America 2012: Thank you Justice Roberts?

by Bruce Webb

Arguments were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this week as to whether restrictions on corporate political donations were constitutional or whether those corporations are protected by the First Amendment. Court watchers report that signs are that the Robert’s Court will so rule with the ruling due to be handed down around Oct 5. I’ll let those who like battle out the legal issues in comments. I want to know what would then prevent the following wholly fictional scenario?

Flash forward to early Winter 2011 when in this era of the permanent campaign contenders for Election 2012 need to start their preparations. For the Republicans three faces have emerged. One is John Ellis, former political analyst for Fox News, most famous for being the first such analyst to call Florida for George W Bush in 2000. Ellis is expected to be backed by millions of dollars from his former employer NewsCorp, parent of Fox News, as well as substantial donations from the Carlyle Group, a privately held corporation with substantial but undetermined ownership interest held by Ellis’s uncle, former President George H.W. Bush. The other is former Tennessee Senator Dr. Bill Frist, jumping back in the political ring due to his concern about the impending socialization of medicine, but this time directly backed up by the resources of Hospital Corporation of American (HCA) founded and until recent years run by members of the Frist family. The third face is surprise entrant Manuel G________, a wealthy third generation Mexican American little known outside Latino business, charitable, and religious circles. He currently is CEO of TelMUSA, a newly formed American subsidiary of TelMex.

On the Democratic side two candidates have emerged to challenge President Obama from the Left. One is Darcy Burner {ed: I said fiction} former Microsoft exec, Congressional candidate, and first executive director of the American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation. A longtime favorite of the progressive wing of the Party she is expected to draw strong support from Microsoft and various investment companies owned by Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Paul Allen. A more long-shot candidate is Massachusetts based Peter M________. Born in Puerto Rico he is currently both an executive for Citgo and a long-time supporter of community organizing in cities throughout the Northeast. He has strong pledges of support from Citgo and its parent PDV America Inc.

Mr. G and Mr. M are fictional as is TelMUSA, but the other persons and affiliations are real.

Well it is a problem of billionaires, and more particularly foreign billionaires. In this scenario John Ellis would be drawing his support from Australian billionaire Rubert Murdoch, his wealthy family’s interest in the Carlyle Group, itself with substantial ownership interest by high ranking members of the Saudi Arabian royal family including Prince Bandar. Then you have Bill Frist, drawing direct support from hospital giant HCA, source of his own substantial fortune. And finally Mr. G, a man who works in a direct line for Carlos Slim, the owner of TelMex and the third richest man in the world.

On the Democrat side you would have Darcy backed by two more of the wealthiest men and corporations in the person of Gates and Allan and Mr. M. working for the wholy owned American subsidiary of the Venezuelan government, a guy named Hugo Chavez.

So we really want to turn American political financing over to Prince Bandar, Rubert Murdoch, Carlos Slim, and God help us Hugo Chavez? Would we fill much better knowing that on the other side were balanced out candidates backed by companies largely owned and controlled by Gates, Allen and Frist’s wealthy family?

And you can make this a lot more sinister. Throw in U.S. companies controlled by people associated with Putin or with Chinese Government ownership interests and you can have a real nightmare. People on the Right blindly pushing to unleash American corporations need to remember that when you get to the big boys there mostly ain’t no such thing as an “American company”. Not anymore.
(Update: a reader reminds me that Murdoch is now a U.S. Citizen. This doesn’t materially effect the argument. The danger is from any billionaire or company buying politicians directly. Moreover Murdoch’s Wiki bio says he became a citizen simply to satisfy legal requirements for owners of TV stations and not out of some sense of real loyalty to the U.S.)