Is our Government being Bought? part three by Thomas Leinbach

What are political think tanks? What are they exactly? How much do they have to do with the idea that our government may be bought? In my final of three articles we will discuss them in detail. They are a major player in American politics as well as global, as we shall see.

 

These institutions hire leading academics, as well as former diplomats, policymakers and military personnel to study and formulate solutions to pressing national and global policy problems. Representatives from think tanks often testify in congressional hearings and provide depth to news stories with their expert insights. Some of the people who have worked in them are also Nobel laureates.

 

Most policy institutes are nonprofit organizations, which countries such as the United States and Canada provide with tax-exempt status. Other think tanks are funded by governments, advocacy groups or corporations, and derive revenue from consulting or research work related to their projects.

 

Nonprofits usually apply for tax-exempt status under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, which deals with charitable organizations like churches and museums. However, some have transitioned away from the 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in the last decade or so because 501(c)(3) nonprofits can’t have any political involvement, so they have found other routes to directly influence American politics. 501(c)(4), for instance, is reserved for less charitable organizations and allows for political campaigning and lobbying.

 

The ones that are nonprofit do not have to report who their donors are; that means anyone can donate, which means they can blatantly accept donations from foreign entities as well as corporations and extremely wealthy people.They have no borders either, so they can spread their political agenda globally and make money doing it.

 

Seriously, these think tanks do hire the best and most influentially intelligent people, including Nobel Prize winners in their particular fields of expertise. During the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, the Rand Corporation had 29 Nobel laureates working for them.

 

The Rand Corporation (which stands for Research and Development) was started in 1946 by the US Air Force, using people they had relied on previously during WWII to come up with solutions for big problems. These problems included conceiving new weapons, analyzing costs, and evaluating training, combat procedures, and combat targets. They would end up getting a grant from the Ford Foundation, which would allow them to become a nonprofit organization in 1948. The Rand Corporation is still around today. They have consulted with other countries on global policies and world health problems, so they have helped shaped things globally.

 

Another one to point out is the Cato Institute, which was originally the Koch Foundation. They started out as a Libertarian-based think tank—now they are more neoconservative. They are also affiliated the ALEC bill mill from my first article. It’s also important for everyone to understand that it is the same Koch family who co-opted the Tea Party movement.

 

I thought I would inform people about this one, because all of these things are intricately connected. The Koch brothers actually sued the Cato Institute over issues with the way it was being run. They dropped the suit upon the retirement of Ed Crane, the former CEO. The Cato Institute has also been mired in several controversies, one of them being the denial of climate change.

 

There are also liberal think tanks as well, so it’s not just conservative think tanks in the game. The Center for American Progress is a liberal think tank for Democracy Alliance that has its share of controversies as well, including a 2016 WikiLeaks email scandal involving Hillary Clinton’s aides. They were also labeled as an anti-Semitic organization. Another scandal was their organization did not have transparency of their donors, though they did relent a little (even though they did not legally have to) by releasing some of the donors’ names. However, 28 donors were kept hidden.

 

Among the names, a familiar name shows up: George Soros. Another donor was Walmart. John Podesta, their first CEO, was also the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and a part of Obama’s White House staff starting back in 2013.

 

It’s pretty safe to say that everything is connected. Walmart has an interesting connection to all of this because they were a former member of ALEC, so it’s quite possible that they are still playing on both sides of the aisle even though they are no longer affiliated with ALEC.

 

In conclusion, it seems pretty obvious that politics are bursting with corporate and foreign money from everywhere. Some things are transparent and others are opaque. It will be hard to get corporate and foreign money out of politics, but it is doable if you do your research and educate yourself. Both major parties are using the same tactics to push corporate and foreign influence on us. There are no good guys or bad guys in party politics. The whole thing to me, after digging around just a little bit, seems as tainted as the tap water in Flint, MI. Maybe it’s time for a whole government overhaul.

