How To Overcome the Power of Big Money

In a recent blog, “Can the American People Overcome the Power of Big Money?,” I wrote “the common denominator that prevents the enactment of real, positive solutions to practically every issue Americans face is the power of Big Money.” After exploring the problem, I proposed that a massive, grassroots Democracy movement was the only viable way we, the people could succeed in reviving our democracy.

            Throughout the history of the United States, time and again the American people have come together to advance social justice. From the Abolitionists and Women’s Suffrage movements to the Civil Rights, LBGTQ and other people’s movements, we have beaten great odds and overwhelmed the status quo. Now we are, once again, called to do just that.

            What might a Democracy movement look like and what would be its mission and goals? First, to be effective, such a movement must include a broad range of the political spectrum. Without far-reaching support, this movement will not have the necessary political weight to achieve the systemic, democratic reforms required to establish a truly just society. Therefore, the movement must be non-partisan and involve Republicans and Democrats; conservatives, moderates and liberals; Independents, Libertarians and progressives.

            Second, the movement must be grassroots and give people reason to believe their involvement will be beneficial to their lives. Moreover, the movement needs to include a vast majority of the population from all sections of the country. People must feel that they have a stake in such a movement. Although a Democracy movement may seem irrelevant to people’s everyday lives, illustrating how Big Money’s grip on government adversely affects average Americans can persuade them to get involved. People need to feel personally linked to the movement’s purpose as well as grasp the value of its potential benefits for themselves and others. The more deeply connected people are to a movement’s values and goals, the more likely they are to become actively involved.

            And, third, in order to build massive and inclusive backing, a Democracy movement needs a clear, powerful and convincing message that resonates with most Americans. That message might go something like this:

Big Money and Corporate America control our government. They buy politicians’ loyalty and unduly influence them with huge campaign contributions and very substantial lobbying efforts. We, the American people, are the big losers in this legally corrupt system. We support these politicians by volunteering in their campaigns, voting for them and paying their salaries with our hard-earned tax dollars. Yet, they repeatedly pass legislation (e.g., huge subsidies for the oil industry and bailouts for Wall Street banks), which favors Big Money and Corporate America at our great expense. The truth is our government does the bidding of Big Money while it very often disregards the common good and the wellbeing of most Americans. In fact, the United States has become a plutocracy, a nation ruled by and for the benefit of the very wealthy. In order to overcome the power of Big Money, Americans of all political persuasion must join together and build a nationwide, non-partisan, grassroots movement to revive our democracy.

The mission of a Democracy movement would be to remove the corrupting influence of money in politics and make the government work for all the people of the United States. To accomplish this mission, the movement would work to achieve at least the following goals:

  1. Establish mandatory public financing of all congressional and presidential elections. Until we have a level playing field for all candidates who meet the qualifications to run for any particular office, we will not be able to eliminate the undue influence of Big Money.

  2. Enact a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United, and McCutcheon v. FEC decisions finding that money is speech, corporations are people, and restrictions on campaign contributions violate the freedom of speech. As long as these rulings stand, we will not be able to control the overriding power of Big Money.

  3. Reform and strictly regulate lobbying so that all Americans have equal access to their elected officials regardless of their income, corporate position, or labor affiliation. For the voices and opinions of all Americans to be heard, we must have equal access to our elected officials.

  4. Eliminate the gerrymandering of congressional districts so that each state’s delegation to the House of Representatives is proportionate to the votes each party receives in that state’s elections for Congress. In order for the people of any state to be fairly represented in Congress, as well as in their state legislatures, districts must be fairly drawn by independent commissions without favoring one political party over another.

  5. Enact a constitutional amendment to eliminate the Electoral College so that every citizen’s vote for president carries the same weight and the president is elected solely on the basis of the national popular vote. Since the president represents all the people, the weight of a person’s vote should be the same regardless of where he or she may live.

  6. Establish a national Bill of Voters’ Rights guaranteeing all citizens of the United States an equal opportunity to vote and eliminating restrictive voter ID requirements and other efforts obstructing people’s right to vote. In a democracy all citizens’ right to vote should be guaranteed and protected.

While these are fundamental changes to our political structure that will be very difficult to establish, strong, bold actions are required to fix our broken system and put control of our government in the hands of the people. Half measures will not do. Consequently, only a massive, non-partisan, grassroots movement will have the ability to overcome the power of Big Money and revive our democracy.

