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Millennial Volunteers Flock to Support Clinton

Lindsey Gomez   |   January 19, 2016    8:46 PM ET


Millennials Katie Costella (left) and Jesse Barkin (right) greet cars in frigid temperatures outside of the Reinig Center hours before Hillary Clinton's event.

TOLEDO, IA - "Give us a honk! Honk for Hillary!" Jesse Barkin yelled, as Clinton supporters arrived at the convention center on Monday afternoon. This millennial came all the way from Maine to volunteer for Clinton's campaign.

"I think she represents millennials and pragmatic and progressive thinking," Barkin said. "I think she's the candidate to win, so I'm out here doing everything I can in the cold."

Right next to Barkin stood Katie Costella in 10 degrees clutching a 'Hillary for Iowa' sign in her hands. She traveled nearly 1,000 miles from Warrenton, Va. to support Clinton.

"It's just her time to get in the White House. We need someone who's going to build on what Obama has done for the past eight years," Costella said. "We need to make sure we don't get a Republican in there that's going to set us back."

Clinton has warned Iowans that if a Republican wins the election then the Affordable Care Act will be lost completely. Costella said Clinton is the candidate who will use Obama's progress as a stepping-stone to achieve universal healthcare.

Katie Costella holds a 'Hillary for Iowa" sign as she welcomes people to the event center in Iowa.

"We need someone who's not just going to say things, but someone that's going to get stuff done," Costella said.

One issue that Clinton wants to improve upon is the affordability of healthcare for Americans of every age.

According to the Center for American Progress, nearly 20 percent* of millenials were uninsured as of 2014.

"We need to require insurance companies to give people three free visits before their deductible kicks in," Clinton said.

Healthcare isn't getting any cheaper and neither is college tuition, which is another hot button issue for millennials.

According to Collegeboard, tuition at public four-year institutions in the U.S. is increasing by 3.4 percent** every year.

Clinton has created a detailed 350-billion-dollar plan that will help students and their families afford a college education to avoid drowning in debt. The plan New College Compact claims students will not be held back by overpriced tuition and fees.

"I really think that her college affordability plans are really well thought out and achievable," Connor Doyle said.

This 21-year-old Oklahoman and volunteer for the Clinton campaign chose to go to The University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia instead of a school in the United States. The education Doyle was seeking was more affordable overseas; this is what prompted him to get his college degree in another country.

"I think she's really fighting for families like mine. So that debt is not stacked against us, so that we can really try to get ahead," Doyle said.

According to a Pew Research study, 75 percent*** of adults said college is too expensive for most Americans and 57 percent*** said U.S. colleges aren't worth the money students and families spend.

During the event, Clinton outlined her education plan saying, if she were president she would make community colleges free and public universities debt free.

Clinton explains to Tama County residents her plan for affordable college education.

"I want you to be able to have an endpoint to your debt, so that you're not paying for it when you're in a nursing home," Clinton said.

Millennials have been flocking to Clinton's campaign since she began discussing her ideas of how to make education more affordable. With so many appealing ideas, it is no wonder she is grabbing the attention of the younger generation.

*2012 Pew Research: The Future of Higher Education
**Center for American Progress: 3.6 Million Millennials Gained Health Insurance in 2014
***Collegeboard: Average Rates of Growth of Published Charges by Decade

On the Republican Primaries and the Presidential election on this MLK holiday evening

  |   January 18, 2016    7:09 PM ET

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Hillary Sputters, Sanders Rocks

David Edmund Moody   |   January 18, 2016   10:52 AM ET

Hillary Clinton went full throttle in her debate with Bernie Sanders last night. She tried her very best to emulate the passion and authenticity of her opponent.

But therein lies the rub. Hillary tried to be authentic. She gave it her all. What she does not seem to understand is that if you are truly authentic, you don't have to try -- and if you are trying, you are ipso facto not being authentic. It looks as though that is a distinction that, at her age, she will never grasp.

Sanders does not try to be authentic. He doesn't have to try. Authenticity is what he does, spontaneously, like breathing. He can't help it. It's in his psychological DNA.

The differences in their policy prescriptions are significant, but they are secondary. Sanders is dead-on correct in highlighting the corrupting influence of big money in politics in general and in campaign contributions in particular. He heroically defends the single-payer concept of health coverage for all. And these are important reasons to prefer him as a candidate.

Hillary's approach to these issues is less pure but more pragmatic. She makes the case that she can get more done by being less radical. She might have a point.

Let's say these two policy perspectives were articulated by each candidate in writing, but divorced from the personality of the individual who articulated them. Who would win this policy debate among committed Democrats? Probably it would be a close call.

So the choice between Clinton and Sanders does not in the end boil down to a choice between policy proposals. It boils down to character. Who do you trust? Who is merely trying to speak from the heart and the gut, and who is actually doing so? And in that contest, Sanders wins in a landslide.

Kelly Chen   |   January 13, 2016    8:04 PM ET

NBC News pursued, but ultimately did not obtain, an on-air interview with Juanita Broddrick, the woman who 17 years ago publicly accused Bill Clinton of sexually assaulting her in the ’70s in an interview with the network’s newsmagazine show Dateline.

Clinton Not Inevitable Nominee

Chris Weigant   |   January 11, 2016    8:28 PM ET

Hillary Clinton is not the inevitable Democratic presidential nominee. Clinton was not the inevitable nominee in 2008, and she is not inevitable in 2016 either. Of course, this really isn't new or surprising, because nothing in politics is ever inevitable, really. Elections are always about as "evitable" as one can imagine.

The reason I'm starting this article out with such a basic truth is that two new polls appeared this weekend that said pretty much what a bunch of other polls have been saying for a while now. The pundit world, as a result, finally woke up to the reality that Bernie Sanders is not some sort of gadfly candidate. Sanders, the polls show, has a solid chance at winning New Hampshire and at least a decent chance of winning Iowa. If Clinton were to lose both states then the Democratic race's dynamics would shift in a major way.

This has been the dream scenario for Sanders supporters all along, and it's not looking like such an outside chance anymore. Clinton has long considered New Hampshire to be mostly irrelevant this time around, since Bernie winning there wouldn't be all that big a deal (since he hails from next-door Vermont). But if Clinton lost Iowa it would show stronger Sanders support than anyone predicted when he first entered the race.

Iowa's caucuses are a test of voters' endurance. Only the truly committed show up. Clinton has some very enthusiastic supporters (many excited that we could elect the first woman president), but then so does Bernie. His rallies are already legendary for their level of crowd excitement, and he's gotten more small donations than Hillary has managed (although Hillary, to be fair, has raised more money overall). If the caucuses turn out to be a measure of the depth or breadth of the excitement of their supporters, Sanders could indeed emerge the victor.

Hillary Clinton is obviously getting a little nervous about Bernie's chances, as she's pivoting from exclusively attacking Donald Trump (and the rest of the GOP field), to now trying to position herself to the left of Sanders on gun control. She wouldn't be bothering to attempt this strategy if she were wholly unconcerned about Bernie's chances, to state the obvious. Team Clinton insists that they're not really worried, since after New Hampshire and Iowa Clinton has a much stronger advantage heading into South Carolina and Nevada. But momentum can shift abruptly, and Sanders winning the first two contests might significantly erode Clinton's advantage in the next two states to vote. The media will be filled with stories of Sanders gaining support and Clinton losing it, most likely.

Even if Clinton does retain her edge by winning both Nevada and South Carolina, the two candidates will head into Super Tuesday tied at two states apiece. That's pretty even footing, although if this does come to pass Clinton will be getting the "comeback" stories written about her just before the first of March, when the next fourteen states will vote.

Examining Clinton's past record shows (to what extent is debatable, I fully concede in advance) weakness in the roster of these states -- something few have noticed, at this point. In 2008, Clinton won two of the traditional first four states (New Hampshire and Nevada) while Obama picked up two (Iowa and South Carolina). But back then Michigan and Florida jumped the line and voted early (this was a bone of contention in the Democratic world) and Hillary fought for and won both states (Obama did not fight for them, in protest over their jumping the line). Then a whopping 22 states participated in 2008's Super Tuesday, and Clinton only won seven of them (although she did win New York and California, which gave her a lot of delegates due to their population size).

This time around, out of the fourteen states voting, Clinton has only previously won five of them (Arkansas, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas). The nine other states voting in Super Tuesday (or "SEC Tuesday," as some are calling it) all went to Barack Obama (Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, North Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming).

Past performance may not be the best indicator of what's going to happen this time around, of course. Bernie Sanders is not Barack Obama, and 2016 is not 2008. Hillary Clinton learned a hard lesson from how she lost last time around, and it's fair to assume she won't be making the same mistakes this time (such as virtually ignoring all the caucus states). Still, her record shows that back in 2008 -- when she was also considered the inevitable nominee -- she lost a lot of the states she's going to need on this year's Super Tuesday. She lost some of these states by wide margins, too.

In 2008, the biggest momentum shift was among African-American voters. Up until Obama started winning states, African-American support leaned heavily towards Clinton. Bill Clinton had always enjoyed strong support among this demographic, and electing a black man president was seen by many African-American voters as an unachievable dream. Right up until he started winning other states. Could Hillary's strong advantage with the African-American and Latino community also be subject to such erosion this time around? It's impossible to tell at this point, but it does remain a distinct possibility.

The split among the Democratic Party in 2008 left some deep wounds in the rank-and-file Democratic electorate. There was a very vocal community of Hillary Clinton supporters who felt so badly treated by the Obama campaign that they pledged never to support Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee. They had the charming label "PUMA," which stood for: "Party unity, my ass!" But although they were prominent online, a PUMA walkout at the convention never actually materialized. Most Democratic voters (obviously) followed the plea from Hillary Clinton to support Barack Obama in the general election.

There is a danger of such a rift happening this year as well, no matter who wins the party's nomination. If Bernie Sanders wins, there are going to be a lot of very frustrated and angry women out there, to put it mildly. Twice the party chooses a man instead of their favorite? That's going to cause some seething resentment. But party division may be more of a danger if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, because Bernie Sanders supporters consider Clinton no more than "Republican-lite" or a DINO (Democrat In Name Only). Her ties to Wall Street are going to be a bridge too far for a lot of fervent Sanders supporters. Some of them are already proclaiming publicly that they'll never vote for Clinton, if Sanders doesn't win. They sound pretty committed, although it remains to be seen how many of Bernie's legions of fans feel this strongly about Clinton.

Many of the "Bernie or nobody" crowd may be faced with a terrifying choice come November: vote for Hillary Clinton or (by staying home) help elect either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. The split in the Democratic Party may heal (as intra-party splits often do) by hatred and/or fear of the other team's candidate. Whoever wins, whether Sanders or Clinton, will woo Democrats back to the fold by pointing out that the next president could get to name as many as four Supreme Court justices, which could shift the balance of power on the court for a generation to come. Those are pretty high stakes, and this will be enough for many Democratic voters to vote for the candidate with the "D" next to their name, however unenthusiastically.

There is no guarantee, of course, that the name on that ballot will be Hillary Clinton. She's already vulnerable in at least two of the first four states to vote, and if she loses both Iowa and New Hampshire then the rest of the country (including the media) will start paying a lot more attention to Bernie Sanders's campaign. Democratic voters in South Carolina and Nevada might start "feeling the Bern," so to speak. Then Clinton has to win on Super Tuesday in a whole lot of states that didn't vote for her the last time around. Right now, even with the polling news from Iowa and New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton still has to be seen as the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Bernie Sanders still has a long way to go before he becomes competitive with Clinton nationwide. But such a swelling of support has happened before, so it could happen this time too. Even though Clinton holds the advantage now, she is a long way from being inevitable.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Rackets Science: Obomnibus II, or The Influence Peddlers Protection Act of 2015 (Pt. 2)

Rob Hager   |   January 9, 2016   12:03 PM ET

Obama's presidency has made government far more corrupt. Obama wipes away a tear for the child victims of gun violence at a press conference, but he did not lift a finger during his presidency to change the system of corruption that allows NRA lobbyists to buy fatal gun policies opposed by an overwhelming majority of voters. What can President Sanders do to end political corruption that Obama would not?

