Big money will bring Romney's plutocracy
POLITICO reported recently that the billionaire Koch brothers plan to spend about $400 million to influence the 2012 elections. Forbes estimates the two are jointly worth $50 billion.
The money will be funneled through Americans for Prosperity and other opaque front groups, as the LA Times documented, such as the Center to Protect Patient Rights, the American Future Fund, 60 Plus, and Americans for Job Security. The Center to Protect Patient Rights, for example, sent more than $55 million to 26 GOP-allied groups during the 2010 midterm election, tax filings show.
Kantor Media Group reported in the Washington Post that 91 percent of all general election TV spending through April has been by tax-exempt non-profits and business groups that do not have to disclose donors. A joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics found that more than 100 nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code, which the IRS defines as Civic Leagues, Social Welfare Organizations and Local Associations of Employees, spent roughly $95 million on political expenditures in the 2010 election.
By law, these organizations must spend the vast majority of their funds on social welfare goals, not on political campaigns.
Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, a (c)4 organization, has disclosed that 23 donors have each given it $1 million or more, but as a nonprofit “social welfare” organization, it doesn’t have to disclose its donors’ names. The secrecy provided by Rove’s group protects corporations — which want to influence elections without leaving any tracks — from scrutiny by their shareholders.
What they really do is fill the airwaves with shrill political attacks masquerading as “issue ads.” As Charles Pierce wrote in Esquire: “Very soon, there is not going to be a single political campaign, no matter how small … that will not be swamped by anonymous cash laundered through bagmen organized under the banner of some nobly monickered political whorehouse.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce — which spent $33 million on political ads in the 2010 elections — and Crossroads GPS in reality are secret slush funds for the Republican Party. A few million dumped into rural districts at the last minute built around a political smear like the Swift Boat ads — Karl Rove’s specialty — can decide elections. This is why Republicans oppose disclosure rules and Senate Republicans have filibustered the “Disclose Act.” The Democratic Party has filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission against three of these groups, accusing them of willful violations of federal election laws.
We know what the fat cats hope to get for their money: lower taxes, a repeal of the estate tax, a rollback of clean air and water regulations, and less regulation for big banks.
Romney wants to double down on Bush’s disastrous economic policies: to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, end Medicare as we know it, maintain the notorious “carried interest exemption” that allows hedge fund managers to pay taxes on their income at the 15 percent capital gains rate (and not 35 percent), cut corporate taxes, and pass a 20 percent across the board tax cut, which coincidentally could reduce his own future tax bills by half. As Politifact reported, Romney wants to give millionaires an average tax cut of $250,000.
But one Romney proposal above all others appeals to his rich donors: elimination of the estate tax
Conservative activist Kevin Phillips estimates that essentially 18 uber-rich families, including the six heirs of Sam Walton, succeeded in repealing the tax under Bush — cleverly labeled “a Death Tax” to mislead the bubbas into thinking their money was at risk — at an estimated cost of only about $200 million. In reality, that tax in 1999 only applied to individual estates valued at over $675,000. As of December 2010, the estate tax dropped to 35 percent and applies only to estates greater than $5 million.
The payoff for that $200 million investment was enormous. As Forbes explained last year, the Waltons have over $90 billion among them, more wealth than the bottom 30 percent of the entire American population. According to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the elimination of the estate tax could save the Walton family alone $32.7 billion.
Romney’s proposals would take the nation back to the policies that inflated the bubble and led to the bust. Moreover, it would further concentrate wealth at the top, which inevitably leads to a growing concentration of political power as well. What we end up with is government by big money, a plutocracy.