Thursday, September 30, 2004

Who won?

Who do you think won?

On the debate

The debate was almost entirely on foreign policy, as advertised. Very little mention of Halliburton. Very little discussion of of what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex -- even with today's endorsement of Kerry by Ike's son. Did Kerry fail to really put Bush on the defensive?


Bush's cadence was slower, better, than Kerry's. If undecideds were listening more than watching than Bush did well. His body language wasn't good, but he came across as upset rather than warm. If people wanted substance, Kerry won.

Time for the post-debate spin. Who win will the debate spin, and therefore win the debate?

Media stations

All the media stations controled by Putin -- Just like here! Media consolidation is a growth market, I guess.

Amazing this guy can keep a straight face

He is talking about promoting democracy?

Guarding Oil Ministry?

The only building guarded in Baghdad was the oil ministry.

I guess it's about priorities.

Chemical Insecurity

Kerry is hitting a stride... That's right -- How about some "Homeland Security" of chemical plants, rather than watered down protections?

Go see Public Campaign's OUCH on it.

Chemical industry poured money in -- I can't post the picture, so go see it at the link above.

Debate in on!

Debate is on. How long will it be until someone mentions Halliburton?

Billion dollars spent

One thing that strikes me as this debate is about to begin... There's already been a billion dollars spent on this race already. Between 10% and 20% are still unsure exactly who they will vote for, even as they lean one direction.

Open Thread

Post a pre-debate comment below.

What questions would you like to ask Bush? Kerry?
What don't you think they'll talk about that they should?

Remember -- after the debate starts, hit refresh to get the latest comments and posts. Invite others to join us.

Debate about the debate

I'll be posting tonight in a running commentary or analysis about the debate starting around 8:30 p.m. eastern time. Please post comments (if your computer and TV can be in the same room) with your reactions, thoughts, questions, etc. You can be a pundit for a night.

Invite others to join us, too.

(Helpful hint for tonight: Starting at about 9:00 tonight, hit the refresh button on your browser to keep up with the recent comments and new posts.)

Halliburton is the tip, the big tip, of the iceberg

Check out this new report called "Outsourcing the Pentagon" from the Center for Public Integrity. Forty percent of the Pentagon's contracts were awarded "no-bid."

Washington Post writes it up. And NPR covers it. So does the New York Times.

Think Bush will talk about this in tonight's debate?

Food and terrorism

Here's a story from the Washington Post which will get lost in all the debate coverage:

A few years ago, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. According to the Washington Post, it "requires companies importing food to give advance notice to the Food and Drug Administration about arriving shipments and to keep records of where the food came from and where it is going."

Sounds sensible. We ought to have some way to track shipments of food to ensure public health, right?

Initial regulations issued in the spring of 2003 by the FDA were tough, according to citizen and consumer groups. But they got watered down in the final draft issued in October 2003. Additional provisions have not been finalized or released yet, even though FDA was given only 18 months to finish. What happened?

Money and influence peddling, that's what.

Ten lobbyists representing grocery chains, big tobacco, meat processors, and the like met with Bush Administration regulators.

Then, Bush raised money from big agri-business and CEOs of supermarket empires, like Ranger Steven Burd from Safeway, who locked out union workers earlier this year in California. Burd's raised more than $200,000 for Bush.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

"The rich dodge and you pay"

Read the latest from Public Campaign's OUCH!, a special Corruption Perception Index on the impact of big money on tax policies... it's a "who wins and who loses" built off President Bush's statement on August 28, 2004, in Troy, OH:

"Every time they say tax the rich, the rich dodge and you pay."

If you like it, sign up to receive regular OUCH! bulletins here.

[Fundraising update: We crossed the $5,000 goal reaching $5,590 to help keep our Medicare ad on the air in Wisconsin. That buys an extra day on cable in one market. Way to go! Keep the momentum going...]

Monday, September 27, 2004

Who's naughty and nice

"Do Not Open Before the Presidential Election" is the title of today's NYT story on new regulations or rollbacks the Bush Administration is holding until after the election. The list, I am sure, is nowhere near this short.

One example that the Times highlights is the Food and Drug Administration's slow down of regulations regarding what can be considered in animal feed -- an effort to block the spread of mad cow disease. The meat industry's number one recipient of campaign cash is President Bush, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association broke its nonpartisan stance to endorse Bush this year.

