Sunday, June 24 , 2018, 11:17 pm | Overcast 63º

 
 
 
 

Jim Hightower: GOP Nightmare Reveals Secret Corporate Donors

Some people have myriad recurring nightmares about being publicly embarrassed, such as rising to give a speech and realizing you know nothing about the topic — then realizing you're naked.

You might be surprised to learn, though, that corporations also have such nightmares. OK, corporations aren't really people, no matter what the Supreme Court fabulists claim, so they can't dream, but their top executives can, and several recently suffered the same chilling hallucination. Only, it wasn't a dream ... it was real.

Perhaps you think that corporations use their campaign donations to buy privileged access to state and national policymakers. Perhaps you even think that their political money actually buys those politicians — after all, they do deliver the public policies the corporate donors want. Perhaps you think this whole monetized political system is corrupt, anti-democratic, and ... well, stinky.

You would, of course, be right about all of the above. As Lily Tomlin has put it, "No matter how cynical you get, it's almost impossible to keep up."

The corporate purchase of Washington is pretty widely reported, but — keep up now — for the kleptocratic stinkiness fast consuming our statehouses as well. The Republican Governors Association has devised a layaway purchase plan allowing brand-name corporations to make secret donations of $100,000 or more a year to the RGA in support of the corporate-friendly agenda of various GOP governors. And a lot of execs have been buying.

These are chieftains of brand-name corporate giants who have secretly funneled millions of their shareholders' dollars into the "dark money" vault of the Republican Governors Association. In turn, the RGA channels the political cash into the campaigns of assorted right-wing governors. This underground pipeline has been a dream come true for corporations, for it lets them elect anti-consumer, anti-worker, anti-environment governors without having to let their customers or shareholders know they're doing it.

But — oops! — the RGA made a coding error in its database of dark money donors. So in September, a mess of the GOP's secret-money corporations were suddenly exposed, standing buck-naked in front of customers, employees, stockholders and others who were startled and angered to learn that the companies they supported were working against their interests.

A lifelong champion of political money reform, Fred Wertheimer, put it this way: "This is a classic example of how corporations are trying to use secret money hidden from the American people to buy influence, and how the Governors Association is selling it."

Feed the RGA's political-favor-meter with $250,000 a year (as Coca-Cola, the Koch brothers and others do), and the association cynically anoints your corporation with the ironic title of "Statesman," opening up gubernatorial doors throughout the country. Well, sniff the participants, the money buys nothing but "access" to policymakers. But wait — when was that access put on the auction block? Shouldn't everyone have access to our public officials? Of course, but call your governor and see if you can even get an office intern to call back.

If you're an RGA corporate "Statesman," however, you could get a tete-a-tete with Rick Perry, the recently indicted governor of Texas, or a private breakfast with Bob McDonnell, the now-convicted former-governor of Virginia. See, membership in the corrupt club has its privileges.

Now let's call the roll of some of the privileged corporate dreamers that were pulling the wool over our eyes, hoping we would slumber in ignorance: Aetna, Aflac, Blue Cross, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Exxon Mobil, Hewlett-Packard, Koch Industries, Microsoft, Novartis, Pfizer, Shell Oil, United Health, Verizon, Walgreens and Walmart.

The corporate donors to this previously secret scheme of plutocratic rule says it's OK, for they also give money to Democrats. Oh, bipartisan corruption — that makes me feel so much better. How about you?

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @JimHightower, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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