Once upon a time in our Good Ol' US-of-A, presidential contenders and their political parties had to raise the funds needed to make the race. How quaint.
But for the 2016 run, this quaint way of selecting our candidates is no longer the case, thanks to the Supreme Court's malicious meddling in the democratic process in its reckless Citizens United decision. In that decision, the five members of the Corporate Cabal decreed that "non-candidate" campaigns can take unlimited sums of money directly from corporations. Therefore a very few wealthy powers can pour money into these murky political operations and gain unwarranted plutocratic power over the election process.
And looking at the fundraising numbers, those wealthy powers have definitely taken charge of the electoral game. These very special interests, who have their own presidential agendas, now put up the vast majority of funds and run their own private campaigns to elect someone who will do their bidding.
So far, of over $400 million raised to back candidates of either party in next year's race, half of the money has come from a pool of only about 400 people — and two-thirds of their cash went not to candidates directly but to corporate-run super PACs. To get a get a grasp at what this looks like, take a peek at the super PACs supporting Ted Cruz. Of the $37 million they have raised, $36 million was pumped in by only three interests — a New York hedge fund manager, a corporate plunderer living in Puerto Rico and the owners of a franking operation who've pocketed billions from the explosive use of this destructive drilling technology.
So while Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and gang are the candidates, the driving forces in this election have names like Robert Mercer, Norman Braman, Diane Hendricks, Dan and Farris Wilks, Toby Neugebauer and Miguel Fernandez.
Who are these people? They are part of a small but powerful coterie of multimillionaire corporate executives and billionaires who fund secretive presidential super PACs that can determine who gets nominated. These elephantine funders play politics like some superrich, heavy-betting gamblers play roulette — putting enormous piles of chips on a name in hopes of getting lucky, then cashing in for governmental favors.
Let's take a look at the funders:
—Robert Mercer, chief of the Renaissance Technologies hedge fund, has already put more than $11 million into Ted Cruz's SuperPAC.
—Norman Braman, former owner of the Philadelphia Eagle's football team, has $5 million down on Marco Rubio
—Diane Hendricks, the billionaire owner of a roofing outfit and a staunch anti-worker activist, is betting $5 million on Scott Walker, as are the Koch Brothers.
—Mike Fernandez, a billionaire investor in health-care corporations, has backed Jeb Bush with $3 million.
—Ronald Cameron, an Arkansas poultry baron, is into Mike Huckabee for $3 million.
These shadowy super PACs amount to exclusive political casinos, with only a handful of million-dollar-plus players dominating each one (including the one behind Hillary Clinton's campaign). These few people are not merely "big donors" — they are owners , with full access to their candidate and an owner's prerogative to shape the candidate's policies and messages.
But one of these new players assures us that they're not buying candidates for corporate and personal gain, but "primarily (for) a love economic freedom."
Sure, sweetheart — all you want is the "economic freedom" to pollute, defraud, exploit, rob and otherwise harm anything and anyone standing between you and another dollar in profit. The problem with the GOP presidential debates is that the wrong people are on stage. These treacherous few donors are using their bags of cash to pervert American democracy into rank plutocracy. Why not put them on stage and make each one answer pointed questions about what special favors they're trying to buy?
To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.