WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 14: Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (C) (D-FL) arrives for a closed briefing for members of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol June 14, 2016 in Washington, DC. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
In 2014, public funding was pulled from both political parties’ conventions, opening the 2016 Democratic National Convention up to dubious donors shielded from transparency. Meanwhile, a 2014 budget law increased contribution limits to political convention committees.
The DNC’s host committee refused to release the list of their donors funding the convention, even after a court order. On Monday, September 26, two months after the convention, the list of donors was finally filed with the FEC during the first presidential debate, in order to fly under the news coverage radar as much as possible.
According to the filing report, some of the donors include George Soros’ son, Alexander, who gave $200,000;Priorities USA, a SuperPAC funded by George Soros, gave $1.5 million; Bank of America gave $1 million; Chevron gave $25,0000; Citigroup gave $100,000; Morgan Stanley gave $75,000; Wells Fargo gave $500,000; former Goldman Sachs Senior Partner Donald Mullen who helped cause the 2008 economic recession gave $100,000; hedge fund investor and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “corporate point-man” Michael J. Sacks donated $300,000. For a political party that nominated Clinton, who hilariously claims to be the champion of Wall Street reform, these prolific donations from the financial industry suggest otherwise.
Blackstone Holdings gave $125,000 to the Democratic National Convention. According to International Business Times, just two months after the private equity firm settled with the SEC due to charges that they exploited monitoring fees to boost the firm at the expense of its investors, Blackstone Holdings president Tony James hosted a fundraiser for Clinton.
When she was a senator, Clintonintroduced the TCE Reduction Act of 2008 to regulate the chemical trichloroethylene, of which Dow Chemical was the largest domestic producer. Shortly after Dow Chemical became a sponsor of the Clinton Global Initiative, Clinton backed off the bill. Dow also donated $250,000 to the DNC this year.
Independence Blue Cross, a health insurance company that has actively lobbied against a single-payer healthcare system, donated $1.525 million.
Bennett S. Lebow, chairman of the board of the tobacco holding company the Vector Group, donated $100,000 to the convention. According to the Associated Press, a guest of Lebow’s with ties to the Russian mob attended a fundraiser for Bill Clinton in 1997.
Facebook donated $1.45 million to the convention. Google donated $500,000. Twitter donated $250,000. These donations don’t help the case of these social media sites when they argue that they don’t censor content not in line with their political agenda. In April, several Bernie Sanders groups simultaneously disappeared, with Facebook attributingthe shutdown to a glitch.
The Democratic National Convention donor list — and the party’s obstruction of transparency in delaying its release even after they lost in court — further signals that the Democratic Party has been taken over by the corporations and wealthy influences that spend so lavishly on it.
Obama Admin Quietly Enables Oil and Gas Drilling on Public Lands and Waters, Weakens Endangered Species Act
By Steve Horn • Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 03:58
As eyes turned to the most viewed presidential debate in U.S. history, the Obama administration meanwhile quietly auctioned off thousands of acres of land for oil and gas drilling in national forests, opened up 119 million acres for offshore drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico, and delivered a blow to the Endangered Species Act.
The Endangered Species Act rule change followed a multi-year lobbying campaign by the oil and gas industry and occurred the morning before the debate unfolded.
The leasing decisions came just weeks earlier, with the most recent one taking place as an online rather than in-person drilling lease auction, the product of industry and U.S. government backlash against efforts such as the Keep It In The Ground campaign which aim to block fossil fuel project development.
Collectively, the announcements coincide with the release of a report by the group Oil Change International, which crunched the “climate math” numbers and concluded that governments must stop both permitting new fossil fuel projects and tapping into a huge swath of existing oil and gas fields and coal mines.
First Online Lease
As chronicled by DeSmog, in recent months the Obama administration has increasingly shifted toward holding online auctions for oil and gas on public lands and in public waters, in backlash against the Keep It In The Ground movement.
