The 44-year-old Texas senator, who bears an unpleasant resemblance, in his bullying style and perpetual sneer, to the late Senator Joe McCarthy, is almost unknown to the public. He has little support even among likely Republican primary voters, where he polls in the low single digits.
Nonetheless, his campaign launch was given massive and respectful media publicity and presented as the beginning of the official presidential campaign. Several other Republican hopefuls are expected to announce their candidates in the next month, including Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
These announcements are part of the process in which an array of reactionaries, self-promoters and semi-fascists are put through their paces by the American financial elite in order to select the Republican nominee for president, one of two tested defenders of big business who will represent the “choice” given to the American people in the 2016 elections.
For the Democrats, the presumptive front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is also reported to be planning an April campaign launch.
The spring timetable for the formal announcements is driven by the requirements of fundraising, since any viable candidate–from the standpoint of the two-party system–must accumulate a war chest of at least $25 million in the year before the election. For Clinton, Bush and Walker, the presumptive candidates most favored by the multi-millionaires, that sum will be raised quickly. For long shots like Cruz, fundraising is the first “primary”–the first and most important test of their ability to sustain a campaign past the first contests in Iowa and New Hampshire next March.
Cruz is a first-term senator, elected in 2012 as a Tea Party candidate, having defeated an establishment Republican for the party’s nomination in Texas. His embrace of right-wing populism is an awkward fit for his biography as a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School who has worked as a government lawyer his entire life. Similarly, his denunciations of the Wall Street bailouts sound hollow given his marriage to a managing director at Goldman Sachs, one of the principal recipients of Treasury cash.
Once in the US Senate, Cruz gained national notoriety for precipitating the 2013 partial shutdown of the federal government in a quixotic effort to force the Obama administration to abandon its health care overhaul.
As the son of a Cuban exile turned evangelical minister, Cruz combines bellicose defense of American imperialism with appeals to fundamentalist religious sentiments. His main function in the race is to act as a right-wing anchor for the entire field, staking out positions that will drag both the Republican candidates and their Democratic counterparts further to the right.
Among his more bizarre stances is an insistence, as chairman of the Senate committee controlling the budget of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, that NASA focus its resources on non-Earth projects, abandoning programs that study the Earth from space. Such studies have tended to reinforce the warnings of climate scientists about the dangers of global warming. Like many right-wing Republicans, Cruz denies global warming, and portrays the scientific evidence as the product of a conspiracy to increase government regulation of industries such as oil, coal and electricity generation.
BP is a British global energy company that is also the third largest global energy company and the 4th largest company in the world. As a multinational oil company (“oil major”) BP is the UK’s largest corporation, with its headquarters in St James’s, City of Westminster, London. BP America’s headquarters is in the Two Westlake Park in the Energy Corridor area of Houston.
The company is among the largest private sector energy corporations in the world, and one of the six “supermajors” (vertically integrated private sector oil exploration, natural gas, and petroleum product marketing companies). The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
The company has been convicted of two felonies for environmental crimes, including one felony for which BP pleaded guilty in connection with the Texas City refinery explosion in 2005 that caused 15 deaths, injured 180 people, and forced thousands of nearby residents to remain sheltered in their homes.
On 20 April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in excess of 200,000 gallons of oil (approx. 5,000 barrels) leaking every single day after a blow-out preventer designed to stop oil from flowing out during an emergency failed to activate. The spill was expected to continue until the blow-out preventer could be activated or another containment method implemented. Though 115 workers were evacuated from the site, eleven missing workers were presumed dead. On 28 April 2010, the US Coast Guard set fire to some sequestered portions of oil which had leaked from the uncapped well located five thousand feet below the Gulf of Mexico.
Climate-sceptic US senator given funds by BP political action committee
Sen Jim Inhofe, who opposes climate change regulation, has received $10,000 from PAC funded by donations from US staff at oil group
Sunday 22 March 2015 17.14 GMT
One of America’s most powerful and outspoken opponents of climate change regulation received election campaign contributions that can be traced back to senior BP staff, including chief executive Bob Dudley.
Following his re-election, Inhofe became chair of the Senate’s environment and public works committee in January, and then a month later featured in news bulletins throwing a snowball across the Senate floor.