[see Part 1 for Chapter 1. Christmastime for Plutocrats, and Chapter 2. The Rake for Politicians)]


Part 1 of this two-part series describes President Obama's now annual outsized Christmas gifts to Wall Street, exchanged in return for historic increases in the potential rake for politicians from selling public policy to private investors.

A year ago, in exchange for insuring predictably enormous casino capitalist losses in the next too-big-to-fail banking crisis, Obama got an historic ten-fold increase from Congress in the amount such plutocrats can give to political parties. This raised to $5.1 million the combined sum the fattest cats can be asked during each federal election cycle to contribute directly to parties and politicians. The virtual abandonment of any limits on money in politics, aside from this slight token inconvenience of limits on the direct purchases made by a small handful of the very biggest plutocrats, has caused the record-setting corruption of the 2016 cycle.

This past year Obama came under mounting pressure to use his executive powers to address a different aspect of the problem of money in politics created by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. As president Obama enjoyed several sources of authority to require disclosure of secret "dark money" political investments made by government contractors after Citizens United legalized "independent" corporate electioneering expenditures. Instead, at the end of the year, in exchange for his tax-expenditure give-aways comparable in size to one year's whole civilian budget, Obama chose to open even wider this enormous conduit for the illegal contractor kickbacks to politicians which dark money channels shield from effective law enforcement.

On December 18, 2015, Obama got Congress to revoke his existing executive powers to require disclosure of the dark money political investments by government contractors, by other SEC-regulated corporations, and by the IRS-regulated non-profits that launder them. In this way Obama allows the corrupt federal procurement system to continue generating, in violation of unenforced federal law, about $2 billion annually in political kickbacks paid to arrange for military boondoggles, un-auditable payments, no-bid contracts and other such rackets for raiding the public treasury by means of government procurement contracts with private businesses.

The importance of the procurement system, aside from its $500 billion size and corresponding potential for corruption, is that well-established constitutional law had otherwise exempted it from the systemically corrupt "money is speech" jurisprudence of the Buckley v Valeo line of cases. That expressly includes the Citizens United case which created the dark money loophole that since 2010 Obama has refused to close by using his now-revoked powers. By a stroke of the pen Obama could have largely satisfied the popular demand to "overturn Citizens United," since most corporations that make Citizens United political investments are also involved in government procurement.

By using his pen instead to sign the Obamnibus law that revokes these presidential powers Obama has stopped those pesky activists, and some fellow Democrats, from spoiling his valedictory year by demanding his use of executive powers to fulfill some modest part of his campaign promise to fight money in politics. This somewhat complex tale demonstrates Obama's historic role in completing the systemic corruption of American politics. Obama had taken over a system in which corruption was increasingly legalized since the Supreme Court's first "money is speech" decision,Buckley v Valeo (1976), (1976), and accelerated since 2006 by annual plutocratic Roberts Court decisions. Obama has presided over and facilitated the spread of that corruption to corners of government not reachable by the Court. While lending lip-service opposition to the disembodied soundbites of "dark money" and "Citizens United," Obama has resisted doing anything to upset the plutocracy. He has occasionally endorsed the diversionary propaganda that a futile constitutional amendment is necessary to "overturn Citizens United," but without venturing any slight action to that end.

Obama can leave office with an unbroken record of not only resisting all demands for reform but having considerably strengthened the plutocracy he led since 2009.

Part 2 below considers two important implications of the new dark money regime that Obama institutionalized in 2015.

Chapter 3 considers the Supreme Court's false premise which assumes the existence of a robust disclosure regime. This assumption provided the only pillar the Supreme Court has offered since Buckley to support the teetering legal edifice it erected to disguise its politically motivated legalization of plutocratic corruption. Now Obama's "Dark Money Promotion Act" (appended) has made disclosure not just unenforced and mostly ineffective anyway where corruption is systemic, but also a remedy unlawful for use where it might be effective.

What slight intellectual justification the Supreme Court offered for its treasonous act of mandating the overthrow of democracy by systemic corruption now lies in shambles. The incompetent architect of Citizens United has confessed as much.

Chapter 4 addresses the question of what can we citizens do about that collapse of any intellectual support for the Court's "money is speech" jurisprudence, knowing that the plutocratic justices who control the Court will do nothing to repair the mess they have made. This chapter presents a comprehensive six-point outline of reforms that a Sanders Presidency would need to pursue in order to get our democracy back. The list includes the essential reform of removing from politics, and limiting to their proper judicial duties, the Supreme Court majority that has proven themselves so highly effective at building plutocracy but incompetent at legal construction. These six proposals emphatically do not include advocacy of a futile constitutional amendment "to overturn Citizens United" nor the other underwhelming soundbites that Sanders currently offers.

This chapter also describes where funding could be found for implementing such a reform program. A $2 billion "democracy program" appropriation provided by Obama's "Influence Peddlers Protection Act of 2015" is currently used for hiring beltway bandits to proselytize U.S.-style, systemically corrupt plutocracy in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. This chapter contemplates how this money would better accomplish its stated goals if redirected to fund the reform agenda needed to restore democracy in the United States before pretending to instruct the rest of the world how its done.

Part 2

3. Buckley-era Democracy: Supreme Incompetence

Obama calls these new anti-disclosure, pro-corruption provisions contained in Obomnibus II "American democracy" at work. When laid-back Obama actually goes to the trouble of personally taking his propaganda game to the public, it can be expected that his deeds will be the opposite of whatever he says. Telling the truth is not what he is paid for. These anti-disclosure provisions Obama got from Congress are in fact very clear sign posts that, as Jimmy Carter teaches, democracy is dead in the United States, except on paper.

When the law itself can be used to step in and prohibit rather than promote anti-corruption measures, the malady is clearly systemic. In a democracy, elected officials are not able to get away with passing laws mandating that their formerly illegal bribe-taking and influence-peddling - now legalized by a plutocratic majority of judicial supremacists on the Supreme Court who these same officials have failed to restrain within their proper judicial powers - can be conducted in secret as a matter of law. Ari Fleischer's satisfied comment that "Bush's 4th term continues" under Obama applies to more than just Guantanamo, secret renditions, indefinite detention, mass surveillance, extra-judicial assassination of citizens, droneslaughter of non-citizens, torture, and other crimes involved in perpetuating the profit center provided by the greater permanent war.

Voters should ask, is the United States more corrupt now than it was eight years ago? Than 16 years ago? 24 years ago? Not since Jimmy Carter has a president waged an authentic campaign for more democracy and less corruption.

The Supreme Court has constructed its "money is speech" jurisprudence since Buckley v Valeo (1976), and as recently as McCutcheon (2014), on the premise that disclosure of the money passing hands between plutocrats and politicians is the cynosure of all remedies for the political corruption that such conduct clearly implicates. Their theory is that virtually every politician, and especially their parties, can be mired in such money while being instructed by lobbyists' on what to do to keep it flowing, without risking any corruption so long as the transactions are disclosed at some point. NYT editors complain that Citizens United "blithely pronounced, 'A campaign finance system that pairs corporate independent expenditures with effective disclosure has not existed before today.' Effective disclosure exists?" The answer to the NYT editors is: no, not since Citizens United relied on disclosure as the nation's sole defense against political corruption under the Constitution, but somehow forgot to make disclosure constitutionally mandatory, at least for the otherwise illegal corporate electioneering that the Court legalized in that case.

The Roberts 5 theory about the efficacy of disclosure both demonstrated the Court's total theoretical and practical ignorance on the subject of political corruption. The Court's promise for disclosure has been proven factually wrong in the 40 years lived experience of the country as it succumbed to ever deepening and concentrated systemic corruption after Buckley. This occurred within a disclosure regime. NYT complains that the theoretical importance of disclosure did not assure the continuation of that regime after Citizens United. Instead the Court just blithely assumed that in a system already thoroughly corrupted by 2010 effective disclosure rules would somehow appear on their own to fill in the enormous new loophole the Court had unwittingly carved for independent corporate "dark money" expenditures for which no disclosure regime then existed.

In fact, the incompetence of the five justices who control the Supreme Court is worse than that. Disclosure does theoretically work in a system where corruption is illegal and regularly prosecuted. But disclosure has no useful function after corruption is legalized or otherwise tolerated. Then corruption becomes systemic as it has been in U.S. politics after Buckley v Valeo (1976) legalized transfers of money to or for politicians as some kind of protected "speech." Its bizarre justification was that some of the proceeds of the crime of political corruption might be spent on paid political propaganda in addition to "the political consultant racket." No such Robin Hood defense exists to legalize any other crime except the former crime of political corruption. And the Court has never deigned to inform the country, with more than Buckley's dishonest shell-game logic, exactly where in the Constitution does it require that an exception be made for political corruption as if it were less important than any other crime which is prosecuted no matter where the proceeds are spent. After this ruling was made in Buckley, disclosure could make little difference, since enough politicians are on the take to consistently retain control of government where corruption is systemic. Knowledge from disclosure of the pervasive but legal corruption entails no effective choice by voters. Only a rare politician survives who is not embedded in the corrupt system.

Nevertheless, but for Obama's opposition, disclosure mandated by administrative rules could have been effective to protect the government procurement system. This is only because, as discussed in Ch. 2, the government procurement function fell outside the ambit of the Buckley line of cases that legalized political corruption in all other areas. Some stand-alone operations with non-discretionary ritualized processes, like say Social Security or procurement, can remain outside the systemic corruption of elected officials.

Now that Obama and Congress have actively foreclosed disclosure of unlimited independent corporate and other expenditures, not just passively refused to mandate disclosure by law or administrative regulation, the whole rotten intellectual edifice of the Supreme Court's Buckley "money is speech" jurisprudence collapses on itself. The Court has no justification to support Buckley, except its shell-game Robin-Hood logic that somewhere in his four words "the freedom of speech" James Madison clearly intended to plant a poison pill for democracy, which at the beginning of the country's third century would secretly emerge from the weird hermeneutics of five plutocratic justices of no particular distinction as a newfound "freedom to corrupt."

If these five justices consider disclosure to be what prevents political payoffs from corrupting politics, then the absence of such disclosure will necessarily result in such corruption so long as the otherwise illegal payoff system continues to be legalized by the Court. This should cause the Roberts 5 to reconsider whether those state and federal anti-corruption laws they discovered to be unconstitutional for no particularly good reason that can be found in the text of the Constitution were actually required after all to prevent the overthrow of democracy. Without democracy, "the freedom of speech" which is falsely alleged to include the freedom to corrupt, is itself without purpose.

Surveying the wreckage caused by his judicial engineering that omitted the central pillar that was, in his view, supposed to keep the whole edifice of democracy standing, the grossly negligent architect of Citizens United, Justice Anthony Kennedy, confessed his flawed legal construction is "not working the way it should." Of course the plutocracy is working just as intended, Can we sue the architect for causing the ensuing demolition of democracy? What is the proper punishment for helping to destroy the country's most valuable cultural possession? Just when does Kennedy and his gang of fellow plutocrats plan to take his disastrous decision back to the drawing boards to make sure that anti-corruption law is "working the way it should?" So many questions, so few answers.