One politically connected company in particular — EnergyNet — stands to profit from the shift away from in-person oral auctions for fossil fuel leases, which are open to the public and provide a more visible platform for protests.
On September 20 EnergyNet conducted the second ever solely online auction on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). EnergyNet also ran the first such auction as a pilot test in 2009. This latest auction was held for oil and gas leases located on over 4,000 acres of public lands in the Homochitto and Bienville National Forests in Mississippi.
“I am pleased that Eastern States was able to be the first BLM office to use this new authority,” BLM Eastern States Director Karen Mouritsen said in a press release. “The success of this effort builds upon the experience of other government agencies with online auctions, and gives the BLM another tool to efficiently administer its oil and gas program.”
Magnum Producing was the company that came out on top in this online auction, winning every single parcel of land and paying only $18.23 per acre, according to BLM data.
Less than a week before the BLM Eastern States online auction, the Obama administration announced another lease auction, scheduled for March 2017, in which 47 million acresoff the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama will be available for offshore drilling.
“As one of the most productive basins in the world, the Gulf of Mexico remains a critical component of the Administration’s domestic energy strategy to create jobs, foster economic opportunities, and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil,”U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Abigail Ross Hopper said in a press release. “The exploration and development of the Gulf of Mexico’s vital energy resources will continue to help power our nation and drive our economy.”
Just weeks earlier on August 19, BOEM, which is administering the Gulf offshore drilling lease auction, opened up for public comment a 2018 lease of another 72 million acres of Gulf of Mexico waters to the oil and gas industry. That brings the total to 119 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico now up for grabs in the next two years, which will be under the watch of a new presidential administration.
Gutting the Endangered Species Act
On the morning of the presidential debate, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service unveiledrules which are expected to increase the difficulty of listing animals and plants under the protections of the Endangered Species Act.
The new rules “restrict the ability of ordinary citizens, scientists, and public-interest organizations to obtain Endangered Species Act protections for species on the brink of extinction,” explained the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) in a press release. “The new rules eliminate the ability of the public to submit multispecies petitions and require that 30 days prior to submitting a petition, the petitioner must notify every state where an imperiled species may live.”
According to CBD, these changes have long been on the oil and gas industry wish list. CBD also told DeSmog via email that the organization sees it as a form of “appeasement” to the oil and gas industry, as well as right-wing states and politicians. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, praised the Obama administration for the change but said more needs to be done by the next administration.
“This announcement is a call for help from the administration and an acknowledgement that ESA is broken,” said Bishop (sic).
“These revisions give the appearance that state input will improve and that closed-door settlements will no longer drive petition and listing decisions. Unfortunately, serial environmental litigation will continue to drive ESA policy, and there is nothing the agencies can do about it unless we reform the underlying statute. No matter who wins the White House in November, the law’s failings necessitate reform.”
In a report titled “Sue and Settle: Regulating Behind Closed Doors,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce describes the concept as “when an agency intentionally relinquishes its statutory discretion by accepting lawsuits from outside groups that effectively dictate the priorities and duties of the agency through legally binding, court-approved settlements negotiated behind closed doors.”
Bishop's top campaign contributors for his re-election campaign include BP, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and others.
“The industry takes seriously its obligations to protect species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” says WEA, which hosts a “wildlife committee” meeting every month. “However, misuse of the ESA can directly prevent energy development, ranching, farming, timber, mining, and other productive uses of the land. Far too often the ESA has been used as a means to prevent or delay responsible economic activity rather than for species protection.”
Environmental and community groups submitted their own comments on the proposed rule change, sounding the alarm about the ability to petition government if the rule is implemented.
“There would be an enormous chilling effect on citizens’ fundamental right to petition their government if other federal agencies emulate the rules the Services are proposing here,” they wrote. “The effectiveness of petitions as a driver of environmental protection and social justice would be diminished immediately, and would undeniably harm the interests of the petitioner.”