See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com for how you can help build a Democracy movement.

 

 

America’s Political System Thrives on Corruption

            Big Money has a stranglehold on our country’s political system that is destroying our democracy. Today in Washington and in our state capitals too often Big Money calls the shots. Moreover, this problem is not a partisan issue. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle as well as presidential administrations of both parties are frequently guilty of unduly favoring the desires of their Big Money donors over the needs of their constituents. The truth is, we have a system that thrives on corruption, and it’s getting worse all the time.

            While Donald Trump appears to have taken public corruption to a whole new level, by no means did it begin with him. Recent American history is full of examples. For instance, in 2002 Rep. Billy Tauzin, a Republican from Louisiana and then Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, drafted the Medicare prescription drug bill, which created Medicare’s prescription drug benefit. In his final Congressional election for Congress that same year, Tauzin received close to $300,000 in campaign contributions from health professionals, drug makers and other health products companies. The bill Tauzin drafted in 2003 followed the industry’s desires. It steered clear of price controls and forbade our government, the largest purchaser of prescription drugs, from negotiating with drug manufacturers to secure lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries, which is why today we still pay the highest prices in the world for our prescription medicines.

            But, that’s not all. The year after Tauzin drafted the Medicare drug benefit act, he left Congress and went through the revolving door between government and K Street, where a great many lobbyists work, and was hired by the drug industry. PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s lobbying arm, rewarded Tauzin for writing the drug bill to its liking by hiring him as its president with a salary of approximately $2 million a year.

            Tauzin’s payoff would be unbelievable except for the fact that that is the way Washington actually functions. Retiring from Congress and becoming a lobbyist for a much heftier salary is a fairly common practice. According to one study, 42% of House members and 50% of senators become lobbyists when they leave office. Not only do they make a lot more money when they “retire,” so to speak, but also they automatically have built-in access to members of Congress, having worked with many of them when they themselves were in office. You might say many of our representatives, with the help of corporate America, have made corrupting their public service standard operating procedure.

            A few years later, the Great Recession of 2008 struck our nation. Millions of innocent people lost their homes and/or jobs when the economy crashed. Though the economic disaster was mostly due to the unscrupulous and fraudulent practices of Wall Street’s big banks, the Obama administration allowed practically all of those bankers to get off scot-free. Could the facts that some of Obama’s biggest donors during his 2008 campaign were Wall Street banks, and that he appointed a number of Goldman Sachs people, like Larry Summers, Gene Sperling and Rahm Emanuel, to important positions in his administration have had something to do with his failure to hold the bankers accountable?

            In addition, despite the fact that the TARP legislation (Troubled Asset Relief Program) included instructions to use a portion of the funds to prevent the foreclosure of people’s homes, President Obama not only used little or none of it to assist those distressed homeowners, but he also refused to extract foreclosure relief measures from our nation’s biggest banks in return for the huge bailout they received. Was neither prosecuting the big bankers nor extracting foreclosure relief from them Obama’s way of paying back Wall Street for their helping him win the White House?

            Of course, Obama’s was not the first Democratic administration to look out for Wall Street at the expense of the American people. In the 1990s, Robert Rubin served as Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration. A former Goldman Sachs co-chairman, Rubin used his influential position to gain repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated investment banking from commercial banking since the days of FDR, and had thus protected ordinary Americans’ bank deposits from being wagered by investment bankers in the risky trading of future derivative swaps and other exotic, often fraudulent securities. Rather than protecting the interests of average American investors and homeowners, Secretary Rubin’s efforts supported his Wall Street friends. Repealing Glass-Steagall allowed the Big Banks to gamble with depositors’ money. Consequently, to a great degree, we have Pres. Clinton, Rubin and his bank buddies to thank for the crash of the housing market and the Great Recession of 2008. Even today, many Americans are still struggling to recover while the big bankers are doing better than ever.

            Now President Trump and his billionaire Republican friends are running our government. Given all the prior corrupting influence of Big Money in Washington, it’s quite likely that their financial interests will also play a significant role in how our nation’s policies are determined. Rex Tillerson, the new Secretary of State and former head of Exxon Mobil, and Steve Mnuchin, the recently appointed Secretary of the Treasury who previously worked for Goldman Sachs, are just two members of Trump’s cabinet whose policy decisions may very well be swayed by their private financial affairs.

