Category Archives: Lobbyists

How Corporate Dark Money Is Taking Power on Both Sides of the Atlantic

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Corporate Dark MoneyIt took corporate America a while to warm to Donald Trump. Some of his positions, especially on trade, horrified business leaders. Many of them favoured Ted Cruz or Scott Walker. But once Trump had secured the nomination, the big money began to recognise an unprecedented opportunity.

Trump was prepared not only to promote the cause of corporations in government, but to turn government into a kind of corporation, staffed and run by executives and lobbyists. His incoherence was not a liability, but an opening: his agenda could be shaped. And the dark money network already developed by some American corporations was perfectly positioned to shape it. Dark money is the term used in the US for the funding of organisations involved in political advocacy that are not obliged to disclose where the money comes from. Few people would see a tobacco company as a credible source on public health, or a coal company as a neutral commentator on climate change. In order to advance their political interests, such companies must pay others to speak on their behalf.

Soon after the second world war, some of America’s richest people began setting up a network of thinktanks to promote their interests. These purport to offer dispassionate opinions on public affairs. But they are more like corporate lobbyists, working on behalf of those who fund them.

We have no hope of understanding what is coming until we understand how the dark money network operates.

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Trump’s Great Gatsby Government Will Be a Gift to the Rich

Nomi Prins writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Trump's Great Gatsby government[…] Despite all his populist slogans, Trump was born with a golden spoon in his mouth. He understands having money because he never had to understand not having money. He understands bending the rules because he’s made money doing that. He became president doing that. He boasted about it during the election.

He gravitates to people similar to him, billionaires and up and coming millionaires. His cabinet choices are pedigreed and skilled at using the government to their profit advantage. We are supposed to believe that because they know how that game is played, that as public officials they will divert those talents on our behalf. The only fly in that ointment is that they have no reason to do so.

We have Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary nominee, whose hedge fund took over a California bank in 2009 on the cheap, got the government to back the risk of the deal and proceeded to foreclose on 36,000 homes between 2009-2015, reaping a profit for him and his group of around $1.5bn. He’s not going to regulate the industry that handed him that windfall. Then, there’s Commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross who made billions taking over flailing steel and other industrial companies, pushing costs like pension payments onto the government and firing people in the process. He’s not about to advocate for unions or higher minimum wages or equal pay for women in the workplace.

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Hillary Clinton’s “Corrupt Establishment” Is Now Advising Donald Trump

Zaid Jilani writes for The Intercept:

“The Establishment,” Donald Trump famously said during his closing argument for the presidency, “has trillions of dollars at stake in this election.”

He described “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”

He asked the country to be “brave enough to vote out this corrupt establishment.”

Now, four weeks after riding that line to victory, he formally invited the establishment into his administration.

Last Friday, Trump announced the creation of a “Strategic and Policy Forum” that will serve to advise him on domestic economic matters. The list of advisers is a who’s-who of corporate elites.

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Supporters Don’t Really Care If Trump Drains The Swamp

Vera Bergengruen reports for McClatchy:

Image result for drain the swampAs a candidate, Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Now that he’s been elected and is embracing part of that very establishment, Democrats and many in the media are slamming him as a typical politician who abandoned a principle as soon as it suited him.

But when McClatchy checked in with several dozen voters in central Pennsylvania – one of the swing states that swung the White House to Trump – to see how they defined the swamp, most didn’t really care. Instead, they said it’s fine with them if he uses the expertise of a DC establishment of lobbyists, donors and special interests to to get his way – and their way.

“This is his thing. He is a successful businessman who hires people to get him . . . what he wants,” said Fred Harris, 42, who works at a gas station near Philipsburg, Pa. “If he has to use swamp people to make America great again, why not?”

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Frightened By Donald Trump? You Don’t Know The Half Of It

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Image result for trump swampYes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power. To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them.

Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.

I first encountered the machine when writing about climate change. The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies.

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Donald Trump Recruits Corporate Lobbyists to Select His Future Administration

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

Image result for Donald Trump Recruits Corporate Lobbyists to Select His Future AdministrationAs Donald Trump finishes his campaign with a promise to break the control of Washington by political insiders, his transition team is preparing to hand his administration over to a cozy clique of corporate lobbyists and Republican power brokers.

