by Susan Stamper Brown
President Obama had a busy week. After helping to eliminate the world’s number one terrorist, Obama switched gears to focus on raising a record $1 billion in campaign contributions. Rather than capitalizing on bin Laden’s demise by using an event to rally allies in a focused campaign to finish the job to root out bin Laden’s more notorious associates, Obama is rallying supporters to donate their capital so he can build up his campaign war chest. First things first.
Apparently the whole campaign finance issue is so complicated that only someone like Obama can fully understand it. He’s been all over the map when it comes to finance reform; you might say he was for it before he was against it. In June 2008, Obama announced he had reversed his original stance and would forgo public campaign financing because, “The broken system we have now, a system where special interests drown out the voices of the American people will continue to erode our politics and prevent the possibility of real change.”
Soon after making that statement, unprecedented amounts of cash poured into Obama’s campaign coffers from special interest groups showing us that the only “real change” he offered was a new spirit of corporatism, when powerful Silicon Valley Green energy leaders like Steve Westly seemingly purchased a seat at the government’s table.
The more than $500,000 in campaign contributions Westly raised is a gift that keeps on giving. Now appointed to Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s advisory panel, Westly is granted regular access to Chu. Companies backed by Westly’s venture capital firm received over a half-billion dollars and Tesla Motors, a company Westly has ties to, saw its stock rise six percent after the Obama administration announced a federal rebate plan for electric cars.
During a campaign rally on April 13, a man with ten children who drives a van asked Obama if he planned to do anything about the gas prices. Obama responded by telling him that he needed to trade in Old Bessie for one of those newfangled electric sardine cans on wheels. He might even get a rebate.
ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity launched a joint investigation finding that Westly is just “one of several political allies of the president who have ties to companies receiving chunks of money through loans, grants, or loan guarantees.”
The investigation found billionaire John Doerr received a $528 million loan for the electric car company Fisker Automotive, and a $535 million loan guarantee went to help a California solar company whose top investor, George Kaiser, raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama’s campaign.
BigGovernment.com also reported that after Google executives made $1 million in campaign contributions, Google’s top policy executive Andrew McLaughlin was invited to join the administration as a technology officer and Google received “a string of government contracts.”
In August 2009, Japan Times reported that another green energy Obama bundler, Jon Roos, who had collected upwards of $500,000, was appointed as ambassador to Japan. The paper reported Roos’ appointment “drew fire from some in Japan who doubt his qualifications.”
A few short months later, and prior to the 2010 midterm elections, a tremendously disappointing decision for Democrats came down from the Supreme Court in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205, ruling stating the government does not have the right to regulate the political speech of corporations.
Conveniently forgetting that special interest groups own his administration, Obama responded by saying the decision was a “major victory” for those who “marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans,” and later told a Philadelphia crowd, “The American people deserve to know who is trying to sway their elections” – suggesting he was once again for the reform he was against before he was for it. But, it didn’t last long.
Last week, The Huffington Post reported that “Democratic strategists close to President Barack Obama” launched a fundraising group named “Priorities USA” that will be financed “in part” by large, undisclosed contributions.
And the beat goes on.