            As for Trump himself, it’s all about the money. He reportedly was offered up to a 19% stake in Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company, in return for his lifting the sanctions imposed on Russia by Pres. Obama. Subsequently, a similar portion of Rosneft was sold to a mysterious partnership partly owned by a shadowy company in the Cayman Islands, the ownership of which is unknown, according to Reuters. And then the sanctions were, in fact, relaxed.

            Moreover, last month the Chinese government granted President Trump and his business valuable trademark protection for the use of the Trump name in the construction industry, something he had been seeking for more than a decade. While Trump had fought unsuccessfully in Chinese courts for years for control of the trademark, in November, soon after the election, China awarded the trademark to the Trump Organization.

            And, yet another example of Trump’s corruption of the presidency is his pay-to-play scheme at his private, Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach resort. Soon after he became president, Trump doubled its initiation fee to $200,000. For Trump, the presidency is all about using it for his personal gain. The question is: How long will the American people put up with all this corruption?

            Bruce Berlin is the state coordinator of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics and the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America. See his website at www.breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.

 

Can the American People Overcome the Power of Big Money?

Back in the 1890s, Republican power broker and former U.S. Senator from Ohio, Mark Hanna, explained, “There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember the second.” While Hanna’s clever observation places money at the pinnacle of political power, there is something else that can be just as forceful in politics. That is, we, the people, which, as Hanna’s quote illustrates, are often forgotten by our politicians. Nevertheless, while Big Money usually drives our politics, when enough people do rise up, they can overcome the power of Big Money and achieve great social advancements.

More about that in a minute, but first, let’s be clear about one basic fact: Big Money’s grip on our government is not a partisan issue. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle as well as presidential administrations of both parties are very often guilty of unduly favoring their Big Money donors over their constituents. The truth is, that is how our political system works, and has worked for a very long time. Here are just a couple of outrageous examples:

During the George W. Bush administration, Dick Cheney, the former CEO of Halliburton, one of the world’s largest oil-services companies, used his position as Vice President to strongly support the extractive energy industry. First, he held secret meetings with oil and gas industry executives while drafting the nation’s new energy policy. According to the Los Angeles Times, Cheney’s task force consulted extensively with corporate executives while environmental groups had little input. Many of the executives at the White House meetings were generous donors to the Republican Party. Big Money bought very valuable access to the policymaking process.

Later, Chaney went as far as deceiving our nation into believing Iraq had WMDs (weapons of mass destruction), so that the United States would invade Iraq and presumably gain control of its vast oil reserves for the benefit of Big Oil. While Big Oil never got possession of Iraq’s oil reserves, with Cheney’s help, Halliburton did obtain numerous government contracts in Iraq worth close to $40 billion during our occupation of that country. At the same time, this needless war-of-choice cost close to two trillion dollars, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives, and thousands of American lives. Despite all the death and mayhem he unleashed, Cheney now enjoys a very comfy retirement thanks to his ample government pension and Halliburton nest egg.

A few years later, the Great Recession of 2008 struck our nation. Millions of innocent people lost their homes and/or jobs when the economy crashed. Though the economic disaster was mostly due to the unscrupulous and fraudulent practices of Wall Street’s big banks, the Obama administration allowed practically all of those bankers to get off scot-free. Could the facts that some of Obama’s biggest donors during his 2008 campaign were Wall St. banks, and that he appointed a number of Goldman Sachs people, like Larry Summers, Gene Sperling and Rahm Emanuel, to important positions in his administration have had something to do with his failure to hold the bankers accountable? Despite the fact that the TARP legislation (Troubled Asset Relief Program) included instructions to use a portion of the funds to prevent foreclosure of people’s homes, President Obama not only used little or none of it to assist those homeowners, but also refused to extract foreclosure relief measures from our nation’s biggest banks in return for the huge bailout they received.

Now President Trump and his billionaire friends are running our government. Given the corrupting influence of Big Money in the past, it’s hard to believe that their financial interests won’t play a significant part in how they determine our nation’s policies. Rex Tillerson, the new Secretary of State and former head of Exxon Mobil, and Steve Mnuchin, the recently appointed Secretary of the Treasury who previously worked for Goldman Sachs, are just two members of Trump’s cabinet whose policy decisions may very well be influenced by their private financial affairs.