4. Self Help: Democracy in Exile

A strangely discordant note from its main theme of unrelenting corruption can be found in the Influence Peddlers Protection Act. This same law in which Congress paid off plutocrats with enormous tax expenditures and other profit opportunities, and which further tightened the firm grip of plutocracy by prohibiting SEC, IRS or government procurement regulations from interfering with the plutocrats' right to keep their "dark money" investments in politicians secret from the public (though not from the politicians, who are expected to reciprocate), this very same law also happens to incongruously contain a provision that seeks to promote democracy, not in the U.S., but abroad.

The segregationist, propagandist, warmongering Woodrow Wilson would have liked this provision. Wilson diverted attention from the lack of democracy in the Jim Crow, Gilded Age, politically repressive United States that he presided over a century ago by creating a new national purpose for justifying foreign war. Lacking any significant national interest in going to war against Germany in April 1917, Wilson substituted the excuse of spreading democracy abroad.

Fighting a war for the unconditional surrender of Germany on behalf of the British royalty accomplished nothing for the United States. It squandered blood and treasure in what evolved into two world wars due to the draconian Versailles Peace Treaty Wilson helped negotiate. Wilson had made such a treaty possible by intervening in a European military stalemate in blatant violation of the good advice which George Washington's farewell address made part of the nation's heritage. Until Wilson created a new heritage of military intervention unrelated to national defense.

Just as Wilson's misdirected efforts resulted not in democracy but in creating Nazi Germany, which learned about the power of state propaganda and political repression, not to mention Jim Crow racism, from the man who defeated Germany in WWI, it is ludicrous to think that the systemically corrupt United States, still struggling with the same fundamental issues of democracy that troubled Wilson's era, could be capable of spreading any near facsimile of democracy elsewhere in the world today.

Throughout its history and especially in its current second Gilded Age, New Jim Crow era since 1976, with its historically concentrated mass media propaganda system, the United States has struggled with difficulty to live up to its democratic traditions and the principles in its own Constitution. But under this guise of promoting democracy abroad, a group of beltway bandits do run businesses as government contractors for USAID to do just that. These operators are as capable of recycling kickbacks to politicians who appropriate the money for these programs with the best of the military industrial complex war profiteers. Indeed, some of them are the most successful of the MIC profiteers.

The two countries where the United States has had the most unbridled influence and spent the most money and time fashioning a new government after toppling the old one are Afghanistan and Iraq. Both countries have been reconstructed, according to an accepted global index, as two of the very most bottom-of-the-barrel corrupt governments in the world. Countries outside the region that figures in AIPAC's foreign policy shopping list, South America generally, grew gradually more democratic in the past generation as a result of being largely neglected by the United States. Some good has come from its distracting obsession with its "two toxic 'special relationships' ... Israel and Saudi Arabia" in the Middle East and its new post-communism official enemy, radical jihadism.

The influence of the US abroad is typically negative because those ultimately in charge of such matters, like Hillary Clinton was as Secretary of State, remain as totally clueless about what it would take to build a democratic foreign government that is not undermined by systemic corruption as she is about what it would take to reform the systemic corruption of the U.S. government. A corrupt plutocracy pretextually using democratic forms is what politicians in 'the Clinton school of economics" -- the plutocrats' favorites who rose in politics after corruption was legalized by Buckley v Valeo (1976) - actually mean in their Orwellian use of the word "democracy." As Richard Falk explains these operatives use the term "democracy" as merely "Washington's code word for integration into its version of neoliberal globalization," "neoliberal" itself being a euphemism for a corrupt plutocracy and the policies it buys.

Sara Chayes describes the obvious "outcome [that] ... profound corruption" of the forms of democracy has reached: "the point that the very notion of democracy is now discredited." As a first-hand witness of Hillary Clinton's specific personal responsibility for perpetuating corruption in Afghanistan Chayes wrote: "If the obstacle preventing more meaningful action against abusive corruption wasn't active U.S. complicity, it sure looked like it." Sarah Chayes, Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security (2015) 147. The consequences of that complicity has been tracked by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), John Sopko. He has exposed waste and corruption in Afghanistan notwithstanding the U.S. government's lack of commitment to preventing it. Sopko emphasized that corruption and the closely related problem of narcotics were "mission critical" factors jeopardizing all U.S. goals in Afghanistan.

Hillary Clinton's clueless approach to anti-corruption work was therefore highly consequential. Her own eponymous "memo entirely ignored the structured, vertically integrated nature of the corruption networks that had taken over the Afghan government," according to Chayes. Clinton's ignorance was personally responsible for the failed mission in Afghanistan, where "[t]he only victors to emerge from this military and foreign policy debacle have been corruption and the heroin trade." Also as Chayes, and Anand Gopal's superb post mortem, No Good Men Among the Living: America, The Taliban and the War through Afghan Eyes (2014), point out, there are some righteously pissed-off victims of official corruption and of the random acts of frequently misdirected violence by the U.S. military that backs it up.

The same is true in Iraq and wherever "terrorist" insurgency arises as an entirely predictable response to the systemic corruption of U.S. puppets running failed governments. As Chayes observes and tried to inform the Clinton State Department without success: "Any plan based on such a faulty analysis would never work." Id. 146. But the faulty analysis should come as no surprise from one who seems to have at the same time behaved, as Secretary of State, in a comparably tone deaf manner to her own conflicts of interest.

An authority on that part of the beltway-bandit democracy industry that specializes in anti-corruption work captures this ignorance at the top about the systemic corruption that Chayes describes in Afghanistan. Janine Wedell, Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt Our Finances, Freedom, and Security (2014) 87, writes that "approaches of the anti-corruption industry diverge a full 180 degrees from the realities of [systemic] corruption with its built-in unaccountability." Spent on such programs designed for failure, the USAID money for democracy programs nevertheless continues to flow. This money almost certainly does more harm than good abroad, since it is aimed in the opposite direction from success, as Wedell fully documents, like Chayes, from her insider perspective.

The counter-intuitive provision of the systemically corrupt Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (H.R. 2029), Division K, Title VII "SEC. 7032. (a) FUNDING" provides that precisely "$2,308,517,000 shall be made available for democracy programs." Democracy programs.

It is unlikely that Congress could point to a single country which has become an authentic democracy, free of the subversive effect of corruption, or even appreciably improved, as a result of these annual appropriations of billions of dollars for "democracy programs" that show up in CRomnibus II. But were this same money spent strategically at home on reform of US corruption, the US could possibly become the first country to actually benefit significantly from this otherwise wasted, poorly conceived taxpayer's largesse.

One insincere piety of Obama's first Inaugural Address was, "America has carried on ... because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true to our founding documents. So it has been; so it must be with this generation of Americans.... Our security, emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example." Force of our example?

The capacity for the United States to exemplify a functioning democracy that was not, as it is now, systemically corrupt, which indeed had made a recovery from the deep democracy deficit it now suffers, would unquestionably have a beneficial impact on promoting democracy around the world, and therefore also on "Our security." But corrupt US election contests among the various puppets of plutocrats, plus one authentic in-person plutocrat, make the country a laughing-stock, while stimulating new enemies who are not smiling.

Providing a role model and demonstrating effective methods and techniques for preventing or countering the overthrow of its democracy by corruption would be a far more effective use of these "democracy program" appropriations now wasted abroad. The existing programs are more certainly part of the problem than part of the solution. The burden falls on those officials who run these programs, like Hillary Clinton did in Afghanistan, to prove that they are not propagating to the rest of the world the same corrupt US system of plutocracy that they serve, along with its signature judicially-enforced "freedom to corrupt."

It is highly unlikely that Clinton and others like her, as successful practitioners within a corrupt and increasingly unequal system, are promoting the kind of democracy that they have helped subvert at home. If they were democratic patriots who had struggled against the subversive U.S. system of corruption they would not be working at a high level of the US government where such decisions are made. Sara Chayes, herself an anomaly, describes this exclusion phenomenon with regard to systemic corruption in Afghanistan. "If that government was actually a crime syndicate in disguise, the dearth of good people was no surprise" and "did not mean Afghans as a people were intrinsically or culturally corrupt. This late in the game, constructive men and women had been stripped out - any by now might prefer to stay clear."

Congress defines the purpose of its democracy programs abroad as "development of democratic states, and institutions that are responsive and accountable to citizens." Id. Wouldn't Americans like to have such a state, which currently they know they lack? Instead they have a corrupt plutocracy that is unaccountable to its citizens on all important matters, except to those fewer than .02% of citizens who can come bearing gifts in each election cycle approximating the median annual income, or more. As the 2014 and 2015 editions of the Influence Peddlers Protection Acts fully demonstrate, those currently occupying the governmental role defined in the US Constitution are now "responsive and accountable to" money, not to the governed. But democracy could probably be restored in the United States for the price Congress appropriates annually for unproductive or counterproductive "democracy programs" abroad, if that money were backed by suitable legal authority.

Let us then encourage President Bernie Sanders, since no other candidate for the job would take up such a proposal, to rededicate these wasted billions first to the need of the United States to,

  1. create and robustly enforce an automated conflicts of interest regime enforced through a transactional reporting system for supply-side political investors, their lobbyists and their rented politicians, that would support enhanced demand-side conflicts of interest recusal requirements foreclosing all politicians, and other officials, from doing favors for those who supply them money to buy those favors; 

  2. convert the Patriot Act and Homeland Security budget to focus enforcement officials on defending against plutocracy the formerly democratic government described in the Constitution they are sworn to support - which, while they were looking the other way, a few political investors including foreign investors have already overthrown by means of corruption and now utilize for their own purposes. Law enforcement must be newly tasked to carry out this neglected mission at least as robustly as they now focus on those pitifully few who would hopelessly attempt to overthrow this armed-to-the-teeth country by the highly unlikely means of violence that is not even aimed more than randomly at the ruling power;

  3. develop a fully auditable voting machine or apparatus, built on a platform of publicly-owned intellectual property rights, that while remaining efficient, cannot be re-programmed or otherwise rigged to steal elections by deliberately reassigning or otherwise miscounting votes;

  4. broadcast debates and other campaign communications on non-plutocratic, publicly controlled bandwidth (pdf), thereby reducing the major cause for the inordinate cost of political campaigns that now functions mainly as a subsidy to a plutocrat-owned mass media propaganda cartel;

  5. write, enact and enforce laws that would strip jurisdiction from the U.S. Supreme Court to base unconstitutional rulings on the surreal proposition that "money is speech," while restoring all state and federal laws that the Court has wrongly and bizarrely overturned under that flight of illogic; and finally

  6. create and fund the enforcement of new comprehensive prohibitions against, and the robust criminal prosecution of, political corruption in all its forms, within a permanent framework for continuous vigilance against the next plutocratic schemes that will inevitably seek to bore creative new loopholes to riddle with corruption and thereby undermine the democracy defined in the Constitution.

After adopting such reforms the US could stand as a role model capable of again exporting lessons in democracy to the rest of the world. Now its "democracy" is a comedy routine, starring such performers as Donald Trump.

But then, the real irony of the two billion dollar CRomnibus II "democracy program" funding is that the US government would not itself qualify for it. The same rules supposed to apply to Afghanistan, for example, would prohibit federal funding of the US to recover its own democracy.

Incongruously, unlike the rest of its appropriations, such as for dark money government procurement contracts, the Influence Peddlers Protection Act insists on high anti-corruption standards for use of its "democracy" money overseas. Division K, Title VII, "SEC. 7044 (a) AFGHANISTAN ... (2) (A) Provid[es], That such funds may not be obligated for any project or activity that-- (i) includes the participation of any ... individual or organization ... involved in corrupt practices." That would rule out any government and its corrupt hangers-on in the United States which is crawling with a political class mired deeply and expertly in "corrupt practices" as their ordinary means for operating a systemically corrupt political order. One of the main functions and attributes of a corruption system is to exclude any who are not corrupt.