“Our movement is about replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you the American people,” Trump says in his closing campaign advertisement, followed by flashing images of K Street, Wall Street, and Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein.

But the Trump transition team is a who’s who of influence peddlers, including: energy adviser Michael Catanzaro, a lobbyist for Koch Industries and the Walt Disney Company; adviser Eric Ueland, a Senate Republican staffer who previously lobbied for Goldman Sachs; and Transition General Counsel William Palatucci, an attorney in New Jersey whose lobbying firm represents Aetna and Verizon. Rick Holt, Christine Ciccone, Rich Bagger, and Mike Ferguson are among the other corporate lobbyists helping to manage the transition effort.

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Would Wall Street Have a Place in a Clinton Administration?

Alec MacGillis writes for ProPublica:

On Oct. 29, 2013, Hillary Clinton joined Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, for a discussion at its Builders and Innovators Summit, at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain resort, near Tucson. During the discussion — one of more than 50 appearances for which Clinton received $225,000 since leaving the State Department — she lamented that the public’s wariness of Wall Street had made it difficult for top people in finance to move into government. For one thing, in order to avoid conflicts of interest, they often faced demands to relinquish financial holdings. “There is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives. You know, the divestment of assets, the stripping of all kinds of positions, the sale of stocks — it just becomes very onerous and unnecessary,” she said, according to a transcript released last month by WikiLeaks.

That is not the kind of thing that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, likes to hear. Warren supports Clinton, and has been one of her most effective advocates during the current campaign, but she has also made it clear that, if Clinton is elected, she will closely monitor the people she names to key posts. On Sept. 21, in a speech at the Center for American Progress, a left-of-center think tank based in Washington, Warren said, “Personnel is policy. When we talk about personnel, we don’t mean advisers who just pay lip service to Hillary’s bold agenda, coupled with a sigh, a knowing glance, and the twiddling of thumbs until it’s time for the next swing through the revolving door — serving government, then going back to the very same industries they regulate. We don’t mean Citigroup or Morgan Stanley or BlackRock getting to choose who runs the economy in this country so that they can capture our government.”

People with experience in business or finance are a necessity in Washington, but the specter of a privileged executive elite circulating in and out of government and the private sector — especially Wall Street — has shadowed the American political system for more than half a century. The financial industry still favors the Republican Party, but, since the 1990s, it has become more closely affiliated with the Democrats, and that has provoked a resurgent left, led by Warren and by Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont.

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The Empire Files: An Exposé of John Podesta

With the Wikileaks release of thousands of emails belonging to John Podesta, very little is known in US society about Podesta himself. While he’s maintained a low profile, John Podesta is actually considered one of Washington’s biggest players, and one of the most powerful corporate lobbyists in the world. In this episode, Abby Martin explores John Podesta’s political rise, his vast network of corporate connections and his think tank the Center for American Progress. Learn why the Podestas and the Clintons are a match made in ruling class heaven. (The Empire Files)

Leaked Hillary Clinton Emails: Could Bernie Sanders Have Won Primary If Leak Occurred Earlier?

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Lee Fang of the Intercept, who discusses Wikileaks releasing thousands of John Podesta’s emails, including excerpts of Hillary Clinton’s paid remarks to Wall Street firms. (Democracy Now!)

Leaked Documents Reveal Secretive Influence of Corporate Cash on Politics

Ed Pilkington reports for The Guardian:

The pervasive influence of corporate cash in the democratic process, and the extraordinary lengths to which politicians, lobbyists and even judges go to solicit money, are laid bare in sealed court documents leaked to the Guardian.

The John Doe files amount to 1,500 pages of largely unseen material gathered in evidence by prosecutors investigating alleged irregularities in political fundraising. Last year the Wisconsin supreme court ordered that all the documents should be destroyed, though a set survived that has now been obtained by the news organisation.

The files open a window on a world that is very rarely glimpsed by the public, in which millions of dollars are secretly donated by major corporations and super-wealthy individuals to third-party groups in an attempt to sway elections. They speak to a visceral theme of the 2016 presidential cycle: the distortion of American democracy by big business that has been slammed by both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

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TTIP May Be Dead, But Something Even Worse Is Coming

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Is it over? Can it be true? If so, it’s a victory for a campaign that once looked hopeless, pitched against a fortress of political, corporate and bureaucratic power.

TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – appears to be dead. The German economy minister, Sigmar Gabriel, says that “the talks with the United States have de facto failed”. The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, has announced “a clear halt”. Belgian and Austrian ministers have said the same thing. People power wins. For now.

But the lobbyists who demanded this charter for corporate rights never give up. TTIP has been booed off the stage but another treaty, whose probable impacts are almost identical, is waiting in the wings. And this one is more advanced, wanting only final approval. If this happens before Britain leaves the EU, we are likely to be stuck with it for 20 years.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) is ostensibly a deal between the EU and Canada. You might ask what harm Canada could do us. But it allows any corporation that operates there, wherever its headquarters might be, to sue governments before an international tribunal. It threatens to tear down laws protecting us from exploitation and prevent parliaments on both sides of the Atlantic from legislating.

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Who Paid for the Democratic and Republican Conventions?

Anthony L. Fisher reports for Reason:

Here’s one bright spot in a bleak election year: This summer’s Democratic and Republican conventions were not subsidized by taxpayers.

In 2012, the public contributions to those distinguished demonstrations of democracy—the shows where you could see Clint Eastwood hectoring an empty chair or a weepy video tribute to Ted Kennedy—ran upwards of $18.2 million each (not including the cost of security), according to a May 2016 report from the Congressional Research Service. But this year, for the first time since 1972, the parties and their host cities’ host committees were on the hook to raise all the money to stage their own four-day infomercials. Under the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, passed in 2014, funds that once went to subsidize political conventions have been diverted to pediatric health care research.

Supporters of convention subsidies argued—in the words of that Congressional Research Service report—that “conventions had a history of questionable fundraising and that eliminating public funding raised the prospects for real or apparent corruption.” Yet corporations have been openly sponsoring the conventions for years, even as public funds were also available. In that context, relying slightly more heavily on private financing seems a trivial concern.

A more substantial concern, at least for the Republicans, was certain corporations’ skittishness about having their brands associated with any event where Donald J. Trump was expected to receive a presidential nomination.

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Politics can’t heal until politicians stand clear of the revolving door

John Harris writes for The Guardian:

Populism is rampant. Donald Trump is a contender for the US presidency. Marine Le Pen fancies her chances in France. Across Europe and beyond there is a powerful sense of mainstream politics reaching a state of abject failure. These are volatile, dangerous times: what with all that shouting about greedy, cosseted elites, people close to the summit of power and influence surely ought to be very wary of playing to type.

But just look. This week the petition protesting at José Manuel Barroso, a former president of the European commission, taking a new job as a nonexecutive chairman and adviser to Goldman Sachs International surpassed 75,000 signatures. It is the work of employees of the EU, whose horror at Barroso’s move is captured in its preamble, and reference to the “European project’s deteriorating image among our families, friends and neighbours as well as the many citizens we encounter all over Europe”. They are aiming at 150,000 signatories, and want the appointment to be referred to the European court of justice, which could theoretically take away Barroso’s €100,000-a-year pension.

How much he’ll be paid is unclear. But in a role partly built around advice about the consequences of Brexit, Barroso will be working for the bank that played a key role in the US subprime crisis, and helped Greece mask its fatal debt problems. The whole spectacle suggests a man gleefully posing for his own caricature, and it is hardly unique: indeed, highlighting a revolving door that never stops turning, his predecessor at Goldman Sachs International was Ireland’s former EU commissioner Peter Sutherland.

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Google employees have enjoyed revolving door during Obama administration

Johnny Kampis reports for Watchdog.org:

Photo illustration from LinkedIn photosMore than 250 people have moved from Google and related firms to the federal government or vice versa since President Barack Obama took office.

The Google Transparency Project, the work of Campaign for Accountability, poured over reams of data to find 258 instances of “revolving door activity” between Google or its associated companies and the federal government, national political campaigns and Congress since 2009.

Much of that revolving door activity took place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where 22 former White House officials went to work for Google and 31 executives from Google and related firms went to work at the White House or were appointed to federal advisory boards by Obama. Those boards include the President’s Council on Science and Technology and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Regulation watchdogs may be just as keen about the moves between Google and the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission. Those government bodies regulate many of the programs that are at the heart of Google’s business, and there have been at least 15 moves between Google and its lobbying firms and those commissions.

