Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Corrupt Congress: Bribe-based vs Ethics Based Lobbying

One example of the neo-imperial lie is one that the US has invented, under cover of the overarching BIG Lie

Free Market Democracy -- the Lobby System.

Lobbyists rule Congress.

The rights of individual Americans, are largely and almost exclusively negotiated by lobbyists, not by the individuals themselves. The lobby system has overtaken the will and consequently the rights of the American People.

The lie is that US govt is clean government.


This is a lie that is believed by those of us living in post-colonial democracies of the Global South. By this I don't mean the lie is believed by our own homegrown post-feudal government elites,( who are in collusion with US govt, corporate and military elites). I mean the big lie that US Govt. is clean government and that the US govt is pro-people, is a lie believed by our people in the Global South.

We the People believe that the US govt. looks out for its own citizens by upholding civil society individual rights and liberties. Wrong!

Of course US democracy, in 235 years, has gradually created multiple spaces within which individuals and groups can exercise rights and privileges. The US rights-based model locates rights in the individual.

Recently, the US Supreme Court declared Corporations to be persons! Therefore lobbies are persons. PACs are persons. Therefore they have rights, just like you and me. Corporations are People!

Here's one unanticipated but totally predictable consequence:

American Lawyer Copyright

Pakistan Taps Locke Lord Strategies for Lobbying Work Following Bin Laden Fallout

Brian Baxter
The American Lawyer

May 09, 2011

Pakistan has launched an aggressive lobbying effort led by Locke Lord Strategies to keep open a U.S. pipeline of billions in aid after al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed on Sunday.

Reuters reports that Locke Lord Strategies -- the lobbying arm of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell -- has been retained by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to fight accusations that Islamabad was complicit in giving refuge to bin Laden in a compound 50 miles outside of the country's capital city and adjacent to its national military academy.

Locke Lord partner Mark Siegel told Reuters that he has spoken twice with Zardari since U.S. special forces killed bin Laden, and "countless" times to the country's ambassador in Washington, D.C., Husain Haqqani. Siegel said that his clients "are certainly concerned" about suggestions that the Pakistani government knew all along about bin Laden's whereabouts, but that there was no proof that a support system for the al-Qaida leader "was government-based."

Locke Lord has a long relationship with Pakistan and its current leaders. The Am Law Daily reported in February on Zardari's hire of Locke Lord and Siegel for a possible libel suit against Jang Media Group over a story by the Pakistani publisher about the president's marital status. Zardari's late wife, former Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, was killed in a terrorist attack in December 2007.

Mark Siegel served as a speechwriter to Bhutto, a former Pakistani prime minister, for nearly 25 years, according to a press release put out by Locke Lord two years ago announcing the firm's hire by Pakistan for U.S. lobbying work. Locke Lord said in a statement to The Am Law Daily on Friday that the firm represented Bhutto before she was assassinated "at the hands of whom many believe was Al Qaeda" and thereafter the Pakistani government and Zardari.

"Locke Lord is continuing to assist President Zardari in his efforts to work with the [U.S.] to combat global terrorism and to establish a more stable and prosperous Pakistan," said the firm, noting that many prominent U.S. politicians consider the country to be an important ally of the U.S. in counterterrorism efforts.

Reuters reports that Locke Lord is paid $75,000 per month by Pakistan and has earned nearly $2 million since being retained by the country two years ago. Records on file under the U.S. government's Foreign Agents Registration Act show that Locke Lord also does work for Pakistan International Airlines, Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party, and the U.S. Embassy for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.

Locke Lord Strategies is a person! Its a lobbying group but it is a person like you and me!

Slate copyright


The Pinocchio Project

Watching as the Supreme Court turns a corporation into a real live boy.

By Dahlia LithwickPosted Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010, at 2:15 PM ET

John Paul StevensYou will doubtless hear today that 89-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens read aloud from his partial dissent in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission for almost 20 minutes in a slow, halting voice, periodically getting tangled up in thickets of words like "corporation" and "corruption." Meanwhile, a loud banging noise from the bench all but drowned him out. That's true. But Justice Anthony Kennedy fared no better reading from his majority opinion beforehand, tearing through the first part of his summary, then losing his place and stumbling through the holding. If Citizens United really represents the moment at which the Roberts court allows itself to finally give voice to its full-throated judicial activism, it's not clear Anthony Kennedy managed much more than a vocal mumble. He looked like he'd have preferred to have been reading his dissent from a soapbox. Or maybe from a crouch underneath the bench. Stevens haltingly worked his way through all five of his objections to the majority's holding today. Kennedy barely gulped out the holding itself.


In part, as Rick Hasen suggests that's because Kennedy's soaring sonnet for corporate free speech has very little to do with the case at hand. The court had to reach out far beyond any place it needed to go to strike down century-old restrictions on corporate spending in federal elections. This started off as a case about a single movie. It morphed into John Roberts' Golden Globe night.

So Kennedy doesn't really find his voice today until he gets to the fist-pounding bits: "If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech." "The censorship we now confront is vast in its reach." And: "When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves."