"I love those cattlemen!" Bush told the president of the Association at a White House Christmas party, according to the association’s newsletter.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

527 Giving: Ideology or Investment?

Today's New York Times has side-by-side articles on 527s and the impending ad campaign:

"New Pet Cause for the Rich: Swaying the Election" by Glen Justice

"Advocacy Groups Step Up Costly Battle of Ads" by Justice and Jim Rutenberg
First, a disclaimer: Campaign Money Watch is a 527. We are the only 527
with the purpose of holding elected officials accountable for opposing campaign
finance reform and for the special favors they do for wealthy contributors.
These two articles basically can be summed up like this: Wealthy individuals are pouring in massive amounts to 527s and are largely motivated by ideology, and that money is now being poured into massive ad buys in swing states.

So what's new? The scale. The stakes. McCain-Feingold.

But the story about the funders (the one where reporter Justice goes solo) didn't explore the reality behind his best on-the-record quote. Agnes Varis, who gave $1.5 million to the Joint Victory Campaign, a collaborative fundraising committee, said, "I'm not going to get a Halliburton contract." Another progressive donor, Susie Tompkins Buell, who is "not entirely happy with how the campaign finance system is emerging."

You don't find that ambivalence in giving money through 527s on the right. That's because, by giving to committees to get Bush elected, conservative business donors are in a win-win situation. They see a confluence of ideology and economic self-interest. And that's the way it is for many of the people who gave Bush $260 million.

Here's an example: T. Boone Pickens is "a Texas oilman who gained fame as a corporate takeover artist, has contributed $2.5 million to the Progress for America Voter Fund and $500,000 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." Pickens can say he gave for ideological reasons until the cows come home, but he can't deny that he stands to financially benefit from policies of another Bush term. With a net worth of $750 million, do you think Pickens has got more than a passing interest in Bush's tax proposals?

All this makes me wonder whether we're missing the larger picture with our fixation on the biggest donors. Don't get me wrong, regulations of 527s, including Campaign Money Watch, is probably necessary. Certainly we read in the Rutenberg/Justice piece we now know we will be under a tidal wave of this self-interested 527 giving to slam Kerry and lift up Bush. It's definitely time to hold on to the railing.

But the real scandal in American politics is not what is illegal or claimed to be illegal; it is the legal scandal of private, wealthy interests currying favor with big campaign contributions for their private economic self-interest. It is the use of government contracts and policies to line your friends' pockets. It's the bundles of money tracked by who brought it in, kinda like Amway (and notice in Justice's story how the co-founders of Amway are also pouring in money to pro-Bush committees) or like Santa Claus, checking to see who is naughty or nice.

What is needed is what is already law in several states, like Maine and Arizona. A system of comprehensive public financing allows voters to take back their democracy from wealthy interests.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Debate advice for Kerry

David Sirota of Center for American Progress penned an solid column for the American Prospect of ten things Kerry ought to do in the upcoming debate. It's worth a read, especially #7, which is as follows:

7. Connect Bush's money to his decisions. Polls show that the public knows Bush is closely aligned with big business. Yet unless those ties are connected to specific policy decisions, Americans seem willing to accept that reality as just another staple of modern politics. That is why when Kerry discusses Bush's record, he must detail who Bush was paying back when he made decisions. $7.5 million from Wall Street, for example, bought a weak corporate-reform bill and a lax attitude toward offenders like Enron; $5 million from the health-care industry bought a Medicare bill that weakens the program while enriching the HMOs and big drug companies; $2 million from the energy industry bought an energy bill that would give away billions in new tax credits to oil companies (already fleecing billions from skyrocketing gas prices). The list goes on. The point is for Kerry to be very specific about cause and effect.

Sound familiar?

Welcome Bush to Wisconsin

We've raised $4,940 from 110 people to help run our hard-hitting ad linking Bush's fundraising to the paybacks the insurance and drug companies got in the Medicare bill. The ad is already up in Wisconsin, and President Bush visits the state today. Send a welcome to him by helping us smash our goal of $5,000 to extend the ad buy in the Badger State!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Just about captures it.

Reuters has a look at how fed up African-American voters are with Bush, particualrly his big money agenda:

They catch this from people on the street in north Philadelphia:

"Bush has got to go," said Elton Bryant, a Temple University worker who paused to talk on a recent afternoon. "All that man is doing is taking care of his business cronies."

"I don't think Bush worries about poor people, the Republican Party has a lot of money -- that is what he cares about," [Elaine] Williams [a former nurse] said.

Keep the ball rolling (and the ad running!)

So far, our "Bush Got His" ad is attracting a solid stream of on-line donations. As of 12:00 ET today, people have contributed $3,312 to help deepen/extend this advertising buy in Wisconsin. Can you help us get to $5,000?

