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Tuesday, February 09, 2016


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'Artful Smear' Attack Backfires as Clinton Accused of Denying Impact of Big Money

'Clinton, like our Supreme Court, ignores thousands of years of human experience in how money corrupts politics.'
Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Feb. 6, 2016. (Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)
Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Feb. 6, 2016. (Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)
Hillary Clinton is under fire for defending the millions of dollars she has collected from Wall Street and other monied interests, as critics charge that her rationalization of those contributions ignores the dangers of a pay-for-play political system and amounts to an acceptance—if not a "tacit embrace"—of the role of money in politics.
Since last week's Democratic debate, Clinton has repeatedly accused rival Sen. Bernie Sanders of attempting to 'smear' her with insinuations that she's been bought through political donations, speaking fees, and other payments.
"What the Sanders campaign is trying to do is link donations to my political campaign or really donations to anyone's political campaign, with undue influence with changing people's views and votes," the former secretary of state told CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday, repeating statements made during Thursday's debate. "I've never ever done that and I really do resent the implication or as I said the other night the insinuation."
Kurt Walters, a campaign manager with the anti-corruption group Rootstrikers,told Huffington Post's Zach Carter that he understands how this "might be an appealing defense," given how this charge has resonated with voters and considering Sanders' recentgains on the frontrunner.
"But just like the Citizens United line of thinking," Walters adds, "it ignores all of the other ways that money influences politics beyond the explicit exchange of cash for a vote." 
"Clinton, like our Supreme Court, ignores thousands of years of human experience in how money corrupts politics not just through quid pro quos, but also by shaping attitudes," agreed Pulitzer Prize-winning economics writer David Cay Johnston.
Carter reports:
Like Clinton, the [sic] Citizens United relies on a narrow definition of corruption as straightforward bribery—a literal trade of money for votes. Previous Supreme Court decisions, like McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, had applied a broader standard than Citizens United—one in which money can exercise an "undue influence" over policymaking, even absent explicit quid pro quo deals. 
And while Democrats have long acknowledged that a check from a big donor might not result in a politician switching her position on an issue, they have argued that campaign contributions can buy a phone call or a meeting in which a donor can make his case—opportunities unavailable to mere voters.
As Carter notes, Clinton's defense of those contributions directly contradicts the goals of the Democratic party to reform campaign finance laws, as well as the agenda laid out by Clinton herself, which includes everything from public financing for elections, enhanced corporate disclosure rules, to supporting an amendment to overturn Citizens United.
According to a Washington Post analysis of the most recent FEC filings, "Through the end of December, donors at hedge funds, banks, insurance companies and other financial services firms had given at least $21.4 million to support Clinton’s 2016 presidential run" amounting to $44.1 million collected by Clinton's campaign and allied super PACS from the financial sector.
What's more, a recent analysis found that Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, collected a total of $7.7 million for at least 39 speeches given to Wall Street banks.
"There's never been a politician in history who said, 'That money influences me,'" Sanders told CBS on Sunday, responding to the accusations. "I think, you know, the American people know better," he added.
And as Salon columnist David Weisberg noted on Tuesday, "It is not only relevant whetherour leaders’ voting records are affected by the fees they accept—but it is also important, in both appearance and with regard to ethical measure, where those speaking fees come from at all."
Weisberg explains:
Hillary Clinton accepted speaking fees from Goldman Sachs for three engagements between June and October of 2013 totaling $675,000.  Regardless of the content of those presentations (and Clinton should absolutely and without hesitation agree to release those transcripts), those engagements occurred after it was clear that Goldman Sachs had contributed not only to a national economic meltdown but also to the financial devastation of countless investors – individuals, families and organizations – through the investment banking giant’s fraudulent sale of doomed-to-fail investments. 
What was $675,000 in pocket change for Goldman Sachs is $675,000 in lost savings and lost homes for bilked investors– $675,000 that went into the pockets of an already incredibly wealthy Hillary Clinton.
Clearly on the defense, Clinton has tried to flip the script, accusing Sanders on Monday of also accepting Wall Street cash through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which raises money for senate races.
Noting that those funds "come from millions of Americans’ individual contributions, labor organizations, environmental groups, women’s organizations and others," the Sanders campaign called those charges "false and absurd."
"To say that every nickel that Bernie received came from Wall Street is beyond preposterous," campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement. "It is laughable and suggests the kind of disarray that the Clinton campaign finds itself in today."
The two Democratic candidates face off Tuesday in the New Hampshire primaries where the latest polls showed Sanders holding a substantial lead.

Monday, February 08, 2016


Science News
from research organizations

Long-term picture offers little solace on climate change

February 8, 2016
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Climate change projections that look ahead one or two centuries show a rapid rise in temperature and sea level, but say little about the longer picture. A new looks at the next 10,000 years, and finds that the catastrophic impact of another three centuries of carbon pollution will persist millennia after the carbon dioxide releases cease.