Before tossing it, the senator said: “In case we have forgotten – because we keep hearing that 2014 is the warmest year on record – it is very, very cold outside. Very unseasonal.”
The BP PAC is funded by contributions from senior US executives and company staffers who sent in contributions to the PAC totalling more than $1m between 2010 and 2014. Over the same period the committee paid out $655,000 to candidates, with more than 40 incumbent senators benefiting.
Dudley has personally given $19,000 since June 2011 to the BP PAC – very close to the $5,000-a-year maximum allowable by law. Although Dudley is resident in Britain, he is eligible to give via the BP PAC because he is a US national.
Yet, BP and Dudley have long called for world leaders to intervene and impose tough regulatory measures on the fossil fuel industry. Publishing its 98-page research paper, Energy Outlook 2035, last month, BP warned: “To abate carbon emissions further will require additional significant steps by policymakers beyond the steps already assumed.”
While the sums channelled to Inhofe’s campaign represent only a small proportion of the BP PAC’s election spending and the senator’s own campaign funds, they show how unafraid the committee has been to spread its donations to the most controversial candidates. According to the BP PAC website, it financially supports election candidates “whose views and/or voting records reflect the interests of BP employees”.
Records suggest Inhofe’s 2014 campaign was a funding priority for the BP PAC, ranking as one of the top recipients of committee funds when compared with disbursements to other serving senators.
This was despite Inhofe’s senate battle not being a close one. His opponent, Matt Silverstein, who Inhofe beat comfortably in last November’s midterms, had a tiny campaign war chest by comparison.
BP was asked whether it was appropriate for the PAC to make campaign contributions to such a vocal opponent of action on climate change, or for Dudley to be contributing towards such payments.
In a statement BP replied: “Voluntary donations [by staff] to the BP employees’ political action committee in the US are used to support a variety of candidates across the political spectrum and in many US geographies where we operate.
“These candidates have one thing in common: they are important advocates for the energy industry in the broadest sense.”
The company declined to comment on Dudley’s own donations.
PACs exist in the US where companies and trade unions cannot give directly to the campaigns of those running for office. Instead funds are pooled from staff – often senior executives – into a PAC, and disbursed by a committee board, often in a manner sympathetic to the company’s lobby and other interests.
But Tillerson and other peers have not been as outspoken as BP and Dudley in calling for state intervention to tackle climate change, making the BP boss’s links to Inhofe campaign finance more controversial.
Last week Obama said it was “disturbing” that Inhofe had been made chair of the senate environment committee. In broader criticism of unnamed political opponents, he then went on to say: “In some cases you have elected officials who are shills for the oil companies or the fossil fuel industry. And there is a lot of money involved.”
Inhofe is unabashed about election campaign financing he receives from the industry. In his 2012 book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, he wrote: “Whenever the media asked me how much I have received in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, my unapologetic answer was ‘not enough’.”
According to data compiled from public filings by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), Inhofe’s campaign raised $4.84m between 2009 and 2014, with $1.77m coming from PACs, many of them sponsored by fossil fuel companies.
BP’s PAC was more active in the US 2014 election cycle than any other for more than a decade. Despite insisting it is non-partisan, 69% of contributions to federal election candidates in recent years have been to Republican politicians. This is a stronger bias than most other corporate PACs, according to the CRP.
There are, however, other leading recipients who have attracted criticism from climate change campaigners, including Republican House speaker John Boehner and fellow Republican, Sen Mike Enzi from Wyoming.
When asked his views on climate change in January, Boehner said: “We’ve had changes in our climate, although scientists debate the sources, in their opinion, of that change. But I think the real question is that every proposal out of this administration with regard to climate change means killing American jobs.”
“I don’t see [Obama] as trying to control pollution. I see him trying to put business out of business,” Enzi said last year.
Campaign contributions is just one aspect of US political engagement linked to BP and its staff. Filings show the oil and gas group spends millions on lobbying efforts.
The CRP classifies BP as a “heavy hitter”, ranking it among the top 140 biggest overall donors to federal elections since 1988. Its PAC ranks as the six largest such body with a sponsor company that is ultimately part of a non-US multinational.
