A Handful Of Very Wealthy People Are Buying Up Our Government... Is It Too Late To Stop Them?
Billionaires-- who shouldn't exist-- are trying to buy up seats in Congress at a rate I've never seen before. I was so happy yesterday to see that one real scumbag billionaire, Republican Chicago hedge fund tycoon Ken Griffin came up kind of short this week when a poll of the Illinois Republican gubernatorial race was published by Sun-Times and WBEZ. Griffin has already invested $50 million in the primary on behalf of Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, a mainstream conservative, but he got the short end of the stick compared to downstate farmer and first term state senator, far right extremist crackpot Darren Bailey. 32% picked Bailey and for all that money Griffin spent, just 17% picked Irvin.
Dave McKinney and Tina Sfondeles noted that Bailey "was beating Irvin not only on his own rural and small-town turf but also in the vast stretch of Chicago suburbs, where the Aurora mayor had been expected to do well. If the numbers hold, it would represent a brutal repudiation by Illinois’ Republican voters of Irvin, his array of mainstream party endorsements and, most pointedly, his $50 million benefactor, Chicago hedge fund tycoon Ken Griffin. As the new polling suggests, Griffin’s designs on installing the mayor of Illinois’ second-largest city in the Executive Mansion may be on the verge of getting chewed up and spit out like wheat chaff by a Bible-quoting archconservative who has driven a combine for a living."
Followup interviews with respondents shows that voters worry that Irvin isn't Trumpy enough and that Griffin's grotesque spending-- nearly four months of campaign ads and mailers inundating GOP voters-- is a turnoff. It's worth noting, though, that Bailey has his own rotten billionaire, a full-on fascist, Richard Uihlein, who should be in prison for helping to fund the Trump insurrection and who has put $9 million into the race against Irvin.
And let's not forget German-born, South Africa raised gay Nazi billionaire Peter Thiel and the $13.5 million he put up for two fellow fascists ($13.5 million each), JD Vance in Ohio and Blake Masters in Arizona (not counting whatever he paid Trump to get him to endorse the 2 hideous candidates). Generally speaking, I could care less which billionaires waste their money on which Republican candidates. Bailey is worse than Irvin but Irvin is also horrific and the incumbent, Democratic Gov. J.D. Pritzker, is also a billionaire himself and, though not nearly as bad as Bailey or Irvin way beyond anyone I would ever consider supporting under any circumstance.
What I'm more concerned about are billionaires and billionaire-backed SuperPACs influencing Democratic primaries, much of their resources being directed by corrupt, power-mad, Wall Street owned-and-operated political hack Hakeem Jeffries from Brooklyn, who fancies himself Pelosi's political heir, albeit without any of the policy or strategic substance.
One of this cycle's most disgusting shows of force by Jeffries and his mafia was the defeat of progressive former state Senator Erica Smith in favor of North Carolina's most conservative Democratic state legislator, Don Davis, an anti-Choice fanatic and anti-healthcare extremist. You think Manchin and Sinema are bad? Davis is worse, but a cabal of Democratic reactionaries led by Jeffries spent close to $3 million blatantly lying about both his record and Erica's. From behind teh curtain, Jeffries oversaw expenditures of $2,438,047 from AIPAC's United Democracy Project and another $466,706 from Mark Mellman's shady Democratic Majority for Israel superPAC. (Most of the AIPAC money is coming from wealthy Republicans who want to elect conservatives who will vote with the GOP, like Davis, who has been doing exactly that in the state legislature.) Jeffries has done the same thing in Ohio (against Nina Turner), Texas (against Jessica Cisneros and Michelle Vallejo), in California (against Cristina Garcia, Daniel Lee and David Canepa), in Pennsylvania (against Summer Lee), in Nevada (against Amy Vilela), in Illinois (against Delia Ramirez) and in Oregon (against Jamie McLeod-Skinner and Andrea Salinas). The millions of dollars Jeffries directed against progressives worked as planned in some races and failed in others. So far Summer Lee won her race, as did McLeod-Skinner, Salinas, Vallejo and Canepa (a runoff slot). Other races are yet too be decided.
And now Jeffries is taking aim at progressive incumbents, directing sewer money against Marie Newman (IL), Andy Levin (MI) and Rashida Tlaib (MI). One progressive in the House-- not the one who wrote this exposé on Jeffries and not any of the members he's trying to sabotage-- told me this morning that Jeffries is "less concerned if he wins or loses as he is in sending a warning to [the rest of us] that if we don't fall in line, we'll have career-threatening calamities to deal with... It's outrageous that no one in the caucus has the intestinal fortitude to make a serious run against him for leader... Maybe the critique you've been making for the last year about us is more accurate than [called me back and asked me not include the name] say it is." He also told me he suspects some of the money being used against progressives is from Israel and being illegally laundered by AIPAC, but he offered no evidence and said it is just a hunch "for now, but stay tuned."