Nor could the systemically corrupt US government be certified under SEC. 7044(a)(2)(B) requiring, "Prior to the initial obligation of funds made available by this Act...the Secretary of State shall certify ... (iv) the Government of Afghanistan is reducing corruption ...." Ashraf Ghani's government may well be "reducing corruption" in Afghanistan below its extraordinarily high level under the Karzai family crime syndicate which was installed for Bush II by his proconsul Zalmai Khalizad and left in place by Obama even after Hamid Karzai stole the 2009 election. Corruption may be marginally reducing especially now that the Karzais' American sponsors have mostly abandoned the country in anticipation of its impending fall. But Barack Obama's government would be disqualified under this standard since it has clearly and deliberately, by acts of both commission and omission, increased the level of corruption here in the "homeland" many fold.

Obama inaugurated his project by projecting on others what would become a suitable epitaph for his own presidency: "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history." Corruption, deceit and repression; CRomnibus, Snowden, and Manning. Orwell explained:  "A society becomes totalitarian ... when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud."  Perhaps a US democratic government in exile on the right side of history, reliant on the consent of the governed unlike Obama's corrupt government of occupation on the wrong side, could qualify for "democracy program" appropriations ironically funded by Obama's own Influence Peddlers Protection Act of 2015.

Addendum: "Dark Money Promotion Act" (selected provisions from Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016) (H.R. 2029)

Division E, Title I, SEC. 107. None of the funds made available under
this Act may be used by the Internal Revenue Service to
target citizens of the United States for exercising any
right guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
[Translation: "right guaranteed under the First Amendment" is influence paddlers' and their Supreme Court patrons' lingo used euphemistically to both connote and provide protection for political corruption]

Division E, Title I, SEC. 127. During fiscal year 2016--
(1) none of the funds made available in this or
any other Act may be used ... to issue, revise, or finalize any regulation, revenue ruling, or other guidance not limited to a particular taxpayer relating to the standard which is
used to determine whether an organization is operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare for purposes of section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
[NOTE: 501 (c)(4) nonprofit groups are allowed to spend money on projects for the "promotion of social welfare," such as, say, supporting Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, with much less disclosure of their donors than is required of a campaign or political action committee. They are the prime vehicles for political "dark money."]

Division E, Title VIII, SEC. 735. (a) None of the funds made available in this or any other Act may be used to recommend or require any entity submitting an offer for a Federal contract to disclose any of the following information as a condition of submitting the offer:
(1) Any payment consisting of a contribution,
expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication that is made by the entity... to a candidate for election for Federal office or to a political committee, or that is otherwise made with respect to any election for Federal office.
(2) Any disbursement of funds (other than a payment described in paragraph (1)) made by the entity ... to any person with the intent or the reasonable expectation that the person will use the
funds to make a payment described in paragraph (1).
(b) In this section, each of the terms ''contribution'',
''expenditure'', ''independent expenditure'', ''electioneering communication'', ''candidate'', ''election'', and ''Federal office'' has the meaning given such term in the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 431 et seq.).

None of the funds made available by any division of
this Act shall be used by the Securities and Exchange
Commission to finalize, issue, or implement any rule, regulation, or order regarding the disclosure of political contributions, contributions to tax exempt organizations [e.g., 501(c)(4)'s], or dues paid to trade associations.

Division K, Title VII SEC. 7032. (a) FUNDING.-- ... $2,308,517,000 shall be made available for democracy programs [for]... development of democratic states, and institutions that are responsive and accountable to citizens.

* Earlier versions of this article were published by Counterpunch and Dandelion Salad.

Rob Hager, a Harvard Law graduate, is a public interest litigator [Agent Orange, Bhopal Disaster, Three Mile Island, Silkwood, Joe Harding, Parks Twp., Avirgan v. Hull. (am'd. compl. & mot. to dis. only), etc.] who filed amicus briefs in the Montana sequel to Citizens United and has worked as an international consultant on anti-corruption policy and legislation with the United Nations' and other international development agencies.

Another Camille and Overdue Bills

Arnold Steinberg   |   January 7, 2016    3:49 PM ET

The Cosbys, the Clintons, and The Donald. .

Camille Cosby was scheduled to appear yesterday in a deposition relating to a lawsuit against her husband, Bill Cosby. But a federal judge agreed late Tuesday to an emergency request filed on Monday by lawyers representing the Cosbys to delay the deposition, pending an appeal on whether she should testify at all. Whether she ultimately is deposed or not, the Crosby saga is far from over and has profound implications for Election 2016 and the Clintons.

Seven women who allege Bill Cosby sexually assaulted them brought this particular lawsuit. A few hours before New Year's Eve, Federal Judge David H. Hennessey had denied Camille Cosby's motion to quash the deposition based on spousal privilege and that her testimony would be an "undue burden." He noted she might have relevant knowledge, especially as Cosby's business manager. Cosby's leading-from-behind lawyers should have had her abrogate that post long ago.

Cosby himself has said, "People would rather deal with me than with Camille. She's rough to deal with when it comes to my business." Sounds like something Bill Clinton might say about Hillary.

Just a day before Hennessey's ruling, Bill Cosby had appeared for arraignment in Cheltenhem, Pennsylvania, where the Montgomery County district attorney charged him with three counts of sexual assault that allegedly occurred twelve years earlier. Perhaps because he is losing his sight (in one eye), or possibly to appear frail and thereby gain sympathy for any future sentencing hearing, the 78-year-old Cosby appeared able to walk only with the assistance of a lawyer on each side. Or maybe he just needs the purple pill.

More than a year ago, Tamara Green, Therese Serignese, and Linda Traitz had filed a civil suit against Cosby, contending that he sexually abused and assaulted them, then defamed them by calling each a liar. Six weeks ago, four more women -- Louisa Moritz, Barbara Bowman, Joan Tarshis, and Angela Leslie -- joined this lawsuit. In other words, women outside the statute of limitations for a criminal case are seeking civil recourse -- the rationale here is that Cosby defamed the women by calling them liars.

Previously Cosby's lawyers claimed the women's lawsuit was unconstitutional because it violated his First Amendment rights. This argument alone proves that despite his reported $400 million net worth, Cosby seems unable to find competent lawyers. Indeed, a decade ago Cosby's attorneys let their client incriminate himself (boasting of his use of Quaaludes so a woman would not resist) in a deposition related to Andrea Constand's civil suit, rather than settle that case; then Cosby's lawyers settled it anyway. Cosby's defense seems to be he only gave Benadryl to Constand (perhaps for an allergic reaction to his unwanted sexual advances?).

Looking at how Bill Clinton settled the Paula Jones case, perhaps Cosby's lawyers assumed only a single civil suit. Cosby's admissions in that decade-old deposition, made public nearly six months ago, emboldened Cosby's past accusers and also inspired more women to come forward. Once released, the deposition transcript provided "new information" for a just-elected prosecutor to file the criminal charges against the man once celebrated as "America's favorite dad."

Cosby's legal dream team, presuming that the best defense is a good offense, countersued against the seven women, charging the women's allegations were "malicious, opportunistic, false, and defamatory." But a defamation lawsuit makes Cosby open to a wide ranging discovery proceeding, thus complicating Cosby's defense against future civil suits for sexual assault, lawsuits that require a lower standard of proof against him than a criminal case. Meanwhile, as in any defamation case, Cosby and his life, his character and credibility now are wide open, thus compromising his defense in any criminal case. Cosby's lawyers are effectively prolonging Cosby's agony, with unintended political implications I'll discuss shortly.

In a different civil suit, the relentless Gloria Allred, the Inspector Javert of lawyers pursuing sexual assaults, interrogated Cosby just three months ago. That sealed deposition of Bill Cosby will eventually become public. As for the scheduled deposition for Wednesday, January 6, the stakes would be high for Camille. Typically, lawyers have greater latitude in a deposition than in court, because information may lead to "other information," whether or not the testimony is ultimately admissible in court.

"The man I met, and fell in love with, and whom I continue to love, is the man you all knew through his work," gushed Camille Cosby last month. "He is a kind man, a generous man, a funny man, and a wonderful husband, father and friend. He is the man you thought you knew." I can't help but think of that helpless romantic, Hillary "Stand By Her Man" Clinton. We also know (bring out the violins) that Hillary has sacrificed for many years for Bill, even taking a vow of poverty (if not celibacy, then abstinence) and also leaving the White House "broke." We now know that the "charitable" Clinton Foundation not only raised money from despotic Arab regimes that punish rape victims rather than rapists, but it used that money to supplement a high lifestyle for women's advocates Hillary and Bill.

Hillary and Camille each concede an unfaithful husband, but -- the line goes -- don't all marriages have problems? And their marriage has endured! To avoid discussion of their husband's predatory sex, both strong women pretend they are weak in their marriage, that the husband was merely a cheater, and they were dupes or victims, remain "committed" and loyal.

Camille Hanks Cosby, 71, is related to Nancy Hanks, the mother of Abraham Lincoln. At 19, she went on a blind date with Bill (presumably she was not drugged); she dropped out of college amidst a quick engagement and marriage (on January 25, it will be 52 years).

Just as Hillary was the woman behind Bill Clinton, Camille supposedly was the inspiration for the Clair Huxtable character on The Bill Cosby Show. She had five children, then went back to graduate from college and earn a master's and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, not all that far from where she was scheduled to give a deposition today. Camille is a producer and an author. During these several decades, the Cosbys have given away tens of millions, to good causes, as well as to the usual suspects like Jesse Jackson. Although some institutional beneficiaries have repudiated Bill Cosby, the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Academic Center at Spelman College remains a testament to their philanthropy.

As a boy, I watched and admired Bill Cosby in Sheldon Leonard's precedent-shattering (first black in a starring role) I Spy television series. Like many conservatives, I was drawn to Cosby in recent years because of his talk of family values, and his criticism of absentee fathers in the African-American community. In contrast, Black Leaders Matter activists have said Bill Cosby would now have more African-American support if he had supported the group last year. Still, as Cosby goes down, look for charges of selective prosecution and a demand from the most unlikely quarters that Bill Clinton is held to the same revisionist standard.

All this brings us to yet another Camille.

Camille Paglia is the "anti-feminist feminist" author of Sexual Personae. She has faulted the "feminist establishment" for its double standard in condoning Bill Clinton's predatory sexual behavior. She has criticized Gloria Steinem, the octogenarian feminist major doma, for referring to Monica Lewinsky as "this wailing ghoul." Paglia is hardly a conservative. She has voted for Ralph Nader, John Kerry, Barack Obama, and even Bill Clinton, who she now says is "a serial abuser of working-class women." Barely five months ago in an exclusive interview in the liberal Salon website, the politically incorrect Paglia elaborated on the Clinton-Cosby nexus:

...There is a big parallel between Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton -- aside from their initials! Clinton and Cosby are emotionally infantile -- they're engaged in a war with female power. It has something to do with their early sense of being smothered by female power -- and this pathetic, abusive and criminal behavior is the result of the sense of inadequacy.

The psychobabble aside, or maybe because of it, this Camille gets it, when she says women "have no idea why any men would find it arousing to have sex with a young woman who's passed out at a fraternity house." More to the point, the Cosby modus operandi and the Clinton m.o. have been featured in numerous episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. In other words, the culture is sensitized. It's all part of the "no means no" mantra or "the woman was impaired and in no condition to say 'yes," or "sexual assault of an employee in a hostile work environment." Often, SVU even features a wife who enables her husband's sexual assaults and tries to destroy the accuser. Bythe end of the show, the wife is arrested for being an accessory (or worse, if the wife acts violently). Like Camille Cosby or Hillary Clinton, the wife in SVU belatedly acknowledges "cheating" but never sexual assault or rape. The wife always puts her own self-interest (power and perks of the status marriage) above the victims. Paglia calls Hillary "a fraud... a liar... who took an antagonistic and demeaning position toward her husband's accusers."