Those on the PAC board, deciding how to spend staff donations, are senior executives and lawyers at the company. The board’s vice-chair is Bob Stout, BP’s Washington-based head of regulatory affairs, who also sits on the group’s global policy making body. Dudley does not sit on the PAC board.
According to its website, the PAC makes donations to “candidates who support the principles of free enterprise and good government, support a fair and reasonable business environment for the energy industry and share our philosophy that energy diversity advances energy security.” It says staff contributions are encouraged but stresses they are voluntary.
The first BP PAC contribution to Inhofe’s 2014 campaign was a given on 12 March 2012. This $1,000 donation came just two weeks after the publication of Inhofe’s book The Greatest Hoax, cementing his credentials as the most outspoken denier of climate change in US politics.
Publicising the book, the senator gave a radio interview on Voice of Christian Youth America. “God is still up there,” he said. “The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what he is doing in the climate to me is outrageous.”
“I’m sure this will be greatly misquoted,” Jones told the AP. “But it would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel’s day against murder and rape and homosexuality. I guarantee it would solve the problem post-haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands.”
Over the weekend, Jones shocked activists by finally apologizing for the comments.
“I take personal ownership of this inflammatory rhetoric. This reckless statement was made in the heat of a political controversy 35 years ago,” Jones said in a statement. “Upon now reading these long-forgotten words, they seem to me as words belonging to a total stranger—were my name not attached.”
“I cannot erase them, but wish I could, because they do not represent the belief of my heart or the content of my preaching. Neither before, nor since, that event in 1980 have I ever advocated the stoning of sinners,” he added.
BJ Unity Executive Director Jeffrey Hoffman told WSPA that the apology was shocking.
“It is never too late to say you’re sorry,” Hoffman said. “Most people are just shocked. We never expected to see an apology.”
“It’s been the Gays versus the Christians, which ignores and erases a large number of Gay Christians who live in the upstate of South Carolina,” Hoffman explained. “We think that this is the time to start to talk about how to make Bob Jones University safer for its LGBT students.”
More than a thousand people packed a Clayton, Missouri church on Tuesday morning to say goodbye to Tom Schweich. The State Auditor fatally shot himself last Thursday in what police said was an apparent suicide. KRCG 13’s Mark Slavit reports Schweich’s funeral had a controversial eulogy.
The suicide last week of Tom Schweich, a Missouri auditor and candidate for governor, sent the state’s political scene into a tailspin. Now, the chair of the Missouri Republican party is accused of leading an anti-Semitic smear campaign that contributed to Schweich’s decision to take his own life.
U.S. Senator John C. Danforth, for whom Schweich served as chief-of-staff earlier in his career, delivered the eulogy at his colleague’s funeral early this week. In his remarks, Danforth spoke openly of his “overwhelming anger that politics has gone so hideously wrong, and that the death of Tom Schweich is the natural consequence of what politics has become.”
It was a pointed criticism of the ugly tone the GOP primary race for governor had taken in recent weeks. A group called Citizens For Fairness, a backer of Schweich’s opponent Catherine Hanaway, aired a radio ad that took personal jabs at Sweich’s appearance. “Is he a weak candidate for governor?” a voiceover in the ad asked rhetorically. “Absolutely. Just look at him. He could be easily confused for the deputy sheriff of Mayberry.”
But friends and colleagues say Schweich was most troubled by rumors being spread by John Hancock, chair of the Missouri Republican party, that Schweich was Jewish. According to Schweich, Hancock was hoping to exploit anti-Semitic sentiments among donors. Hancock has since denied the allegations, although he recently wrote that “it is possible that [he] mentioned Tom’s faith in passing.”
“There was absolutely nothing malicious about my intent, and I certainly was not attempting to ‘inject religion’ into the governor’s race, as some have suggested.”
Schweich, whose grandfather was Jewish, was a practicing Episcopalian. In a conversation with an editor from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the days just before his suicide, Schweich reportedly said he was “very proud of his connection to the Jewish faith.”
