Sunday, September 29, 2013

Waging Politics, Part 6

Political Action Committees...


John. L. Lewis was born in 1880 in Cleveland, Iowa. Cleveland was established when the Whitebreast Coal and Mining Company began working a shaft of coal to the east of Lucas, Iowa, and decided to establish a company town there. Lewis went to work in the coal mine, but also tried his luck in business, and ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Lucas in 1907. By this time, Lewis was involved with the United Mine Workers (UMW), and in 1911 Samuel Gompers, the head of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), hired Lewis as a full-time union organizer.

By the 1920's, Lewis had worked his way up to being president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). However, by this time, the unions were leaning socialist, and communist operatives were busy trying to subvert them. Lewis played hard politics, appointing to the union bureaucracy men loyal to himself, and using tactics such as armed force and ballot-box stuffing to retain control of the union and to fight off communist-backed political attacks.

Lewis framed a plan for a contract between the UMWA and coal operators that so impressed President Coolidge and then-Commerce Secretary Hoover that Lewis, a Republican, was offered a position in Coolidge's cabinet, which Lewis declined.

Years of union-building and organizing during the Great Depression led to Lewis' attempt to organize steel workers, and bring them into the AFL. There was in-fighting, and when the dust settled, Lewis' organization was expelled from the AFL, and Lewis was elected president of the newly-formed Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).

World War Two started, bringing the US out of the Great Depression. However, by 1943, wartime inflation was having an impact on the wages of workers in America. In response, 400,000 coal miners - led by Lewis, and not affiliated with either the AFL or the CIO - violated a wartime no-strike pledge, and went on strike: their demands were 1) retention of the existing 5-day, 35-hour work week; 2) inclusion of travel time between mine pit entrance and underground jobsite as part of the hours worked; and 3) a raise of $2 per day. Union leaders cited a tremendous increase in mining accidents that resulted from the wartime increase in coal production: in 1941, 64,000 workers were killed or injured, and in 1942, the number was up to 75,000.

President Roosevelt had to intervene to break the strike, though not without the striking miners gaining significant concessions.

Interestingly, it was a Republican union leader who challenged the government on behalf of workers, and a Democrat who used federal power against the unions.

In response to these events, in 1943, the Smith-Connally Act was passed – over Roosevelt's veto – allowing the federal government to seize and operate industries critical to the war effort which were threatened with strikes. A provision of this act was that unions could not make contributions in federal elections.

In 1944, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), since 1940 led by Philip Murray, established a political action committee – a PAC – to get around the provisions of the Smith-Connally Act. Money was given to the PAC; the PAC would then give money to pro-union candidates for elected office.

In response, businesses began to create PACs to counter the influence of pro-union PACs.

PACs have been limited as to how much money they can give per candidate per election. Also, there have been limits on how much money an individual contributor can give to a PAC.

However, PACs can be created, and PACs can donate money to each other.

Thus, PACs are now a key means of getting around inconvenient campaign finance laws.

Also, because money can be shuffled from PAC to PAC, PACs are a key means of laundering campaign money.

For example, a corporation can give a $100,000 bonus to each of ten executives. Each executive can give $5,000 to each of twenty PACs. The twenty PACs can each give $5,000 to a given candidate. Thus, $1,000,000 of corporate money can be laundered into the campaigns of ten different candidates using twenty different PACs.

Additionally, the corporation can give another $50,000 bonus to each executive who, in turn, can give $5,000 directly to each of the ten different candidates.

Instead of a corporation, a drug cartel can give money to each of ten operatives; the rest of the process is the same.

Increase the number of PACs, and you can increase the flow of money, and complicate the task of tracing it.

Thus, legal and illicit money can be mixed together; money from decent, honest Americans and illicit money from foreign entities can be mixed together. Only the politician need know where the money is really coming from, in order to repay donors with expected favors.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand how a politician can be so stupid as to do something that is clearly against America and clearly against the constituents that politician is supposed to represent.

But, if you can follow the money flow, you can see how money buys influence.

It is interesting to note that Arizona Senator John McCain has been a champion of campaign finance reform. Yet, money has been laundered to him from Albanian organized crime groups, which are tied to Islamic terrorists, via people and PACs in the United States. McCain takes the money, talks about campaign finance reform, and furthers US policy that helps Islamic terrorists.

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