News Releases

U.S. and UK Whistleblowers Challenge Policies of War and Attacks on Liberty

The Guardian writes in an editorial this morning: “A diverse quartet of characters share a platform at the Foreign Press Association in London on Friday 21 November. They are a mix of effusive and reserved, leftist, conservative libertarian and politically unaffiliated. But all four have worked for US or UK security agencies, and all four have blown the whistle on misconduct as they saw it. They’ve won accolades for their integrity, yet none was in the end able to remain in post with his or her employer after airing inconvenient truths.

“Matthew Hoh, Colleen Rowley and Kirk Wiebe are, like Edward Snowden, all one-time servants of the American security state. The former GCHQ translator, Katharine Gun, exposed an NSA plan to bug the UN offices of countries that George W Bush and Tony Blair regarded as potential swing votes in their doomed quest for a security council rubber-stamp for an invasion of Iraq, on which they were already set. She was, until the prosecution proved unwilling or unable to muster any evidence, pursued under the Official Secrets Acts, legislation that has rendered the British state a notorious shadowland for a century. The US is traditionally seen as blessed with more open government, but the immediate backdrop to today’s event is the increasingly ruthless pursuit of American whistleblowers.

“For all Barack Obama’s background in civil rights law, his administration has charged more people under the Espionage Act, a 97-year old law rushed through in the first world war, than all previous administrations combined. Phone records covering journalists and, presumably, their sources have been subpoenaed. The trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer charged with revealing details of a botched US plan to feed Iran false nuclear leads, is pending. While British journalists are, as we report, resorting to legal action against Scotland Yard for monitoring their activities as part of a ‘domestic extremism’ programme, US government directives and information campaigns are being trained on the ‘insider threat’, the new parlance for employees who are not to be trusted with classified information.”

The whistleblowers — from the NSA, FBI, State Department and GCHQ — spoke about the effects of their governments’ policies on freedom of the press and democracy. They are traveling as a delegation co-sponsored by the U.S.-based organizations RootsAction.org and ExposeFacts, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy. The U.S. whistleblowers will be back in the U.S. by Monday and are available for interviews. Brief bios of the delegation follow quotes from the U.S. whistleblowers:

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at comcast.net
Wiebe, an NSA whistleblower, said today: “Of the ‘Five Eyes’ relationships, the one between NSA and GCHQ is the oldest, closest and most complex. It involves the sharing of data access, collection, processing, as well as the analysis and reporting of intelligence information on a wide variety of subjects of importance to the respective governments and other partners involved. The combined resources of these two behemoth intelligence organizations, augmented by their respective partner organizations in other countries, are collecting — on a 24/7 basis — massive amounts of global information belonging to millions of innocent phone and Internet users around the world. This deep betrayal of privacy on an epic scale constitutes the most egregious and most dangerous threat to democracy in the history of the world.”

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net , @ColeenRowley
Rowley, an FBI whistleblower, said today: “I keep being questioned about governmental secrecy, what changes occurred after 9-11 and what level of secrecy is necessary to protect national security. These questions especially emerged after it was learned through whistleblower disclosures that the NSA and other U.S. and UK spy agencies were illegally collecting and storing massive amounts of (non-relevant) data on hundreds of millions of innocent people of the world. Paradoxically while individuals’ privacy has been greatly reduced, governmental secrecy greatly increased. People now wonder if their own privacy even matters anymore in this ‘collect it all’ system and don’t seem to appreciate the dangers created when citizens are kept in the dark about the actions of their governments, including the cover-up of fraud, waste and abuse, illegality and serious risks to public safety. They don’t understand that it was actually the failure to share relevant information which national security agencies already possessed before the 9-11 attacks: inside and between such agencies and with the general public that enabled the terrorism to occur in the first place and which continues to endanger citizens in many ways. Of course our very form of democratic government under the rule of law is also increasingly threatened given the current state of excessive government secrecy and little personal privacy.

“The answer therefore is to right this upside-down system. There should be increased sharing of governmental information while citizens’ privacy and their legal rights to free speech, association, religion and press, the right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, the right to due process, right to attorney, etc, should be afforded protection.”

