Barack Obama’s politics of guilt by association [Karl]
Barack Obama,Ã‚Â in hisÃ‚Â May 6th victory speechÃ‚Â in Raleigh, North Carolina,Ã‚Â ObamaÃ‚Â decried — as he often does — the “same efforts to distract us from the issues that affect our lives by pouncing on every gaffe and association and fake controversy in the hope that the media will play along.”Ã‚Â Indeed, as the media and blogosphere have reported on those surrounding the man who wants to be the most powerful man in the world, Obama’s supporters have often denounced such efforts as “guilt by association.”
Yet in the same speech, ObamaÃ‚Â declared — as he often does — that “between all the bickering and the influence-peddling and the game-playing of the last few decades, Washington and Wall Street have lost touch” with the values he believesÃ‚Â are the foundation ofÃ‚Â America.Ã‚Â Unlike his critics, who have looked at specific Obama associates — the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, domestic terrorists like William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, former PLO flack Rashid Khalidi, his various anti-Israel advisors — Obama’s campaign is based in no small part on a very generalized attack on the unnamed denizens of “Washington” and “Wall Street.”
Obama will occasionally get slightly more specific.Ã‚Â For example, in the May 6thÃ‚Â speech, he said that we “need a government that stands up for families who are being tricked out of their homes by Wall Street predators.”Ã‚Â What Obama failed to mention was that by theÃ‚Â end of March 2008,Ã‚Â he had taken $1,180,103 fromÃ‚Â people and groupsÃ‚Â associated with theÃ‚Â top ten issuers of subprime loans.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Since then, even a cursoryÃ‚Â glance at the list of Obama’s top contributors shows thatÃ‚Â contributions from subprime lendersÃ‚Â has increased significantly.Ã‚Â Indeed, Swiss banking giant UBS, which has written off more debt from the subprime crisis than any other bank, has contributed $363,257 not included in that total.Ã‚Â Also excluded from the list was J.P. Morgan (which reportedÃ‚Â in AprilÃ‚Â that its first-quarter profit fell by half), which contributed $353,808.
Obama failed to mention that his fundraisingÃ‚Â bundlers include: Louis Susman, Michael Froman and J. Michael Schell of Citigroup; Steve Koch of Credit Suisse; Bruce Hayman, David Heller, Eric Schwartz, and Todd Williams of Goldman Sachs; Mark Gilbert, Christine Forester, John Rhea, Nadja Fidelia, and Theodore Janulis of Lehman; and Robert Wolf of UBS Americas.Ã‚Â These folks raised an additional $1,800,000 for Obama.
Such bundlers get perks from the Obama campaign and are are made to feel part ofÃ‚Â its inner workings through weekly conference calls and quarterly meetings, advance copies of his speeches, access to his top advisers, opportunities to influence the campaign’s message, and so on.
One bundler who deserves special mention is Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker, who happens to be Obama’s national Finance Chair.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â PritzkerÃ‚Â was an owner and board member of Superior Bank of Chicago, whichÃ‚Â went bust in 2001 with overÃ‚Â $1 billion inÃ‚Â deposits.Ã‚Â Timothy Anderson — who obsessively pursued the late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL)Ã‚Â over his role in the failure of Clyde Federal Savings & LoanÃ‚Â — has been quoted as saying that “SuperiorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s owners were to sub-prime lending what Michael Milken was to junk bonds.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In January, Max Fraser ofÃ‚Â The Nation compared the Democratic presidential candidates’ plans to address the subprimeÃ‚Â lending issue, concluding that ObamaÃ‚Â had staked out a position to the right of not only populist Edwards but Clinton as well.Ã‚Â Fraser blamed Obama’s economic advisers,Ã‚Â primarily Austan Goolsbee.Ã‚Â Since January, however, we have seen that Obama knows how to ignore Goolsbee and even suggest he was never a senior adviser.
This is the campaign and the candidate who rail against “Wall Street predators.”
As for “Washington,” Obama often criticizes the influence of lobbyists in his speeches andÃ‚Â TV ads.Ã‚Â However, his campaign still accepts money from well-connected state lobbyists and from people who work for Washington firms that do substantial lobbying, such as former Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Moreover, The Hill reported last year that Obama was benefiting from the support of well-connected Washington lobbyists even though he has prohibited his campaign from accepting contributions from them and political action committees.Ã‚Â Not only were such lobbyists allowed give Ã¢â‚¬Å“policyÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“campaign support,Ã¢â‚¬Â but two lobbyists also told The Hill thatÃ‚Â ObamaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s campaign contacted them asking to be put in touch with their networks of business clients and acquaintances –Ã‚Â with one saying that Obama’s campaign made it clear that donations from lobbyists’ spouses were just fine.Ã‚Â That claim was borne out in a later report from USA Today.
Obama’s bar on donations from federal lobbysists and PACs is also a dodge in a larger sense.Ã‚Â As the Columbia Journalism Review has noted, contributions made by the various industry sectors tell the real story in a presidential race.Ã‚Â The CJR noted, for example, that “lawyers and law firms lobby on behalf of their own interests Ã¢â‚¬â€ like fighting malpractice reform, which could again surface as a thorny issue for the new administration.”Ã‚Â A list of the top industries donating to Obama shows “Lawyers and Lobbyists”Ã‚Â have donatedÃ‚Â over $15 million.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â The Finance, InsuranceÃ‚Â and Real Estate sector has kicked in $16.9 million.Ã‚Â The Health sector has anted up with about $5 million.
Cozy relations with the big issuers of subprime loans, using people from such firms as fundraising bundlers, giving them access to his campaign advisers, while offering policy proposals that go easier on them than his rivals, giving the impresssion of barring lobbyists from his campaign while seeking to exploit their networks and their spouses, taking in tens of millions of dollars from lawyers, law firms (including those which lobby) and the financial services industry generally — none of these things appears to be illegal.
However, it is Barack Obama whoÃ‚Â condemns by association untold numbers of people who work in Washington and on Wall Street.Ã‚Â The latter has a long tradition in American politics; so much so, in fact, that one marvels at Obama’s chutzpah in claiming it is some form of “new politics.”Ã‚Â That ObamaÃ‚Â smears broad sectors of societyÃ‚Â while calling unrepentant domestic terrorists William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn “mainstream”Ã‚Â might be new in presidential politics.Ã‚Â In any event, Obama claimed in his May 6th speech that he was going to end the “old politics” byÃ‚Â “telling the truth Ã¢â‚¬â€œ forcefully, repeatedly, confidently.”Ã‚Â He might start by telling his supporters about his real relationships with “Wall Street” and “Washington.”