As Stevens says in reading his dissent, none of that has anything to do with the court's decision to topple decades' worth of legal architecture that had never been questioned in the courts. And Kennedy's visceral terror of speech bans (the word "ban" appears 29 times in his 57-page opinion) and "censorship" seems to override any sort of temperate assessment of either the facts of the case before him, the lack of substantial record in the lower courts, the significance of the cases he is overruling, or the consequences of today's opinion. Perhaps because this is the same Anthony Kennedy who was so exquisitely sensitive to the corrupting influence of money on public confidence in judicial elections in the Caperton case about judicial corruption, it's hard to comprehend what it is about unlimited corporate contributions that so moves him.

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If Kennedy is tentative this morning and Stevens is horrified, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas say nothing at all. They don't have to: They're the architects of the edifice Kennedy has erected. Reading from his dissent, Stevens describes their "sweeping" attacks on Michigan's campaign finance law in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (one of the cases overruled today) as "having planted the seed that flowered" into today's majority opinion.

While Stevens is reading the portion of his concurrence about the "cautious view of corporate power" held by the framers, I see Justice Thomas chuckle softly. (Scalia takes on this argument in his concurrence.) Stevens hammers, more than once this morning from the bench on the principle that corporations "are not human beings" and "corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires." He insists that "they are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."

But you can plainly see the weariness in Stevens eyes and hear it in his voice today as he is forced to contend with a legal fiction that has come to life today, a sort of constitutional Frankenstein moment when corporate speech becomes even more compelling than the "voices of the real people" who will be drowned out. Even former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist once warned that treating corporate spending as the First Amendment equivalent of individual free speech is "to confuse metaphor with reality." Today that metaphor won a very real victory at the Supreme Court. And as a consequence some very real corporations are feeling very, very good.



Mark Wilson/Getty Images Members of the US Supreme Court, who recently issued a ruling in a landmark campaign finance case.Few things are more fundamental to our notion of political liberty and equality than freedom of speech. We’re all supposed to enjoy it more or less equally. Ideally, no one’s supposed to have too much more of it than anyone else, or it isn’t very equal.

We all know that’s not how it works, however. Some individuals or groups will, for one reason or another (usually money), always enjoy more of our constitutional freedoms.

The Constitution, in its majesty, guarantees the pauper as well as the prince the right to a lawyer. But it’s better than even money that the prince is going to get Clarence Darrow while the pauper is likely to get the last guy in the class in law school.

That’s why federal courts are there, to smooth out at least some of these inequities.

But it didn’t work that way this week. Instead, a five-man majority of the U.S. Supreme Court transformed freedom of speech into an instrument for inequality by wiping out a century of laws and court decisions curbing the power of rich corporations to buy elections.

Money is political speech, the court held, and can’t be curbed. It’s all the same, whether it’s Bill Gates’ billions or the nickels and dimes in the tin cup of the blind guy on the corner; whether it’s Goldman Sachs using its millions to beat back financial regulations in Washington or the piggy bank change available to individuals or public-interest advocacy groups fighting for reform. All the same.

But if the five justices who wrote the majority decision really believe that, then they’re spending too much time in chambers; they should get out a little more. Corporate cash is corrupting our politics and shredding faith in the system, as the government’s solicitor-general argued in a losing fight to keep the curbs on corporate spending and level the field between haves and have-nots.

It’s by no means a fair fight when citizen groups are forced to go up against Corporate America in the political arena.

"The nature of business corporations," the solicitor-general’s brief maintained, "makes corporate political activity inherently more likely than individual advocacy to cause quid quo pro corruption." It went on to warn of an increase in "pay-to-play" that hands a huge advantage to the boys in the board room because they’re better able "to afford the ante."

In rejecting that argument, the court majority found that corporations have no fewer rights than individuals — in effect adopting the argument of those opposed to any limits on corporate campaign spending. Thomas Jefferson would have gagged on that one.

What will the decision mean politically? Republicans, conservative activists and business lobbyists (see U.S. Chamber of Commerce) are ecstatic. They see the high court as a kind of sugar plum fairy, leading them to an even more bountiful era of federal policy-making and political power. Democrats and liberals fear they’re right.

But who really knows? These things often have unintended consequences. Ben L. Ginsberg, a long-time lawyer for GOP conservative causes, counsels caution.

"It’s going to be a wild, wild West" in future campaigns, he warned, "with a lot more voices and the loudest voices are going to be corporations and unions." In the process, the power of both parties, Republicans as well as Democrats, could be diminished as corporations and unions run their own campaigns and give less cash to either party.

Why run money through the parties — the middle men — when corporations are free now to spend all they want on their own more tightly targeted campaigns for issues and candidates? Conceivably, they could now spend enough to dominate party primaries, denying Democrat and Republican leaders the power to nominate preferred candidates.

Special interest lobbyists are about to become more special than ever.

It’s equally unclear how far this self-indulgent Supreme Court will take its campaign to strip away even reasonable limits on the political power of money.

The law still bars corporations from directly contributing cash to federal candidates — and to overturn that would be a bold-faced invitation to outright bribery. A prudent court would leave that prohibition in place. But with this court, one never knows.

For the record, Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and company are outspoken defenders of judicial restraint, of following precedent and deferring to legislators as the voice of the people. But by lifting the ban on corporate campaign spending, they trashed precedent and gave Congress the one-finger salute.

With faith in the system already at a low ebb, it wasn’t what one would expect from a responsible Supreme Court.