Bill Moyers is joined by the heads of two independent watchdog groups keeping an eye on government as well as on powerful interests seeking to influence it. Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics and OpenSecrets.org, and Danielle Brian, who runs the Project on Government Oversight, talk to Bill about the importance of transparency to our democracy, and their efforts to scrutinize who’s giving money, who’s receiving it, and most importantly, what’s expected in return.
Here's a snippet:
BILL MOYERS: The cliché is that you have to pay to play. What does that mean to the two of you?
SHEILA KRUMHOLZ: It means that organizations and mostly we’re talking about corporations, understand that Washington is often standing in the way of bigger profits for them. And so they see this as a perfectly legal, entirely common way for their companies to shape policy legislation, even regulation coming out of Washington that will ameliorate the damage and ultimately enhance their ability to turn a profit.
And so private interests if they are not successful in achieving their legislative agenda in Congress have other opportunities, many bites at the apple, to try to water down regulations that they see as onerous or to otherwise tweak laws as they are actually being implemented by the agencies.
Look at this headline: “After Aa Powerful Lobbyist Intervenes, EPA Reverses Stance on Polluting Texas County's Water.” That's a story from the news organizations ProPublica reporting that a big energy company wants permission from Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, for a large-scale mining project in Texas that would pollute a pristine supply of drinking water.
So the EPA says no, can't have it. The big company hires Heather Podesta who's a big time lobbyist, a big time fundraiser for Democrats who was married at the time to another big Washington Democratic fixer named Tony Podesta, who used to be president of the liberal organization People for the American Way.
Through their connections these two have become the king and queen of influence peddling. Lo and behold, some months after the industry hires Heather Podesta, EPA reverses itself and the company gets an exemption and is allowed to pollute the aquifer. To hell with the public health. This is routine, isn't it?
A full transcript of the show follows below the fold...
Exxon's Tar Sands Spill in Mayflower, AR: decided to power-wash diluted bitumen spilled in other areas to a wetlands area, via storm drains. Via Tar Sands Blockade.
Exxon Mobil Corp was working on Friday to remove the ruptured section of its Arkansas tar sands pipeline. Spokeswoman Kim Jordan said the length of the portion being removed from the Pegasus pipeline that ruptured two weeks ago would be determined once excavation to reach it had finished. However, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who launched an investigation into the tar sands spill, said earlier this week that the rupture was more than 22 feet long and two inches wide:
So far, crews have recovered about 28,200 barrels of oily water and about 2,000 cubic yards of oiled soil and debris, according to a statement from ExxonMobil and local officials.
"We still do not know how much oil was released. We still do not know the exact makeup of the crude itself, of the chemical solvents used in the transportation process," McDaniel said. "
Lisa Song of InsideClimate News reports that the 22 foot rupture is nearly 4 times the size of the pipeline tear that sent more than one million gallons of Canadian dilbit into Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010, the worst accident of its kind in U.S. history:
The size and speed of the release through a long opening, thin as a mail slot, shines a spotlight on just how quickly oil pipeline accidents can turn into catastrophes. Between 200,000 and 420,000 gallons of heavy oil spewed out of the 65-year-old pipeline without warning on March 29, Good Friday afternoon, forcing the evacuation of 22 suburban homes.
Few Americans realize how much pressure is needed to operate a pipeline like the Pegasus, which moves more than 90,000 barrels a day of crude across four states, from Illinois to Texas. That's almost four million gallons of heavy oil being pushed over an 850-mile distance in a single day.
"People just don't gather how high these things can go," said Richard Kuprewicz, president of the pipeline consulting firm Accufacts Inc. "For the average person, they're just exotic pressures." But if pipeline operators drop their guard, he said, pipelines "can be highly destructive."
However, the fact that the Pegasus ruptured while running below maximum pressure "is not good," Kuprewicz said, because it means something was wrong with the pipeline's integrity management. Pipelines are supposed to be safe even if they operate at slightly above the maximum operating pressure, he said, so the Pegasus line "failed at a negative safety margin."
Recently obtained police transcripts show Exxon employees arrived on the scene in Mayflower an hour after the emergency was first reported by a resident dialing 911, and raise questions over exactly when Exxon became aware of the problem with the Pegasus pipeline.
[Language warning, might not be suitable for work]
Episode Two of the Moment of Clarity Show: Have you heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership? The lobbyist-penned trade deal that could give global corporations the right to sue America for getting in the way of their profits? It's larger than NAFTA and Obama is a fan.
This episode features well-known activists Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese.
A special programming note from Senior Writer Michael Winship:
"As you probably have figured out by now, because Hurricane Sandy hit New York City and its surroundings with such a mighty punch, the Moyers & Company production team has been – literally, as Joe Biden would say – scattered to the winds. Many of us are still without power and light and unable to get to our studio or offices (On top of which, our offices were closed because of the building’s proximity to that high rise crane collapse you might have heard about, but that’s another story.)
