Show me whose hand you eat from, and I’ll show you whose song you sing.
That’s the proverb that comes to mind when looking at Barack Obama’s recent and not-as-recent flip-flops on everything from publicly financed elections to the recent FISA bill legalizing warrantless wiretapping and email snooping by the government. The bill also gives companies like Verizon, which cooperated with the Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping after 9/11, immunity from lawsuits.
In Obama’s announcement that he would opt out of the system of public financing, he claimed that the system “is broken” because of loopholes that Senator John McCain has exploited to raise money from lobbyists and special interest groups. With public financing, Obama would have received $84 million in taxpayer money, gained from the $3 check-off on federal tax returns, which he could spend starting at the close of the Democratic Party’s convention until Election Day.
To deflect criticism of Obama’s flip-flop on the issue, apologists for Obama and the candidate himself have made much of the fact that 45 percent of his money comes from small donors (defined as those who donate $200 or less). He claims that these small donors “will have as much access and influence over the course and direction of our campaign that has traditionally been reserved for the wealthy and the powerful.”
In reality, big contributors have far more influence in and access to the campaign than the voter who shells out $200 because he or she really believes in Obama’s message of change. These small donors did not get advance copies of Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech addressing the Reverend Wright controversy. They do not participate in weekly and quarterly conference calls with the head honchos of the campaign and with Obama himself.
To sit on the “national finance committee” that gets advance copies of speeches and access to the campaign’s decision-makers, donors must bundle contributions of $200,000 or more from friends, associates, co-workers, and employees. The top 79 bundlers for Obama’s campaign, five of whom are billionaires, are responsible for 27,000 checks from individuals for the legal maximum of $2,300. Of those bundlers, 18 work at top law firms and 21 are Wall Street executives and power brokers from Fortune 500 companies. Others include hedge fund executives, Silicon Valley capitalists, Chicago-based developers, and black millionaires.
Of course, that’s not counting the money Obama has raised by exploiting the very same loophole in campaign finance laws that he blasted McCain for. He got $28,500 donations recently by dining with rich couples in Hollywood for a grand total of $5 million in one event. (That money goes to the party, circumventing the $2,300 legal limit on individual donations to candidates, which is a joke since Obama now controls the Democratic Party).
Forget “change we can believe in.” I’ve got a better slogan for the Obama campaign: “hypocrisy made flesh.”
Here’s the picture when individual donors are broken down by industry: Lawyers have donated about $18 million to Obama, the telecom industry has given about $10 million (thereby purchasing his flip-flop on FISA legislation), employees of securities and investment firms have given about $8 million, university administrators and employees have given roughly $7 million, real estate professionals have contributed $5 million, medical professionals have donated $7 million, bankers have given $1.6 million, and hedge fund and private equity managers have given about $1.6 million.
Broken down by individual companies, we find that Goldman Sachs employees gave more to Obama than any other group, followed by the University of California, UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, National Amusements, Lehman Brothers, Harvard, and Google. These institutions would have to be stupid to give millions to a candidate that would deliver real, substantive change at their expense for the benefit of America’s working-class majority. If they’re that stupid, they can write some checks for a guy I know in Venezuela named Hugo Chávez.
Now that the primaries are over, we can see what Obama really stands for: more of the same. More of the same policies that have produced a gigantic disparities in income, growing pockets of poverty, more people without health insurance, the highest per-capita prison population in the world, crumbling infrastructure, a failing education system, inner city decay, and an increasingly aggressive foreign policy.
If you think Obama’s light-speed blitz to the right is bad now, wait until the election is over. Then he won’t have to pretend to give a damn what the voters think and he can repay his top donors for the investment they made in him. Already the Wall Street Journal is salivating over the prospect of Obama presiding over Bush’s third term.
Remember folks, he’s Barack Obama, and Wall Street approved his message.