There is a generation gap, to be sure. A man Bill Cosby's age told me, "We all did this in college. Cosby just never grew out of it." Many women age 50-plus liberal Democrats will stay with Hillary, though ironically they came of age in the sexually abusive Mad Men era. Joy Behar on her show talked about how women (and Behar) might back a rapist over someone who "opposes the Violence Against Women Act" (as if violence against women i-- or men -- is not already a crime in every state). For at least a third of the electorate, the accusations against Clinton are not a rehash. Ironically, younger women this year could rebel against Hillary, because the truth will finally emerge that Hillary was both enabler and accessory. Hillary not only put out "bimbo eruptions"; she was part of the cover-up, digging up dirt to threaten and intimidate Bill's accusers. Dick Morris now says he quit working for the Clintons because Hillary hired detectives to gather material to blackmail victims into silence.

SVU episodes play up the "signature" of serial rapists. More than fifty women have confirmed how Cosby drugged them into submission. And Clinton allegedly repeatedly used his political position, as governor and even as president, to exploit vulnerable women. Clinton's signature also may include biting their lip.

Donald Trump is shrewd. He attacks Hillary to focus attention on the general election, as if he is the nominee. Moreover, he has seduced the media into covering the story initially as marital infidelity. For good measure, he said his own infidelity is "fair game." Liberal pundits on the Sunday talk shows boast about Bill Clinton's popularity and say Bill's extramarital affairs still have no political traction. CNN's legal analyst-turned unlikely political pundit Jeffrey Toobin says voters don't care about "personal indiscretions." But Trump already is escalating the rhetoric, and ultimately he will attack Hillary as a power-hungry hypocrite intent on destroying victims of her predatory husband. In other words, the issue will be Hillary, not Bill. Democrat Kirsten Powers, who worked in the Clinton administration, concedes times have changed, and Hillary will face renewed scrutiny for her machinations.

The Cosby melodrama could keep the Clinton issue alive for Trump. Cosby's criminal preliminary hearing is January 14, and the case, with publicized delays, will go to trial or be plea-bargained unfavorably for Cosby. There may be at least one additional criminal case, in California. And there will be more civil suits from victims years ago, from decades ago. Cosby has deep pockets, and these women want justice. Clinton has deep pockets, and his women want closure. If the past is fair game for Cosby, why not for Clinton? A chivalrous Donald Trump will even the odds for these marginalized women previously threatened and intimidated by Hillary. Donald Trump can raise the ante in this campaign. Can you see Trump paying for lawyers for Clinton's victims to sue him?

Liberal Michael Tomasky, who authored a book on Hillary's Senate race, notes that Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Juanita Broaddrick are not about consensual sex. This certifiably "progressive" journalist reminds us that Hillary opened the door in Iowa in September when she said "every survivor of sexual assault... [has]... the right to be heard... believed." Last month Hillary made things worse when she accused The Donald of "sexism"; this week she put Bill on the campaign trail. Thus she gave Trump a dual opening he craved ("they attacked me, I hit back, and he's campaigning for her"). The author of The Art of the Deal will depict the Clinton marriage as a cynical arrangement, involving a quid pro quo: she literally covered his back with women, that's why he's there for her now.

Just two days ago in Nashua, New Hampshire, Bill Clinton in his opening campaign appearance for Hillary choked up about "How I fell in love with Hillary."

Will the law school romance story work again? What author (and former Trump confidante) Roger Stone has called The Clintons War on Women was once consigned to right-wing websites. Even CNN's liberal political commentator Errol Lewis, who a week ago downplayed the Cosby-Clinton nexus, said on Monday that Donald Trump's "very large megaphone behind or in front of some of those women [to] let them say what they have to say, including Hillary Clinton's role," could affect the campaign. In other words, Donald Trump, whether he becomes the Republican nominee or not, uniquely can insure that mainstream media cover the sordid conduct of this power couple.

Trump will go where other Republican candidate fear. He understands Hillary's marginal women supporters need a rationale to switch. Today's younger women voters -- even up to age 40 -- were anywhere from infants to teenagers during Bill Clinton's era (1992-2000). They will judge Hillary and Bill by SVU standards. The women who are middle aged or older will hoist Hillary's political strategists by their own proverbial petard. In other words, they will say they thought the matter was marital infidelity (just as they accepted that impeachment was about Monica Lewinsky, and not lying under oath). Now, they will say, they understand Clinton is like Cosby, forcing unwanted sexual advances on vulnerable young women. And they will see Hillary Clinton not simply as the betrayed wife, not merely as the enabling wife, but as the plotting, unethical wife -- a hypocritical womens rights advocate who tried to intimidate and silence and threaten women who were victims of her husband.

This post previously appeared in the The American Spectator.

Rackets Science: Obama's Omnibus, or the Influence Peddlers Protection Act of 2015 (Pt 1)

Rob Hager   |   January 7, 2016    1:58 PM ET


1. Government by the wealthy.
2. A country or society governed in this way.

1. Christmastime for Plutocrats

Political scientists need a new sub-specialty to describe the end-of-year extravaganzas that influence peddlers and special interests have combined to make a Capital Christmas tradition: the racket of wholesale plundering of the government's treasury. Paraphrasing Willie Sutton, that's where the (tax-farmed and public-debt) money is.

On Friday, December 18, 2015, Obama and Congress processed the plutocracy's 2015 Christmas gift order at lightning speed. These rented politicians jump right to attention when the owners are being served. Who said government is broken? Under Obama it purrs right along smoothly, delivering on time annual gifts for plutocrats worth, this year, the whole discretionary civilian budget.

Bernie Sanders' supporters already understand this. But if there are Americans in need of more evidence that they live in a plutocracy, where governing is just another racket run by what Sanders calls "the billionaire class," then the Influence Peddlers Protection Act of 2015 should provide it. Technically known as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, this law piles-on the already sufficiently probative evidence of systemic corruption provided by last year's similar year-end Bonanza for Plutocrats Act of 2014 (known as "CRomnibus").

To place this year's plunder described in Part B in context, last year's episode is first recapped in Part A of this chapter.

A) CRomnibus I

My extensive piece last year on what can now be called "CRomnibus I" described how Obama and a majority of Senate Democrats similarly connived to bypass ordinary legislative procedures to expedite the Omnibus appropriations bill of 2014. The 2014 "CRomnibus Act" ranks as one of the most deeply corrupt laws in United States history. It increased the amount of money that plutocrats can legally give to political parties by a factor of ten. (This enables plutocrats to finance, while their propaganda machine supports, the DNC effort to stop Bernie Sanders, for example).

Enabling of these large 2014 kickbacks from plutocrats to political parties was a quid for the Christmas quo to Wall Street of drafting taxpayers as insurers of gambling losses at their Capitalist Casino. The punters are poised to drop trillions when the roulette pill lands on the next too-big-to-fail banking crisis. I wrote: "The CRomnibus repeal of this 'swaps push-out rule' to withdraw federal insurance from this particular [swaps] gambling table is the most blatant of second Gilded Age economic recklessness, exceeding even such Clinton-era corruption as the repeal of Glass-Steagall."

As described in that article, Obama lobbied for and signed the 2014 "CRomnibus" although he could have used his veto power to obtain a clean appropriations bill free of the "two offensive provisions." That is what Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats wanted him to do. The House Democrats thought they could defeat the "offensive provisions" simply by timely threat of an Obama veto. At that very moment Obama snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by instead gratuitously announcing his support for the bill. Pelosi said she was "enormously disappointed that the White House feels that the only way they can get a[n appropriations] bill is ... we have to pay off Wall Street." This is as close as Democrats would come to flatly accusing Obama of being a "cheerleader" to get a bill on his desk for that very purpose, to "pay off Wall Street" for the enormous campaign contribution debt Obama owed.

The only alternative to that conclusion is Obama's usual, though obviously false, cover story that he is just a hapless incompetent who is still ignorant how veto threats work, for example. Right, except when he is paying off Wall Street. Then Clark Kent becomes a deviously effective super-strategist for plutocracy.

An Appropriations Committee member summed up the quid pro quo purpose of Obama's 2014 Christmastime handiwork: "This bill is a one-two punch at middle-class voters. It weakens financial regulation on big banks and rewards Congress for doing so by increasing campaign donation limits of big donors." Matt Taibbi, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap (2014) 70, describes Congress as "enabling the transformation of the world's biggest banks into bona fide organized crime operations" where no target large enough to attract their attention, such as last year's middle class bank deposits, or this year's government treasury, is exempt from their political corruption racket.

Exposing last year's Christmas gift for plutocrats required some slight financial understanding. Congress' repeal of the "swaps push-out rule," so as to give casino capitalist gamblers federal deposit insurance and other federal benefits for banks guaranteed the eventual bankruptcy of the essential New Deal reform for protecting ordinary bank depositors. The threat of bail-in theft of middle class bank deposits will result from allowing the FDIC to be used as a guarantor for Wall Street's table stakes in the swaps markets instead of keeping it solvent to protect small depositors.

The racketeers got away clean last year without much comment or public shock. So they came back for another heist of comparable ambition, this year in broad daylight. They only needed Obama's continued leadership to succeed. The "mascot of the Wall Street oligarchs" did what he is paid to do, and artfully obliged. He upped his game this year by promoting his gifts for plutocrats as a good thing, rather than just disguising that he's the one wearing the Santa suit.

The 2014 CRomnibus Act introduced a new form of legislation that was overlooked by many. Its repeat performance in the 2015 Omnibus (H.R. 2029) has acquired the image of being just a happy bipartisan annual Christmastime tradition, before Obama flies off to Hawaii. More like a superbowl for lobbyists, it can be awarded the seasonal roman numeral, "CRomnibus II" ("CR," as in CRiminal or CRrrupt). Later possible targets for CRomnibus III, IV and so forth? Government procurement, Social Security trust funds, privatizing public education budgets, ongoing mercenary privatization of the military, etc. Wherever the big money is.

B) CRomnibus II

Without going over the same ground again in the same detail as last year about how the plutocrats annual caper works when Congress unbreaks itself momentarily for its bipartisan Obama-hosted Omnibus felony fiesta, the rules of the game for this illegitimate form of legislation can be briefly stated here.

a) Decree by Junta

All on the same day, both the House and the Senate approved H.R. 2029, Obama signed it into law, and then he still had time left over for staging a press-conference propaganda event to produce soundbites in time for the evening news. Spin was carefully crafted to make the day's work seem like something that could plausibly be signed into law by one espousing the middle class values that Obama likes to talk about.

This instant legislation starts when Santa Obama cuts the deal directly with the few party leaders who control the flow of money and other benefits within the parties. The Omnibus process is rigged to skip all the ordinary legislative steps. It is totalitarian in its nature in that it issues a virtual decree by a small ruling junta at Santa's workshop without advance notice, committee hearings, or much time for deliberation or in some cases even knowledge by legislators responsible to the people, let alone knowledge by the people themselves of the gifts the bill contains. This is the junta at which Bernie Sanders' "political revolution" strategy is directly aimed, making him the leading prospect among presidential candidates because he seems authentically intent on overthrowing them.

To create dramatic tension, the Omnibus bill is purposely delayed until the government's funds are scheduled to run out. Special interest lobbyists all show up with their Christmas wish lists at the end of the year, a week before Christmas, for a TGIF party. If Santa approves, their wish list gifts all get attached to an appropriations bill necessary to continue funding the government. The whole package becomes law before the public has any opportunity to sort out the provisions on a large variety of different subjects - actually everything that government does.