As Bill said via phone earlier today, “We all live at the whim of Nature and Nature always has the last word.” And so this weekend we’re airing a repeat program as our Hurricane Sandy Special Edition: the very first of our Moyers & Company broadcasts, which initially aired in January and remains as relevant and powerful heading into Election Day as it was then.
The program spotlights the book Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer – And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class and its authors, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. Bill Moyers notes that right from this very first broadcast we said that our series would focus on income inequality, corruption and the undue influence of Corporate America on a government bought and paid for by big business. Together they’re the proverbial elephant in the room politicians refuse to acknowledge – “all but unmentioned in the presidential debates and barely discussed throughout this long and painful election campaign” – but the source of the dysfunction and inertia that paralyze Congress, the White House – and the nation.
If you‘ve missed this edition of Moyers & Company, we hope you’ll watch before you cast your ballot on Tuesday. And if you’ve already seen it, take another look and remind yourself as you prepare to enter the voting booth of how we’ve been maneuvered by Wall Street and Beltway insiders, politically engineered into a state of inequality and the disproportionate power of a very few."
In its premiere episode, Moyers & Company dives into one of the most important and controversial issues of our time: How Washington and Big Business colluded to make the super-rich richer and turn their backs on the rest of us.
Bill’s guests – Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, argue that America’s vast inequality is no accident, but in fact has been politically engineered.
How, in a nation as wealthy as America, can the economy simply stop working for people at large, while super-serving those at the very top? Through exhaustive research and analysis, the political scientists Hacker and Pierson — whom Bill regards as the “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson” of economics — detail important truths behind a 30-year economic assault against the middle class.
Who’s the culprit? “American politics did it– far more than we would have believed when we started this research,” Hacker explains. “What government has done and not done, and the politics that produced it, is really at the heart of the rise of an economy that has showered huge riches on the very, very, very well off.”
Bill considers their book the best he’s seen detailing “how politicians rewrote the rules to create a winner-take-all economy that favors the 1% over everyone else, putting our once and future middle class in peril.”
The show includes an essay on how Occupy Wall Street reflects a widespread belief that politics no longer works for ordinary people, including footage we took at the OWS rally from October – December 2011.
In this morning's weekly address, President Obama highlighted indications of an improving U.S. economy, Five million jobs added, a falling unemployment rate, and his Wall Street reform legislation and gave a glimpse of what is a slowly, but very steadily, brightening financial future for middle-class Americans.
He also lauded the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which beginning next month will offer a new service to ensure that Americans will have a fair shake and can access, and correct their credit scores that are vital in many areas of personal finance.
The companies that put your credit score together can make mistakes. They may think you had a loan or a credit card that was never yours. They may think you were late making payments when you were on time. And when they mess up, you’re the one who suffers.
Until this week, if you had a complaint, you took it to the company. Sometimes they listened. Sometimes they didn’t. But that was pretty much it. They were your only real hope.
Not anymore. If you have a complaint about your credit score that hasn’t been properly addressed, you can go to consumerfinance.gov/complaint and let the consumer watchdog know.
Not only will they bring your complaint directly to the company in question, they’ll give you a tracking number, so you can check back and see exactly what’s being done on your behalf.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he explained, has also scored major victories recently, forcing credit card companies to settle with Americans for $400 million.
But, as always, reforms that benefit everyday citizens over banks, share a common enemy, the Republican party.
That’s what Wall Street reform is all about – looking out for working families and making sure that everyone is playing by the same rules.
Sadly, that hasn’t been enough to stop Republicans in Congress from fighting these reforms. Backed by an army of financial industry lobbyists, they’ve been waging an all-out battle to delay, defund and dismantle these new rules.
I refuse to let that happen.
President Obama vowed to fight a return to the "era of top-down, on-your-own economics." We've come too far for that, he said, and sacrificed too much.
A full transcript of the President's weekly address is available here.
These are themed days of action in resistance to the system and in solidarity with the 99%. Individual, autonomous affinity groups welcome to plan whatever inspires them.
10/1 – SHUT DOWN K STREET day of action. Meet at 7 AM at McPherson Square to shut down the street where corporate lobbyists, bankers, and the 1% do their shady dealings with the government. Bring tents, sleeping bags, other items as needed. Individual, autonomous affinity groups welcome to plan whatever inspires them.
10/2 – Bank/economic day of action. Meet 7 AM at Bank of America, Pennsylvania & 15th St NW, to “foreclose” a bank. Meet 1 PM at same location for march to deliver “bailout money” to social services, schools, and the people.