MATTHEW HOH, mphoh1 at yahoo.com
Hoh, a State Department whistleblower, said today: “The U.S. and UK’s special relationship has evolved to the point where both governments rely upon one another, through personal relationships, infrastructure and ideological narrative to justify endless wars overseas, while engaging in a war against civil rights and individual liberties at home. It is imperative for the people of the United States and the United Kingdom to work together to resist and reform our governments’ perversion of a common and shared value system that was once dedicated to democracy, freedom and individual liberty.”

Background:

Katharine Gun is a former translator for GCHQ. In 2003, she leaked to the Observer a top-secret memorandum concerning an NSA operation to bug the United Nations offices of six countries regarded as swing votes that could determine whether the U.N. Security Council approved the invasion of Iraq. After the Observer article appeared, Gun confessed to her GCHQ superiors and was subsequently charged with violating the Official Secrets Act. The case was dropped after the prosecution declined to offer any evidence. For her whistleblowing, Gun was given the 2003 Sam Adams award by the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence. Daniel Ellsberg called Katharine Gun’s leak “the most important and courageous leak I have ever seen.” He added: “No one else — including myself — has ever done what Gun did: tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it.”

Matthew Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, previously directed the Afghanistan Study Group, a collection of foreign and public policy experts and professionals advocating for a change in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Prior to that, Hoh served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. Embassy teams in both Afghanistan and Iraq. During his service in Afghanistan, five months into his year-long contract in 2009, he resigned and became the highest-ranking U.S. official to publicly renounce U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Hoh was awarded The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling in 2010.

Coleen Rowley, an attorney and former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the agency’s pre-9/11 failures, was one of three whistleblowers named as Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. In February 2003, Rowley again wrote to the FBI Director questioning him and other Bush administration officials about the reliability of supposed evidence being used to justify the impending U.S invasion of Iraq. Under sharp criticism for her comments, Rowley stepped down from her legal position to go back to being an FBI Special Agent. She retired from the FBI in 2004 after 24 years with the agency.

Norman Solomon is the coordinator of ExposeFacts.org, a new project for whistleblowing and independent journalism in the United States. ExposeFacts is part of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy, where Solomon is executive director. He is the author of a dozen books on media and public policy including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org, an online action group that currently has close to half a million active online members.

J. Kirk Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years. Wiebe’s colleague William Binney developed the ThinThread information processing system that, arguably, could have detected and prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks. NSA officials, though, ignored the program in favor of Trailblazer, a program that ended in total failure with costs of billions of dollars. Wiebe and Binney blew the whistle internally on Trailblazer, but to no avail. Post 9/11, the NSA used ThinThread to illegally spy on U.S. citizens’ communications. Unable to stay at NSA any longer in good conscience, Wiebe retired in October 2001. Since retiring, Wiebe and Binney have made several key public disclosures regarding NSA’s massive surveillance program.

Katharine Gun, Matthew Hoh, Coleen Rowley and Kirk Wiebe are on the advisory board of ExposeFacts.org. Norman Solomon is on the ExposeFacts editorial board.

Immigration Move a “Stopgap Measure”

DAVID BACON, dbacon at igc.org, @photos4justice
Bacon is author of several books on immigration, including The Right to Stay Home and Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants. He is a labor and immigrant rights activist, and part of the Dignity Campaign.

He said today: “The administration’s decision to step away, at least partially, from the policy of mass deportations that have hurt millions of people over the last six years is a good step, but it is only a step. It leaves millions more people subject to deportation and vastly increased enforcement.The administration is imposing increasing enforcement and labor programs as a price for deportation relief. The U.S. already spends more money on immigration enforcement than all other federal law enforcement programs combined. Giving Silicon Valley more work visas and tying labor programs to deportation relief is a step towards lower wages, undermining the rights of all workers. At the same time, the administration has announced support for more free trade deals, like the Trans Pacific Partnership, which will lead to more displacement and migration, while eliminating jobs here at home. Instead of a stopgap measure, we must change U.S. immigration law and trade policy to deal with the basic causes of migration, and to guarantee the human, civil and labor rights of migrants and all working people.”

XL Pipeline: Scrutinizing Politicos and PR

The Senate is debating the XL Pipeline and is expected to vote late this afternoon.

MICHAEL KLARE, mklare at hampshire.edu
Klare just wrote the piece “Fossil-Fueled Republicanism, The Grand Oil Party Takes Washington by Storm.” His latest book is The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources.