Then, there’s Trump himself. He reportedly was offered up to a 19% stake in Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company, in return for his lifting the sanctions imposed on Russia by Pres. Obama. Subsequently, a similar portion of Rosneft was sold to a mysterious partnership partly owned by a shadowy company in the Cayman Islands, the ownership of which is unknown, according to Reuters. And then the sanctions were, in fact, relaxed.

Moreover, last month the Chinese government granted President Trump and his business valuable trademark protection for the use of the Trump name in the construction industry, something he had been seeking for more than a decade. While Trump had fought unsuccessfully in Chinese courts for years for control of the trademark, in November, soon after the election, China awarded the trademark to the Trump Organization. This is just one of a number of instances where Trump has corrupted his presidency. Another is Trump’s pay-to-play scheme at his private, Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach resort. Soon after he became president, Trump doubled its initiation fee to $200,000.

So, what are we, the people to do to counter Big Money’s dominance and revive our democracy? The most potent force for change in our country’s history has been the grassroots movement. From the abolitionists to women’s suffrage to more recently civil rights and LBGTQ rights, when millions of Americans come together and demand a more just society, they can and do compel the status quo to change.

Whether the issue is the environment, immigration reform, affordable healthcare, gun violence, you name it, the common denominator that prevents the enactment of real, positive solutions to practically every issue that concerns Americans is the power of Big Money. Now a Democracy movement is developing throughout the nation to eliminate the corrupting influence of Big Money and give all Americans an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.

In Santa Fe, as part of this movement, we have formed New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, or NM MOP, to work on breaking Big Money’s grip on our government. On April 1, we will be conducting a free, 3-hour training on the 28th Amendment Initiative to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which found that money is speech and corporations are people, effectively giving corporations the same first amendment rights as people. American Promise, a national, nonpartisan organization focused on the 28th Amendment Initiative, will conduct the training. If you wish to attend, write to breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com. Whether or not you come to the training, I urge you to join this mass movement to break Big Money’s grip on our government and revive our democracy. The future of our country is riding on your active participation.

Bruce Berlin is the state coordinator of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics and the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America.

“Fake News” and the Struggle for the Heart and Soul of America

If anyone had any doubts that the Trump administration is bringing fascism to our country, last Friday’s news should put an end to that uncertainty. In a strong-arm attempt to punish the media, the White House barred several major news outlets from attending the February 25 White House press briefing with Sean Spicer, the Press Secretary. The New York Times, the L. A. Times, USA TODAY, The New York Daily News and CNN were among the news media blocked from covering the press briefing.

This extraordinary, vindictive step by President Trump, which was probably Steve Bannon’s idea, is much more than the latest missile in the administration’s feud with the media. Rather, it is an effort to further Trump’s claim that the media, or at least that which he calls “fake news,” is the enemy of the American people. Of course, any news criticizing Trump automatically becomes “fake news” to his way of thinking. And, since a great deal of the news has been critical of him, Trump denies much of it as “fake.”

One of the tenets of totalitarian regimes is that the government has a monopoly on the truth. Labeling all dissenting views as “fake” is a deliberate strategy to discredit the media and destroy a vital protection against authoritarian rule. At the same time, the media becomes a whipping boy for Trump’s ardent supporters to rail against. It’s a means of diverting attention from issues that really matter, such as, did Trump collude with the Russians to steal the election. Or, is Trump violating the public trust by not releasing his tax returns and the Constitution by using the presidency for his private gain? Nevertheless, to his loyal followers these questions hardly matter. Trump has saved them from Hillary Clinton and the Establishment, and he will “make America great again.” To them, he can do no wrong.

Another tenet of totalitarian regimes is they target scapegoats to blame for the people’s hard times. Just like Hitler used the Jews as his scapegoat, Trump has targeted the “bad hombre” Mexicans and Muslim immigrants. These foreigners also become whipping boys for Trump’s ardent supports as they chant, “America First.” It’s all part of Trump and Bannon’s strategy to establish authoritarian control through a white national populist message.

