Netanyahu Speaks, Money Talks

— by Bill Moyers, Michael Winship

Sheldon Adelson, chairman and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

 

Everything you need to know about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress Tuesday was the presence in the visitor’s gallery of one man – Sheldon Adelson.

The gambling tycoon is the Godfather of the Republican Right. The party’s presidential hopefuls line up to kiss his assets, scraping and bowing for his blessing, which when granted is bestowed with his signed checks. Data from both the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics and the Center for Public Integrity show that in the 2012 election cycle, Adelson and his wife Miriam (whose purse achieved metaphoric glory Tuesday when it fell from the gallery and hit a Democratic congressman) contributed $150 million to the GOP and its friends, including $93 million to such plutocracy-friendly super PACs as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, the Congressional Leadership Fund, the Republican Jewish Coalition Victory Fund, Winning Our Future (the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC) and Restore Our Future (the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC).

Yet there’s no knowing for sure about all of the “dark money” contributed by the Adelsons– so called because it doesn’t have to be reported. Like those high-rise, multi-million dollar apartments in New York City purchased by oligarchs whose identity is hidden within perfectly legal shell organizations, dark money lets our politicians conveniently erase fingerprints left by their ink-stained (from signing all those checks) billionaire benefactors.

But Sheldon Adelson was not only sitting in the House gallery on Tuesday because of the strings he pulls here in the United States. He is also the Daddy Warbucks of Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu is yet another of his beneficiaries – not to mention an ideological soulmate. Although campaign finance reform laws are much more strict in Israel than here in the United States, Adelson’s wealth has bought him what the historian and journalist Gershom Gorenberg calls “uniquely pernicious” influence.

Adelson owns the daily Israel Hayom, a leading newspaper, as well as Makor Roshon, the daily newspaper of Israel’s Zionist religious right and NRG, a news website. He gives Israel Hayom away for free in order to promote his hardline views – the headline in the paper the day after Obama’s re-election was “The US Voted [for] Socialism.”

More important, he uses the paper to bang the drum incessantly for Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party, under the reign of which Israel has edged closer and closer to theocracy. As Hebrew University economist Momi Dahan put it: “De facto, the existence of a newspaper like Israel Hayom egregiously violates the law, because [Adelson] actually is providing a candidate with nearly unlimited resources.”

Sheldon, meet Rupert.

In fact, as Israel’s March 17 election approaches, Adelson has increased the press run of Israel Hayom’s weekend edition by 70 percent. The paper says it’s to increase circulation and advertising, but rival newspaper Ha’aretz  reports, “Political sources are convinced the extra copies are less part of a business plan and more one to help Netanyahu’s re-election bid.” Just like the timing of Netanyahu’s “State of the Union” address to Congress this week was merely a coincidence, right? “I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political,” Netanyahu told Congress. “That was never my intention.” Of course.

In Gershom Gorenberg’s words, the prime minister “enjoys the advantage of having a major newspaper in his camp that portrays the world as seen from his office: a world in which Israel is surrounded by enemies, including the president of the United States; in which peace negotiations are aimed at destroying Israel; in which Israel’s left is aligned with all the hostile forces, and even rightists who oppose Netanyahu want to carry out a coup through the instrument of elections.”

So Netanyahu gets the best of both of Adelson’s worlds – his powerful propaganda machine in Israel and his campaign cash here in the United States. Combined, they allow Netanyahu to usurp American foreign policy as he manipulates an obliging US Congress enamored of Adelson’s millions, pushing it further to the right on Israel and the Middle East.

There you have it: Not only is this casino mogul the unofficial head of the Republican Party in America (“he with the gold rules”), he is the uncrowned King of Israel — David with a printing press and checkbook instead of a slingshot and a stone. All of this came to the fore in Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday: the US cannot determine its own policy in the Middle East and the majority in Congress are under the thumb of a foreign power.

Like a King Midas colossus, Sheldon Adelson bestrides the cause of war and peace in the most volatile region of the world. And this is the man who — at Yeshiva University in New York in 2013 — denounced President Obama’s diplomatic efforts with Iran and proposed instead that the United States drop an atomic bomb in the Iranian desert and then declare: “See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.”

Everything you need to know about Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress Tuesday was the presence in the visitor’s gallery of that man. We are hostage to his fortune.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Bill Moyers

Journalist Bill Moyers is the managing editor of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal. Over the past three decades he has become an icon of American journalism and is the author of many books, including Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues, Moyers on Democracy, and Bill Moyers: On Faith & Reason.He was one of the organizers of the Peace Corps, a special assistant for Lyndon B. Johnson, a publisher of Newsday, senior correspondent for CBS News and a producer of many groundbreaking series on public television. He is the winner of more than 30 Emmys, nine Peabodys, three George Polk awards and is the author of three best-selling books.

Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos and president of the Writers Guild of America-East, was senior writer for Moyers & Company and Bill Moyers’ Journal and is senior writer of BillMoyers.com.

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Excuse Me? Where Were You Mr. Heller?

At the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing yesterday, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke about the No Budget, No Pay Act.

“President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address marked one thousand days since the U.S. Senate passed a binding budget resolution.  Since Congress last passed a budget, the federal government has spent $9.4 trillion, adding $4.1 trillion in debt. 