STEVE HORN, steve at desmogblog.com, @SteveAHorn
Horn is research fellow with DeSmogBlog, which seeks to “clear the PR pollution that clouds climate science” and a freelance investigative journalist based in Madison, Wisc. He summarized three recent DeSmogBlog pieces:

Edelman’s TransCanada Astroturf Documents Expose Oil Industry’s Broad Attack on Public Interest” — “TransCanada has failed for years to win approval of the northern leg of the border-crossing Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, so the company has resorted to using a sophisticated PR plan to curry favor with a skeptical public. The documents obtained by Greenpeace Canada prove that is the case as it applies to another TransCanada tar sands pipeline, Energy East.”

Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s Warburg Pincus May Profit from Tar Sands Exports” — “Geithner’s company Warburg Pincus is chomping at the bit for tar sands dilbit to flow through Enbridge’s Keystone XL Clone and to the global market. His private equity firm’s ownership of MEG Energy symbolizes the likely purpose of both the Enbridge Keystone XL Clone system and the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline System: in large part, an export pipeline through the U.S. and to the global market.”

State Department’s Keystone XL Contractor ERM Approved Project Now Melting Glaciers” — “Houston Chronicle energy reporter Jennifer Dlouly described the looming vote on the northern leg of Keystone XL as a ‘Hail Mary’ for both U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) ‘to claim the title of the oil industry’s biggest champion.’ But if Big Oil catches the Hail Mary pass and runs the ball into the end-zone, it will mean more melting glaciers in the Arctic at the hands of climate disruption, caused by the tar sands production Keystone XL North will incentivize.”

War in the Mideast: Permanent Infrastructure for Perpetual War

USBBC reports: “America’s top general has told U.S. troops in Iraq that momentum is turning against Islamic State militants. Gen Martin Dempsey, on an unannounced visit, called the militants ‘midgets’ but said the battle against them was likely to take years.”

DAVID VINE, vine at american.edu
Author of the forthcoming book Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, Vine just wrote the piece “The Bases of War in the Middle East,” which states: “With the launch of a new U.S.-led war in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State (IS), the United States has engaged in aggressive military action in at least 13 countries in the Greater Middle East since 1980. In that time, every American president has invaded, occupied, bombed, or gone to war in at least one country in the region. The total number of invasions, occupations, bombing operations, drone assassination campaigns, and cruise missile attacks easily runs into the dozens. …

“The rapid disappearance of debate about our newest, possibly illegal war should remind us of just how easy this huge infrastructure of bases has made it for anyone in the Oval Office to launch a war that seems guaranteed, like its predecessors, to set off new cycles of blowback and yet more war. …

“While the Middle Eastern base buildup began in earnest in 1980, Washington had long attempted to use military force to control this swath of resource-rich Eurasia and, with it, the global economy. Since World War II, as the late Chalmers Johnson, an expert on U.S. basing strategy, explained back in 2004, ‘the United States has been inexorably acquiring permanent military enclaves whose sole purpose appears to be the domination of one of the most strategically important areas of the world.’”

Vine, a regular contributor to TomDispatch, is associate professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia.

See, from FAIR: “No Debate and the New War.”

U.S. Pledge to Global Climate Fund “Welcome,” but “Drop in Bucket”

Tus china climatewo days after announcing a joint initiative with China on climate, senior White House officials signal that President Obama will pledge up to $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund at a the G20 meeting in Brisbane, Australia this weekend.

JANET REDMAN, janet at ips-dc.org, @Janet_IPS
Redman, climate policy program director at the Washington D.C.-based think tank the Institute for Policy Studies, had the following reaction: “U.S. military spending topped $575 billion last year alone. While it’s welcome, a White House pledge of $3 billion over four years to climate security is a drop in the bucket by comparison.

“The impacts of climate change — extreme storms, water scarcity, food shortages — are no longer threats. For vulnerable communities around the world they are a reality. The expected commitment from President Obama to provide $3 billion to support these communities as they build resilience to climate disruption and shift to clean renewable energy is a start. But the U.S. will have to step up its ambition in providing finance and cutting greenhouse gas emissions if the international community hopes to secure a fair and equitable climate deal at the end of next year that protects people and the planet.”

FCC Chairman Still Lobbying for Telecom Industry on Net Neutrality?

