Last week, I mailed my overseas ballot for the US presidency – and you can wipe that smug little grin off your face. I won’t put up with condescending comments about America’s democratic rituals from a nation with an unelected House of Lords occupied by genetic fossils and, soon, Chris Woodhead.
In fact, you could think of the $3 billion spent in the US campaign in positive, New Labour terms. Call it ‘the efficient privatisation of the democracy’ – though an outright auction for the presidency would be more efficient still.
If the guy who lost the vote, George W Bush, nevertheless wins the White House, he’ll have surfed in on a crushing wave of nearly half a billion dollars ($447 million), my calculation of the suffocating plurality of cash from corporate America, a good 25 per cent more than Al Gore’s take.
George W could not have amassed this pile if his surname were Jones or Smith. The key to Dubya’s money empire is Daddy Bush’s post-White House work which, incidentally, raised the family’s net worth by several hundred per cent.
Daddy Bush has many friends who filled up his sonny-boy’s campaign kitty while Bush performed certain lucrative favours for them. In 1998, Bush père created a storm in Argentina when he lobbied his close political ally President Carlos Menem to grant a gambling licence to Mirage Casino corporation.
Bush wrote that he had no personal interest in the deal. That’s true. But Bush fils did not do badly. After the casino flap, Mirage dropped $449,000 into the Republican Party war chest.
The ex-president and famed Desert Strormtrooper-in-Chief, also wrote to the oil minister of Kuwait on behalf of Chevron Oil Corporation. Bush says honestly that he, ‘had no stake in the Chevron operation’.
Following this selfless use of his influence, the oil company put $657,000 into Republican Party coffers. Most of that loot, reports the Center for Responsive Politics, came in the form of ‘soft money’ That’s the squishy stuff corporations use to ooze around US law which, you may be surprised to learn, prohibits any donations to presidential campaigns in the general election.
Not all of the elder Bush’s work is voluntary. His single talk to the board of Global Crossing, the telecoms start-up, earned him $13m in stock. The company also kicked in another million for his kid’s run.
And while the Bush family steadfastly believes that ex-felons should not have the right to vote for president, they have no objection to ex-cons putting presidents on their payroll. In 1996, despite pleas of US church leaders, Daddy Bush gave several speeches (he charges $100,000 per talk) sponsored by organisations run by Rev Sun Myung Moon, cult leader, tax cheat – and formerly, the guest of the US federal prison system.
There are so many more tales of the Bush family daisy chain of favours, friendship and campaign funding. None of it is illegal – which I find troubling. But I don’t want to seem ungrateful. After all, the Bushes helped make America the best democracy money can buy.
Blackout in Florida
Vice-President Al Gore would have strolled to victory in Florida if the state hadn’t kicked up to 56,000 citizens off the voters’ registers five month ago as former felons.
In fact, only a fraction were ex-cons. Most were simply guilty of being African-American.
A top-placed election official (not a Democrat) told me that the government had conducted a quiet review and found – surprise! – that the listing included far more African-Americans than would statistically have been expected, even accounting for the grievous gap between the conviction rates of blacks and whites in the US.
The source of this poisonous blacklist: Database Technologies, a division of ChoicePoint, and under the direction of Governor Jeb Bush’s frothingly partisan Secretary of State, Katherine Harris. My thanks to investigator Solomon Hughes for informing me that DBT, a division of ChoicePoint, is under fire for mis-use of personal data in state computers. ChoicePoint’s board is loaded with Republican sugar daddies, including Ken Langone, finance chief for Rudy Giuliani’s aborted Senate run against Hillary
To see Greg Palast’s follow-up of the investigation of the Theft of the Presidency, printed in The Nation, The Washington Post, The Observer, Salon.com and broadcast on PBS Television, go to GregPalast.Com