 

“We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, ‘What is real?’ Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms.” – Philip K. Dick

 

https://thebestschools.org/features/most-influential-think-tanks/
http://mentalfloss.com/article/22120/rand-corporation-think-tank-controls-america
https://archives.cjr.org/review/americas_think_tank.php
https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-kochs-vs-cato
https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-kochs-v-cato-winners-and-losers
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2012-03-08/why-do-the-kochs-want-to-kill-the-cato-institute-ezra-klein
http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/apr/01/cato-institute/cato-institutes-claim-global-warming-disputed-most/
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fake-addendum-by-contrari/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/think-tanked/post/koch-brothers-sue-cato-institute-president/2012/03/01/gIQAUoHMkR_blog.html?utm_term=.b08470dac76d
https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2014/09/11/cato-climate-change-skeptic-rising-co2-a-sign-of-human-progress/?utm_term=.837913dd9979
https://e360.yale.edu/features/climate-converts-the-conservatives-who-are-switching-sides-on-climate-change
https://theintercept.com/2016/10/10/center-for-american-progress-advised-clinton-team-against-15-minimum-wage-leaked-emails-show/
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/08/02/podestas-think-tank-declares-clear-collusion-between-trump-campaign-russia.html
https://www.thenation.com/article/secret-donors-behind-center-american-progress-and-other-think-tanks-updated-524/
https://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/hillary-clinton-donors-center-american-progress-114458
https://www.politico.com/story/2011/10/podesta-to-step-down-at-cap-066742
https://www.newsmax.com/TheWire/catholics-fire-clinton-aide/2016/10/12/id/752922/
https://www.ncronline.org/news/politics/wikileaks-hack-exposes-clinton-staffs-past-catholic-conversations

Is our Government being Bought? part two by Thomas Leinbach

Do you realize that we already have foreign influence in our government? People are really interested in that Russia rumor going around our President, whom I prefer not to write about and will not. I just thought you would like to know it’s not internet trolls you should be worried about.

 

What should concern you is that because corporations have personhood, that allows foreign powers to have backdoor access to U.S. politics. So it’s not just Russia you should be worried about. Literally any US corporation that is a part of a multinational conglomerate can filter foreign money to a campaign or super PAC and other groups.

 

Most people are oblivious to how conglomerates work. A conglomerate is the combination of two or more corporations engaged in entirely different businesses that fall under one corporate group, usually involving a parent company and many subsidiaries. Often, a conglomerate is multi-industry and multinational.

 

While it’s technically not legal for any foreign entity to donate to any American political campaign, their American corporations can form PACs (Political Action Committees). This way their employees can “donate” to campaigns so everything looks legit. However, it is speculated that they also use this as a backdoor into funding US elections.

 

The biggest backdoor is called a super PAC, which I will cover in my next article. A super PAC can solicit any amount of money from a corporation, union or individual it wants to as long as the money is not spent on or coordinated with any individual campaign.

 

This was blatantly used in the 2016 election. Prior to Citizens United, all federal election money could be traced back to an individual who expended it or contributed to a political committee. Once you enable artificial entities to contribute, money is no longer traceable back to identifiable individuals. This is because corporations as well as unions were given 1st Amendment rights and are loosely covered under the guise of independent expenditures. This makes the money sources harder to pin down, which makes it much easier for foreign money to flow into the political campaign system. This is believed to be the biggest way foreign influence is getting involved in US politics.

 

A second way they are getting around US laws is through lobbyists. The donations come from foreign governments’ US-based lobbyists, effectively circumventing American laws designed to bar direct foreign donations. Because the people representing the interests of these foreign entities are US citizens, they face no such contribution ban.

 

In 2016 these lobbyists donated $4.5 million to federal lawmakers and candidates, as well as another $5.9 million to candidates and party committees through an influence-enhancing tactic called bundling. While they donate less than super PACs, it’s still money to influence the political landscape. Going back to my previous article though, this tactic is being less used because of bill mills like ALEC, which is a newer tool that eliminates the lobbyist middlemen. I believe that is why the donation numbers are so low compared to super PACs.