The New York Times reports: “Pressure Mounts on F.C.C. Chief Over Net Neutrality Rules.” President Obama recently said: “Net neutrality has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas. That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com, @MFlowers8
Flowers is an organizer of PopularResistance.org, which is engaging in a series of actions in D.C. on this issue. Flowers directly challenged FCC chairperson Wheeler. See: “Net Neutrality Activists Blockade FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s House.”

CRAIG AARON, caaron at freepress.net, @notaaroncraig
President and CEO of Free Press, Aaron said today that Wheeler “is increasingly isolated and pushing an unworkable plan that no one supports. The FCC Chairman reportedly said he has to ‘find a way to split the baby.’ I’m no biblical scholar, but pretty sure the point of that story is that you can’t split a baby. And you can’t cut the Internet in half, either. You can either stand with the public or just protect the biggest phone and cable companies. That’s the choice Tom Wheeler has to make, and it should be an easy one.”

MALKIA CYRIL, malkia at mediajustice.org, @culturejedi
Executive director of the Center for Media Justice, Cyril said today: “One of the few people who doesn’t seem to get the need for bright line network neutrality rules grounded in Title II authority is FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. He failed to implement a wide public hearing process. Instead of providing market certainty, he’s considering legally dubious ‘hybrid’ rules that offer nothing but uncertainty. Instead of standing with the President on a bi-partisan network neutrality plan, the Democratic Chairman of the FCC is acting like a corporate lobbyist. It’s time for the FCC to do its job and protect the people of the United States from digital discrimination with a swift vote to reclassify broadband as a common carrier service. Communities of color and America’s low income communities can’t wait any more. Enough is enough.”

In 2013, when Wheeler was picked to be FCC Chairman, former FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson noted in an IPA news release that “Wheeler’s background is as a trade association representative for companies appearing before the Commission, a lobbyist in Congress for other FCC customers, and a venture capitalist investing in and profiting from others whose requests he’ll have to pass on. … A bizarre choice.”

U.S.-China Climate Deal: What the Cheering Overlooks

CNN is reporting: “In a historic climate change deal, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced both countries will curb their greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades. Under the agreement, the United States would cut its 2005 level of carbon emissions by 26-28 percent before the year 2025. China would peak its carbon emissions by 2030 and will also aim to get 20 percent of its energy from zero-carbon emission sources by the same year.”

JANET REDMAN, [in D.C.] Janet at ips-dc.org, @Janet_IPS
Redman is climate policy program director at the Institute for Policy Studies. She said today: “This announcement from the U.S. and China to reduce greenhouse emissions is a signal that the two largest climate polluters are moving on climate change. But comparing their pledges to what science says is needed to avoid climate catastrophe, a global cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by mid-century, these economic powerhouses are not taking that threat seriously enough.

“Both countries can and need to do more. The U.S. must up the ambition of its target, strengthen its Clean Power Plan to phase out of all fossil fuels, and contribute its fair share to the Green Climate Fund. China could peak emissions sooner, move out of coal faster, and abandon wasteful efforts to capture and pump carbon pollution into the ground.

“One test of success of cooperation between the U.S. and China will be whether it builds momentum in global negotiations for a new legally-binding climate deal in Paris at the end of next year that reflects the science and equity in action. Another is whether working together creates common cause for a just transition to a 100 percent renewable energy future that’s good for workers, climate-vulnerable communities, and families on the frontline of dirty energy pollution.

“Without clear pathways and legal commitments, even the most encouraging words ring hollow.”

DAPHNE WYSHAM, daphne.wysham at gmail.com, @daphnewysham
Wysham is climate policy fellow at the Center for Sustainable Economy. She said today: “The deal brokered between China and the U.S. on greenhouse gas emissions is significant but only because our expectations are so low. The three primary flaws in this agreement: 1) It kicks the can down the road to 2030, when climate science tells us China must peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020; 2) The U.S. can continue to export the equivalent of five times the carbon contained in the Keystone XL pipeline annually in new, heavily subsidized coal, oil and gas shipments without taking responsibility for these greenhouse gas emissions; and 3) China’s plan to expand its fleet of nuclear power plants is a dangerous and expensive response to the climate crisis, ignoring the lessons of Fukushima.” See Wysham’s recent appearance on The Real News.