10/3 – Lobbyists day of action. A day to stick it to the notorious lobbyists, one-percenters, and Citizens-United Super PAC campaign donors who are undermining democracy and imperiling our system.
10/4 – 99% solidarity day of action. Visiting our 99% friends in shows of solidarity, and uniting together against the oppression of the 1%.
10/5 – Earth, sustainability, and energy day of action. A day of opposing industrial agriculture, GMOs, hydro-fracking, pollution, oil, coal, and other dirty energy, and working toward a healthy, sustainable planet.
10/6 – OCCUPY DC FREEDOM PLAZA ANNIVERSARY, a day for calling for an end to wars and militarism. The Occupy DC Freedom Plaza location began on the anniversary of our invasion of Afghanistan on October 6, 2001. This October 6, join Occupy DC to oppose war and militarism, and call for US troops out of Afghanistan now!
10/7 – Occupy Democracy day of action. A day for calling for a true democracy, one month prior to Election Day. Meet 5 PM in McPherson Square for a general assembly to display what a real, egalitarian, horizontal democracy might look like!
A year ago, on October 1, 2011, ecstatic that the 99% had begun occupying Wall Street, brave activists here in Washington DC began occupying McPherson Square on K Street, the corridor where corporate lobbyists, bankers, and the 1% come to wield their power. On October 6, more fearless members of the 99% began occupying Freedom Plaza in downtown DC, about ten blocks to the south. Two active camps were established with several hundred occupiers between the two of them. They survived the snow and rain of winter and persecution from the police, until the police violently raided the camps in the second week of February 2012.
There are more reasons than ever to occupy -- to dwell in the places where the 1% do their corrupt dealings, and refuse to leave. Join the 99% as we reclaim our democracy, our future, our world.
The lobbying firm Strategic Health Care is hosting a Capitol Hill event titled, "White Trash Reception." Here's a flyer for the um, "event":
"Hey y'all - get gussied up in your Sunday jorts, mullets, and fullets and come on down to the White Trash Reception," the invitation reads:
White Trash Reception
July 19, 2012 5:30 - 9:30 pm
230 2nd Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
Grab some suds and grub with Strategic Health Care! Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Peggy Tighe, Beth Swickard, Jason Gromley, and Kyah Flickinger
Here's how the lobbying firm describes itself: "Strategic Health Care’s vision is to become the leading health care consulting firm focused all matters where government and health care meet. In order to achieve this (and distinguish ourselves from other firms), we will continue to capitalize on our knowledge of the health care system, our understanding of our clients’ businesses, our ability to anticipate and influence legislative and regulatory issues, and our dedication to efficient and cost-effective client service."
The National Journal contacted Strategic Healthcare's director of government relations to find out if the invitation was legitimate, and the response? It is.
She said the party at the firm's Capitol Hill townhouse gathers lobbyists, Hill staffers and health industry types for some happy hour fun. The firm throws themed parties every couple of months, though past themes have included the decidedly less edgy pirate and cherry blossom varieties.
If this invitation hadn't been become public knowledge, I imagine the lobbyists would have dressed as stereotypes of the people who won't ever be able to afford healthcare as their states are opting out of medicare expansion.
And as ThinkProgress notes the event particularly stings because health care lobbyists at Strategic Health Care profit from pharmaceutical companies that make their money on expensive drugs that low income Americans of all races frequently have to turn their pockets inside out to pay for.
Members of Occupy Los Angeles say that recent efforts to clean the "skid row" area of the city are actually a ploy to eventually rid the area of its homeless population, so that a powerful group of lobbyists can begin efforts to help their clients realize plans to redevelop the area into profitable businesses.The CCA is a business group that lobbies city and state government to grease the wheels for development in downtown LA. They represent local businesses, as well as large corporations, such as Chevron, Walmart, Verizon, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo and Bank of America .
Police say that any property not placed in the city provided storage facility during the cleaning operations must be mobile, and kept moving all day long, until the one of the Injunctions kicks in at 9pm and people are allowed to sleep. At 6am, they must begin moving around again until the night. You can hear police explain in the video above "You cannot return to where you were, and you cannot stay where you are now." Come 9pm, the homeless have to find a new spot to sleep for the night because they are not allowed to return to the "cleaned" areas, and then each day the process begins again.
Occupy Los Angeles, LA CAN, Occupy the Hood, and Occupy Skid Row have all kept a presence in the area to protest the efforts of CCA, with Occupy LA reporting over this past weekend. From Occupy LA's website:
First thoughts written last night: ”4 Arrests in Midnight LAPD Raid on CCA Siege – Occupy Los Angeles – three of my best friends and roommates, and an unknown 4th man ARRESTED. Charges unknown. Police orchestrated tactical raid with 25+ cops, pepper spray out and batons were swinging. Captain Frank (at a compañera’s trial yesterday) pointed at her and said, “Don’t I know you?”. Another police officer told a fifth occupier that “You’re getting arrested tomorrow.”
