require more highly skilled medical professionals than we have…and millions of Americans with a high school diploma can only aspire for a job stacking shelves at Target while professionals from other countries fill the best paying jobs our economy is producing.
    Our long term goal must include motivating and education our young to meet the challenges that exist today, and are likely to be even more challenging in the future, but that will do nothing for those who are currently struggling.
    I believe the short term strategy the GOP controlled Congress is going to pursue involves additional tax breaks to corporations, with a focus on bringing jobs back to the USA, and investment in industries such as coal, without ignoring the development of new energy sources that are so critical to our future. This short term solution may help, or may not help, solve the problems we have, but lacking an alternative to solve this challenge expeditiously, this is all we have. We either compromise on this issue and join them, or we will become a minority party forever.

    • midway54

      Very well said!

    • DAVE in VA

      Dominick, I can actually agree on this one. We need to have our elected officials on both sides of the aisles come together and stop the blame game. They are both guilty of corruption and doing what their big financial doners ask of them. Far to many people are being left behind financially in our middle class. I think that one of the only ways out of the financial struggles, is education and hard work it’s working for me and my family. Over the past few years l have had to go to night school in order to get a better paying job. I was in the construction industry and after the collapse in 2008 THAT BOTH PARTIES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR. I had too get a better education in order to have the job that I have today.

      • Dominick Vila

        Education is the key to overcome our financial problems, and achieve our personal and professional goals. While it is unrealistic to turn a person with a HS diploma into a nuclear physicist in two years, there is no reason for not making it easier for millions of Americans to learn a trade, or for the Federal and state governments not to fund massive retraining programs.
        Ultimately, it is up to us to decide whether or not we want to have a better life for ourselves and our families, or spend the day whining and blaming someone else.

        • exdemo55

          Now you’re sounding like a conservative. It’s time to stop looking to the government to give us what we want and go get it for ourselves. The government can’t run a lemonade stand.

          • Dominick Vila

            I couldn’t agree with you more, but if we did that, and we reminded those who are not benefiting from an economic recovery that averages 4% per quarter, was because of their own decisions, we would not be able to win an election for dog catcher. The irony is that the party of personal responsibility, the party that advocates smaller government, is the one that is promising the unemployed and under employed government solutions to help them overcome the effects of their own decisions. With that in mind, we either join them or die…politically speaking, that is.
            While we were rejoicing in our economic recovery and job creation record, Speaker Boehner was meeting with business leaders promising an agenda focused on more tax incentives to encourage corporations to bring jobs back to the USA. Sen. McConnell wasted no time, and during his victory speech he promised government legislation to help unemployed coal miners. That’s the reality of our circumstances, and an important reason for the beating we took. We forgot the zombies, and we paid dearly for it.

  • Bill Thompson

    Simply said the playing field has been ringing. While this did not happen over night it has happened over a long period of time. The US population in effect was lulled into a sense of false security. Technological advances, the birth of computer algorithms and computer simulations have left most people of my generation in the dust. The complexities of the new technology can only be understood by a small margin of very bright people. Our education system has floundered over the last 40 years and has always lagged behind the emerging technologies. Today’s STEM industries require an understanding of mathematical wizardry, that large segments of the population are incapable of grasping. Our teachers have degrees in education but not a degree in the subject that they teach, completely unacceptable.
    The good paying blue-collar in many cases union jobs that built the strongest economy in the world have been outsourced, never to return. Third world people happy to eat something other than rat are willing to work 15 hours a day Many times in unbearable situations. Corporations no longer have the mindset of Henry Ford who felt paying his employees a better than livable wage would only benefit him, we now have the world economy.
    Far too many of my peers still believe in the day gone by when a man supported his family the wife stated home, And a high school education would suffice. Meanwhile are youth that are going to be affected by the results of the recent elections didn’t find it necessary to cast their ballot.
    As for the Democratic Party and the Republican Party what more can be said, then the Republicans have a strategy, however flawed and have the ability to stay on point. Republicans have been very successful using their wedge issues, for example anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-tax, anti-union, Anti-government, anti-science, anti- evolution anti-climate change, are you starting to see a pattern pro-gun, pro religion. Unfortunately the most religious among us are being played like fiddles and being prompted to work in vote against their own best interest and the interest of the children. The rough tough talking GOP has a very successful strategy indeed. Meanwhile as far as the Democrats go, you rarely hear them speak, unfortunately we have reaped what we have sown and will pay for this for long time to come. I saw this coming and I truly fear for the 2016 election outcomes. Heads need to roll in the Democratic leadership hard decisions have to be made. The infrastructure needs to do more than beg people, via email from money.

  • midway54

    A look at the clueless voter who cheers and votes against his own interests.

  • Whatmeworry

    Dem’s collected the MOST dark $$ during this cycle and Barak in both of his campaigns took foreign $$. Looks like Citizens decision leveled the playing field