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Brooklyn Broadside: Groundhog Day 2012

By Dennis Holt

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN — Winston Churchill once told us that the “world is for the few, and only the very few.” Over the past few decades, we have become more aware of this as the income inequality in the U. S. has expanded to staggering levels. And now there is a new indicator.

The lead paragraph of a front-page story this week in the New York Times reads as follows:

“Close to 60 corporations and wealthy individuals gave checks of $100,000 or more to a `super PAC’ supporting Mitt Romney in the months leading up to the Iowa caucuses, underwriting a $17 million blitz of advertising that has swamped his Republican rivals in the early primary states.”

Later on in the story, we find out that the super PAC, called Restore Our Future, raised about $30 million from just 200 donors in the second half of 2011. There are two basic reasons for this dynamic.

One is a Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, which said that corporations are people and there can be political groups that do not have to reveal where the money comes from.

The other reason is the concentration of wealth that has taken place. The income growth for the top 0.1 percent of households from 1979 to 2007 was plus 390 percent. For the top 1.0 percent of households, it was plus 224 percent. For the bottom 90 percent of households, it was plus 5 percent.

The groups that can keep their donors secret are called independent expenditure groups. The two biggest such Republican groups —American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS — raised a total of $51 million through Dec. 31. Restore our Future and super PACs backing only Gingrich and Perry raised $38 million more.

Thursday’s New York Times had an even more revealing account of how millions of dollars from unknown people and groups are influencing our elections. The lead paragraph of that story reads:

“Newly disclosed details of the millions of dollars flowing into political groups are highlighting not just the scale of donations from corporations and unions but also the secrecy of super PACs seeking to influence the presidential race.”

Some of the donations have come, for example, from a super PAC backing Romney from a company with a post office box for a headquarters and no known employees.

Political money has always been a shadowy element, but now the transparency has almost disappeared. The only way to counter the threat of a political oligarchy is to have publicly supported elections.

February 3, 2012 - 11:57am


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