Barack Obama is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.
WARNING: If you cannot take a critical view of Senator Obama, you'd best move along.
The Washington Post's story today, Obama Taps Two Worlds To Fill 2008 War Chest paints a picture of politics-as-usual from a politician holding himself out to be something quite the opposite.
The campaign received $50,566 from 49 lobbyists, but aides flagged the checks during initial screening and said they will return the money. Still, for hosting events and otherwise raising money, the Obama fundraising team is relying on partners in lobbying firms who are not registered for specific clients, former lobbyists who recently dropped clients and spouses of lobbyists. The strategy allows Obama’s team to reach the wealthy clients of lobbying firms while technically complying with his pledge.This isn't the first time I've come across a story that tells us that Obama is doing a reach around to abide by his stated policy to refuse any more of the PAC or lobbyist money he collected for his senate runs, yet finding a way to access the donations of the wealthy, and give them access too. It seems that actively soliciting the spouses of lobbyists fits within his rules.
Howard Mortman makes a good point. "I guess if you make up your own rules you can also make up your ways around them."
There is an argument to be made that he is simply a brilliantly appealing politician who is crossing the great divide between the Washington elite and the common folk, between the haves and the nots.
As the first-quarter finance report his campaign will file today is expected to document, Obama has managed to successfully bridge two very different political worlds. Along with thousands of first-time donors who sent $50 or $100 from their home computers, the report is to list scores of longtime political insiders who funneled stacks of $2,300 checks to Obama's accounts.But something of this stinks. I'm reminded of a chief executive who signs a piece of legislation with great fanfair, but once behind closed doors, files a signing statement full of enough loopholes to make the new law meaningless.
Look, I don't care who Obama gets his money from as long as he is a man of integrity. I never assaulted Hillary Clinton, John Kerry or even Al Gore for tapping those sources of funds. But when a candidate makes a show of refunding fifty grand in donations, as if it were somehow dirty money, I'd like to think that I wasn't watching some slick magician with suspiciously bulging sleeves. But low and behold, we find out that that he "shared secret plans for a series of soon-to-be-released policy statements" with these elite mogels, all of whom expected to bundle upwards of a quarter of a million dollars each, and are urged to call the Senator up personally to discuss his talking points.
Among those big time money men (and presumably, women) who now have Obama's private cell phone number on speed dial are a Hyatt hotel heiress, a New York hedge fund manager, a Hollywood movie mogul and a Chicago billionaire. Now it doesn't matter that Obama or any candidate receives a check from someone who happens to be wealthy. Much more interesting, and possibly concerning, is which industries and ideologies are represented by that money.
Some are Clinton family's former loyalists, including James Rubin, son of Clinton's former treasury secretary, Robert, who framed Republican talking points around Democratic economic policy. That triangulation is what gave us "solutions" like "welfare reform," "tax relief," and "free trade." In fact, Bob Rubin's Hamilton Group has completely infiltrated both Hillary and Barack's camps. As Sirota said, "What a shock," that the owners of one of the world's largest military contractors, General Dynamics, are among Obama's biggest doners when you hear nothing from him about reducing our military budget and hedging on our involvement in Iraq.
If you were around in 1968, anytime a presidential candidate talks about secret plans while the country is in the middle of an unpopular war, red lights start flashing in your brain. Matt Stoller's discussion with Matt Yglasias touches on the idea that it's about time that cadidates, at least ones deserving of our support, be honest with us. Say what you mean and do what you say, period. For years they've been selling us the idea that good things will trickle down from these millionaires, but in reality, they're just peeing on our leg.
Our political discourse is pretty broken, and words choice and meaning can only return if we demand our leaders be straight with us.Will the impressive crowds attending Obama's rallies notice that this rock star staking out the anti-Hillary mantle is as well supported by the interconnected beltway establishment as Mrs. Clinton? Obama gets the big money from the big money folks because he seems like he can appeal to the unwashed masses, us little folks in the grass/net-roots. He appeals to us because we don't see him as someone who is an establishment suck-up.
Turns out, we may have been had.
I'll give Obama this. His tactics are non-divisive. He doesn't seem to pit One America against the other, or pick sides between the two. It also explains his frustrating ability to talk about the issues that matter most to us, and to the prosperity of the nation as a whole -- while remaining aloof on details. And it's not even the usual details, like: "How are you going to pay for this?" The questions are, "What are you going to do about this."
People go to rock concerts because they like the music. They may admire Pearl Jam for bypassing the corporate controlled media, or Metallica for their prinicpled stands even though their fight against Napster stopped much of the freebees we were all enjoying. But if the music is just more elevator muzack, the crowds won't be there. Trust me, if the Who or Rolling Stones were sponsored by Halliburton, they'd still fill up stadiums.
But once the show is over, you have a different kind of choice than you do after attending a political rally. Voting for a candidate is not the same as buying their CD. Reading more about them, examining their position on the issues, listening to the debates and their speeches -- that's more like buying their music so you can listen to them again and again. Voting for them is an explicit endorsement of their agenda, and their sponsors.
Look at it this way. If your kid bought a Brittany Spears CD a few years back, that didn't mean they had to change from Coke to Pepsi because she did commercials for them.
So just who is Obama going to represent? To whom will he be beholden? It would appear that he has equal financial support from the small doner internet base as he does from traditional fundraisers, "some of the biggest names in Democratic politics." So who will he eventually sell out? Will he follow the agenda of the fat cats who've already maxed out their donation allotment, and probably hedged their bets by giving to Hillary too -- or us, the people who fill those crowds and knock on doors and send twenty bucks when we can?
Sooner or later I would think he's going to have to make a choice. I hope he does do before he doesn't need us any longer. He's already fooled a lot of folks into thinking that he's a populist of some sort by forswearing lobbyist money, yet finding a way into the pockets of those lobbyist's clients, and their spouses.
How does that saying go? Fool me once......
(Updated and Cross-Posted)