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Hillary Clinton is demolishing Donald Trump among hedge-fund donors

John Carney and Anupreeta Das report for Market Watch:

Hedge funds are playing a far bigger role in 2016 than in past elections—and Hillary Clinton has been the single biggest beneficiary.

Owners and employees of hedge funds have made $122.7 million in campaign contributions this election cycle, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics—more than twice what they gave in the entire 2012 cycle and nearly 14% of total money donated from all sources so far.

The lines around what constitutes a hedge fund aren’t always clear in the data, or in the financial industry. But the numbers are stark. The top five contributors to pro-Clinton groups are employees or owners of private investment funds, according to federal data released last week and compiled by OpenSecrets.org, the center’s website. The data show seven financial firms alone have generated nearly $48.5 million for groups working on Clinton’s behalf.

The total for Donald Trump: About $19,000.

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After Lying Low, Deep-Pocketed Clinton Donors Return to the Fore

Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick report for The New York Times:

In a luxury suite high above the convention floor, some of the Democratic Party’s most generous patrons sipped cocktails and caught up with old friends, tuning out Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Monday as he bashed Wall Street in an arena named after one of the country’s largest banks.

On Tuesday, when Hillary Clinton became the first female nominee of a major party, a handful of drug companies and health insurers made sure to echo the theme, paying to sponsor an “Inspiring Women” panel featuring Democratic congresswomen.

And in the vaulted marble bar of the Ritz-Carlton downtown, wealthy givers congregated in force for cocktails and glad-handing as protesters thronged just outside to voice their unhappiness with Wall Street, big money in politics and Mrs. Clinton herself.

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The DNC Is One Big Corporate Bribe

David Dayen writes for New Republic:

[…] Party conventions have always been collection points for big money. But many major corporations sat out last week’s Republican gathering for fear of Trump contamination. There’s no such reticence here in Philadelphia; in fact, it feels like they’re making up for that lack of investment.

It’s hard to ferret out all the special interests at the DNC, because there’s no full public schedule. Invitations are doled out individually, and people whisper about this or that event. But enter any official hotel where a delegation is staying, or any Philadelphia landmark, and you’re likely to have a complimentary drink thrust into your hand.

As Politico’s Ben White reported on Monday, private equity firm Blackstone has a meet-and-greet on Thursday. Independence Blue Cross, the southeastern Pennsylvania arm of the large insurer, held a host-committee reception Tuesday; their chief executive is the finance chair of that host committee. The same day, Le Meridien hotel had a private event for Bloomberg LP, and the Logan Hotel hosted “Inspiring Women, a Luncheon Discussion.” The sponsors included Johnson & Johnson, Walgreens, AFLAC, the Financial Services Roundtable (the industry trade lobby), and New York Life. (How many people were they serving, given the number of corporations involved?)

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Revolving Doors Between Wall Street and Washington: Interview with Nomi Prins

Max Keiser talks to Nomi Prins, former banker and author of All the Presidents’ Bankers, about a solution to the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington D.C. They also discuss Hillary Clinton’s highly paid speeches to Goldman Sachs matter and whether or not Wall Street expects anything in return for its contributions to her campaign. (Keiser Report)

Bilderberg 2016: It’s Time To Take Seriously This Diplomatic Summit

Charlie Skelton writes for Transparency International UK:

Another year, another Bilderberg conference done and dusted. Henry Kissinger has left the building. The limousines, bodyguards and snipers have left, the snazzy Airbus bubble-tent has been deflated, but some tricky questions remain. Questions, primarily, for the politicians who attended.

A hefty bulge of transatlantic political muscle took part in the Dresden talks: two prime ministers, four foreign ministers, a vice-president of the European Commission and a US Senator. Not to mention the deputy PM of Turkey and three members of the German Cabinet. Across the three intense days of the summit a range of important policy areas were discussed – topics on the agenda included “Russia”, “cyber security” and “commodity prices”. Yet the Bilderberg group itself takes pain to stress that this corporate-funded policy summit is not a “formal” event, describing the conference as “an annual forum for informal discussions” and “a forum for informal discussions about megatrends”.