The Philippines is one of many densely-populated nations in and around Southeast Asia that are endangered by rising sea levels caused by global warming. Global average sea level is rising 3.1 centimeters per decade.
Credit: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Climate change projections that look ahead one or two centuries show a rapid rise in temperature and sea level, but say little about the longer picture. A new study published in Nature Climate Changelooks at the next 10,000 years, and finds that the catastrophic impact of another three centuries of carbon pollution will persist millennia after the carbon dioxide releases cease.
The picture is disturbing, says co-author Shaun Marcott, an assistant professor of geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a nearly inevitable elevation of sea level for thousands of years into the future.
Most climate projections now end at 2300 at the latest, "because that's the time period most people are interested in," says Marcott, a expert in glaciers and ancient climate. "Our idea was that this did not encapsulate the entire effect of adding one to five trillion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere over the next three centuries. Whereas most studies look to the last 150 years of instrumental data and compare it to projections for the next few centuries, we looked back 20,000 years using recently collected carbon dioxide, global temperature and sea level data spanning the last ice age. Then we compared past data to modeling results that extend 10,000 years into the future."
Climate -- the interplay among land, ocean and atmosphere -- has a long memory, Marcott says. "I think most people would tell you that temperature and sea level will spike as we continue burning fossil fuels, but once we stop burning, they will go back down. In fact, it will take many thousands of years for the excess carbon dioxide to completely leave the atmosphere and be stored in the ocean, and the effect on temperature and sea level will last equally long."
The study looked at the impact of four possible levels of carbon pollution that would start in 2000 and end in 2300. The complex modeling effort was organized by Michael Eby of the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University.
"Carbon is going up, and even if we stop what we are doing in the relatively near future, the system will continue to respond because it hasn't reached an equilibrium," Marcott explains. "If you boil water and turn off the burner, the water will stay warm because heat remains in it."
A similar but indescribably more complex and momentous phenomenon happens in the climate system.
New data on the relationship among carbon dioxide, sea level and temperature over the last 20,000 years was the basis for looking forward 10,000 years. "Now that we know how these factors changed from the ice age to today," Marcott says, "we thought, if we really want to put the future in perspective, we can't look out just 300 years. That does not make sense as a unit of geological time."
Current releases of the carbon contained in carbon dioxide total about 10 billion tons per year. The number is growing 2.5 percent annually, more than twice as fast as in the 1990s.
People have already put about 580 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The researchers looked at the effect of releasing another 1,280 to 5,120 billion tons between 2000 and 2300. "In our model, the carbon dioxide input ended in 300 years, but the impact persisted for 10,000 years," Marcott says.
By 2300, the carbon dioxide level had soared from almost 400 parts per million to as much as 2,000 parts per million. The most extreme temperature rise -- about 7 degrees Celsius by the year 2300 or so -- would taper off only slightly, to about 6 degrees Celsius, after 10,000 years.
Perhaps the most ominous finding concerns "commitment," Marcott says. "Most people probably expect that temperature and carbon dioxide will rise together and then temperature will come down when the carbon dioxide input is shut off, but carbon dioxide has such a long life in the atmosphere that the effects really depend on how much you put in. We are already committed to substantial rises in temperature. The only question is how much more is in the pipe."
The warming ocean and atmosphere that are already melting glaciers and ice sheets produce a catastrophic rise in the ocean. "Sea level will go up due to melting, and because warming expands the ocean. We have to decide in the next 100 years whether we want to commit ourselves and our descendants to these larger and more sustained changes," Marcott says.
First author Peter Clark and co-authors calculated that ocean encroachment from just the lowest level of total carbon pollution would affect land that in 2010 housed 19 percent of the planet's population. However, due to climate's momentum, that effect will be stretched out over thousands of years.
"This is a stunning paper," says Jack Williams, a professor of geography and expert on past climates at UW-Madison. "At one level, it just reinforces a point that we already knew: that the effects of climate change and sea level rise are irreversible and going to be with us for thousands of years," says Williams, who did not work on the study. "But this paper shows just how devastating sea level rise will be, once we look out beyond 2100 A.D."
The melting in Greenland and Antarctica from the highest level of carbon pollution "translates into a sea level rise of 80 to 170 feet," Williams says. "That's enough to drown nearly all of Florida and most of the Eastern Seaboard."
For simplicity, the study omitted discussing other major drivers and effects of climate change, including ocean acidification, other greenhouse gases, and mechanisms that cause warming to accelerate further.
"It's worrisome, for sure," says Marcott. "I don't see any good thing in this, but my hope is that you could show these graphs to anyone and they could see exactly what is going on."
Marcott says a recent slogan of climate campaigners, "Keep it in the ground," is apt. "In the ideal situation, that is what would happen, but I can't say if it is economically or politically viable."
"The paper emphasizes that we need to move to net-zero or net-negative carbon emissions and have only a few more decades to do so," says Williams. "But the real punch in the gut is the modeled sea level rise and its implications."