A few days ago American Prospect ran a piece by Alexander Sammon, Will AIPAC Crush One of Congress’s Most Prominent Jewish Democrats? about the Jeffries-fueled jihads against progressive icon Andy Levin, who-- tied with Marie Newman-- has the highest ProgressivePunch score of any member of Congress. Sammon noted that the groups supporting the Israeli far right are supporting moderate New Dem Haley Stevens who just moved into Levin's district as she fled from her own redder redistricted seat. "Already," he wrote, "Democratic Majority for Israel, AIPAC, and Pro-Israel America, another bipartisan pro-Israel group, have endorsed Stevens, and AIPAC has raised substantial money on her behalf... and bundled $280,000 in individual contributions earmarked for her campaign, making her a top Democratic recipient of AIPAC money. The group’s political action arm has also raised money for a slate of politicians that includes a number of Michigan Republicans, and has endorsed over 100 GOP members who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results. Another fundraiser of Jewish supporters, including some AIPAC affiliates, raised another $380,000 on Stevens’s behalf."
What makes those endorsements and fundraising so stunning is not the dollar value; it’s the fact that Levin, the candidate they are opposing, is Jewish, while Stevens, whom they support, is not. And Levin is not merely of Jewish heritage. He’s a prominent Jewish leader in the community, and a member of one of the most prominent Jewish families in Michigan Democratic politics. Levin’s father Sander Levin, whom Andy succeeded in the House in 2019, represented the Jewish community north of Detroit from the early 1980s. His uncle, the late Carl Levin, served as a Michigan senator between 1979 and 2015.
Until his election to Congress in 2018, Andy Levin was the president of his synagogue, Congregation T’chiyah in the Detroit suburbs, as well as chair of the steering committee of Detroit Jews for Justice.
So far in the Democratic primary cycle, pro-Israel groups have spent millions of dollars to boost moderate candidates and hobble progressive ones, often in races where Israel played little to no role in the campaign. In certain instances, those PACs have spent lavishly to elevate moderate Jewish candidates: In Pennsylvania’s 12th District, United Democracy Project, AIPAC’s newest super PAC, spent over $4 million to boost the moderate Steve Irwin, who is Jewish, over Black progressive Summer Lee, in a race that Lee eked out. In other races, those groups have spent to boost moderates where neither candidate is Jewish. But Michigan’s 11th District marks the first instance this year where these deep-pocketed pro-Israel groups have targeted a Jewish politician in favor of a non-Jewish one.
...Levin is likely being targeted by AIPAC and others not merely for his progressive bona fides and sponsorship of Medicare for All, but for authoring the Two-State Solution Act, a bill that would prohibit the use of American military aid for the demolition of Palestinian homes or the further Israeli annexation of the West Bank or Gaza, and reverses a handful of Trump administration decisions to sever diplomatic ties with Palestine. It also funds peace-building initiatives in the region. Attacking a Jewish pro-peace congressmember, in this case, just happens to dovetail with supporting a moderate over a progressive.
The race looks likely to bring in the Congressional Black Caucus as well, another group that has taken interest in races where progressives might be vulnerable to being knocked off. Rep. Joyce Beatty, chair of the CBC [and one of Congress' most overtly corrupt members], has endorsed Stevens in the race. Stevens is also not Black.
...Stevens was a vocal advocate of President Trump’s signature trade deal, the USMCA, and then touted the support of lobbying groups and business alliances who cheered her for supporting its passage, including the Livonia Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, the lobbying group credited with pushing the 2018 Trump tax cuts across the finish line. She received $2 million worth of support from Michael Bloomberg in 2018 that helped her eke out her win against Republican Dave Trott; no surprise, she was an enthusiastic endorser of Bloomberg in the 2020 presidential primary.
Stevens’s spotty record on workers and wages goes beyond that. As The Intercept reported, Stevens teamed up with Republicans to weaken House Democrats’ $15-minimum-wage bill in 2019, acting as “the only Democrat on the Education and Labor Committee who joined Republicans in voting for two controversial amendments: one which would have exempted millions of workers employed by small businesses from the wage increase, and another which threatened to nullify the legislation altogether if a Government Accountability Office report found that the wage increases would contribute significantly to job automation.” The bill never became law. Before she got to Congress, she worked as disgraced financier Steve Rattner’s chief of staff, helping institute the two-tier wage and benefit system as part of the auto bailout that resulted in union autoworkers still being worse off in terms of income in 2018 than they were before the Great Recession.