 

Yet another way in is through buying up the national debt. Right now we owe about $21 trillion. As of 2016 China owns 7% of the debt. In total, foreign nations own 32.5%. The top holder by far is US citizens and American entities, such as state and local governments, pension funds, mutual funds, and the Federal Reserve. Together they own the vast majority—67.5%—of the debt.

 

However, 32% is a lot of pressure. Even at 7% China has leverage on our politics, especially foreign trade. I was unable to find the percentage of debt owed in 2017 but it’s probably in the same ballpark or close to it. However, if you hear someone say China owns all of our debt, it’s not true and I hope you call people out on that piece of propaganda.

 

The idea that Russia single-handedly decided the outcome of our presidential election is ridiculous. There is a ton more at play, and more players on the field than you might think. Some of them have given money to both sides of the aisle leading up to the election.

 

I encourage you to have a look on https://www.opensecrets.org to see for yourself the spider web of information that is available on traceable funding. It’s really interesting. It’s yet another site that can take hours to navigate, but is worth your time if you want to see how things work through loopholes and backdoors. Also, if you search hard enough, there are tons of articles on the internet for you to take gander at.

 

https://maplight.org/story/foreign-lobbyists-contributed-more-than-4-5-million-to-candidates-in-2016-elections/

https://www.thebalance.com/us-debt-by-president-by-dollar-and-percent-3306296

https://inequality.org/facts/global-inequality/

https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/flowchart/2011/06/30/why-us-companies-arent-so-american-anymore

https://www.statista.com/statistics/261527/the-largest-conglomerates-worldwide-based-on-market-value/

https://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/pd/pd_debttothepenny.htm

https://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/resources/faq/faq_publicdebt.htm

https://www.thebalance.com/who-owns-the-u-s-national-debt-3306124

https://theintercept.com/2016/08/03/citizens-united-foreign-money-us-elections/

 

Be sure to stay tuned in to my next few articles. I will be discussing Super PACs and political strategy groups.

 

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” – Aldous Huxley

Is our Government being Bought? by Thomas Leinbach

On September 17, 2011, Occupy Wall Street descended upon Zuccotti Park in New York City. By October 9, in over 951 cities across 82 countries, and over 600 communities in the United States, Occupy protests and movements took place. Their message was simple: Get corporations out of politics. It also got going because of the $8 trillion used to bail out the banking industry.

 

I was one of 7,775 people arrested as of 2016 for participating in the Occupy movement. Though it’s calmed down quite a bit, it is still an active political entity—as a matter of fact, some of the best help during hurricane Sandy came from the Occupy movement. With that stated, the biggest thing about why Occupy started was because of corporate personhood.

 

Corporate personhood is the legal notion that a corporation, separately from its associated human beings (like owners, managers, or employees), has at least some of the legal rights and responsibilities enjoyed by natural persons (physical humans). This status was ruled by the supreme court in 1886. Corporations are also protected under the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the united states. It was meant to end slavery in the U.S.—however, corporations are now allowed limited rights of personhood.

 

This is how they are able to contribute money to politicians. However it goes deeper than that: There are entities called “bill mills,” which are groups of corporations who filter their money in to a group that’s like a super-conglomerate of lobbyists. The most famous of these is the conservative group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). There is also a progressive left-wing group called siX (State Innovation Exchange) as well as the liberal Democracy Alliance (who quietly funds siX). All three filter money from corporations and the super-wealthy to influence legislation. I’ll cover siX and Democracy Alliance briefly—a lot less is known about them, but they are a tool used by the rich and big business to sponsor legislation.