Story Source:
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. The original item was written by David Tenenbaum.Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016


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Carpe Diem, Senator Warren

With the South Carolina primary fast approaching, now is the time for the Sanders campaign to announce its February surprise...
The progressive wing of the Democratic Party is coalescing solidly around the Bernie Sanders campaign. But how likely is what some would consider a dream ticket? (Image: via
With yesterday’s dead-heat contest in Iowa between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, the moment has arrived when Elizabeth Warren’s commitment to fixing our democracy and our economy is being put to the test.
A person can have great judgment and intellect, but if their timing is off, ultimately even those strengths are proven flawed and inadequate.  We must have real results if this person is going to be a real leader.  Often this person is going to have to take real risks to get real results. 
Warren’s timing, judgment and courage are all now being challenged.  It’s not enough to be independent, articulate, and passionate from the bully pulpit.  Achieving leadership’s full capacity inevitably involves taking a stand that is by nature risky, but all the more necessary because one’s deepest convictions will not allow any other course of action.  One feels compelled within to seize the moment.  Whatever the risks of taking a stand, the risks of letting the moment pass are greater.  However, unconventional the action required is, that action remains the most obviously impactful.
"Achieving leadership’s full capacity inevitably involves taking a stand that is by nature risky, but all the more necessary because one’s deepest convictions will not allow any other course of action."
If destiny offers someone like Warren the opportunity to swing the tide of the nation toward a more honest and just governance and they hesitate, well then ultimately they weren’t the leader we hoped for.  Warren has had this opportunity served up to her by Bernie Sanders in the most admirable way.  There is no room for her to pretend the moment of decision is not upon her.
These sentiments won’t sit kindly with Warren’s many well-deserved admirers.  But ultimately, these sentiments are a very high form of praise.  Warren is not being tested by the opinion of the writer or by the opinions of so many countless progressive Americans, but by her own principles and standards and by history and by the outcomes that will flow from the way she conducts herself in this pivotal moment.  She has already made herself worthy enough to be judged by history and her own principles.  That in itself makes her a contender.  But let’s not pretend she’s more than that while our country is still so dysfunctional, while she has an opportunity to make a powerfully positive difference beyond her current contributions and yet has not done so.
We need to treat these leaders, not as idols it is sacrilege to challenge, but as our brothers and sisters it is fair to demand an explanation from and helpful to their own process to challenge.
No matter how the contest between Sanders and Clinton turns out, we will look back at Warren’s statements and record of advocacy with puzzlement over any decision to remain on the sidelines out of deference to Clinton.  No future glory will obscure the record concerning whether or not she chose to take her rightful place in the leadership of the movement widely populated by her own supporters.  Warren, herself, if she stops to test her heart, may well find remorse already seeping up for having waited this long to do what her own record makes clear is the right thing to do.
The difference between Sanders and Clinton is night and day.  Clinton belongs to an old order and an old day now dead.  Progressives, and particularly the younger among us, are changing the political culture of our country and the result is we are entering a new day in American democracy.  Regardless of the outcome of this contest, this dramatic shift heralding hope for a planet under siege is being telegraphed by the passionate movement supporting the Sanders campaign.  This movement will not give Elizabeth Warren a “pass” while millions look to her to join with Sanders based on her own record of advocacy and statements of principle.
The progressive movement widely and justly recognizes that Elizabeth Warren can be a great president.  Her own judgment has left that prospect to the future.  In the present moment, however, she is called to recognize she can be a great leader now in a moment in our history that may not come again for a planet imperiled by climate change and an accelerating concentration of wealth.  She can be a great leader now, in this unique moment in time, by partnering with Sanders as his vice presidential nominee and collaborator in a broadly inclusive, sophisticated, and principled campaign to uplift society through the quality of our governance.  This partnership between Sanders and Warren is an obvious step so easily available to bringing exponentially increased momentum to a movement that is on the cusp of making history.  With the South Carolina primary fast approaching, now is the time for the Sanders campaign to announce its February surprise: Elizabeth Warren is joining Bernie Sander’s ticket as his nominee for the vice presidency.
Carpe diem, Senator Warren.  All eyes are on you. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


Bernie Sanders Won Iowa's Political Momentum and Shattered Clinton's Inevitability Myth