Then today (February 27), the White House apparently was caught trying to ruin a reporter’s reputation, another tactic of totalitarian rulers, for writing a story about Press Sectary Spicer’s attempt to discover the source of leaks coming from the White House. POLITICO’s editor Carrie Budoff Brown “accused the White House of planting a story to smear (its reporter, Alex) Isenstadt, after they were pissed off with claims made in his original story.” As much as Trump condemns “fake news,” the White House seems fine with employing it as a weapon against a reporter they don’t like. And, that raises the question: who is the real purveyor of “fake news”? See http://bipartisanreport.com/2017/02/27/white-house-caught -trying-to-ruin-politicos- reputation-in-shadiest-way-report/.

I believe we ignore these clear signs of authoritarian rule at our peril. Trump and Bannon are laying the foundation for the United States to become a fascist state. The longer we try to deny this reality, the more likely they will succeed.

Consequently, it is up to each and every one of us: Are we going to stand by and allow Trump’s fascist regime to destroy our democratic way of life, the heart and soul of America? Or, are we going to come together as patriotic Americans, Republicans, Democrats and Independents; build a grassroots, mass movement to overcome this horrendous threat to democracy; and restore our right to self-governance?

Is Our Country Experiencing Deja Vu All Over Again?

In 1960, Americans voted for a vibrant, young Democratic senator with new ideas to be president. John F. Kennedy promised a New Frontier for our country. Though he didn’t live to fulfill his dreams for America, his vice-president, Lyndon Johnson, did deliver a number of major reforms that established the Great Society. However, in 1969, Republican Richard Nixon entered the White House and a period of disastrous political corruption ensued.

Forty-eight years later in 2008, Americans voted for another vibrant, young Democratic senator to be president. Barack Obama promised “change we can believe in.” Though he was severely hampered by Republican opposition, he did manage to pull the country out of the Great Recession and pass the Affordable Care Act. However, in 2017, Republican Donald Trump entered the White House and apparently another period of terrible political corruption has begun.

While there are striking similarities here, clearly these two episodes in American history are not the same. Moreover, it is still a bit early to tell how the Trump era will play out. Nevertheless, what can we make of all this?

In both situations, a center-left Democratic administration was followed by a conservative Republican presidency. Perhaps more importantly, in each case the new Republican president had an authoritarian personality. That is, an attitude characterized by belief in absolute obedience or submission to one’s own authority, as well as the administration of that belief through the oppression of one’s subordinates. Like Nixon, Trump fits this personality type.

If history is to repeat itself, Trump will come tumbling down just as Nixon did when the Watergate scandal destroyed his presidency. Having lived through the Nixon years, I can remember how much Nixon hated the Washington press corps. Trump despises the media as much, if not more than Nixon did. Trump assails the media, calling the New York Times and the Washington Post, “Fake News.” Like Nixon, he intimidates journalists, avoids White House reporters, and stages events for television.

In addition, Nixon believed that many people were out to get him. He even compiled an “enemies list” and hunkered down alone in the White House. In his book, President Nixon, Richard Reeves wrote that Nixon could trust no one because in his isolation he thought other people were like him. He governed by secret orders and false records.

While Trump is much more outgoing than Nixon was, like the former president he does have a very limited circle of trusted advisors. Thus, Trump kept Vice President Pence out of the loop regarding General Flynn’s activities with the Russians. He even went as far as allowing Pence to publicly and unwittingly repeat Flynn’s lies about it.

Consequently, we have entered another very dark period in our country’s history. When the Watergate scandal broke, courageous members of the President’s own party stepped up and demanded a full accounting of Nixon’s corrupt and illegal behavior, even though the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Republicans like Sen. Howard Baker and John Dean, Nixon’s former White House Counsel, were instrumental in bringing to light the extent of Nixon’s high crimes and misdemeanors which were required to impeach him.

Now the Republicans control both houses of Congress. While some Democrats are calling for full disclosure of Trump’s very questionable and, quite possibly, impeachable behavior, it will take patriotic Republicans to stand up to their President and demand the facts regardless of the consequences. This is the moment of truth for John McCain, Lindsey Graham and the rest of the Republican Party. The fate of our country is in their hands.

An Open Letter To President-Elect Trump

Dear President-Elect Trump,

I hope that you have noticed the rising level of animosity and fear in our country since your election. Many of your supporters as well as your detractors are very upset. Ironically, I doubt it would have been much different had you lost, perhaps even worse.