STEVE HORN, steve at desmogblog.com, @Desmogblog
Horn is editor of Desmogblog, which seeks to “clear the PR pollution that clouds climate science.” He said today: “As the saying goes, read the fine print: nuclear energy will be accounted for as ‘zero emission’ and it looks like carbon capture and storage (CCS) will too, aka ‘clean coal,’ or ’21st Century Coal’ as the U.S. has preferred to call it in terms of its wheeling and dealing with China. Plus we have to ask: are the demands in line with the climate science? Perhaps they — climate scientists — should be consulted before declaring the agreement a ‘gamechanger.’ I think I’ll leave my pom-poms in the closet for now.” See: “In Push For Nuclear Power, Climate Change Concerns Overlooked.”

Obama and McConnell: Embracing Trade Deals Both Parties Just Ran Against

A Wall Street Journal headline claims: “GOP Victory Opens Pathway to Trade Bill.” ABC News reports: “At a post-election news conference, McConnell listed trade agreements and corporate tax reform as two potential early areas of compromise with the president. ‘Those are two very significant areas of potential agreement.’ McConnell said.” Meanwhile, President Obama stated: “We can also work together to grow our — grow our exports and open new markets for our manufacturers to sell more American-made goods to the rest of the world. That’s something I’ll be focused on when I travel to Asia next week.” On Sunday , Obama is scheduled to go to Beijing for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.

LORI WALLACH, lwallach at citizen.org; also via Alisa Simmons, asimmons at citizen.org, @PCGTW
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, which just put out the memo “What the 2014 Election Results Mean for Trade Policy,” which notes: “Both Parties Competed to Highlight Rejection of Unfair Trade in Competitive Races, Heightening Public Awareness and Further Complicating Obama’s Bid for Fast Track: Analysis of the most-watched races of the 2014 elections reveals bipartisan competition to align campaign positions with the American public’s opposition to current U.S. trade policies and the job offshoring they cause. A raft of ads spotlighting the damage caused by status quo trade policies has heightened constituents’ anger about damaging trade deals and the expectation that their newly elected representatives will reject the administration’s attempt to Fast Track more of the same deals.”

The group gives several examples of such ads — including McConnell’s U.S. Senate race in Kentucky: “Trade loomed large in this headline-grabbing race between McConnell and his Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. The Senate Majority PAC launched an ad that showed video footage of McConnell expressing support for NAFTA, and stated, ‘Mitch McConnell’s been tragically wrong about foreign trade deals. They’ve cost America over half a million jobs.’ Another Senate Majority PAC ad criticized McConnell for ‘pushing foreign trade deals that send Kentucky jobs to new homes far away.’ As his numbers plummeted in the early fall, McConnell’s campaign ultimately was forced to respond by adopting the same frame used against him, claiming in an ad that McConnell ‘fought against unfair foreign trade,’ despite having cast 20 out of 20 votes in favor of unfair trade since 1991. McConnell beat Grimes after running against his own voting record.”

The group also states: “The GOP takeover of the U.S. Senate probably reduces the chances that President Barack Obama gets Fast Track at all before his presidency is over or that a deal is completed on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). There has been a major corporate PR campaign to push the opposite narrative. However, a close look at the interplay of the actual politics and policy on Fast Track and the TPP show that the GOP election sweep may, counterintuitively, actually not promote the corporate trade agenda.”

On Fast Track: “The issue is not who is Senate Majority leader. The fight over trade authority is always won or lost in the U.S. House of Representatives. Recall that second-term Democratic President Bill Clinton lost a bid for Fast Track in 1998 in the GOP-controlled House with 171 Democrats and 71 GOP members voting ‘no.’ (Clinton had Fast Track for only two of his eight years. Indeed, in the past two decades, the only president to obtain Fast Track was President George W. Bush, and winning that five-year grant required a two-year effort at the start of Bush’s first term and a lot of political capital, after which Fast Track passed by one vote in a GOP-controlled House in 2002.) …

“The election results may also complicate Obama’s goal of signing a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal. …”

Minimum Wage: Four for Four…in “Red States”