If you've already donated, or can't afford to at this moment, help us another way: Use our Tell-A-Friend page.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Sneak Preview: New CMW Ads to run in Wisconsin on Thursday

Click on the image below to watch the latest ad from Campaign Money Watch, or visit our homepage.

It will run in two media markets in Wisconsin starting Thursday, with a pretty heavy buy. Whaddya think?

An ignominious record. May it never be broken.

The numbers are in. Bush raised a record $259 million in private donations -- for his uncontested primary. He broke his own record of $101 million set in 2000.

What could that $259 million buy?

So since this is GeorgeWBuy after all, I went looking on eBay.

Turns out $259 million goes a long ways on eBay, as Dick Cheney knows.

You could buy 52,323,232 "debating John Kerry and George W. Bush" toys, or 15,199,530 George W. Bush jack-in-the-boxes (better hurry on the jack-in-the-box).

But what did the money buy instead?

Policies galore. Medicare. No-bid contracts. Tax policy. Environmental degradation.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Missouri CEOs: Outsource Jobs then "Insource" Money to Bush

Kudos to John Hickey and the Missouri Citizen Education Fund. They conducted, in my opinion, a politically potent study on outsourcing jobs and campaign contributions. Here's a summary:

Executives and members of boards of directors of Missouri companies outsourcing jobs favor Bush over Kerry in their political contributions. It makes sense: Kerry's position is to close off-shore tax loopholes for some of these companies, and the Bush Administration has all but praised the practice of sending jobs overseas.

The study is nonpartisan. It tells a pretty clear story of what people in the Midwest are facing everyday: the threat of job layoffs while they watch the most expensive presidential race in history.

The report was released over Labor Day weekend and got some press. The Columbia Missourian had a great headline:

"CEOs who outsource Missouri jobs back Bush"

Need we say more?

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Not a reformer

While Bush was raising $1.5 million for the Republican Party yesterday in Charlotte, NC, Bush's campaign filed their second lawsuit alleging violations of campaign finance laws by independent groups yesterday.

Hard to take Bush seriously on reform given the fact the Bush himself is responsible for the implosion of the presidential public financing system and has raised close to $500 million (by Micah's count) in hard money.

This legal strategy is going nowhere. But politically, Bush is trying to shield himself against being attacked as the big money candidate.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Happy 52nd, Deirdre

Someone just posted the following:
Finding out about this website this morning made turning 52 so much sweeter. Thank you - Deirdre the birthday person

Everyone join me in wishing Deirdre a happy birthday!

Kerry ads on Halliburton and Medicare

This is eery. Kerry is launching two new ads:

Following our ad buy, Kerry's campaign will criticize Cheney for the White House giving his former company, Halliburton, a no-bid, multi-billion contract. See Campaign Money Watch's Halliburton spot here.

The second responds to Bush's attack on health care and calls Bush's Medicare plan a giveaway to big drug campanies. The Washington Post does an ad watch on it. Campaign Money Watch will be up next week with a Medicare spot of our own, though much more direct and hard-hitting than this one. More on that later.

(In the meantime, if you want to support our ads, make a donation to Campaign Money Watch.)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Just what the HMOs ordered

President Bush is traveling through Minnesota today talking about health care and national security. According to AP, at a stop in St. Cloud, MN, Bush criticized Kerry's health care plan as big-government. Bush's health care, however, is just what the doctors ... and the insurance companies and HMOs ($5.2 million), and the pharmaceutical corporations ($1.4 million), and the other assorted health care lobbyists... ordered.

Just take one Minnesota executive, UnitedHealth Group CEO William McGuire. He raised at least $100,000 for President Bush's campaign. UnitedHealth won out big time in the Medicare plan Bush pushed through. They purchased -- with $500,000,000 cash on the table -- Golden Rule Insurance company just days before the Medicare bill came out of conference committee last November. A provision to expand health savings accounts -- a staple of Golden Rule -- was resurrected in negotiations. That provision is worth $6.4 billion in tax-free accounts.

Then UnitedHealth got one of those confusing Medicare "discount prescription card" contracts... cards that don't guarantee discounts.

Think Bush is mentioning McGuire or UnitedHealth today in his comments on health care?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

White House sold on eBay

Here is my quick op-ed on on Cheney's comments last week regarding eBay. Let me know what you think.

What Cheney Really Means

Dick Cheney's remark that official government statistics don't show the true health of the economy because, for example, they don't count the 400,000 people selling stuff on eBay, "a source that didn't even exist 10 years ago," obviously inspired us , in part, to launch this site along with We're tired of the auctioning of government policy to the highest bidders.

