In a recent article in that wonderful publication, New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Drew examines our election system and asks: "Can We Have a Democratic Election?"
It's a longish piece and worth your time. She covers many aspects of the answer, including the Republican war on voting rights.
Here I'd like to single out just one observation, involving a certain Sheldon Adelson, one of the mega-rich — the top .01% — and someone you've likely never heard of. But if you think "Koch Bros" you're there.
Sheldon Adelson is the 8th richest man in the U.S. and the 16th wealthiest person in the world. In other words, he's a player in the big leagues, a billionaire among billionaires. (Mostly, these guys go unobserved, like billionaire sports franchise owners. Quick, who owns the New York Giants? Now, who plays quarterback for them? See? Adelson flies under that radar too.)
Back to Elizabeth Drew. The context of the discussion is the dueling Super PACs, Romney's and Gingrich's, each flooding their respective primary campaigns with bought resources, like media ads and "documentary" films. Drew writes (my emphasis below):
When Gingrich’s Super PAC was running low on funds after Iowa it was rescued by Gingrich’s longtime backer, Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson. Adelson and his wife have spent at least $10 million to put Gingrich on the course to the presidency, and Gingrich has vowed to issue an executive order on his first day as president to move the American embassy in Israel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv [sic]—a cause long supported by Adelson and other strong supporters of Israel. Were Gingrich to win, Sheldon Adelson would be one of the most influential people in the country.That took my breath away. Pause to consider.
Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson, a man worth $23 billion, drops a mere $10,000,000 (that's 10 very big ones) into Gingrich's pocket — for the primary.
So I start asking myself:
1. What are we on course for? Rhetorical question, of course. Answer — Baronial rule via paid retainers (here, Gingrich).
After all, why allow the rich to become that rich if they can't buy stuff with it? In this analogy, Gingrich — and the presidency — count as "stuff."
I'm serious about this. We allow people to acquire mega-wealth, then we let our politicians sell out to them, then we complain about the result while pretending we have a democracy. It's nuts, I know. That's why I don't think about it; hey, there's a game on somewhere (Vegas?) and I think I need a drink.
2. What does that make Gingrich? Another rhetorical question, but this being a family paper, I'll just say "paid lackey" — an eager one. Or if you insist on the polite term — "retainer," a kind of highly placed personal servant (and very responsive, given the pay).
3. What does that make people like Adelson? The old term would be "kingmaker," but kingmakers didn't rule after the election. There's no question that a Koch Bros President would take his orders "directly from Chief Powatan" (in Stan Freberg's delightful formulation). Doubt me? Listen again to Gov. Scott ("Reporting for duty,sir") Walker. Check out the tone.
In fact, Sheldon Adelson — and all who invest alongside of him — are angling to own the President. As are Romney's major investors. (As are...well...)
If you care, there's a lot more on Sheldon Adelson here.
3. In which election do we discover that this kind of bought-ness applies to every important state and federal election? This means, all governors, majorities of state legislators, all elected state Supreme Court judges (as already practiced in Wisconsin); plus enough congressmen and senators to create a permanent ruling majority in Washington.
Don't be stunned by the list of offices; that's the side show, the given. Go back to the question — in what year will this discovery be manifest?
I'll give you only two choices — In this federal election (2012)? Or the next one (2014)? Frankly, if you think this won't play out publicly until 2016, you seriously underestimate our billionaires.
Sheldon Adelson, Newt Gingrich's new owner, and yours, if Gingrich gains the crown. Watch for much more of this stuff; it's the new normal. Ten million dollars is nothing to the Adelsons ($23 billion strong), and there are many more Adelsons in this world than we realize. (Note, I said "in this world." Do you think this is just a national sport?)
Soros may well be right (another of his sins).