18 September 2011

Daily Kos: Rick Perry is for sale, but he's not cheap

Money! It is money! Money! Money! Not ideas, nor principles, but money that reigns supreme in American politics. -- Sen. Robert C. Byrd
When we chow down on cow, we use the term "beef" to distance what we're putting in our mouths from the creature placidly chewing grass in a field. When we use the term "SuperPAC" we're engaging in another polite euphemism to avoid upsetting those with tender ears. Beef is nothing more than sliced up cow. SuperPACs are nothing more than stitched together bribes. Unfortunately, the same thing can be said of many politicians.

Take Rick Perry. Half of Perry's contributions have originated with only 204 people. So many dollars coming from so few sources means that Perry's team is extremely aware of who puts the butter on their toast. This isn't twenty bucks from a million people. It's closer to a million bucks from twenty people, and when someone contributes at that level they don't do it because they like a candidate's haircut, or even his ideology. It's not going to the candidate with whom they'd most like to share a beer. Donors at this level share all the beers (and champagne) with the candidates that they can guzzle.

When individuals cut checks to politicians the size of those being scribbled out to Rick Perry, it happens for one reason. It's an investment. In this case, it's a pretty safe investment, because history shows that Rick Perry is a slot machine who pays on every pull.

One share of Perry belongs to playboy billionaire Thomas Friedkin, who earned his money the old fashioned way—he inherited it—and who used part of that money to start big game hunting preserves in Botswana and Tanzania. Rick Perry rewarded Friedkin's obvious love of animals (and $700k contribution) by making him head of the Texas Park and Wildlife Commission, where he bumped the not-quite-so-generous Perry contributor who last held the position.

Another piece of PerryCo goes to home builder, Bob Perry (no relation). Not only did Bob Perry hand out $2.5m to namesake Rick, he also passed along another $7 million to Karl Rove's Crossroads PAC. For this, Bob was well rewarded. To help out his pal Bob, Rick Perry shepherded through legislation forcing home buyers who were taken in by incomplete or shoddy work to go to an industry-dominated commission for "justice" rather than a judge. For his contributions, Bob Perry got to have his lawyer design the legislation, which Rick Perry then signed. A very good deal for Bob, and that's even before you get to his role in passing anti-immigrant regulations.

Perhaps the biggest block of Rick Perry shares belong to garbage magnate Harold Simmons. For the $3 million he's contributed, Simmons walked off with the whole state program for monitoring nuclear waste. The program was turned into a private monopoly for Simmons' company. That was just the beginning.

When Simmons' proposed facility was sent for environmental review, it failed. The approval commission ignored the environmental review and allowed the facility anyway. That was still just the beginning.

When public complaints poured in, the commission decided to move forward by passing the proposal without a public hearing. And they did. That was still just the beginning.

Simmons wasn't content to handle just Texas' nuclear waste. Instead, he decided to use his new review-free permit and state-sanctioned monopoly to attract radioactive, chemical and biological waste from across the nation. He decided to create a "one stop shop" for waste of all sorts, a 20 square mile facility that just happened to sit on a couple of aquifers.

Simmons got his approval.

How important was the business Simmons generated by buying politicians? Important enough that he used his children and grandchildren as conduits to launder contributions and evade the FEC. That was in 1997. You know, back when there were rules that still had to be followed. Back before all the barriers to bribery were taken away.

One more thing: if Bob Perry and Harold Simmons' names sound familiar, that's because you've heard them before. The two were the largest contributors to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign to destroy John Kerry's reputation and secure the White House for a second George W. Bush administration in 2004. That's not because they were pals with Bush any more than they're buddies with Perry. They pay the up front cost knowing that it will come back to them with interest. They buy Republican, because once Republicans get their hands on the government, they're even more generous in rewarding those who put them in office.

Republicans pretend to loathe judicial overreach. They rail against activist judges who "make law" and pound their chests about original intent, but the truth is that since the 2000 Bush v Gore decision, there has been an ever accelerating wave of radical judicial activism from the right. Conservative judicial decisions have overturned two hundred years of rules designed to prevent just what we're now seeing, ownership of both the media and political system by a very wealthy few.

The greatest pretense in American politics is this: that our politicians can be utterly dependent on money given to them by contributors, but not be influenced by the source of those funds. It's not true. It's never been true. Now that the judicial takeover of our electoral system is complete, there's not even any reason to hide it. This is a bribe-based system—an oligarchy all the way to the core. Getting it back isn't going to be easy, and probably can't be done with dollars. It's going to take something far more dear.

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