The chairman of the group’s steering committee, Henri de Castries (the head of AXA and a director of HSBC) used similar language in a recent interview with a local Dresden paper, calling it “an informal group”. Likewise, Kenneth Clarke, a long-time member of Bilderberg, described it to Parliament in 2013 as “an off-the-record, informal discussion”. Clarke made a special effort to stress its informality: “We all attend extremely informally; we are not there in any capacity.”

Now, we know for a fact this last claim isn’t wholly accurate. We knew this as far back as 2011 in St. Moritz, when the Treasury confirmed, in no uncertain terms, that “George Osborne is attending the Bilderberg conference in his official capacity as Chancellor of the Exchequer”. He was out there in Switzerland, we were told, with staff from the Treasury – although “probably not more than one”. At the time, the Bilderberg website was insisting: “Participants attend Bilderberg in a private and not an official capacity.” Which was straightforwardly untrue, and the claim was subsequently removed from the site.

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Bilderberg 2016: We Can Expect Desperate Lobbying Against Brexit From Big Business

Charlie Skelton writes for International Business Times:

BilderbergAs the EU referendum looms, a great counsel of war is gathering. Henri de Castries, the Chairman of the influential Bilderberg Group, has made his way to the highest hill above Dresden, placed a mighty conch shell to his aristocratic French lips and blown.

Responding to his call, 140 or so of the most powerful pro-European business leaders and politicians will be making their way to the five-star Hotel Taschenbergpalais to discuss the future of their beloved free trade zone.

The annual three-day Bilderberg conference kicks off on Thursday, and you can be sure the mood in Dresden will be a grim one. The heads of Google, Shell, BP and Deutsche Bank will be there, and Brexit will be top of the agenda. The Bilderberg Group has been nurturing the EU to life since the 1950s, and now they see their creation under dire threat.

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Lobbyists Are Behind the Rise in Corporate Profits

James Bessen writes for the Harvard Business Review:

W160518_BESSEN_WHATSDRIVING[…] In a new research paper, I tease apart the factors associated with the growth in corporate valuations relative to assets (Tobin’s Q) and the growth in operating margins. I account for the roles of R&D, spending on advertising and marketing, and on administrative costs, including IT. I also consider investments in lobbying, political campaign spending, and regulation; and I look for links between rising profits and industry concentration and stock volatility.

I find that investments in conventional capital assets like machinery and spending on R&D together account for a substantial part of the rise in valuations and profits, especially during the 1990s. However, since 2000, political activity and regulation account for a surprisingly large share of the increase.

Much of this result is driven by the role of regulation, so it is important to understand the link between regulation and profits. Lobbying and political campaign spending can result in favorable regulatory changes, and several studies find the returns to these investments can be quite large. For example, one study finds that for each dollar spent lobbying for a tax break, firms received returns in excess of $220.

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Better Regulation: Corporate-Friendly Deregulation in Disguise

Corporate Observatory Europe reports:

A deregulation agenda is sweeping through the European Commission and member states, particularly pushed by the United Kingdom. If you care about the environment, workers’ rights, or health and well-being you should be concerned about this agenda, because it is abolishing and weakening current rules and preventing new ones from being introduced. In EU circles it’s called ‘Better Regulation’, but in fact it’s rule-making at its worst, putting the interests of big business centre-stage, where those with the most lobby power have the biggest say. It featured in David Cameron’s negotiations with the EU in the context of the Brexit referendum, and with the prospect of TTIP, rules to protect the public interest will come under even further assault.

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The European’s Commission’s New Rules on Expert Groups: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Even Uglier

Corporate Observatory Europe reports:

After years of claiming there was no need, the Commission has finally reformed the horizontal rules that govern its advisory groups, formally called ‘Expert Groups’. There are two positive changes, relics from the last Commission, yet the reforms leave big business unchallenged in dominating the groups and therefore steering policy. Is this the end of Expert Group reform for another five years, or will the European Parliament have one last throw of the dice?

In between promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goals and opening the Progressive Economy Forum, Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, also managed to sneak out new rules on Commission advisory groups this Monday, replacing the 2010 rules. Formally called Expert Groups, they have been incredibly important in shaping legislation but frequently dominated by big business interests. The fight by ALTER-EU and CEO for new rules has spanned three different Commissions, with extensive collaboration between civil society and European parliamentarians – even seeing MEPs twice vote to freeze the Commission’s budget discharge over the issue. The European Ombudsman made it a priority when taking office, launching her first own initiative inquiry into the topic. Timmermans even had civil society groups into his office a month ago, and appeared to take concerns on board. Yet while there is certainly some good in there, the majority is either bad or plain ugly. The rules fall far short of what’s needed to protect policy making from corporate interests, and the chance of real change could be lost for another five years.