The annual Omnibus appropriations bill and Influence Peddlers Protection Act delivers its bipartisan Christmas goodies to plutocrats as if from a down-the-chimney black-box found in Santa's special gift bag for special interests. It bypasses the normal legislative process where laws having the consent of the governed are supposed to use the front door, the door where the governed can observe laws and money coming and going.

Here's the tick-tock: The same process used in 2014 was used again for the 2015 caper, with the Senate stripping another House bill of its content to use as a vehicle to be sent back over to the House for substituting, this time, two interdependent amendments: Amendment #1, the over 2000 pages Omnibus titled the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, and Amendment #2 titled the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, which contained tax break "extenders." Extensions of tax exemptions are sold each year as a standard form of graft, almost like a generic gift certificate.

The two amendments represented the two halves of the basic extortion deal. One contained the tax expenditures and the other the appropriations needed for the government to keep its doors open. These amendments remained separated in the House, since each amendment had different supporters and different opponents there. The votes could be close on each, and insufficient to carry them both, if joined. They were fashioned into a single Omnibus bill when sent back to the Senate and on to Obama.

This way the Senate Democrats, who could otherwise filibuster the separate bills, and Obama would have to accept both amendments representing the full extortion deal or neither. This provided Obama his familiar overused refrain that the Republicans made him swallow the large amount of bad policy to keep the government open and to also get what little good medicine the bill contained.

Obama's "good medicine" left in the bill for later advertising to liberals - like funding for Planned Parenthood - the Republicans already know from reading the polls would be "political losers" for them anyway. "Speaker Paul Ryan warned his troops that Republicans, going into an election year, could not withstand the bad publicity of being held responsible for another government shutdown." Matt Taibbi suggested an atmosphere in 2015 where plutocratic centrists similar to Paul Ryan, "John Boehner and Mitch McConnell [were] fleeing toward Obama politically in an attempt to escape the public relations carnage caused by the Republican presidential campaign."

Some combination of these two factors meant Obama owned CRomnibus II, particularly since he is a lame duck with nothing to lose from a shutdown. He never in the past was known to have given any consideration for other than his own career, so it is unlikely he would be moving to the right out of sudden though misplaced concern about the prospects of Democrats in 2016. Obama had easily shrugged off two disastrous midterms where his party suffered for his betrayal of voters' expectations. CRomnibus II is Obama's law, as much as anything he has signed since he started losing Congress to Republicans in 2010.

Obama's veto could have killed both amendments and forced a continuing resolution to fund government operations while Congress did the actual work it is paid by the public to do, instead of fulfilling corporate lobbyists' dry dreams that both parties are paid by plutocrats to make come true. Every year they have the same dream.

Obama had competently demonstrated how a veto threat works when he wanted to increase military expenditures with respect to the original H.R. 2029. But that was before it was stripped to contain his own CRomnibus II. Amending an empty bill with respect to another much lesser matter (the appropriations contained in the original H.R. 2029), a bill that had already gone through the whole legislative process short of final enactment, avoided the messy "sausage-making" journey of legislative deliberations of, rather than decreeing, the appropriations and tax amendments.

Had they been offered as original bills for financing the whole government and tax expenditures, rather than a single large Omnibus fix of everything at once, the two amendments would have gone in its various parts through the same subcommittee and committee vetting, mark-ups and hearing process that the simpler, original H.R. 2029 took the better part of a year to traverse.

By avoiding the usual route, debate on the single Omnibus bill could be restricted to 2 hours in the House, the total debate allowed for this major part of the below-average legislative output of Congress for the whole year. This process shuts down all discussion, debate, opposition, prior comment and public input. Lobbyists produce such a bill-- rather than the open legislative process intended by the Constitution, as described by Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Practice (1801) where Jefferson warned, "nothing tended more to throw power into the hands of administration ... than a neglect of, or departure from, the rules of proceeding".

Voting House Democrats were unanimously against the resolution to adopt this summary Omnibus procedure, more than enough to sustain a veto. This was a deal between Obama, the Speaker, and the Senate leaders (necessary to obviate a filibuster), which eventually the House leaders joined in too. Republicans held together on that procedural vote to waive the rules. CRomnibus II was too big and well-financed to be stopped by backbench dissenters, whether on its unorthodox process or its breathtaking substance .

Later on December 18, 2015, when the House sent its two amendments of the Senate's bill stuffed with Santa's goodies back to the Senate for rubber stamping, Bernie Sanders and a mixed group of only six Democrats and 26 Republicans voted against HR 2029.

Thus plutocrats again turned the once-boring extended appropriations process for funding the federal government into a swift act of larceny from the taxpayers. At the same time they changed out the locks to make their future raids even easier. Lobbyists get to stuff all the presents for special interests they can pay for under their Omnibus Yule tree called the Consolidated Appropriations Act, while politicians get to receive secret payments for these gifts and many more to come, as discussed below.

After signing the Act, President Obama conducted one of his rare press conferences to soft-sell it to the public. He sought to make it all sound normal, "Just keep moving, nothing to see here." Circumventing normal legislative rules, which last year the Washington Post protested as a "caricature of the deliberative process by which Congress is supposed to approve appropriations" this year becomes, in Obama's reassuring alternate version of reality, "typical of American democracy." As veteran journalist Bill Moyers wrote, stenographers called news "anchors acted as amplifiers for official spin -- repeating the mantra-of-the-hour that while this is not 'a perfect bill,' it does a lot of good things. 'But for whom? At what price?' went unasked." Moyers does not answer his question that the "good things" were deliberate window dressing for plutocratic plunder.

Obama was not content with his usual pretense that the Republican Congress - which Obama created by alienating his base in two midterm elections - made him do it. This dodge seems to be wearing thin. This year, it may have been implied in some soundbites. However according to CNN, "Obama called Ryan after the vote to thank him 'for helping government work.'" But notwithstanding his presidential "kudos", even the Speaker was rightly complaining that the process was not a good way for government to work: "Ryan repeatedly stressed he doesn't like rolling up all the spending bills, along with a myriad of policy provisions, into one measure." NYT confirmed that the Speaker told reporters, "You know I don't like this process, right?" and that he later re-Twitterated "his distaste for omnibus spending bills."

Short-cutting democratic process is Obama's preference, designed by him to instruct the leaders privately what Republican policies he likes and will not veto in order to serve Wall Street as discreetly as possible. In return he gets Republicans to give him the advertising gimmicks he needs to sell Wall Street's Christmas package to the terminally gullible public that still supports him. His approach is designed for fraud. Once Obama's modus operandi is understood, he can almost make Paul Ryan look good.

b) The Swag

This year's theft is more raw and comprehensible than last year's. In a nutshell the basic deal was that to appropriate the money necessary to support a federal budget of $1.1 trillion, Obama's Omnibus decree has awarded tax-breaks mostly for special interests in an amount that will put the government another estimated $622 billion deeper in debt, not including the CBO-projected increase in spending of over $57 billion in ten years. The cuts primarily benefit plutocrats though there were window dressing cuts - like the "small-but-symbolic tax deduction" for teachers mentioned by NYT. These cuts were needed to reward some union, poverty and environmental "non-profit industrial complex" constituencies, which they and Obama could then talk up as worth the cost. "Just keep moving, please."

For one example of the cost, NYT describes how, with the support of Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid of Nevada, "lobbyists swooped in to add 54 words that temporarily preserved a loophole sought by the hotel, restaurant and gambling industries" for a tax avoidance scheme worth over a billion dollars. The share of the house rake for Harry on these winnings by his home-state industry could fund a comfortable retirement, if he hasn't already socked away enough plutocratic gratitude for that purpose by now. Containing roughly 8800 such 54-word chunks, the bill contained wide vistas for implanting concisely-crafted billion dollar gifts here and there.

"A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."

Made simple, what Obama failed to mention to the press is that plutocrats took more than half the amount of the whole federal budget, more than the total discretionary civilian budget, as their price, payable in future tax expenditures, for allowing the government that they own to stay open another year, other than for military purposes. In effect, what Bernie Sanders calls the "billionaire class" has taken over a formerly public bridge by force of bribery and is now charging tolls worth more than that portion of the bridge's value that is attributable to keeping the non-military (45%) lanes functioning for civilians another year.

An open question is whether the federal government is worth the price of paying plutocrats for the privilege of keeping it open. Does it even function for the public as usefully as does, say, the metaphorical privatized bridge? It is now used mainly to facilitate annual "CRomnibus" plundering expeditions against its citizenry by its corrupt new owners, all facilitated by a U.S. Supreme Court that has deliberately undermined its governing Constitution, and with the implicit threat of using the military lanes of that bridge in case of any resistance to the perpetual plunder.

Unlike last year, not just the company-town Washington Post rushed out reportage on these last minute shenanigans. Others have covered this "orgy of predatory, omnivorous bipartisanship" in some detail. One piece exposed "the truth of inadequate government spending and conservative sabotage" reflected in the levels of appropriations so diminished as to turn civilian government missions into zombie operations. The disfavored government functions that get in the way of plutocratic rule still exist in name, but have insufficient funds to perform their purpose effectively.

The general flavor of CRomnibus II priorities was reflected in the proud report of a Republican supporter who praised the law because it: 1) "Cuts EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] funding by $452 million below the President's budget request, holding the agency's budget at 21% below FY10 levels," (which were overall 1.7 percent lower than Bush's FY 2009 budget); 2) contains "funding for the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy at $986 million, an increase of $73 million above fiscal year 2015 and $79 million above the President's request" to subsidize this inefficient and dangerous technology; and 3) "Denies the administration's request to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II" requested by the Air Force on cost grounds, but now can be built in this politician's state whether needed or not. Similar unwanted military boondoggles were provided for Maine ($1 billion) and Mississippi ($640 million) and other beneficiaries.

With such donor-led spending priorities - parsimonious with the public's interest and profligate in the MIC and other plutocrat's interest - guiding environmental, energy and defense strategy, the nation must be securely in good hands.

Steve Horn wrote an excellent piece on a major CRomnibus II global warming provision "to end the 40-year export ban" on US petroleum. This provision, coming only days after Obama's COP21 "commitments," serves the twin public policy goals of increasing the price at the pump for future American consumers with the added bonus of increasing the global temperature too. Score two for greedy plutocrats on that one.

And then, barely worth remarking in the Bush/Obama permanent state of discretionary imperial war, there is a constitutionally required declaration of war hidden in there somewhere, according to Harvard's expert on such things, Jack Goldsmith. "Congress is not calling its funding an authorization for the use of force against ISIL, much less debating the authorization. But make no mistake: The funding to continue the war against ISIL is an authorization of force against ISIL, albeit a quiet one, designed not to attract attention." "Authorization of force" is bureaucratic euphemism for "declaration of war."

Who knows what other such gems predator lobbyists buried in those over 2200 pages of abstruse legal language, all scurrying from the disinfecting effect of sunlight? These are provisions which those pretending to be legislators in a democracy most likely neither understood nor even read before rubber stamping them for their paymasters.

2. The Rake for Politicians

In exchange for such favors for plutocrats in various sectors, Congress, while in the holiday spirit, also included some gifts for themselves. Political corruption is massive enough to constitute its own economic sector, capable of receiving its own gifts from Santa. Like last year's Christmastime for Wall Street exercise, the house also captured its percentage rake on its payouts to plutocrats comparable to the ten-fold increase in party contribution limits.