 02/02/2016 07:39 am ET | Updated 5 hours ago
  • H. A. GoodmanColumnist published in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Baltimore Sun, The Hill, Salon, The Jerusalem Post
Winning the Iowa Caucus catapults presidential candidates into national prominence, and in this case, Bernie Sanders was able to win a crucial victory, even with a "virtual tie." Sanders battled a political machine capable of raising billions, and still won immense political momentum, while destroying any notion of Clinton's inevitability. If you enjoy all the advantages of Hillary Clinton, and barely achieve a tie, then political momentum shifts to Bernie Sanders. As stated in The Hill during his Iowa Caucus speech, "To chants of 'Bern-ie, Bern-ie,' the Vermont senator added, 'it looks like we'll have about half of the Iowa delegates.'"
While Bernie Sanders might officially end up winning the Iowa Democratic Caucus, there was still a "virtual tie" early Tuesday morning. It took what CSPAN refers to as "Clinton voter fraud in Polk County, Iowa Caucus" to get a draw. This voter fraud is genuine, especially considering CSPAN is a respected source.
Furthermore, Clinton needed six lucky coin flips to even tie Sanders. This bizarre form of American democracy is highlighted in an Atlanta Journal Constitution articletitled Clinton or Sanders? Some Iowa precincts resort to coin tosses to award delegates:
Just how close was the race in Iowa for Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders?
At least six precincts reportedly awarded their delegates after tossing a coin.
In Ames, the decision to award delegates by coin toss was made after 60 caucus participants apparently disappeared from the results, according to a report from The Des Moines Register.
In all six precincts where coin tosses were used, Clinton won an extra delegate.
Since one delegate separates Bernie Sanders from Clinton, imagine what would have resulted if a couple coin flips went to the Sanders campaign.
Miraculously, in a feat of coin flipping brilliance, "In all six precincts where coin tosses were used, Clinton won an extra delegate."
Now go ahead, call six of your friends, ask them to flip a coin, and see if you can win all six coin flips.
Cruz, Rubio, or Trump won't be allowing Clinton to flip coins in a general election, nor will they refrain from attacking Clinton on the 22 "Top Secret" emails stored in a private server that circumvented U.S. government networks. The FBI's investigation of Clinton's emails will be a never-ending topic in every debate.
While the Clinton campaign is proficient in flipping coins, the Clinton political machine was defeated in Iowa, and any notion of Clinton's inevitability was shattered by the Sanders campaign. Decades of Hillary Clinton's connections, fundraising, and power within the Democratic Party resulted in essentially the same number of delegates as Sanders. In addition, Bernie Sanders showed that he could challenge a political machine, and win essential political momentum.
Hillary Clinton's political machine is analyzed by Walter Russell Mead, Bard College's James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs, in an article titled The First Postmodern Political Machine:
The Clinton political machine, like all machines, ultimately runs on money. Somebody has to pay the apparatchiks and loyal technicians who keep the wheels turning...
Now that Hillary is running for President, the donors have an even better idea of what good things might come to them--or what problems and complications could develop if they cut the Clintons off...
Third, the Foundation vehicle allows the Clintons to attract enormous sums of money from foreign as well as domestic donors.
Unlike ordinary politicians, the Clintons can take money from foreign individuals, states and firms without breaking US laws. They can even sidestep much if not all of the odium that comes from running an American campaign with foreign money.
More analysis of the Clinton political machine puts the six miraculous coin flips in proper perspective.
It's this machine, with financial tentacles all across the globe, that Bernie Sanders defeated in Iowa, gaining nationwide momentum from the contest. It's this machine, as well, that neocons are "aligning themselves" to in 2016.
Furthermore, Clinton's former colleague believes that foreign nations have possession of her classified emails. This potential campaign-ending reality is highlighted in a Hill piece titled Ex-Pentagon chief: Iran, China or Russia may have gotten to Clinton server:
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he believes foreign countries like Russia, China and Iran may have hacked the private email server Hillary Clinton used while secretary of State.

"Given the fact that the Pentagon acknowledges that they get attacked about 100,000 times a day, I think the odds are pretty high," he said...
Gates said he agreed with former acting CIA Director Mike Morell's claim that the server had probably been hacked by either Russia, China or Iran.
He added that the fact that classified intelligence has been found on the server was "a concern for me."
The FBI isn't part of the GOP and Robert Gates served as Obama's Secretary of Defense; his views on this controversy are objective and unbiased. While Bernie Sanders was too honorable to attack Clinton on the fact foreign nations hacked into her server, rest assured that GOP rivals will address this issue in its entirety during a general election.
Hillary Clinton has spent her entire political career aspiring to become president, and everyone from Debbie Wasserman Shultz (scheduling debates on weekends, etc.) to mainstream pundits promoted the inevitability myth. Few in America's political establishment believed Clinton would lose Iowa, and even fewer believed Bernie Sanders would win virtually as many delegates as a former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State.
Now, Clinton will have to face Sanders in states that don't allow coin flips to determine the winner.
The true winner of the Iowa Caucus was Bernie Sanders, primarily because he proved that Clinton needed luck, and a complicated electoral process, just to achieve a draw. Sanders is well-positioned to win the Democratic nomination and presidency, especially since Clinton's prison lobbyists and use of race and Islamophobia against Obama won't assure her the votes of non-white Democrats. I explain why I'm only voting for Bernie Sanders in this YouTube segment and why he'll win the presidency on The David Pakman Show and The Thom Hartmann Program.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Problem


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Democracy of the Billionaires