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Bilderberg 2016: The Elephant in the Lobby

Charlie Skelton writes for Transparency International UK:

On Thursday of next week, at a luxury hotel in central Dresden, the doors of the annual Bilderberg policy conference will be flung open. Not to members of the press, mind. In fact, perhaps “flung” is overstating it. Gingerly, behind a battalion of armed police, private security and secret service bodyguards, the hotel door will be cracked ajar, and in will slide a handpicked few of the most senior corporate executives in the world: board members of transnational banks, chairmen of global energy companies, and the owners of vast industrial and media conglomerates.

Scurrying in behind the bank bosses and hedge-fund billionaires will be a clutch of extremely senior politicians from around Europe: Chancellors, PMs, party leaders and finance ministers. Last year, the President of Austria and the Prime Ministers of Holland and Belgium took part in the discussions. Our own esteemed Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, is a regular attendee, David Cameron himself was ushered inside in 2013, and Lord Mandelson is often to be found popping on a coveted white lanyard. This year, most notably, a hefty contigent from the German cabinet is due to attend.

Inquiries made by the left-wing Die Linke party prompted the German government to confirm that Chancellor Angel Merkel has been invited to the Dresden conference, along with five senior federal ministers: Wolfgang Schäuble (Finance); Ursula von der Leyen (Defence); Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Foreign Affairs), Sigmar Gabriel (Economic Affairs and Energy); and Peter Altmaier (Special Affairs, and in charge of German’s intelligence services).

On the table: the most pressing economic, military and strategic issues of the day. Around the table: the assembled heads of NATO, Deutsche Bank, Airbus, the IMF and Google. Stretching out before them: three days of intense, meticulously structured talks, with nothing but a laughably skeletal agenda released to the press. What the organisers deign to provide is scarcely better than nothing – a weedy list of brilliantly vague bullet points, like “current events” and “Africa”, as if that’s any sort of information at all. I’d be genuinely more impressed if their entire press release was a grainy photograph of the Clacton seafront. It would be intellectually more honest, and a great deal less irritating.

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Democratic Party Convention Hosted by Republican Donors, Anti-Obamacare Lobbyists

Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani report for The Intercept:

The Democractic Party’s 2012 platform pledged to “curb the influence of lobbyists and special interests.” But the 2016 convention in Philadelphia will be officially hosted by lobbyists and corporate executives, a number of whom are actively working to undermine progressive policies achieved by President Barack Obama, including health care reform and net neutrality.

Some of the members of the 2016 Democratic National Convention Host Committee, whose job is to organize the logistics and events for the convention, are hardly even Democratic Party stalwarts, given that many have donated and raised thousands of dollars for Republican presidential and congressional candidates this cycle.

The composition of the 15-member Host Committee may appear out of sync with the rhetoric of Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders andHillary Clinton, but the reality is that the party, in the form of the Democratic National Committee, has moved decisively to embrace the lobbying industry. In October 2015, DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., reportedly huddled with dozens of lobbyists to plan the convention in Philadelphia, and provided the influence peddlers involved with a menu of offerings in exchange for donations. In February, news reports revealed that the DNC had quietly lifted the Obama-era ban on federal lobbyist donations to the party and convention committee.

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AMISA: Lobbying Over Croissants and Coffee

Corporate Observatory Europe reports:

You have probably never heard of AMISA2. But it turns out that AMISA2 and its predecessor AMISA have had staggeringly regular high-level access to senior EU decision-makers for decades. It is a quiet but persistent presence operating in the shadows of the Brussels bubble.

What does AMISA stand for? We don’t know.

What does the website say? Er, there isn’t one.

Who are the members? Well, they are not listed on its lobby register declaration, but according to its president, they include the likes of ExxonMobil, Total, Dow and Google.

How many times has it met with senior Commission officials? At least 180 times since the 1990s! But shockingly, none of the five meetings held with AMISA2 between December 2014 and January 2016 by senior Commission officials has been publicly declared as required by the rules.