In 1982, actor/comedian Andy Kaufman and a professional wrestler named Jerry “The King” Lawler appeared as guests on Late Night with David Letterman together, and an altercation ensued.
Kaufman had been involved in the pro wrestling circuit for some time at that point and had made a show of playing the universally despised misogynistic heel as the defender of the so-called Inter-Gender Championship, where he wrestled women and taunted the crowd while spouting sexist insults. At some point, he ran afoul of Lawler, who injured the offensive Hollywood star’s neck with a piledriver slam before a crowd of cheering fans. The two were then brought onto Letterman’s show for some jolly entertainment, but Lawler grew angry and slapped the neck brace-wearing Kaufman in the face, who let loose a string of words that you cannot say on television and stormed off the set, making headlines the next day.
It was not until 10 years after Kaufman’s death that it was revealed that the entire thing had been staged and that he and Lawler were good friends.
Did you know that Donald Trump is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame? Check their website if you don’t believe me. The man was literally a pro wrestling heel for a time. There are videos of him clotheslining WWE’s CEO Vince McMahon at Ford Field in 2007.
Trump is a known fan of the theater of pro wrestling. He appreciates it. He studies it. He’s participated in it.
Just like Andy Kaufman.
I’m bringing this up now because my Facebook news feed is currently filled with the righteous indignation of my liberal and feminist friends voicing their outrage over how Donald Trump treated Hillary Clinton during last night’s debate performance. He was so sexist and rude! He talked over her, he disrespected her, he gaslighted and mansplained, he’s an oaf and a liar.
I’d like to offer a soothing voice of reassurance to people stressing themselves out about that stuff at this time: Donald and Hillary were just playing. It was all a performance. They’re just a pair of extremely wealthy pals playfully collaborating to kill the progressive awakening in America.
Oh. I guess that’s kinda worse, huh? Ahh well. At least now you can stress about real stuff instead.
It’s true, though. Donald and the Clintons have a longstanding and well-documented friendship that goes back decades. They play golf together. They go to each other’s weddings. Politico reports that their kids play together. According to areport from The Washington Post, Mr. Trump and Mr. Clinton even shared a long phone call prior to Trump’s announcement that he’d run for president, wherein associates of both men confirm that Bill encouraged Donald to run. They’re tighter than Kaufman and Lawler.
In pro wrestling, the terms “face” and “heel” are very important. The face is the good guy, the hero, the one people cheer for. The heel takes a little more skill as a performer, because as the villain, he has to make the audience hate him. Together the face and the heel work to suck the audience into the act, where they can forget about the reality of their cold, hard lives and get lost for a time in the fake punches and pins and piledrivers. They help the audience escape into the comforting fantasy that we live in a world where heroes are rewarded and celebrated, and villains don’t hide what they are.
Donald Trump is a brilliant heel. Hillary struggles as a face, but Donald’s high-level pro wrestling chops are more than enough to make up for the talent discrepancy and let the audience get lost in the show, and hopefully lull the progressive awakening back to sleep.
And that’s all this has ever been about. The Republican party is on the verge of collapse, and the only thing stopping the Democrats from seizing total control are these pesky Berniecrats who won’t stop making noise and waking people up to what’s happening. Bernie Sanders revealed that there are a whole lot more true progressives in America than anybody had realized, and the DNC had to work real hard to stack the deck against them.
The Democrats don’t fear the right, they fear the left. They fear progressives’ ability to stagnate and reverse their agenda of using America’s overinflated military might, trade deals, rigged primaries and state-reinforced corporate power to leverage the world into endless war, wage slavery, economic disparity, exploitation, and ecocide.
Trump and the Clintons are collaborating to do exactly that. Trump works up the crowd of poor people on the right who’ve been exploited by corporatism and Wal-Mart economics, Hillary rallies the victims of wage slavery and racism on the left, and they play out this act of face and heel in a way that surely delights Vince McMahon. And Andy Kaufman, wherever he is.