The Most Expensive Election Ever Is A Billionaire’s Playground (Except for Bernie Sanders)
Outspoken billionaire Donald Trump is currently the only billionaire in the race, but the role that other billionaires are playing should not be overlooked. (Photo: Reuters)
Speaking of the need for citizen participation in our national politics in his finalState of the Union address, President Obama said, “Our brand of democracy is hard.” A more accurate characterization might have been: “Our brand of democracy is cold hard cash.”
Cash, mountains of it, is increasingly the necessary tool for presidential candidates. Several Powerball jackpots could already be fueled from the billions of dollars in contributions in play in election 2016. When considering the present donation season, however, the devil lies in the details, which is why the details follow.
With three 2016 debates down and six more scheduled, the two fundraisers with the most surprising amount in common are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Neither has billionaire-infused super PACs, but for vastly different reasons. Bernie has made it clear billionaires won’t ever hold sway in his court. While Trump... well, you know, he’s not only a billionaire but has the knack for getting the sort of attention that even billions can’t buy.
Regarding the rest of the field, each candidate is counting on the reliability of his or her own arsenal of billionaire sponsors and corporate nabobs when the you-know-what hits the fan. And at this point, believe it or not, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens Uniteddecision of 2010 and the super PACs that arose from it, all the billionaires aren’t even nailed down or faintly tapped out yet.  In fact, some of them are already preparing to jump ship on their initial candidate of choice or reserving the really big bucks for closer to game time, when only two nominees will be duking it out for the White House.
Capturing this drama of the billionaires in new ways are TV networks eager to profit from the latest eyeball-gluing version of election politicking and the billions of dollars in ads that will flood onto screens nationwide between now and November 8th. As super PACs, billionaires, and behemoth companies press their influence on what used to be called “our democracy,” the modern debate system, now a 16-month food fight, has become the political equivalent of the NFL playoffs. In turn, soaring ratings numbers, scads of ads, and the party infighting that helps generate them now translate into billions of new dollars for media moguls.
For your amusement and mine, this being an all-fun-all-the-time election campaign, let’s examine the relationships between our twenty-first-century plutocrats and the contenders who have raised $5 million or more in individual contributions or through super PACs and are at 5% or more in composite national polls. I’ll refrain from using the politically correct phrases that feed into the illusion of distance between super PACs that allegedly support candidates’ causes and the candidates themselves, because in practice there is no distinction.
On the Republican Side:
1. Ted Cruz: Most “God-Fearing” Billionaires
Yes, it’s true the Texas senator “goofed” in neglecting to disclose to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) a tiny six-figure loan from Goldman Sachs for his successful 2012 Senate campaign. (After all, what’s half-a-million dollars between friends, especially when the investment bank that offered it also employed your wife as well as your finance chairman?) As The Donald recently told a crowd in Iowa, when it comes to Ted Cruz, “Goldman Sachs owns him. Remember that, folks. They own him.”
That aside, with a slew of wealthy Christians in his camp, Cruz has raised the second largest pile of money among the GOP candidates. His total of individual and PAC contributions so far disclosed is a striking $65.2 million. Of that, $14.28 million has already been spent. Individual contributors kicked in about a third of that total, or $26.57 million, as of the end of November 2015 -- $11 million from small donors and $15.2 million from larger ones. His five top donor groups are retirees, lawyers and law firms, health professionals, miscellaneous businesses, and securities and investment firms (including, of course, Goldman Sachs to the tune of $43,575).
Cruz’s Keep the Promise super PAC continues to grow like an action movie franchise. It includes his original Keep the Promise PAC augmented by Keep the Promise I, II, and III. Collectively, the Keep the Promise super PACs amassed $37.83 million. In terms of deploying funds against his adversaries, they have spent more than 10 times as much fighting Marco Rubio as battling Hillary Clinton.
His super PAC money divides along family factions reminiscent of Game of Thrones. A $15 million chunk comes from the billionaire Texas evangelical fracking moguls, the Wilks Brothers, and $10 million comes from Toby Neugebauer, who is also listed as the principal officer of the public charity, Matthew 6:20 Foundation; its motto is “Support the purposes of the Christian Community.”
Cruz’s super PACs also received  $11 million from billionaire Robert Mercer, co-CEO of the New York-basedhedge fund Renaissance Technologies. His contribution is, however, peanuts compared to the $6.8 billion a Senate subcommittee accused Renaissance of shielding from the Internal Revenue Service (an allegation Mercer is still fighting). How’s that for “New York values”?  No wonder Cruz wants to abolish the IRS.
Another of Cruz’s contributors is Bob McNair, the real estate mogul, billionaire owner of the National Football League’s Houston Texans, and self-described “Christian steward.”
2. Marco Rubio: Most Diverse Billionaires