For his part, Danforth made clear that he rejects Hancock’s claims of innocence. At one point in Schweich’s eulogy, he described the aforementioned radio ad as “bullying.” He added: “And there is one word to describe the person behind it: ‘bully.’”
“Tom called this anti-Semitism, and of course it was. The only reason for going around saying that someone is Jewish is to make political profit from religious bigotry. Someone said this was no different than saying a person is a Presbyterian. Here’s how to test the credibility of that remark: When was the last time anyone sidled up to you and whispered into your ear that such and such a person is a Presbyterian?
“Words do hurt. Words can kill. That has been proven right here in our home state.”
For the full text of Danforth’s eulogy, click here.
Tom Schweich, Missouri Auditor And Gubernatorial Candidate, Dead At Age 54
Schweich attended Yale University and then Harvard Law School, made his political debut in 2009. He had initially considered running for the seat being vacated in 2010 by Republican U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, and he had the encouragement of his mentor, former U.S. Sen. John Danforth. But Schweich defered to Rep. Roy Blunt to avoid a divisive GOP Senate primary and instead challenged and defeated Democratic State Auditor Susan Montee in the 2010 election.
Schweich spent last weekend wooing fellow Republicans during the state GOP’s annual conference in Kansas City. He spoke energetically, frequently touting his work rooting out government waste and corruption as auditor.
But he also emphasized charity, citing his Christian beliefs as a source of compassion and promising to cut back on government spending and misuse without hurting the poor.
“Part of being a Christian is you gotta help people,” Schweich said while speaking to about a dozen members of the Missouri Republican Assembly on Saturday, his wife watching from the back of a small conference room in the Kansas City Marriott Downtown.
Later that day he scooped dollops of ice cream for supporters until his hands hurt.
Schweich was Danforth’s chief of staff for the 1999 federal investigation into the deadly government siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, and followed Danforth to the United Nations, where he was chief of staff for the U.S. delegation.
Missouri Republican candidate, apparent target of anti-Semitic comments, commits suicide
28 February 2015
Missouri’s state auditor Tom Schweich died Thursday from a single gunshot to the head in what police are ruling an “apparent suicide.” According to a spokesperson for Schweich, he had been preparing to go public with allegations of anti-Semitism against state Republican Party Chairman, John Hancock.
Schweich, a practicing Episcopalian with a Jewish grandfather, had announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor of Missouri in the 2016 elections. Hancock, who is alleged to have made disparaging remarks about Schweich’s faith and ethnicity in private discussions, had worked as a consultant for rival Republican gubernatorial candidate, Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway.
Hancock denied the claims, stating that, “I don’t have a specific recollection of having said that,” while adding that it was “plausible that I would have told somebody that Tom was Jewish, because I thought he was, but I wouldn’t have said it in a derogatory or demeaning fashion.”
According to Tony Messenger, the editorial page editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Schweich had contacted him personally the morning of his death, requesting reporters be sent to his residence for a videotaped interview on the matter. Messenger said in a public letter that Schweich had been experiencing “significant angst” in the days prior to the suicide, and that “he had heard from campaign donors that while political consultant John Hancock was doing work for gubernatorial candidate Catherine Hanaway, he would mention in passing that Mr. Schweich was Jewish.” Messenger stated that Schweich had said he had a number of donors who would go on record to support the allegations.
A series of phone calls on the day of his death suggest that Schweich was undergoing some sort of crisis or breakdown. He called first the AP, then the Post-Dispatch, setting up appointments for interviews on the charge of anti-Semitism, but shot himself a few minutes later.
Whatever the circumstances that precipitated the fatal events, Schweich had held a series of responsible, high-stress positions in the federal government, beginning with a 1999 appointment as chief of staff for former US Senator John Danforth, who headed the federal probe into the FBI’s actions at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
He worked as chief of staff to the US ambassador to the United Nations for three years, serving three successive ambassadors—Danforth, then Anne Patteron, then John Bolton. He was also principal deputy secretary of state in the administration of President George W. Bush, responsible for international law enforcement, with a particular focus on illegal drug trafficking in Afghanistan under the US occupation.
That such an individual could be driven to suicide—if indeed that is what happened—speaks volumes about the toxic political environment in the American political establishment, and particularly in the fever swamps of the Republican Party’s right-wing.