NYU's Brennan Center reports that "Citizens United has enabled election spending by a variety of 'dark money' groups who do not disclose their donors, and who have spent more than $600 million on federal elections to date." Forced disclosure of "dark money" political investments by government contractors and some others for whom secrecy is paramount would have shut down a sizable part of this industry. Prohibiting disclosure helps perpetuate and increase such dark money expenditures in the form of investments in the incumbents who just voted for their tax giveaways and other breaks.

Michael Hiltzik described in the LA Times how, "Two provisions buried in the 2,009-page bill ... emasculate efforts by the Internal Revenue Service and Securities and Exchange Commission to force public disclosure of donations by individuals and corporations." This kind of provision was so well buried that Hiltzik missed a third key provision, at least equally as important, that prevents the president from using disclosure requirements for enforcing federal procurement law. All federal procurement, another large pool of public money, is already on the Capital's auction block. Disclosure of the contributions might have required Obama to begin enforcing the law against such political investments.

Federal procurement law can be read, in accordance with international best practice, to ban what the Supreme Court deems to be "independent" political investments in politicians by corporate government contractors. A long-existing FECA provision, titled "Contributions by government contractors," prohibits contractors "directly or indirectly to make any contribution any person for any political purpose or use." 52 U.S. Code § 30119(a)(1). "Dark money" independent expenditures enabled by Citizens United are mostly "indirect" contributions made in violation of this law. Since government contractors are among the largest of political racketeers this ban alone could have canceled a large part of the problem of money in politics created by Citizens United.

There had been much agitation for Obama to use this administrative power under the general theory that disclosure of legalized corruption can make a positive difference. In the case of procurement, disclosure actually could make a substantial difference. One study showed that for each $5.3 million in government contracts (107 average contracts) politicians receive an additional $201,220 in campaign contributions. Since there is a total of over $500 billion of annual federal procurement, this one profit center alone accounts for at least $2 billion worth of kickbacks to politicians.

Obama has not only violated his constitutional responsibility by refusing to enforce this law against these largest of corporations used by plutocrats for making political investments. Obama has also refused to take even the most modest step of requiring such contractors to simply disclose their Citizens United expenditures as a condition of doing business with the government. This would be a "necessary and proper" enforcement tool for a law designed to foster effective governance.

Under existing law such a disclosure mandate should not violate even the Supreme Court's most bizarre re-interpretations of the First Amendment to legalize influence peddling. The conduct of government functions has been generally exempted from such First Amendment rulings. E.g. Wagner v. FEC (D.C. Cir. 2015) (unanimous en banc decision) (upholding constitutionality of the contractor contribution prohibition). To rule otherwise would raise serious separation of powers boundary concerns about judicial incursion deep into executive branch territory. Even Citizens United, 558 U.S. at 359 (2010), which legalized such investments in other contexts, acknowledged this government function exception in order to accommodate the public's "interest in allowing governmental entities to perform their functions" free of judicial interference. Moreover Citizens United, Buckley (1976) and McCutcheon (2014) all more generally approved disclosure rules in any context.

It is just good government practice that contractors should not be creating conflicts of interest by funding politicians who both create the projects and appropriate the funds to pay the contractors. The law is equally clear that disclosure is an acceptable mechanism for enforcing that good practice in all government business.

Obama disagrees, of course. After the Wagner case persuasively upheld the government contractor anti-corruption provisions, Obama needed a new excuse for his refusal to enforce the law. By conniving with Congress to pass a law that makes it illegal for him to use any of the three mentioned tools previously available to require disclosures of government contractors' illegal political investments, he is theoretically no longer impeachable for his failure to see that federal procurement law be faithfully executed by him after Citizens United. Technically such "willful blindness" to the procurement corruption business gift-wrapped by Congress in exchange for $2 billion kickbacks would provide no defense for delivering a package of, for example, street drugs someone else wrapped. But such "willful blindness" of the rampant violation of federal procurement law is good enough for government work, apparently.

Disabling his enforcement tools for requiring disclosure of all independent political investments from government contractors can be pleaded in defense of Obama's willful blindness to the systemic corruption of the federal procurement process. Santa Obama can blame Congress for wrapping this gift for Wall Street he just happened to find in Santa's Christmas bag. After all, everyone remembers that Obama prominently spoke against Citizens United. He must not have known that his Omnibus II bag included gifts which widely extends the scope of Citizens United for the potential permanent corruption of all government procurement, which had previously been exempt from its reach under accepted First Amendment law. No new president, such as Bernie Sanders, can now require disclosure of political investments by government contractors under procurement regulations, by SEC-regulated corporations (i.e., most contractors) under SEC regulations, or by any plutocrats who launder their political investments, corporate or otherwise, through 501(c)(4)'s under IRS regulations.

Obama's defense, more for historical legacy purposes than legal purposes, depending on Bernie Sanders, is that Congress has withdrawn his power to know who is spending money in violation of the law. The money has become even darker now, too dark for Obama to see. Without such mandatory disclosures of dark money, billion-dollar Obama can feign ignorance of activity that otherwise would be subject to the law that he has refused to enforce for six years.

This is no surprise since right from the outset when Obama chose, in his 2008 campaign, to be the first candidate to ever turn down public campaign funding, Obama has typically taken the corrupt option, whenever he has had the choice. All three of these anti-disclosure provisions are contained in a law that was approved by an overwhelming majority of Democratic Senators, and negotiated, approved, signed, and propagandized by Obama. All of these hypocritical politicians have chanted the empty refrain of wanting a futile "constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United." They not only missed their chance to accomplish a significant part of this pretended goal by easily promulgated administrative regulations, they repealed their chance just in case someone like Bernie Sanders were elected who might use the power to interfere with their procurement kickback racket.

Among the 37 Democratic Senators who furnished a filibuster-proof majority by a margin of seven to protect dark money were at least seven Democrats who complain about "dark money" in politics, like Obama who magisterially recommended that "we spend less time drowning in dark money," and like Hillary Clinton, who is no slouch in the Obaman arts of deception herself. These new provisions from CRomnibus II constituting a "Dark Money Promotion Act" are reproduced below in an Addendum, as documentary evidence of the influence peddling racket they serve.

The point that needs to be made clearly here is that Obama and the Democratic Party, just as they did last year, have again taken political corruption to outrageous new levels, well beyond even what the plutocratic Supreme Court has mandated with its bogus "money is speech" doctrine. It would have been difficult for the Court to ignore the Wagner rule in order to extend corruption to federal procurement. But now that all three branches of the federal government are full partners in the political corruption racket, the Court does not have to carry the whole burden of expanding and entrenching systemic corruption to perpetuate the overthrow of the former United States.

If anyone in a position of significant power were left out of the racket, it would not be systemic. This is why behind his DNC stands Obama trying to defeat Sanders, while he thinks Clinton would make a "great" president.

(continued in Part 2.)

America, Where Are You?

Rabbi Abraham Unger, Ph.D.   |   December 28, 2015   11:45 AM ET

Read More: primaries, trump, clinton, america

Is this crop of presidential candidates really the best we can do? The leading Democrat represents the interest of corruption while the leading Republican represents the interest of vulgarity. It's a new low.

I don't blame the candidates. They are opportunists, and they've sniffed out their moment. It's the rank and file -- you and I -- that need to take responsibility. We know the country has gone awry. We know the "too big to fail" doctrine only actually helped the "big." We know that Iraq and Afghanistan are a wash at the cost of too many young American lives. We know that, as Paris burns, the fire gets frighteningly closer and closer to these shores. And we don't know what to do. That's why Trump and Clinton have gone so far. They are the candidates of the lost.

For those who criticize the missed presidency of Barack Obama, they should take a step back and realize his legacy reflects our own civic paralysis. Our political parties play to their bases because the extremists are the only ones who seem to care about government. Americans don't vote, and, as political scientist Robert Putnam made clear at the turn of the millennium in his classic book Bowling Alone, we don't care about community that much anymore either.

I never thought I would yearn for the days of G.W. Bush and Al Gore. But, however ineffective, at least those candidates articulated broad frameworks of vision. They didn't seem to be in it only to have a chance to accumulate power, which is, after all, what Clinton and Trump so obviously have in common.

What can we do? How does America find herself again and reach a place of clear public vision? If we can do that, then our politics will fall into place and maybe even an authentic leader will emerge.

The most important step is to eliminate the primary process. Yes, the primaries were supposed to reform backroom party convention deals to put up Presidential candidates. But they have devolved to become the forum of dangerously extremist politics, because these zealous primary voters have become the voices candidates worry about most. If we can go back to the kind of nomination process that got the likes of JFK elected, at least a plurality of interests will be involved. Today we can trust in the diversity of America, now in full play, to allow for a more representative party coalition when nominating a candidate.

Second, and perhaps even more difficult than electoral reform, is for America to fully comprehend that with the loss of its middle class it is in decline for all. I care for the poor, and I have no enmity towards the rich. But the hard truth is that when a country's middle class erodes, so does its stability. The "too big to fail" doctrine certainly helped the "big," but we put a band aid on our economy without really correcting it. Imagine the Tea Party merged with the barely standing Occupy movement. They are flip sides of the same public coin, fed up with a distant elite running our national show and playing to the basest sides of human nature.

Imagine a bipartisan national grassroots organization articulating a reasoned, thoughtful policy on immigration, taxation, manufacturing, foreign policy, education, healthcare, and beyond. A New Year is coming. It is a holiday season. The Faith and Public Policy Roundtable stands ready to be a voice of the silent, shut out American center in the public square. The dialogue begins here and now. Let's start a movement that signifies America has found herself again.

Actually You Can Insult Your Way to the Presidency -- The Appeal of Trump

Jeff Wald   |   December 28, 2015   12:47 AM ET

Like many, I was confused by the appeal of Donald Trump. How can someone insult so many people and groups, how can someone be so intellectually ambiguous, how can someone not play by any of the rules and be so far ahead. And let's accept facts he is far, far ahead in the GOP nomination contest.

I still believe The Donald will fall short of the nomination as I wrote in September...clearly my timing was waaayyy off! But it is impossible to deny his appeal to a large, and growing, part of the electorate. Facts are facts, so let's try to understand Trump.

At first I thought his poll numbers were driven by hate. People who wanted the simple solutions of a wall, mass deportations, religious isolationism and Donald to bring jobs back from China. But, thankfully too few of us are that filled with hate or that easily fooled.

You see, Donald's appeal is not hate, it's anger. Although anger leads to hate and hate leads to the dark side... oh, wait, sorry wrong pop cultural context.

It's not anger at any of the groups The Donald seems to take issue with: Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, reporters, Asians, Muslims again, the disabled, women or Iowans. It's anger at one group and one place: Politicians and Washington D.C.

The Donald's appeal is not just that he is not a politician, it goes well beyond that. Carly Fiorina is not a politician. Herman Cain is not a politician. Trump is the exact opposite of a politician. He is brash, he is not politically correct, he doesn't present nuanced thought out policy positions. Every thing he does, no politician would ever do. Ever.

To understand The Donald's polls, look at Congress' approval rating. Trump's supporters know he is a bull in a china shop...but they hate the china shop and think it should be torn down. They know he is unhinged, but they want him to bring chaos to Washington, because nothing else has brought sanity to DC.

Every time he says something outrageous, yes there isn't condemnation. But there is also not full agreement. There is simply the thought that a politician wouldn't say those things so its ok that Trump says them. Listen to the focus groups of Trump supporters. These are mostly thoughtful, decent people. They don't want to ban Muslims and they don't want to deport 11 million people, they are just angry at politicians and they want something different. Anything different has to be better than what we have now.

America, and the GOP base in particular, are done with politics as usual, and who can disagree?

The existing political class is an embarrassment and is holding America back. Why not let Trump get in there and do his thing. By which people believe he will act like a lunatic, brake all the rules, yell at everyone, but in the end come out a winner.