I couldn’t move, trapped inside a tent and seeing silhouettes of gum-chewing cops, fidgety and in war-mode. LAPD’s true colors emerging.
You want to talk targeted kidnappings and terror? Cops were laughing as they pushed and hit us. Laughing as they sent 3 snatch squads and took my friends in the dead of night.”
We’re traumatized and enraged. Three of my roommates were snatched by LAPD last night. Bails are $50,000, $25,000, and $10,000…. they’ve been some of the most visible organizers with the siege on the Central City Association (1%’s lobby here in Los Angeles) for nearly a month. They have all been harassed, intimidated, brutalized, and arrested by the LAPD before. They have all been occupying for months and are inspiring in their defiance and rejection of the oppressive status quo.
The arrests began over alleged chalk drawings, despite the 9th circuit court decision of Mackinney vs. Neilson that states, “No chalk would damage a sidewalk.”
Since May 29, occupiers and homeless advocates have camped out each night in front of the CCA’s offices in downtown, as part of an ongoing “siege” protest that was originally only meant to last seven days. The action was coordinated by Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy the Hood, Occupy Skid Row and the Los Angeles Community Action Network.
Obviously, occupiers, who would prefer government to be free of corporate influences, are ideologically opposed to the lobby group. In fact, one could say the CCA is Occupy LA’s local archenemy.
Heather Meyer, an occupier who has been camping out in front of the CCA, said the lobby is “behind everything that is oppressive.” She cites as an example the groups opposition to the recently passed “Responsible Banking” ordinance, which requires banks doing business with the city to turn over information on loans and foreclosure activity and making it readily available to the public.
“They are the lobbyists for the one percent,” she said. “They are the epitome of money in politics.”
The CCA has done more than support bankers to irritate occupiers. The CCA also successfully opposed community efforts to block the construction of a Walmart in Chinatown. They helped kill a city ordinance that would have required hotels to keep their employees 90 days after a change of hotel ownership, according to their website.
As further evidence of the power the lobbyists at CCA wield, the report cites CCA announcing their intentions earlier this year to further lobby for more police resources for the skid row area. The LAPD soon after announcing 40 more officers being sent in to patrol despite there only being a “minor uptick in reported crime” in a neighborhood that “still reports some of the lowest crime levels in the city,” according to the Downtown News.
To explain the decision to respond so strongly to a minor uptick in crime, the LAPD stated:
In recent months, the department has been fielding more complaints from residents and businesses about aggressive panhandling and people sleeping on the sidewalk during the day, he said.
“We are having an increase in quality of life issues and we don’t want to lose any ground that we’ve gained in that area,” Perez said. “We want to stop the problem before it explodes. We’re just being proactive in our analysis and response to the area and understanding it.”
Interestingly enough, it sounds as if the increase in complaints began around the time CCA announced it would begin lobbying for more police...
If you continue to read the Downtown News article, it really does a great job of making skid row sound bad. I've seen it, it's a depressing and disturbing area that seems like you've crossed some great divide into an undeveloped nation. So many people with nowhere else to call home. Then it finishes with a quote from CCA's CEO:
“There hasn’t been an area in the entire county of Los Angeles that has not benefited from making Downtown come alive,” said Schatz. “When people are sleeping on the streets… it affects our ability to continue to attract investment and continue to make this Downtown thrive.”
As I read that quote, it didn't sound to me as if what happens to the people of skid row was a priority, or even a concern at all.
I'll keep you posted on any updates on the situation.
GE CEO Jeff Immelt heard the voices of the 99 percent this morning as he started his prepared remarks at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) World Congress Tuesday morning in Detroit. A half dozen people interrupted his speech to deliver a message of paying taxes and stop dodging them through tax loopholes. Outside in the hallway another two dozen people played a game of tax dodger ball.
Over the last decade GE paid an effective tax rate of just 2.3 percent while the marginal corporate tax rate is 35 percent. Shyquetta McElroy, a mother of two from Milwaukee attempted to present Immelt with a tax bill of $26.5 billion that the company managed to evade.
“Mr. Immelt, when are you going to pay the $26 billion in taxes,” asked McElroy at the beginning of his speech. “I pay my taxes year after year – why doesn’t GE?”
Immelt tried to continue his speech but could not resist saying the company paid 29 percent in taxes last year. While technically true the rate represents a global tax rate and GE actually paid 25 percent in federal taxes for 2011. The most the Fortune 100 company paid in the last ten years while making billions in profits, cutting 32,000 jobs since 2004, and holding more than $94 billion in offshore accounts.
Those questioning Immelt were escorted out of the room by security still wanting answers.