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has raised $32.8 million from individual and PAC contributions and spent about $9 million. Despite the personal economic struggles he’s experienced and loves to talk about, he’s not exactly resonating with the nation’s downtrodden, hence his weak polling figures among the little people. Billionaires of all sorts, however, seem to love him.
The bulk of his money comes from super PACs and large contributors. Small individual contributors donated only $3.3 million to his coffers; larger individual contributions provided $11.3 million. Goldman Sachs leads his pack of corporate donors with $79,600.
His main super PAC, Conservative Solutions, has raised $16.6 million, making it the third largest cash cow behind those of Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz. It holds $5 million from Braman Motorcars, $3 million from the Oracle Corporation, and $2.5 million from Benjamin Leon, Jr., of Besilu Stables. (Those horses are evidently betting on Rubio.)
He has also amassed a healthy roster of billionaires including the hedge-fund “vulture of Argentina” Paul Singer who was the third-ranked conservative donor for the 2014 election cycle. Last October, in a mass email to supporters about a pre-Iowa caucus event, Singerpromised, “Anyone who raises $10,800 in new, primary money will receive 5 VIP tickets to a rally and 5 tickets to a private reception with Marco.”
Another of Rubio's Billionaire Boys is Norman Braman, the Florida auto dealer and his mentor. These days he’s been forking over the real money, but back in 2008, he gave Florida International University $100,000 to fund a Rubio post-Florida statehouse teaching job. What makes Braman’s relationship particularly intriguing is his “intense distaste for Jeb Bush,” Rubio’s former political mentor and now political punching bag. Hatred, in other words, is paying dividends for Rubio.
Rounding out his top three billionaires is Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who ranks third on Forbes’s billionaire list.  Last summer, he threw a $2,700 per person fundraiser in his Woodside, California, compound for the candidate, complete with a special dinner for couples that raised $27,000. If Rubio somehow pulls it out, you can bet he will be the Republican poster boy for Silicon Valley.
3. Jeb Bush: Most Disappointed Billionaires
Although the one-time Republican front-runner’s star now looks more like a black hole, the coffers of “Jeb!” are still the ones to beat. He had raised a total of $128 million by late November and spent just $19.9 million of it.  Essentially none of Jeb’s money came from the little people (that is, us). Barely 4% of his contributions were from donations of $200 or less.
In terms of corporate donors, eight of his top 10 contributors are banks or from the financial industry (including all of the Big Six banks). Goldman Sachs (which is nothing if not generous to just about every candidate in sight -- except of course, Bernie) tops his corporate donor chart with $192,500. His super PACs still kick ass compared to those of the other GOP contenders. His Right to Rise super PAC raised a hefty $103.2 million and, despite his disappearing act in the polls, it remains by far the largest in the field.
Corporate donors to Jeb’s Right to Rise PAC include MBF Healthcare Partners founder and chairman Mike Fernandez, who has financed a slew of anti-Trump ads, with $3.02 million, and Rooney Holdings with $2.2 million. Its CEO, L. Francis Rooney III, was the man George W. Bush appointed ambassador to the Vatican. Former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg’s current company, CV Starr (and not, as he has made pains to clarify, he himself), gave $10 million to Jeb’s super PAC. In the same Fox Business interview where he stressed that distinction, he also noted, “I’m sorry he is not living up to expectations, but that’s the reality of it.” AIG, by the way, received $182 billion in bailout money under Jeb’s brother, W.
4. Ben Carson: No Love For Billionaires
Ben Carson is running a pretty expensive campaign, which doesn’t reflect well on his possible future handling of the economy (though, as he sinks toward irrelevance in the polls, it seems as if his moment to handle anything may have passed). Having raised $38.7 million, he’s spent $26.4 million of it. His campaign received 63% of its contributions from small donors, which leaves it third behind Bernie and Trump on that score, according to FEC filings from October 2015.
His main super PACs, grouped under the title “the 2016 Committee,” raised just $3.8 million, with rich retired people providing the bulk of it.  Another PAC, Our Children’s Future, didn’t collect anything, despite its pledge to turn "Carson’s outside militia into an organized army."
But billionaires aren’t Carson’s cup of tea. As he said last October, “I have not gone out licking the boots of billionaires and special-interest groups. I’m not getting into bed with them.”
Carson recently dropped into fourth place in the RealClearPolitics composite poll for election 2016 with his team in chaos. His campaign manager, Barry Bennett, quit. His finance chairman, Dean Parke, resigned amid escalating criticism over his spending practices and his $20,000 a month salary. As the rising outsider candidate, Carson once had an opportunity to offer a fresh voice on campaign finance reform. Instead, his campaign learned the hard way that being in the Republican hot seat without a Rolodex of billionaires can be hell on Earth.
5. Chris Christie: Most Sketchy Billionaires
For someone polling so low, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has amassed startling amounts of dosh. His campaign contributions stand at $18.6 million, of which he has spent $5.7 million. Real people don’t care for him. Christie has received the least number of small contributions in either party, a bargain basement 3% of his total.