To further prove the point, we can look at the antithesis. Who in the Republican race most represents the political class? Jeb! And despite $100 million, how is Jeb doing?

Note to Jeb, calling Donald unhinged and chaotic only makes him better in the eyes of his supporters.

The strange thing is The Donald should have an even broader appeal. Billionaire businessman and strong presence comes in and cleans up Washington; uses common sense policies to unite us and project U.S. power and strength to the far corners of the world.

Trump would use his business skills and network to bring the best and brightest to the political realm. Legendary technologists, kings of wall street, captains of industry would heed his call, as one of their own took charge and finally got things done for America.

But it won't happen as his act has gone too far at this point. The best and the brightest won't flock to him.

Trump has gone from respected businessman and icon to something very different. He could not be a politician and be brash and confrontational without offending every minority group (read swing voters in the states that will decide the election). ‎ If he was Trump but not this Trump, I do think he could win the election.

So, while I do finally understand his appeal, I lament and I am confused. I lament for what he could have been. I am confused because while he has rallied the hate and appealed to the anger, he hasn't set himself up to win. No campaign infrastructure and alienating every swing voter group can not win a general election.

So what has he accomplished? He turned the Trump name from luxury good to an increasingly brand. He has damaged all the work the GOP tried to do to woo minority voters.

I believe he has basically ensured Secretary Clinton will be President of the United States of America.

But maybe that was his plan all along?

Groups Ask Columbia University To Reveal Funding Behind Exxon-Tied Center on Global Energy Policy

  |   December 20, 2015    9:08 PM ET

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Hillary Clinton Is Pro Gun Control, But She's Also Big on Arms Deals

Dieter Holger   |   December 8, 2015    5:32 PM ET


While touting her gun control record and lambasting rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' firearm policy, Hillary Clinton keeps under wraps her heavy-handed involvement in the arms trade during her time as America's top diplomat. Sanders, although never Secretary of State, hasn't advocated for major arms deals between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, or any other warmongering country for that matter.

According to an investigation by journalists David Sirota and Andrew Perez of the International Business Times, Clinton not only rubber-stamped major weapon deals with 20 countries that donated to her and her husband's philanthropic arm, the Clinton Foundation, but also approved nearly double the amount of arms sales to those same 20 countries as the State Department of George W. Bush's second term.

Under Clinton's leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure -- derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton's term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) -- represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush's second term.

The investigation, which came out in May of this year, caused chatter online, but didn't result in Clinton facing any questions about her arms dealing record in the first two Democratic debates. It's important now, especially as we discuss mass violence at home, to ask Clinton if she'll pursue a reduction of firearms not only domestically but internationally.

Judging by her fierce pursuit of a $29 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, a country which Human Rights Watch criticizes for violently oppressing women, it seems unlikely. According to the same International Business Times report, the Saudi deal's success was "personal" to Clinton.

At a press conference in Washington to announce the department's approval, an assistant secretary of state, Andrew Shapiro, declared that the deal had been 'a top priority' for Clinton personally. Shapiro, a longtime aide to Clinton since her Senate days, added that the "U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army have excellent relationships in Saudi Arabia."

As Sanders' gains in the polls have tightened the race for the Democratic Party's nomination, Clinton has strategically shifted criticism away from Wall Street, where Sanders' campaign has momentum, to the Vermont senator's gun control record, going so far to imply Sanders was sexist during a DNC Women's Leadership Conference.

"I've been told to, and I quote, 'stop shouting' about gun violence," Clinton said. "First of all I'm not shouting. It's just sometimes when women talk people think we're shouting."

The question is, will the countries that come looking for weapons that take countless innocent lives hear that shouting?

Why Senator Sanders Won the Second Debate

David Edmund Moody   |   November 16, 2015   12:57 PM ET

Let's face it: the criteria by which the media and most people judge winners and losers in the presidential candidate debates are superficial and misleading. The conventional criteria for winners are: who talks more; who speaks most forcefully; who exhibits poise and confidence; who launches zippy one-liners; and who effectively puts down their opponents.

Now let's consider what reasonable and valid criteria would look like. Does the candidate actually answer the questions asked? Are the answers given cogent and comprehensible? And, above all, are the answers good answers: reasonable, appropriate, insightful?

By the former, superficial criteria, Hillary Clinton probably won the second debate. She certainly spoke the most. She has a highly polished style of debating, full of poise and confidence. She is knowledgeable and well-prepared.

But who gave the best answers? On these grounds the winning debater was clearly Senator Sanders. On issue after issue, he gave the most direct, cogent, reasonable, and insightful replies to the questions posed.

How do we meet the challenge of ISIS? We insist that the Muslim nations get directly involved in the fight; and we re-design our military to address the modern world, not the Cold War. Only Sanders made these two fundamental points.

What is the right level for the minimum wage? In all fairness, who can seriously argue against a fifteen-dollar minimum wage, unless they are Republicans? Only Senator Sanders got this right.

In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, which is the greater threat today: terrorism or climate change? Who but Senator Sanders would meet this issue head-on and state firmly and forthrightly that climate change is the greater threat? Any informed and objective observer of the scientific facts would agree; most politicians lag far behind in this understanding. But Sanders went further in his answer: he pointed out that climate change is destined to greatly exacerbate terrorism itself, among many other things, as a result of the famine, drought, and conflict it will engender. To back this up, he cited a good (and unexpected) source: the CIA.

Needless to say, when the conversation turned to Wall Street, Sanders won the debate hands down. His whole campaign highlights the gross inequities in income and campaign contributions. This one was an easy call on behalf of Senator Sanders. "Why has Wall Street been the greatest contributor to Secretary Clinton's campaigns over the course of years?" "The business model of Wall Street is greed and fraud." Governor O'Malley got in a good point on this issue too: Clinton's financial recommendations were rightly labelled "weak tea." Case closed.

Eventually we came to the issue of guns. This is one on which Clinton scored points against Sanders in the first debate. How did it turn out this time? Clinton said we have to go after the gun lobby. Sanders agreed and expanded the point to include a ban on assault weapons, and he emphasized the need for consensus to get results. Let's call this one a draw.

Finally, let's look at the big picture. What was Senator Sanders' take-away line? He said we need a "political revolution." He explained what he meant: we have to break up the stranglehold of Wall Street and billionaires on the economy and the political process. This is his number one point. What is Hillary's number one point? Who knows? She doesn't have a number one point. At the end of the day, Secretary Clinton simply does not have Senator Sanders' penetrating acumen and focus.

And this is why, notwithstanding whatever the media and the majority may say, Senator Sanders won the second debate.

Presidential Candidates on Supporting Women in the Workforce

Rana Florida   |   November 11, 2015   12:36 PM ET

2015-11-18-1447882695-9831486-FullSizeRender.jpeg Attempting to work from my home office with a 3 week old.

Sheryl Sandberg notwithstanding, more and more U.S. women are leaning back and out. America's ranking for female workforce participation has declined from seventh among the advanced nations to twentieth. Ironically, this is happening at a time when women are more likely than men to hold Bachelors degrees, and when formal barriers to career advancement are falling. As US Trust's Joseph Quinlan noted in a recent article in Business Insider, "wealthier and healthier, influencers and creators -- women now represent one of the most powerful economic cohorts not only the in United States but also the world." But only 50 percent fully participate in the economy world-wide, and just 60 percent do in the US, a "colossal waste of talent and a huge forfeiture of demand/spending."

I see it happening all the time -- women who went to Ivy League schools, Columbia, Princeton, you name it, and who held highly-demanding, high-status, high-pay jobs -- deciding to stay at home after they have a baby. They all thought carefully about their decisions, weighing the pros and cons. Instead of the prison of a 9 to 5 (or 8 to 9, more likely) work culture, they preferred to keep their brains sharp and stay connected by volunteering and sitting on boards.

And the fear of leaving a newborn in someone else's care is terrifying. As Amber Scorah wrote recently in the New York Times on the death of her infant son, "Why, why does a parent in this country have to sacrifice her job, her ability to provide her child with proper health care --- or for many worse off than me, enough food to eat -- to buy just a few more months to nurture a child past the point of vulnerability?" She describes the U.S. culture as one that, "places very little value on caring for infants and small children." And argues that:

Parental leave reduces infant death, gives us healthier, more well-adjusted adults and helps women stay in the workforce. If we truly valued the 47 percent of the work force who are women, and the value of our families, things would look different. Mothers could go back to work after taking time off to recover physically from birth and bond with their young children.

Yet antiquated government policies and inflexible work schedules, relics of the industrial age, hurt companies more than they realize.

As Gail Collins put it in the New York Times, "women falling out of the work force is....a huge deal. It reduces family standards of living and puts a crimp in the economy." A McKinsey Global Institute report found that if women participated equally in the economy with men, global GDP would increase by 26 percent or $28 trillion by 2025 -- the equivalent of adding another China and US to the world. If all countries simply matched the progress towards gender parity of the fastest-improving nations in their region, GDP would rise by $12 trillion, which is roughly equivalent to Japan, Germany and the UK combined.

Why is this happening? Four reasons:

1. Equal Pay. Though women are advancing over men in skills and education, they still only make 79 cents on the dollar on average. In some fields, the discrepancy is much worse.

2. Antiquated Family Leave Acts. 98 countries offer 14 weeks of paid maternity leave or more; the US currently grants 12 weeks of unpaid leave, thanks to the Family Leave Act of 1993. Papua New Guina and Oman, are the only other countries in the world that offer no paid maternity leave at all.

3. High Costs of Daycare. Add to that the skyrocketing costs of quality care, whether it's a fulltime nanny or a reliable drop-off facility. "It's incredible that we've built a society that relies on women in the labor force yet makes no discernible effort to deal with this problem," Collins continues. "And infant care is impossible. In most states infant care is more expensive than college tuition."

4. Inflexible Workplaces. Most law-makers don't have the progressive mindset to pass laws granting parents more control over their schedules. Nor do major leaders of companies and organizations. Of course some jobs require the worker to be in place at a set time, but most knowledge workers can work from anywhere, anytime. As long as workers can be trusted to deliver their work, there is no need to chain them to their desks. Women, want the flexibility to manage their time and schedules without having to ask for permission every time they need to accompany a child on a field trip or take them to the doctor's.

This is not just a problem for women; it's contributing to the decline of America as an economic powerhouse.

The current crop of presidential candidates have a lot to say about the crises we face in the areas of climate change, guns, immigration, ISIS, and the Middle East. Some of them have very strong feelings about Planned Parenthood. But what about the crisis of women in the workforce--and the productivity gap that their low participation is causing?

It's clear that Clinton, Sanders and O'Malley take the lead. The infographic and list below tell you where they stand on two of the four issues where government can weigh in:

Family and Medical Leave Act

Marco Rubio (R)
He wants to avoid the federal government getting involved but encourages companies to give at least 4 weeks by offering them a 25% tax credit.

Martin O'Malley (D)
He is a big supporter of the FAMILY Act because he believes that paid leave for both genders will help close the gender pay gap.

Ted Cruz (R)
He supports them personally but doesn't think it's government's job to mandate.

Bernie Sanders (I)
He is a big supporter and is a cosponsor of the Family Act.

Carly Fiorina (R)
She believes companies will do the right thing and that government shouldn't interfere with the private sector.

Hillary Clinton (D)
She supports a mandatory 3 month leave.

Rand Paul (R)
He has not commented on the issue.

Chris Christie (R)
He too hasn't formally commented on it but believes we need to remain competitive.

Jeb Bush (R)
He thinks it's a state decision not a federal one.

Donald Trump (R)
He told Fox News that America needs to remain competitive and that we should be careful of it.