So what do we know about AMISA2?

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Google’s Remarkably Close Relationship With the Obama White House

David Dayen reports for The Intercept:

When President Obama announced his support last week for a Federal Communications Commission plan to open the market for cable set-top boxes — a big win for consumers, but also for Google — the cable and telecommunications giants who used to have a near-stranglehold on tech policy were furious. AT&T chief lobbyist Jim Cicconi lashed out at what he called White House intervention on behalf of “the Google proposal.”

He’s hardly the first to suggest that the Obama administration has become too close to the Silicon Valley juggernaut.

Over the past seven years, Google has created a remarkable partnership with the Obama White House, providing expertise, services, advice, and personnel for vital government projects.

Precisely how much influence this buys Google isn’t always clear. But consider that over in the European Union, Google is now facing two major antitrust charges for abusing its dominance in mobile operating systems and search. By contrast, in the U.S., a strong case to sanction Google was quashed by a presidentially appointed commission.

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Dark Money and Lobbyists Serving as Superdelegates Could Decide the 2016 Race: Interview with Lee Fang

Amy Goodman talks to Lee Fang, investigative journalist for The Intercept, focusing on the intersection of money and politics. He has revealed that several of the Democrats’ superdelegates now work as lobbyists for banks, oil companies, foreign governments and payday lenders, among other special interests. In a close race, these superdelegates could determine the party’s nominee. (Democracy Now!)

The Problem With Hillary Clinton Isn’t Just Her Corporate Cash, It’s Her Corporate Worldview

Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything, writes for The Nation:

Clinton_Goldman_Blankfein_rtr_imgThere aren’t a lot of certainties left in the US presidential race, but here’s one thing about which we can be absolutely sure: The Clinton camp really doesn’t like talking about fossil-fuel money. Last week, when a young Greenpeace campaigner challenged Hillary Clinton about taking money from fossil-fuel companies, the candidate accused the Bernie Sanders campaign of “lying” and declared herself “so sick” of it. As the exchange went viral, a succession of high-powered Clinton supporters pronounced that there was nothing to see here and that everyone should move along.

The very suggestion that taking this money could impact Clinton’s actions is “baseless and should stop,” according to California Senator Barbara Boxer. It’s “flat-out false,” “inappropriate,” and doesn’t “hold water,” declared New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman went so far as to issue “guidelines for good and bad behavior” for the Sanders camp. The first guideline? Cut out the “innuendo suggesting, without evidence, that Clinton is corrupt.”

That’s a whole lot of firepower to slap down a non-issue. So is it an issue or not?

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ISDS: New Analysis Shows ‘Frivolous’ Corporate Sovereignty Suits Increasingly Used To Deter Regulation Rather Than Win Compensation

Glyn Moody reports for Techdirt:

The rise in public awareness of the dangers of corporate sovereignty provisions in agreements like TPP and TAFTA/TTIP has brought with it a collateral benefit: academics are starting to explore its effects in greater depth. An example is a new paper from Krzysztof J. Pelc, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McGill University in Canada. Called “Does the Investment Regime Induce Frivolous Litigation?” (pdf), it looks at how the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism has evolved in recent years, and in a very troubling direction.

Along the way, the paper explores one of the central arguments made by those supporting the inclusion of corporate sovereignty chapters in major agreements: investors lose most of the claims that they bring against governments, so ISDS is really nothing to worry about. But Pelc identifies a key question posed by this line of thinking:

Why would investors continue to file these highly costly cases, if the expected success rate is so low?

In fact, things turn out to be even more mysterious:

Current estimates actually overstate investors’ success rates, especially when it comes to specific types of legal claims. What is more, this rate of success has been dropping precipitously over time — the exact opposite trend to the one we observe in inter-state disputes in the trade regime over the same period.

By analyzing 1421 individual claims in 676 investment disputes from 1993 to present day, Pelc discovered that most disputes are over what are claimed to be instances of indirect expropriation by governments. That’s in contrast to the traditional direct kind, for example when dictators send their armed thugs to throw foreign investors out of a factory they own — something that almost never happens these days. Indirect expropriation is claimed by companies to include things like enforcing higher standards for drug patents, or simply trying to protect key water supplies from pollution.

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