 

What I find interesting about ALEC is they just named Jason Saine as their national chairman late last year. North Carolina is controlled by a lot of Republicans who have ties with ALEC; Jason Saine, like Pat McCrory, was and is a supporter of ALEC. You can go to alecexposed.org and SourceWatch.org for more on the politicians and corporations that are current or former members of ALEC.

 

I literally ran out of paper just printing out the different corporations and, surprisingly, nonprofit organizations who are members of ALEC. Duke Energy is one of the corporations that’s a big player in ALEC. Among the hundreds of others are technology, insurance, banking, and big pharmaceutical companies. It’s a giant spider web of corporations and nonprofits—AARP is even a member.

 

Just about all of their cash comes from sources that are not legislative dues. It mostly comes from corporate foundations, trade associations and corporations.

 

Legislators can pay $50 dollars a year for membership. Corporations pay up to $25,000 dollars a year. That’s a lot of money and kind of weird that legislators and Corporations can join the same group. What comes with the membership is all an all-expenses-paid trip where corporation executives and legislators are wined and dined together to discuss political policies and legislation.

All of this is legal and a way to eliminate the need for lobbyists who are the middle men. ALEC gives the politicians and corporations the ability to form alliances and accomplish getting pre-packaged legislation passed in federal, state, and local politics.

 

The Koch family are among the largest donors to ALEC. There is no full total of what the Kochs have donated to have meetings with politicians who are ALEC members, but it’s rumored to be in the millions. The Koch family has also put a lot of money into the Tea Party to get the politicians they want elected into office.

 

Part of the reason I got into Occupy was I knew the Tea Party would be co-opted. I thought Occupy had less of a chance, but left-wing groups did throw money Occupy’s way. The Rainforest Action Network actually paid for the March on Wall Street South in Charlotte during the DNC of 2012, which, due to health reasons, was my last Occupy event.

 

Most people don’t know that, next to New York City, Charlotte is next in line for banking and investment. You might be expecting a city like Atlanta, Chicago, or Los Angeles, but it’s Charlotte, North Carolina. That is why Charlotte hosted the 2012 DNC.

 

Which does lead me into the fact that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. siX and the Democracy Alliance are relatively the same thing as ALEC on the opposite end of the spectrum. It is a political model that came out of the University of Wisconsin, and essentially is funded quietly the same way as ALEC, only by a different group known as the Democratic Alliance, which formed in 2005.

 

siX pushes progressive legislation while the Democracy Alliance pushes legislation more for the standard democrat agenda, which brings us to a group of the super-rich that fund major political activity. It’s reported by Huffington Post that the the Democracy Alliance dropped funding to any group that was not primarily democrat, though that can be debated by some people because it is full of serious progressive billionaires; one of which is George Soros, who is like the Koch family’s arch-nemesis. The Democracy Alliance does not disclose its 110 members who shell out $200,000 dollars for membership. They all supposedly fund 172 organizations and reported 35 core groups they sponsor.

 

These are but three bill mills and ALEC is really the only one exposed to the public. Most of my info on ALEC comes from alecexposed.org, which has tons of information that takes hours to look at. All the other ones are hard to find much info on. However there are more than three.

 

According to some of my activist friends, things are just getting worse even though these bill mills are being exposed. The groups are accumulating more power within the government. With more corporate influence now than ever before, America may be in trouble.

 

Honestly, the divide in politics has shut the government down twice in the last year. I’m not sure if the bill mills are the main reason, but they sure are major players in influence on current legislation. This is how corporations and the super-rich are able to directly have access to representatives and build alliances, alliances that put money into campaign contributions and pre-planned legislation that favors whatever policies these bill mills want. This is how big business works in government currently.

 

More information is available at alecexposed.org, democracyalliance.org, and stateinnovation.org.

 

I plan to talk more about big business campaign donations and political strategy groups in the future. For now, I’ll end things with a quote:

 

“Everything would be alright if everything was put back in the hands of the people, and we’re going to have to put it back in the hands of the people.” – Fred Hampton