“…Members of Congress are willfully refusing to put our nation on a path to long-term fiscal responsibility.  As long as this is the case, Americans will continue to be frustrated and angry with Washington’s inability to produce real results. 

“…This legislation requires that the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives pass a budget and all appropriations bills by the beginning of each fiscal year.  Failure to do so would result in the loss of pay until Congress takes its job seriously.  If Congress does not complete its constitutional duties, then its Members should not be paid

“…My hope is that No Budget, No Pay will be adopted as part of a broader effort to change the way Congress does business and restore the confidence of the American people in their government…”

Is that right?  I have a question, Mr. Heller.  Where the heck were you throughout the Bush years?  Then President Bush took a vibrant economy, a budget surplus that was gradually consuming lesser percentages of GDP and a national debt of only $5,662,216,013,697 … and drove that economy to just short of a full-blown depression and a national debt of $10,699,804,864,612, an increase of 89%.  In case you’re not all that good at math (as evidenced by the recent GOP caucuses and their inabilities to count the votes) … that means the GOP administration of George W. Bush spent $5,037,588,850,915, borrowing from anyone willing to loan the USA money.  Essentially, your team increased the debt per capita from $20,067/person to $35,153.  You sir were a member of George Bush’s Congress.  You voted for the repeal of financial regulations, for repeals of taxes (revenue needed to pay the bills as they come due) and for spending increases that ultimately drove our economy over the cliff.

Yes, the Obama administration has had to spend money to prevent the nation from completely falling into the abyss of no return.  Beginning with a debt of $10,699,804,864,612, debt rose to $12,311,349,677,512 by 12/31/2009 (15%).  By12/31/2010 it had risen to $14,025,215,218,709 (14%) and by 12/31/2011 to $15,125,898,976,397 (8%),  That’s an overall 41% increase in our nation’s debt, and that rate of increase is declining.  The amount of accumulated debt would have begun to decline had the GOP been able to actively work toward a grand bargain with the President and Democratic members in Congress, but the GOP were too fearful of bullies such as Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist, and Karl Rove.  Instead of doing your jobs, you and other GOP members cowered in fear that one of the bullies would speak badly of you or that you might be primaried and lose your job.  Instead of fighting for millions of Americans that the GOP’s policies and spending habits put out on the street and out of any hope of a job, you toed the Republican Party line.

How dare you now play the puffer?  You sir are a considerable part of the problem and your solutions would now be to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the infirm, and women, all while stroking the feathers of your war-hawk as you contemplate voting for entry into yet another unwarranted foreign war with Iran.  You sir, are disgraceful.

Help Stop Karl Rove’s Super PAC Power Grab

Take action!Just in case corporations and the ultra-wealthy didn’t already have far too much power in our elections, leave it to Karl Rove.

Rove and his Super PAC American Crossroads want to tear down the thin wall that prevents Super PACs — which can accept unlimited, easily hidden contributions — from running ads coordinated directly with candidates and their campaigns — which have strict contribution limits.

The prohibition on coordination is one of the few remaining rules separating our so-called democratic elections from becoming a no-holds-barred, corporate cash free-for-all. So it’s no surprise that Rove has asked the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) if he can get around it, by running coordinated political advertisements, featuring candidates the PAC is supporting.

The FEC has already issued four draft opinions. It is supposed to issue a final ruling within days and is accepting public comments on Rove’s request.

Tell the FEC: Reject Karl Rove’s Super PAC power grab. Submit a comment now.

The deeply damaging Citizens United decision opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate donations and spending by Political Action Committees, so long as they were independent of the campaign.

But Rove’s FEC request flouts even that. In a truly “what the definition of ‘is’ is” moment, Rove literally states that what is coordinated, shouldn’t be considered coordinated:

“While these advertisements would be fully coordinated with incumbent Members of Congress facing re-election in 2012, they would presumably not qualify as ‘coordinated communications,’.”

And yet, three of the four draft responses posted by the FEC would allow Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC, to air these coordinated-yet-not-coordinated ads featuring, and approved by, political candidates.1

The limits that exist to prevent coordination between Super PACs, officially known as “independent-expenditure only committees,” and political candidates are already astonishingly weak — allowing discussion of strategy, and even for candidates to fundraise directly for a Super PAC.2

Now Rove wants to use these unlimited pots of Super PAC money to essentially fund candidate’s official advertising campaigns. That’s going way, way too far. And we need to tell the FEC to stop it.

Tell the FEC: Reject Karl Rove’s Super PAC power grab. Submit a comment now.

In some ways, this is like fighting over bread crusts when what you really want is a whole sandwich.

To truly heal our democracy we need to overturn the Citizens United decision, and reduce the ability of corporations and the ultra-wealthy to drown out the voices of everyday people in elections.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet — so our democracy is serious trouble, and right now, these paltry, insufficient limits are all we’ve got. We can’t let Karl Rove and the FEC take them away.

Tell the FEC: Reject Karl Rove’s Super PAC power grab. Submit a comment now.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. “Four Ways The FEC Could Rule On Uncoordinated Coordination By American Crossroads,” Talking Points Memo, November 28, 2011
2. “Uncoordinated Coordination: Six Reasons Limits on Super PACs Are Barely Limits at All,” Talking Points Memo, November 21, 2011