« Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be in New York City to deliver a major speech about our need to create a financial system that works for all Americans, not just the few »: Bernie Sanders.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
“I like to give on a scale where I can see impact…” – David Koch
Earlier this year, a number of Republicans flew to California to make fundraising pitches to more than four hundred wealthy conservative donors attending a private conference hosted by the Koch brothers.
It’s worth taking a moment to ask the question, who are the Koch brothers, and what do they want?
The Koch brothers are the second-wealthiest family in America worth $82 billion. For the Koch brothers, $82 billion in wealth apparently is not good enough. Owning the second-largest private company in America is apparently not good enough. It doesn’t appear that they will be satisfied until they are able to control the entire political process.
This issue isn’t personal for me. I don’t know the Koch brothers, but I do know this. They have advocated for destroying the federal programs that are critical to the financial and personal health of middle class Americans.
Now, most Americans know that the Koch brothers are the primary source of funding for the Tea Party, and that’s fine. They know that they favor the outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and that’s their opinion. It’s wrong, but that’s fine as well.
But it is not widely known that David Koch once ran for Vice President of the United States of America on the Libertarian Party ticket because he believed Ronald Reagan was much too liberal. And he ran on a platform that included the following:
- “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt and increasingly oppressive Social Security system.”
- “We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
- “We support repeal of all laws which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws…”
- “We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”
In 1980, David Koch’s presidential ticket received one percent of the vote from the American people. And rightly so. His views were so extreme they were rejected completely out of hand by the American people.
But fast forward almost thirty-six years, and one of the most significant realities of modern politics is just how successful David Koch and the like-minded billionaires attending his retreat have been at moving the Republican Party to the extreme right. The ideas above that were dismissed as downright crazy in 1980 are now part of today’s mainstream Republican thinking.
The Koch brothers, and billionaires like them, have bought up the private sector and now they’re buying up the government. It’s up to us to put a stop to them, but it will require all of us standing together with one voice on this issue.
Here’s the truth: The economic and political systems of this country are stacked against ordinary Americans. The rich get richer and use their wealth to buy elections, and I believe that we cannot change this corrupt system by taking its money. If we’re serious about creating jobs, health care for all, climate change, and the needs of our children and the elderly, we must be serious about campaign finance reform.
So far in this election, less than four hundred families have contributed the majority of all the money raised by all the candidates and super PACs combined. According to media reports, one family will spend more money in this election than either the Democratic or Republican Parties.
This is not democracy. This is oligarchy.
Our job is not to think small in this moment. The current system of campaign finance in this country is utterly corrupt. That is one of the reasons I am so proud of how we have funded our campaign — over 2.5 million contributions from working Americans giving less than $30 at a time. But our campaign is unique.
We must pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and I will not nominate any justice to the Supreme Court who does not make it abundantly clear that she or he will overturn that decision. We need legislation that requires wealthy individuals and corporations who make large campaign contributions to disclose where their money is going. And more importantly, I believe we need to move towards the public funding of elections.
Our vision for American democracy should be a nation in which all people, regardless of their income, can participate in the political process, can run for office without begging for contributions from the wealthy and the powerful.
Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be in New York City to deliver a major speech about our need to create a financial system that works for all Americans, not just the few. I’ll be in touch shortly after. I hope that you’ll keep an eye on your inbox for my message.
The proposition asks voters whether there should be a federal constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC, which permitted unlimited corporate and union spending for federal candidates. (Los Angeles Times. )
Petition to President Obama:
« Require new administration officials coming from the financial industry to forego compensation offered by their former employers in exchange for their decisions to enter into public service. »
Sen. Elizabeth Warren calls golden parachutes for Wall Street executives who enter public service “paying people off to remember their Wall Street friends while they run our government” – and it is a huge problem in the Obama administration.1
When Treasury Secretary Jack Lew left Citigroup for the Obama administration in 2009, his contract with the megabank guaranteed him a $1 million bonus for entering government.2 Banker Antonio Weiss withdrew from consideration for one Treasury Department job under pressure from CREDO members after it came out that he would receive a $21 million bonus.3 The list of former Wall Street executives in high-ranking administration positions goes on and on.
President Obama does not need to wait on Congress to pass legislation cracking down on the revolving door. He can set a precedent for his successor – and shore up his own leaky legacy on Wall Street – by demanding that any new administration officials for the rest of his term give up any sort of bonus from the financial industry.
Almost 114,000 CREDO members have called on Congress to pass Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Elijah Cummings’ “Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act” which would make golden parachutes for government service illegal under federal bribery laws.4 Three Democratic presidential candidates – Sec. Clinton, Sen. Sanders, and Gov. O’Malley – have endorsed the bill.5 Even the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board believes the practice should be outlawed.6
President Obama knows he does not need to wait on Congress to pass the Baldwin-Cummings bill – because he has asked officials to refuse bonuses in the past. In 2009, at the height of voter anger over Wall Street fraud and the bailouts, the White House encouraged officials joining the administration from big banks to forego any bonuses.7
Right now, there are open seats on the Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and at other crucial agencies that serve as watchdogs to protect Americans from the financial industry. We can’t let the administration fill these spots with bankers receiving massive bonuses, and blame Congress. On issue after issue, President Obama has declared, “If Congress won’t act, I will.”8 It is up to us to hold him to his word.
All over the government, former Wall Street employees fill important positions, bringing with them a biased worldview and the ability for their former co-workers to influence them with a well-placed phone call. Countless more treat Wall Street with kid gloves to preserve the possibility of cashing in on a job in the future, or leave government and use their connections and expertise on behalf of their new employees.9
The head of the Treasury Department and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative are both former Citigroup employees.10 Securities and Exchange Chair Mary Jo White’s new chief of staff is a former Goldman Sachs lawyer.11 Attorney General Eric Holder just recently returned to his old corporate law firm under a cloud of questions about the firm holding an office for him before he left the government.12 The list could go on and on.
It is long past time to crack down on the legalized bribery of golden parachutes. We need to raise our voices and demand that President Obama act. Tell President Obama: Ban golden parachutes for Wall Street executives for the rest of your term. Click here to sign the petition:
Thank you for speaking out,
Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Add your name:
- Jenna McLaughlin, “Elizabeth Warren Pushes To Slow Revolving Door Between Business and Government,” The Intercept, July 17, 2015.
- Lee Fang, “The Reverse Revolving Door: How Corporate Insiders Are Rewarded Upon Leaving Firms for Congress,” The Nation, May 4, 2013.
- Chris Frates, “Want $20 million to work for the government? Just quit a Wall Street job first,” CNN.com, December 4, 2014.
- “Tell Congress: Fight the Wall Street revolving door,” CREDO Action.
- Jonathan Allen, “Hillary Clinton supports ban on ‘revolving door’ corporate bonuses,” Reuters, August 31, 2015.
- “Jack Lew’s Golden Parachute,” Wall Street Journal Review & Outlook, February 26, 2013.
- Monica Langley, “Obama Dials Down Wall Street Criticism,” Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2009.
- Josh Marks, “Obama: If Congress Doesn’t Act on Climate Change, ‘I Will’,” The National Memo, February 13, 2013.
- Jessica Schieder, “Throwing a Wrench in the Revolving Door,” Center for Effective Goverment, July 24, 2015.
- Lisa Gilbert, “Reforming the financial services revolving door,” The Hill, July 15, 2015.
- David Michaels, “Goldman’s Donohue to Become SEC Chair White’s Chief of Staff,” Bloomberg, May 28, 2015.
- David Dayen, “Why Eric Holder’s new job is an insult to the American public,” Slate.com, July 7, 2015.