But if you stop and think about what Cheney is really saying, what you get is even more chilling. As Francis Volpe, a writer for The Sentinel (Carlisle, PA), points out in this sharp essay, "what Cheney is really talking about is counting the underground economy when we gather statistics." Volpe then puts this in context:

The underground economy is always with us, but my guess is that more people participate in it when real jobs are scarce. The harder it is to earn a paycheck, the more likely it is that people will peddle their junk instead of putting it out to the curb.

When they run out of Cabbage Patch Dolls and baseball card collections, they'll have to put their more valuable possessions up for sale to make ends meet. Like the computer they were using to post auctions on eBay. And so on down the economic ladder.

No doubt some folks do OK working the Internet auctions, although my experience has been that people who spend a lot of time on those sites end up spending as much -- or more -- than they earn. That's a pastime, not a profession.

And professions are what the job creation statistics tell us are trickling away rather than multiplying. The 144,000 jobs created last month were barely enough to cover population growth, let alone put any of the unemployed back to work.

So it occurs to me that the real argument to be made in this election is whether the next administration's employment policies will require Americans to periodically liquidate their possessions to keep up with rising prices.

Of course, Cheney doesn't have such worries. He's still drawing a check from Halliburton, while helping it get multi-billion no-bid contracts!

Bush got his. Insurance companies got theirs. You?

Here's the first paragraph from a story in today's New York Times:

The Bush administration came out Tuesday in opposition to Democratic proposals to hold down the scheduled 17 percent increase in Medicare premiums next year, saying that a one-year freeze would lead to much higher premiums in 2006.
A part of that 17% hike -- 15% of it -- is due to Bush's Medicare plan's subsidies to HMOs and insurance companies. The issue shouldn't be, let's put off premium increases. We should be asking, Why did insurance companies and HMOs get $12 billion in incentives to lure seniors into managed care, privatized Medicare? And why did they get another $6+ billion in tax-free 'health savings accounts' long pushed by ultra-conservative GOP donor J. Patrick Rooney of Golden Rule Insurance, now a subsidiary of United Health (
read more about that one here)? Both special interest giveaways drive premiums up.

A one-word answer: MONEY.

The insurance/HMO/managed care industry has funnelled $5.2 million to Bush since 1999.

UPDATE: has this to add: By their count, Bush 'Rangers' and 'Pioneers' from the health care industry have bundled $4.5 million. Any way you slice it, it adds up to corruption, plain and simple.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Jacking Up Margins

More on Halliburton. Of the $4.3 billion in Halliburton's contracts reviewed by a Department of Defense audit, there was $1.8 billion Halliburton couldn't account for. That's 41.9% for those of you keeping track at home. Amazing. Our tax dollars, hard at work! Doing what?!?

Interestingly, soon after we began the ads, the DoD announced it was breaking up the remaining $7.5 billion in contracts into six separate contracts and putting them out to competitive bid. They didn't prohibit Halliburton from bidding, but the Chairman and CEO of the oil services giant, David Lesar told analysts in New York that if they did put in a bid, it would "jack up the margins significantly."

Not a peep about this from the White House, especially from Cheney, who has been paid more than $500,000 by Halliburton since becoming VP.

First ads; more to come.

Campaign Money Watch's first ads are up. They're running in Oregon and Colorado, and focus on Bush/Cheney giving a multi-billion, no-bid contract to Cheney's former company, Halliburton. More coming next week. Stay tuned.

Brooks' Blind Spot

David Brooks, New York Times columnist, had a column on Saturday ("Ruling Class War") where he tried to prove that the real difference between Kerry supporters and Bush supporters were the former like paragraphs and the latter like spreadsheets. Hence, he used data from the Center for Responsive Politics showing that professors and writers are donating to Kerry in large numbers, while CEOs and accountants love Bush.

The odd thing about his argument is that he purports to show a new class divide from this data. Well, here are some facts that Brooks left out (drawn from Is That a Politician in Your Pocket? Washington on $2 Million a Day):

Half or more of the workers in some fifty occupations are paid poverty-level wages. And these folks don’t make many campaign contributions--unlike the people Brooks focuses on.

For example, some 3.4 million people make a living as cashiers, but FEC records show only 23 contributions from cashiers reported in the current 2003-04 election cycle. Of the nearly half a million people employed as dishwashers, FEC filings show just one contribution from a donor identified as such. Of the more than two million janitors, maids and cleaners, whose median income in 2002 of $8.77 an hour, barely enough to lift a family of four out of poverty, just 68 campaign contributions of $200 or more listed that occupation.

That's the real class divide.

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