Levin, meanwhile, has been at the forefront of a handful of unionization efforts. He spearheaded the successful effort to allow congressional staffers to unionize, which passed the House in May, and traveled to Bessemer, Alabama, in support of the Amazon union drive last March, which kicked off a wave of union activity in the country that President Biden has endorsed. Stevens, on the other hand, has received a maximum donation from Amazon’s corporate PAC.
With just under eight weeks until the election, it’s likely that there is big money on the way in the form of independent expenditures from United Democracy PAC and DMFI PAC. Already AIPAC has been tweeting at Levin regularly, impugning his record in a way that leaders of other Jewish groups have called untrue. Specifically, AIPAC has said that Levin wants to “divide Jerusalem.” Even the Jewish Democratic Council of America, which is supporting Stevens in the race, called that a lie that was “needlessly divisive, counterproductive & blatantly false.”
Thanks in part to the bundling help from AIPAC, Stevens holds a sizable fundraising advantage, raising $1.1 million in the year’s first quarter compared to $767,268 for Levin. She has $2.8 million on hand; Levin has just $1.5 million. It’s very likely that there will soon be millions of dollars in independent expenditures put toward blanketing TV, digital, and radio with anti-Levin messaging as well. Progressive Jewish groups like J Street, which has endorsed Levin, will have to spend considerably to offset the coming impact.
Losing Levin, one of the most vocally pro-union Democrats, at a moment when union activity is at a high and the Democratic president has called himself “the most pro-union president leading the most pro-union administration in American history,” would be a disastrous look for the party, especially in a crucial, union-dense swing state like Michigan. It would also mark the most consequential triumph for those pro-Israel super PACs in the cycle so far, using millions in ad buys and fundraising to take out a member closely allied with the White House in a district with solidly liberal leanings. It would be the strongest proof yet of the efficacy of unlimited spending in politics, and its ability to deliver political outcomes.
Please consider clicking on the thermometer above to contribute to Levin's campaign-- and to Newman's and Tlaib's-- to help keep AIPAC and Jeffries from dominating the Democratic Party and to help keep three very solid progressives in their seats rather than the corporate shills running against them. Or click here instead.
Yesterday The Intercept published Akela Lacy's piece about another facet of the full-fledged war against Rashida by the Jeffries cabal the one fronted by slimy corrupt conservative and Jim Clyburn acolyte Bakari Sellers. This one is being run by a SuperPAC funded with sewer money put up by another billionaire hedge fund scumbag, sleazy piece shit, Daniel Loeb, and which says it plans to spend at least a million dollars to end Rashida's political career. Although the PAC claims to be just trying to help elect Black officials, they poured sewer money into defeating Black Culver City progressive mayor Daniel Lee.
In March, Loeb gave $250,000 to the GOP–aligned Congressional Leadership Fund, another $250,000 to the similarly aligned Senate Leadership Fund, and, since August, more than $340,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He has given more than $255,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee since January and contributed this cycle to the campaigns for Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.; Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker; and Ohio Senate candidate Jane Timken, who ran as a pro-Donald Trump Republican and lost in last month’s primary race.
Other major donors to UEA PAC include the Benoit Group, a real estate developer based in Georgia, and Striving for a Better New York, a PAC linked to New York City Mayor Eric Adams that backs conservative candidates and is funded by real estate moguls and Republicans. In April, UEA PAC received a $10,000 contribution from New Jersey attorney Calvin Souder, a partner at the firm Souder, Shabazz, & Woolridge Law Group, as well as $5,000 each from from Google Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy Wilson White, Google Vice President of Trust and Safety David Graff, and Ron Redwing, CEO of the Redwing group, a consulting firm based in Tennessee.
Want to know who's been putting up the most sewer money this cycle? This list is anything but complete and not even close to being up-to-date and does not reflect contributions spent by gangster type billionaires who put their money through dark money funds, like, for example, Democratic establishment billionaire and Biden ally Sam Bankman-Fried, who has already spent tens of millions against progressives this cycle but is only listed as having contributed $2 million! These are the 13 biggest spenders as of a few months ago:
George Soros- $126,802,713 to Democrats
Richard Uilein- $29,464,100 to neo-fascists
Ken Griffin- $21,500,000 to Republicans
Larry Ellison (of Oracle)- $20,003,287 to Republicans
Peter Thiel- $20,000,000 to Republicans (and the amount is now approaching $30 million)
Jeffrey Yass- $13,500,000 to Republicans
Shirley Ryan- $10,400,000 to Republicans
Fred Eychaner- $8,000,000 to Democrats
Deborah Simon- $6,751,000 to Democrats
Janet Duchossois- $4,850,000 to Republicans
Steve Ballmer- $4,500,000 to Democrats
Walter Buckley- $4,333,100 to Republicans
Bernard Marcus- $4,260,000 to Republicans