Your supporters have threatened violence and call those who opposed your election “sore losers.” Your detractors are plotting how to resist and derail your presidency. While I must admit that I fall in the latter camp, my intent here, which I hope you will share, is to help reduce the tension in our nation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked over one thousand acts of bias intimidation and harassment targeting Muslims, blacks, Latinos, immigrants, and LGBTQ people since Election Day. (See https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch.) This state of affairs does not bode well for our country.

As the soon-to-be president of all Americans, you are in the best position to take constructive action to ease our national anxiety. Consequently, I respectfully urge you to consider taking the following steps:

1. In the spirit of the holidays, go on national television and express your good will toward all Americans. Tell them that you want to understand their anger and fear, but violence and intimidation will not be tolerated. Explain that you intend to be the President of all Americans.

2. Be a gracious winner and make an offer of reconciliation. Don’t just go to areas of the country that supported you. Reach out to Americans who opposed your candidacy. Show them that you are interested in their issues and want to address their concerns as well. Keep in mind that the majority of the electorate did not vote for you. Dialogue with Americans of all persuasions.

3. Expand your cabinet choices so that all Americans will feel represented in your administration. To date, your appointments appear to favor a small, elite segment of the population. You need to include people who can empathize with a much greater portion of the American people. More than one Republican served in President Obama’s cabinet. You can and should include Democrats in yours.

4. Make some policy proposals that demonstrate you really are listening to people with different viewpoints. Most Americans have nowhere near the wealth and privilege that you and those you’ve chosen for your cabinet have. You are their President too. It is your duty and responsibility to serve their needs as well. And, finally,…

5. Listen to your critics. You don’t have to agree with them, but they do have a right to their opinions. Remember the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Belittling those who oppose you does not become the President of the United States. Being open to criticism is a positive trait that will make you a better president.

Clearly, these are difficult times for many Americans. If you heed these suggestions, I feel you will make it a bit easier for yourself as well as for the rest of us. May God bless America.

 

Where Are Our American Patriots?

The entire U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Vladimir Putin and the Russian government interfered in our election to support Donald Trump’s candidacy for president. According to the L.A. Times and the Washington Post, FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. are in agreement with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the presidency.

While some officials are calling for a thorough bipartisan investigation into this matter, no one seems to think the confirmation of Trump’s election victory by the Electoral College should be delayed until the investigation is completed. Of course, once Trump is sworn in, it will be too late to change the election’s outcome. At that point, Trump will control the government, and likely do, with the help of his Republican allies, whatever it takes to derail and discredit any investigation.

Where are American patriots like Sen. John McCain and Pres. Obama when the American people need them the most? Why aren’t they stepping up and calling for a halt to this impending national catastrophe? Why isn’t Pres. Obama laying out the facts discovered by the intelligence community to the American people, so we can determine what action we believe is necessary to save our democracy?

We need Republican senators McCain and Lindsey Graham along with Minority leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi to immediately and jointly file for a writ of mandamus before the U.S. Supreme Court ordering the Electoral College not to convene until an independent, non-partisan commission determines whether the outcome of the presidential election was substantially affected by the Russian meddling. Every patriotic American citizen should be urging their representatives to support this effort.

Republican leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are asking why did the Democrats and the intelligence community wait until after the election to raise the issue of Russian interference. Unlike Republican senators McCain and Graham, McConnell wants to keep any investigation under the partisan control of the Republican Senate. McCain and Graham along with leading Democratic senators Schumer and Jack Reed, on the other hand, are calling for an independent, non-partisan investigation outside of Senate control.

Unfortunately, McConnell cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Last September Sen. McConnell actively worked to suppress the information that the Russians were hacking into our election process. At a meeting with Congressional leaders where Pres. Obama attempted to get bipartisan support for exposing Russia’s interference, McConnell threatened to accuse the White House of playing partisan politics if Obama released the information.

At the same time, the Democratic Party seems to be asleep at the wheel. Where is the outrage? Why haven’t Pres. Obama, Rep. Pelosi, Sen. Schumer and others demanded the Electoral College be stopped from convening until this matter is resolved. Once again, the Democrats are demonstrating they have no backbone. Just think what the Republicans would be doing if the situation were reversed. I have no doubt that they would be doing anything and everything to overturn the election.

The bottom line: we, the people must fight in any way we can for our democracy, or we will surely lose it. And, right now we are clearly losing it.

See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com for how to join the movement to revive our democracy.

