Twas the night before Trump’s inauguration, when all through Facebook, over 200 thousand people were watching a live broadcast. It began:
“This is a crime story.
The perpetrators: a pack of political operatives and the billionaires in the shadows behind them.
The crime: the theft of the White House and Congress.”
Investigative reporter Greg Palast, a New York Times bestselling author and freelance writer for BBC, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and Nation, artfully leads viewers through the business of American politics. The subject is a familiar one for Palast, having spent the last two decades uncovering oppressive energy corporations, manipulative politicians, and the insatiability of America’s economic elites.
The election of 2000 saw 537 votes swing Florida to George W. Bush; with the River Ace revealed, Al Gore’s Full House fell to Bush’s Four of a Kind and the electoral croupier awarded the presidential pot to America’s 43rd Commander in Chief.
The 2000 Purge
The problem, according to Greg Palast’s investigation, was Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s purge of over 94,000 votes during the recount process.
Amidst Donald Trump’s charismatic campaign of xenophobia, bigotry, racism, misogyny, and general ignorance, Palast investigated the hysteria of voter fraud. He pursued The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program and its “Wizard,” Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who claims to collect the identities of potentially fraudulent voters. During the 2016 election season, Crosscheck compiled the names of 7.2 million Americans, of which, a total of four were found guilty. Over 41,000 voters were purged in Virginia alone, founded on Crosscheck’s “childish methodology” that, regardless of motive, inherently and objectively results in an “outcome discriminatory against minorities.”
While Florida’s African American constituents numbered less than 20 percent of its total population, the US Civil Rights Commission discovered black voters were “10 times more likely than white voters to have their ballots rejected.” The election of 2012 saw repression of early voters, which statistically impacts citizens of lower income, and included limiting minority majority counties to one voting location for 80,000 people. Voters at the end of the line received absentee ballots in place of early voting ballots. Palast found that over a million absentee ballots were discarded in 2012, calling them “second class, provisional ballots” due to their proclivity for electoral spoilage.
On June 25, 2013, the Voting Rights Act was gutted; 181,000 Hispanic voters were purged in Florida alone, identification requirements and issuance restrictions in minority counties became normal, and Crosscheck continued to spread.
In the 2016 election, 2.7 million votes were discarded as spoilage; The Civil Rights Commission found that black voters had a 900% chance of having their vote vanish.
The Era Of Electronic Lynching
With his evidence, Greg Palast narrates on our new era of “electronic lynching, not with hooded white sheets, but spreadsheets.”
But, the buck doesn’t stop there. The majority of the film concerns, not the eye-drawing, charismatic, lovable, division-inspiring political pawns who dictate our governance, but the billionaires hiding in their shadows, conforming our republic into oligarchic corporatism.
John Paulson, economic adviser to President Trump, made 4 billion dollars in a single year: 2007. As the housing market collapsed, Paulson edged closer and closer to the likeness of a modern Pharaoh. “The foreclosure king” specifically targeted subprime mortgages, feeding off the families losing their homes one by one.
Paul Singer, “The Vulture,” earned his title by feeding off failing foreign economies. He consumes national debts at a discount, then demands full repayment and, thereby, entrenches his victims’ indebted instability, licking his lips with their relief funds and leaving their carcass to scare off potential investors.
The Vulture is hungry and his taste for decaying flesh isn’t limited to outside countries. In 2007, the government bailout of Delphi cost 1.5 billion dollars, 8,500 jobs, 25 of the 29 auto parts manufacturer’s factories, and 70 percent of its retirees’ pensions. Where did the bailout money go at such a cost? Straight into Singer’s pocket, minus the 1.15 million dollars he later contributed to Mitt Romney’s super PAC in 2012.
Fueling Democratic Segregation
In 2006, Kris Kobach joined the town of Farmers Branch, Texas in its legal fight on immigration, but Kris Kobach doesn’t craft immigration and voter suppression for free. Palast follows a money trail: Kobach earned $100,000 from the Farmers Branch Legal Defense Fund, who received an equal donation from NumbersUSA, an “advocacy group fighting for less immigration.” In 2013 alone, Donors Trust donated $750,000 to NumbersUSA; looking back, the nonprofit donor-advised fund donated $196,750 in 2007 and $1.7 million in 2008.