On the other hand, his super PAC, America Leads, raised $11 million, including $4.3 million from the securities and investment industry. His top corporate donors at $1 million each include Point 72 Asset Management, the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation, and Winnecup Gamble Ranch, run by billionaire Paul Fireman, chairman of Fireman Capital Partners and founder and former chairman of Reebok International Ltd.
Steven Cohen, worth about $12 billion and on the Christie campaign's national finance team, founded Point 72 Asset Management after being forced to shut down SAC Capital, his former hedge-fund company, due to insider-trading charges. SAC had to pay $1.2 billion to settle.
Christie’s other helpful billionaire is Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot. But Langone, as he told the National Journal, is not writing a $10 million check. Instead, he says, his preferred method of subsidizing politicians is getting “a lot of people to write checks, and get them to get people to write checks, and hopefully result in a helluva lot more than $10 million.” In other words, Langone offers his ultra-wealthy network, not himself.
6. Donald Trump: I Am A Billionaire
Trump’s campaign has received approximately $5.8 million in individual contributions and spent about the same amount. Though not much compared to the other Republican contenders, it’s noteworthy that 70% of Trump’s contributions come from small individual donors (the highest percentage among GOP candidates). It’s a figure that suggests it might not pay to underestimate Trump’s grassroots support, especially since he’s getting significant amounts of money from people who know he doesn’t need it.
Last July, a Make America Great Again super PAC emerged, but it shut down in October to honor Trump’s no super PAC claim.  For Trump, dealing with super PAC agendas would be a hassle unworthy of his time and ego. (He is, after all, the best billionaire: trust him.) Besides, with endorsements from luminaries like former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and a command of TV ratings that’s beyond compare, who needs a super PAC or even his own money, of which he’s so far spent remarkably little?
On The Democratic Side:
1. Hillary Clinton: A Dynasty of Billionaires
Hillary and Bill Clinton earned a phenomenal $139 million for themselves between 2007 and 2014, chiefly from writing books and speaking to various high-paying Wall Street and international corporations.  Between 2013 and 2015, Hillary Clinton gave 12 speeches to Wall Street banks, private equity firms, and other financial corporations, pocketing a whopping $2,935,000. And she’s used that obvious money-raising skill to turn her campaign into a fundraising machine.
As of October 16, 2015, she had pocketed $97.87 million from individual and PAC contributions.  And she sure knows how to spend it, too. Nearly half of that sum, or $49.8 million -- more than triple the amount of any other candidate -- has already gone to campaign expenses.
Small individual contributions made up only 17% of Hillary’s total; 81% came from large individual contributions. Much like her forced folksiness in the early days of her campaign when she was snapped eating a burrito bowl at a Chipotle in her first major meet-the-folks venture in Ohio, those figures reveal a certain lack of savoir faire when it comes to the struggling classes.
Still, despite her speaking tour up and down Wall Street and the fact that four of the top six Wall Street banks feature among her top 10 career contributors, they’ve been holding back so far in this election cycle (or perhaps donating to the GOP instead).  After all, campaign 2008 was a bust for her and nobody likes to be on the losing side twice.
Her largest super PAC, Priorities USA Action, nonetheless raised $15.7 million, including $4.6 million from the entertainment industry and $3.1 million from securities and investment. The Saban Capital Group and DreamWorks kicked in $2 million each.
Hillary has recently tried to distance herself from a well-deserved reputation for beingclose to Wall Street, despite the mega-speaking fees she’s garnered from Goldman Sachs among others, not to speak of the fact that five of the Big Six banks gave money to the Clinton Foundation. She now claims that her “Wall Street plan” is stricter than Bernie Sanders’s. (It isn’t. He’s advocating to break up the big banks via a twenty-first-century version of the Glass-Steagall Act that Bill Clinton buried in his presidency.) To top it off, she scheduled an elite fundraiser at the $17 billion “alternative investment” firm Franklin Square Capital Partners four days before the Iowa Caucus. So much for leopards changing spots.
You won’t be surprised to learn that Hillary has billionaires galore in her corner, all of whom backed her hubby through the years.  Chief among them is media magnate Haim Saban who gave her super PAC $2 million. George Soros, the hedge-fund mogul, contributed $2.02 million. DreamWorks Animation chief executive Jeffrey Katzenberg gave$1 million. And the list goes on.
2. Bernie Sanders: No Billionaires Allowed
Bernie Sanders has stuck to his word, running a campaign sans billionaires. As of October 2015, he had raised an impressive $41.5 million and spent about $14.5 million of it.
None of his top corporate donors are Wall Street banks. What’s more, a record 77% of his contributions came from small individual donors, a number that seems only destined to grow as his legions of enthusiasts vote with their personal checkbooks.
According to a Sanders campaign press release as the year began, another $33 million came in during the last three months of 2015: “The tally for the year-end quarter pushed his total raised last year to $73 million from more than 1 million individuals who made a record 2.5 million donations.” That number broke the 2011 record set by President Obama’s reelection committee by 300,000 donations, and evidence suggests Sanders’s individual contributors aren’t faintly tapped out. After recent attacks on his single-payer healthcare plan by the Clinton camp, he raised $1.4 million in a single day.