Will Electors Vote Their Conscience?

     A Republican elector from Texas, Christopher Suprun, recently announced that he would not cast his electoral vote for Donald Trump on December 19. In a December 5 New York Times Op-Ed piece, Suprun persuasively argues that Trump is not qualified to be president and that he cannot in good conscience vote for Trump.

    In today’s political climate, how refreshing to find a political figure with a conscience. If the Republican Congress had acted in good faith during Barack Obama’s presidency and put their country first, many American jobs could have been saved from going overseas; our nation’s infrastructure would have been rebuilt; and American college students would have received needed relief from their burdensome loans, among numerous other actions that would have helped the people of this country. At the same time, if Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the leadership of the Democratic Party had acted in good conscience and not rigged the Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders just might now be our President-elect. What a difference acting in good conscience can make.

     Suprun could be a role model for all the presidential electors. He feels compelled to “do the right thing for the good of the country” and reject Trump because he, Suprun, believes he “owe(s) no debt to a party. I owe a debt to my children to leave them a nation they can trust.”

     Among Suprun’s reasons for disqualifying Trump are the following:

(1) He drives a wedge between Americans. Trump does not encourage civil discourse, but chooses to stoke fear and create outrage.

(2) He engages in demagogy, and is not independent from foreign influence.

(3) He lacks the foreign policy experience and the demeanor needed to be commander in chief.

(4) More than 50 Republican former national security officials and foreign policy experts publicly declared Trump “would be a dangerous president.”

(5) He encouraged an illegal act by saying Russia should hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

(6) He urged violence against protesters at his rallies during the campaign.

(7) He speaks of retribution against his critics.

(8) He has surrounded himself with advisers such as Stephen K. Bannon, who claims to be a Leninist and lauds villains and their thirst for power.

(9)  His pick for national security adviser, Gen. Michael T. Flynn, installed a secret internet connection in his Pentagon office despite rules to the contrary. And, finally,

(10)  He has played fast and loose with the law for years. He may have violated the Cuban embargo, and there are reports of improprieties involving his foundation and actions he took against minority tenants in New York. Trump still seems to think that pattern of behavior can continue.

     Suprun concludes that “Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience.” By rejecting Trump, he intends to “defend (his) country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” If only more Republican electors had Mr. Suprun’s courage.

 

 

A Better Alternative: Urge the Electoral College To Elect Sanders President

As strange as it may seem, the Electoral College does not have to elect Donald Trump president on December 19 when the electors cast their ballots. The U.S. Constitution does not actually require them to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in their respective states.

In fact, when the Constitution was being drafted, Alexander Hamilton explained that the provision giving the Electoral College discretion in its selection of the president was an important precaution guarding against an ill-informed public making an unwise choice. A very good argument can be made that the people’s election of Donald Trump meets this test for the electors to substitute their judgment for that of the voters. Here’s why:

1. Experts believe that Trump is a sociopath. (See goo.gl/FXNJNF.) He is a person who lacks regard for the moral or legal standards of our culture and exhibits the following traits: a disregard for the feelings of others, a lack of remorse or shame, manipulative behavior, unchecked egocentricity, an inability to take criticism, and a tendency to lie in order to achieve his goals. Trump has displayed all of these characteristics on numerous occasions during the election campaign. Is such a man a wise choice to lead our country?

2. Trump’s candidacy was supported by a foreign government, Russia, our adversary. This was confirmed by American intelligence services. In fact, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov admitted communicating with many of Trump’s closest associates during the campaign. (See goo.gl/Axm8Wx.) At the same time, Trump has refused many American intelligence briefings. Is someone who would allow a foreign adversary to meddle in our elections while rejecting American intelligence trustworthy to be president?

3. Trump still refuses to release his tax returns. The American people have no way of knowing what financial relationships Trump has with Russia, other foreign adversaries, or anyone that might create a conflict of interest. Do we want a president who will not be open and honest with the American people about his relations with our adversaries?

4. Trump has shown a number of signs that he intends to use the presidency for his personal gain. Among them is his refusal to put his private holdings in a blind trust controlled by an independent executor. When he met with Indian executives recently, Trump discussed potential private business deals with them. And, his infrastructure proposal is a boondoggle that will put the control of our roads and bridges in the hands of his billionaire friends.