PETER DAVIS, pdavis at timeforaraise.org
Ralph Nader and Davis just co-wrote a letter to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi which states: “Buried underneath the coverage of the Democrats’ second midterm ‘shalackin’ in a row is a stark public sentiment that provides a path forward for your caucuses during the upcoming lame duck session. Despite the Republican wave, a minimum wage raise passed in every state in which it was on the ballot. These were not coastal blue states: the four 2014 minimum wage ballot initiatives ­­– for Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota — ­­passed in Republican-dominated states which all elected Republican senators alongside the initiative. If your caucuses were to uniformly and exuberantly push for a minimum wage raise in the upcoming Congressional work session, it would transition the national media narrative away from Republican momentum in the never-­ending horse race and towards whether the new Congressional leadership will be responsive to the public sentiment and needs of American workers.” See the full letter. Davis is a campaign activist for Time for a Raise campaign, a project of Ralph Nader’s Center for the Study of Responsive Law.

In August, Nader wrote the piece “Democrats Are Doomed (Unless They Make the Minimum Wage the #1 November Election Issue).”

Nader’s latest book is Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. Earlier this year, Nader’s office hosted a conference on left-right alliance. See video of the conference here.

HOLLY SKLAR, FRANK KNAPP, Jr., via Bob Keener, bob at businessforafairminimumwage.org
Sklar, CEO of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, said today: “These minimum wage wins will send a clear message: Americans across the political spectrum want to raise the minimum wage. There is growing public awareness about the business benefits of increasing minimum wage such as boosting consumer demand, reducing worker turnover and increasing productivity. Nationally, 61 percent of small business owners want to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and adjust it for the cost of living in future years. It’s time for Congress to follow the public’s lead and vote to give America a raise.”

Knapp, president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 5,000 businesses, said: “This election shows that increasing the minimum wage is not a Red State versus Blue State issue. It’s a common sense, good business issue. Raising the minimum wage improves consumer demand, which is how Main Street businesses grow. We look forward to building on this momentum to gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10.”

Election 2014: Money and “Seesaw Politics”

THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, senior fellow of the Roosevelt Institute and the author of Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Politics (University of Chicago Press, 1995).

He commented on the election results: “So after blowing through more money than any off year election in history, 2014 leave us with this: A war of all against all — all of the Republican Congress against all of the Democratic Executive Branch. There’s no single-minded wave like 2010: it is obvious that huge numbers of Americans detest both parties, and that one of the keys to the election’s outcome was the failure of the president’s supporters to turn out like they did in 2012.

“There’s nothing mystifying about their disenchantment: After six years in the White House, President Obama rescued the banks, but not most of the American people, whose incomes and job prospects continue to languish. Add to that what will likely prove to be a substantial Republican advantage in total spending, and the impression the White House conveyed of constantly being surprised by world events, and it is hardly surprising that we witnessed another installment of ‘seesaw politics.’ The interesting question for the future is how much longer this can go on, in a world in which both Europe and China are slowing down, the Fed is tapering, and the Republicans’ answers to what ails the economy comes basically out of the playbook of the George W. Bush administration: deregulation, more tax cuts for the wealthy, and further cuts in civilian spending to reduce an already shrunken deficit.” One of Ferguson’s most recent articles is “How Big Money Keeps Populism at Bay.”

ROBERT WEISSMAN, LISA GILBERT, via Barbara Holzer, bholzer at citizen.org, @Public_Citizen
Weissman is president of Public Citizen; Gilbert is director of the group’s Congress Watch division. The group states: “Dark money, as well large amounts of disclosed money from outside groups, unjustly reshape elections in much the same way that a funhouse mirror distorts your reflection. What you see no more resembles the real you than these elections resemble a genuinely democratic voting process.

“Enabled by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, billionaires and corporations have grabbed control of our elections. More money than ever is being spent — an estimated $4 billion for this year’s elections, which is a record for a midterm, though the actual total will surely be higher when the final reports are filed.

“But more significant than the actual amounts are the rising expenditures by outside organizations — super PACs, trade associations and so-called social welfare organizations that do not disclose their donors and are not connected to the candidates. … These organizations concentrate their spending on the close races — often spending far more than the candidates themselves — so their influence is concentrated where it matters most. What’s more, at least 57 outside groups that can accept unlimited contributions have devoted all of their resources to supporting a single congressional candidate this election cycle, as detailed in Public Citizen’s latest analysis on outside spending, ‘SuperConnected 2014.’”

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