The official withdrawal of Mitt Romney from the race for the Republican presidential nomination, only three weeks after he indicated interest in a third presidential campaign, means that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is likely to enjoy a huge financial edge over potential challengers for the nomination.
The Journal lashed the prospect of another Romney candidacy in a harshly worded editorial that began, “If Mitt Romney is the answer, what is the question?” Congressional Republicans were also distinctly negative about a possible Romney candidacy.
Pressure from the as yet undeclared Jeb Bush campaign was reportedly a major factor in both Romney’s decision and the timing of the announcement, more than a year before the first actual contest of the nomination campaign. Dozens of Republican Party operatives and fundraisers, including Romney’s own Iowa caucus coordinator, had aligned themselves with Bush.
Romney and Bush had a face-to-face meeting January 22 at a Romney vacation home in Utah, although it is not known what role that may have played in the decision to pull out.
The Washington Post described three weeks of phone calls by Romney and top aides with Republican money men: “Romney was warned this month that, unless he acted to show interest in another campaign, there could be little left of the financial and political network that carried him to the nomination in 2012.”
After the Romney announcement, Brian Ballard, a Romney fundraiser in 2012 who is now attached to the Bush campaign, gloated to the Post, “It’s a great day for Jeb Bush. I think Jeb had 75 percent of the money folks here. This brings in the other 25 percent.”
It is, indeed, the “money folks” who control the Republican Party, just as they do the Democratic Party. The sentiments of working people—who for the most part would prefer a close encounter with the Ebola virus to a third Bush in the White House—count for nothing in this process.
Romney’s announcement of non-candidacy included an endorsement of “our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started.” The language was a clear slap at Jeb Bush.
This was followed by a Romney dinner engagement with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a potential challenger to Bush, although spokesmen for both Romney and Christie said the meeting was a previously planned social event and not an endorsement.
Christie is expected to be Bush’s main rival for Republican establishment fundraisers, but the New Jersey governor is hampered by state and federal laws that bar direct solicitation of contributions from Wall Street firms that handle the state’s huge bond business.
The Times noted Sunday that Christie and Bush had “plunged into all-out battle this weekend for the biggest unclaimed prize in American politics and the decisive advantage that could go with it: the billion-dollar donor network once harnessed by Mitt Romney.”
The newspaper cited “hundreds of phone calls” being placed to generate the $50 million to $100 million war chest each candidate must assemble just to be judged a “credible” candidate by corporate America. Other candidates were seeking to exploit the opening left by Romney’s withdrawal, including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walkerand Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Besides Bush, Walker received the biggest boost from the media in the wake of Romney’s withdrawal, with favorable reports on his standing in Iowa, the first contest in the 2016 campaign. A Des Moines Register poll found him leading a thoroughly splintered Republican field, with 15 percent, followed by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul at 14 percent, Romney at 13 percent. Jeb Bush placed only sixth, with eight percent.
TRAIL TO THE CHIEF: MITT, WE TOTALLY KNEW YE “The idea, then as now, is that what Campaign World thinks and says [about 2016] is relevant, sort of. We need to cover it. At least in a goofy chart.” And are you on Yo? We are. We’ll Yo you whenever we get word of an official campaign announcement, so you’ll be the first to know when a candidate has joined the horse race. Like, for real. [HuffPost]
Did Jeb Bush Just Take A Dig At Ferguson Protesters? Here.
Jeb Bush Exposed Part 2 – He Thinks Unconstitutional NSA Spying is “Hugely Important”: here.
CPAC CONSERVATIVES: NOT ANOTHER BUSH “When he speaks here Friday, Jeb Bush isn’t likely to win over many hearts and minds at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of activists and party leaders near Washington. Establishment Republicans like the former governor of Florida rarely do so at an event dominated by a young, libertarian wing of the party.” [Igor Bobic and Christina Wilkie, HuffPost]
GARY HART: THE MONEY PRIMARY “The first presidential primary is underway, not simply because the political press cannot wait but because he or she who signs up the most megabucks wins that primary and is well on the way to a nomination. Step right up and participate–that is if you can write a very large check.” [HuffPost]