Even more troubling is the fact that Trump’s foreign holdings have the potential for placing him in a dangerous conflict of interest between his financial concerns and the safety of American property and lives. For instance, what is to stop an authoritarian country like Iran or Turkey from threatening Trump’s business interests unless he complies with its wishes, or, on the other hand, offering him special deals, on the condition Trump agrees to certain demands inimical to America’s interests?

This may just be the tip of a very risky iceberg if Trump becomes our president. The electors must think long and hard before casting their votes for him. But, what is their alternative? While Hillary Clinton would make a much better president than Trump for a large majority of Americans, the truth is many Republican electors despise Clinton and would never change their vote and support her. Plus, the voters who sent them to the Electoral College would be outraged if their electors chose Clinton over Trump. That just would probably result in tremendous civil unrest.

Fortunately, there is another choice, Bernie Sanders. In their combined wisdom, the electors could turn to Sen. Sanders. There is nothing in the Constitution that forbids them from doing this. A good number of the people who voted for Trump have a favorable opinion of Sanders. In fact, Sanders was the only one of the three major candidates who had an overall positive rating with the general public. Electing Sanders could save the country from an egocentric sociopath, on the one hand, and very disruptive civil disorder, on the other.

You can help our country move in a more positive direction. Contact your state’s electors and urge them to elect Bernie Sanders for president. And, tell everyone you know to do the same.

 

 

 

Did Trump Win ‘Fair and Square’?

 

           Under the headline “Note to Dems: Stop Whining,” syndicated columnist Diane Dimond writes that “Trump won fair and square” in the November 19, 2016 Albuquerque Journal. Really?!

            When hundreds of thousands of registered voters are secretly purged from numerous GOP-controlled states’ voter rolls by Republican operatives, is that fair and square? When these voters are targeted by Republican operatives because they are mainly minorities who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, is that fair and square? And, when Republicans pass restrictive voter requirements in multiple states under the guise of unsubstantiated voter fraud making it harder for minorities and the poor to vote, is that fair and square?

            Dimond writes that those who are protesting the election of Trump “denigrate our political system and malign the office of the presidency.” I would strongly argue that it is Trump and his Republican cronies who have severely damaged our political system and the office of the presidency.

            In his new book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, and movie of the same name, investigative journalist Greg Palast convincingly illustrates how the 2016 election was stolen by the Republicans. (See http://www.gregpalast.com/.) Employing a system called “Crosscheck,” Republicans robbed over a million minority voters of their right to vote in crucial states, explains Palast. Crosscheck compares voter rolls in two states and purges voters with very similar names (e.g. George Gonzales and George M. Gonzales) from the rolls in both states for double registering, without proof the two names are the same person. For example, the North Carolina Crosscheck purge list consisted of 589,393 voters. Since Trump only won North Carolina by about 177,000 votes, the overwhelmingly Democratic, purged voters would easily have wiped out Trump’s victory had they been able to vote. Palast indicates that Crosscheck was utilized in 29 states, including critical states like Arizona, Florida, Michigan and Ohio.

            In addition, Dimond implies that conservatives are too civilized to “hit the bricks in rowdy, confrontational and sometimes violent street protests.” Does Ms. Dimond prefer the Congressional Republican protest method of pledging to make President Obama a one-term president by obstructing every proposal he makes, even when many of them were originally GOP ideas? (See http://www.eclectablog.com/2013/08/10-ideas-republicans-loved-until-barack-obama-became-president.html.)

            Republicans seem to exploit every trick in the book to make certain they get their way on election day. In fact, they’re not above hacking into voting machines to assure their candidate becomes president, which appears to be how George W. Bush won Ohio and the presidency in 2004. (See http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/2319:new-court-filing-reveals-how-the-2004-ohio-presidential-election-was-hacked.) And, if it were not for GOP-controlled state legislatures gerrymandering districts, Republicans would today most likely not be in control of the U.S. House of Representatives. (See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-power-that-gerrymandering-has-brought-to-republicans/2016/06/17/045264ae-2903-11e6-ae4a-3cdd5fe74204_story.html?utm_term=.b00980e8f6aa.)

            So, you are right, Ms. Dimond, Democrats need to stop whining. Instead, they need to start building a national movement to fix our rigged political system and make the government work for all Americans along the lines I suggest in my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America: Working Together To Revive Our Democracy. (See www.breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.)