Donors Trust’s biggest donor is Donors Capital Fund. The top recipients of both funds include:
The Clarion Fund/Clarion Project: $18,403,600 between 2007 and 2012
The Heartland Institute: $17,849,000 between 2005 and 2014
Americans for Prosperity: $22,430,000 between 2009 and 2014
The Clarion Project’s mission statement is “To expose the dangers of Islamic extremism.” The Heartland Institute denies Global Warming, rejects governmental health care, and supports fracking. Americans for Prosperity is the Tea Party’s sugar daddy, denouncing all energy regulations and promoting an unrestricted market, dictated by corporate control.
Both Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund share the same President/CEO and many common donors including, but not limited to, The Knowledge and Progress Fund.
Between 2005 and 2012, this particular fund donated $9 million to Donors Trust and at $1.7 million to Donors Capital Fund; in 2013 and 2014, it donated another $4.95 million to Donors Trust.
The Knowledge and Progress Fund is a key player in the Koch Industries network. Greg Palast claims that the case responsible for destroyed the Voting Rights Act, Shelby County v. Holder, was funded by Donors Trust and, therefore, the Koch Brothers. Palast adds:
“But it wasn’t good enough to trash Dr. King’s law in a courtroom. It was necessary to prevent Congress from restoring the law. The lobbying against the Voting Rights Act was led by the Manhattan Institute. And the chairman of the Manhattan Institute? The Vulture. Billionaire Paul Singer.”
If the song of financially influenced politicians, scavengers of working America’s economic vitality, and obstruction of the citizen’s right to self-government falls sour upon your ears, remember that you retain the right to wonder why America’s wealthiest elites flock to the systems that enable control.
Palast summarizes the billion dollar question of political manipulation with a quote of Charles Koch:
“I want my fair share… and that’s all of it.”
While The Best Democracy Money Can Buy‘s beginning is fast paced, informative, and nauseatingly over-edited, it is the film’s last fifteen minutes which bare the most fruit.
Democracy is founded on free, fair, and frequent elections. Michigan’s electoral votes were won by 10,000 individual votes; this tally omits the 75,000 votes that President Trump’s lawyers condemned to remain uncounted. Exit polls taken from across the country show a sobering result: Hillary Clinton should be America’s 45th President.
Looking To 2018 And 2020
Palast pointedly asks:
“How do you defeat voter suppression tactics when it’s fueled by billionaire’s cash and partisan power?”
Anger holds no utility in the pursuit of freedom. As Greg Palast’s film implores, we must return to the fight of half a century ago; we must, again, hear the words of Dr. King’s Stride Toward Freedom:
“Nonviolent resistance is based on the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice. Consequently, the believer in nonviolence has deep faith in the future. This faith is another reason why the nonviolent resister can accept suffering without retaliation. For he knows that in his struggle for justice he has cosmic companionship. It is true that there are devout believers in nonviolence who find it difficult to believe in a personal God. But even these persons believe in the existence of some creative force that works for universal wholeness. Whether we call it an unconscious process, an impersonal Brahman, or a Personal Being of matchless power and infinite love, there is a creative force in this universe that works to bring the disconnected aspects of reality into a harmonious whole.”
Hold harmony as your goal. As the film fades, warning of Kris Koboch’s precious Muslim tracking program and of impending threats to amend the National Voter Registration Act, be calm. As the Koch brothers seek approval of the Keystone Pipeline, enabling their access to cheaper oil, stand in solidarity. As your fellow citizens vocalize their hatred for you, their condemning of you, and their rejection of your value, do not fall into the trap of argument. Hold harmony as your goal. Again, Dr. King voices patience and perspective:
“The use of violence in our struggle would be both impractical and immoral. To meet hate with retaliatory hate would do nothing but intensify the existence of evil in the universe. Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love; we must meet physical force with soul force. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding.”
Use patience. Use reason. Use acceptance. Reside, not in conflict, but in the pursuit of a unified progress.
Keep marching across the bridge of understanding and freedom.
Featured image via Twitter/CJ Online.