It would, of course, be an irony of ironies if what has been a billionaire’s playground since the Citizens United decision became, in November, a billionaire’s graveyard with literally billions of plutocratic dollars interred in a grave marked: here lies campaign 2016.
The Media and Debates
And talking about billions, in some sense the true political and financial playground of this era has clearly become the television set with a record $6 billion in political ads slated to flood America’s screen lives before next November 8th. Add to that the staggering rates that media companies have been getting for ad slots on TV’s latest reality extravaganza -- those “debates” that began in mid-2015 and look as if they’ll never end. They have sometimes pulled in National Football League-sized audiences and represent an entertainment and profit spectacle of the highest order.
So here’s a little rundown on those debates thus far, winners and losers (and I’m not even thinking of the candidates, though Donald Trump would obviously lead the list of winners so far -- just ask him).  In those ratings extravaganzas, especially the Republican ones, the lack of media questions on campaign finance reform and on the influence of billionaires is striking -- and little wonder, under the money-making circumstances.
The GOP Show
The kick-off August 6th GOP debate in Cleveland, Ohio, was a Fox News triumph. Bringing in 24 million viewers, it was the highest-rated primary debate in TV history. The follow-up at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, on September 16th, hosted by CNN and Salem Radio, grabbed another 23.1 million viewers, making it the most-watched program in CNN's history.  (Trump naturally took credit for that.)  CNN charged up to $200,000 for a 30-second spot.  (An average prime-time spot on CNN usually goes for $5,000.) The third debate, hosted by CNBC, attracted 14 million viewers, a record for CNBC, which was by then charging advertisers $250,000 or more for 30-second spots.
Fox Business News and the Wall Street Journal hosted the next round on November 10th:13.5 million viewers and (ho-hum) a Fox Business News record. For that one, $175,000bought you a 30-second commercial slot.
The fifth and final debate of 2015 on December 15th in Las Vegas, again hosted by CNN and Salem Radio, lassoed 18 million viewers. As 2016 started, debate fatigue finally seemed to be setting in. The first debate on January 14th in North Charleston, South Carolina, scored a mere 11 million viewers for Fox Business News. When it came to the second debate (and the last before the Iowa caucuses) on January 28th, The Donald decided not to grace it with his presence because he didn't think Fox News had treated him nicely enough and because he loathes its host Megyn Kelly.
The Democratic Debates
Relative to the GOP debate ad-money mania, CNN charged a bargain half-off, or $100,000, for a 30-second ad during one of the Democratic debates. Let’s face it, lacking a reality TV star at center stage, the Democrats and associated advertisers generally fared less well. Their first debate on October 13th in Las Vegas, hosted by CNN and Facebook, averaged a respectable 15.3 million viewers, but the next one in Des Moines, Iowa, overseen by CBS and the Des Moines Register, sank to just 8.6 million viewers. Debate number three in Manchester, New Hampshire, hosted by ABC and WMUR, was rumored to have been buried by the Democratic National Committee (evidently trying to do Hillary a favor) on the Saturday night before Christmas. Not surprisingly, it brought in only 7.85 million viewers.
The fourth Democratic debate on NBC on January 17th (streamed live on YouTube) featured the intensifying battle between an energized Bernie and a spooked Hillary.  It garnered 10.2 million TV viewers and another 2.3 million YouTube viewers, even though it, too, had been buried -- on the Sunday night before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In comparison, 60 Minutes on rival network CBS nabbed 20.3 million viewers.
The Upshot
So what gives? In this election season, it’s clear that these skirmishes involving the ultra-wealthy and their piles of cash are transforming modern American politics into a form of theater. And the correlation between big money and big drama seems destined only to rise.  The media needs to fill its coffers between now and election day and the competition among billionaires has something of a horse-betting quality to it.  Once upon a time, candidates drummed up interest in their policies; now, their policies, such as they are, have been condensed into so many buzzwords and phrases, while money and glitz are the main currencies attracting attention.
That said, it could all go awry for the money-class and wouldn’t that just be satisfying to witness -- the irony of an election won not by, but despite, all those billionaires and corporate patrons.
Will Bernie’s citizens beat Hillary’s billionaires? Will Trump go billion to billion with fellow New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg? Will Cruz’s prayers be answered? Will Rubio score a 12th round knockout of Cruz and Trump? Does Jeb Bush even exist? And to bring up a question few are likely to ask: What do the American people and our former democratic republic stand to lose (or gain) from this spectacle? All this and more (and more and more money) will be revealed later this year.
Nomi Prins
Nomi Prins, a former investment banker at Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, is a senior fellow at the public policy organization Demos and the author of "Other People's Money: The Corporate Mugging of America."