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December 13, 2017

Voices from the Flats – Club for Growth, Clubbing Alaska?

by Zachary Roberts

The Club for Growth has endorsed Joe ‘the beard’ Miller. Who, or What is “The Club for Growth?”
Personally, when I first heard about “The Club for Growth” years ago, I pictured a sunny country club where rich people went to grow their inner feelings – maybe gain respect for the little people. Maybe get a soul.
Sadly, the truth is nothing so kumbaya.
To put it bluntly, The Club for Growth is a corporate front group run by the former CEOs of some of the largest companies in the world. Preemptivekarma.com wrote this in 2006 “The Club for Growth, which shares an office with Americans for Limited Government, is an offshoot of the Cato Institute… which was founded by the Kochs.  We’ve heard that name before haven’t we.
Yes, the same Kochs, the same astro-turfing billionaires from Joe Miller’s home state, Kansas. Linda Kellen-Biegel has already written up all the details and the Alaskan connections, so no need to leave the Flats.
But it’s not just the astro-turf/Kansas connection that makes this endorsement especially troubling. Their board includes real hardened corporate bastards. These are are guys that brought us into the mess that we’re in. They play dirty and really like to win, and they’re good at it. They’ve won more than 60% of their races against center right candidates according to Businessweek.
This is why they have even Republicans running scared. They love going after middle of the road Repubs and placing hard line conservatives in their place. Senator Lisa Murkowski scored an 82% on their 2009 scorecard, and they still went after her. Sounds like my mom – only A’s got put up on the fridge.
Joe Miller is the sort of candidate that they seem to like the most, an empty slate, something they can mold in their likeness. Other candidates that CFG has backed this year include Sharron Angle, Rand Paul and Jim DeMint. You can check out the full list here. Essentially it’s the yearbook of Crazytown High.
The 30 pieces of silver doesn’t come without some caveats. Joe Miller has had to commit, among other things, to a federal hiring freeze and not to raise taxes. I wonder if the federal hiring freeze applies to the armed forces? We’ve got a couple of them up here in AK.
Unlike the Tea Party, which really does take at least some small donations and spend them on campaigns, the Club for Growth takes cash from big business pretty much exclusively. As the Chairman of the Club for Growth states “We have a lot of people with very big checkbooks.”
That’s an understatement. The Chairman himself could probably fund a campaign or two. Thomas L. ‘Dusty’ Rhodes spent 18 years working at Goldman Sachs. Dusty, as I’m guessing his friends call him, worked his way up the Goldman ladder, moving from lowly Vice President, to Vice Chairman to Partner – no doubt he made a couple of friends along the way. He also has been a trustee of the Manhattan Institute, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a trustee of the Heritage Foundation.
The Chairman is just the tip of the money-iceberg.
Richard Gilder, the Chairman Emeritus runs the brokerage firm Gilder, Gagnon, Howe & Co., which make their millions in short-selling, and aggressive trading. Mother Jones Magazine in 2001 described Gilder – 
“Since the early 1980s, stockbroker Richard Gilder has been honing his influence among Republicans on Capitol Hill. He has cheered Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts, funded Newt Gingrich’s revolution, twice backed Steve Forbes for president, and attacked moderates in the GOP for their lack of free-market fervor. His web of influence encompasses pundit Robert Novak, whose money he manages; the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank he once chaired; and George W. Bush, whom Gilder joined as an investor in the Texas Rangers. His current political agenda features three policy proposals — privatizing Social Security, cutting federal income taxes, and providing public school vouchers — all of which Bush adopted as campaign promises.”
Not much has changed in the past decade – except maybe that he’s upped his donations – an increase from $288,000 in 2000, to $331,000 in 2008. In this midterm year he’s dropped $40k, mostly to the Club for Growth PAC and Florida Senate Candidate Marco Rubio. To be fair, $2400 was sent to Wall Street friend New York Senator Schumer. The more than $300,000 does not include the donations that come from his staff at his brokerage firm, who donated about $93,000 to Club for Growth and like minded Republicans. 
Next down the list is former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. While he may not bring the cash, he brings the right wing conservative values (read: Rovian dirty tricks). As Secretary of State/Chief Elections Official/co-chair of the Committee to re-elect George W. Bush, Blackwell pushed the election in the right direction. Greg Palast reported:
“…Ken Blackwell, Ohio’s Secretary of State, told his State Senate President, “The possibility of a close election with punch cards as the state’s primary voting device invites a Florida-like calamity.” Blackwell, co-chair of Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, wasn’t warning his fellow Republican of disaster, but boasting of an opportunity to bring in Ohio for Team Bush no matter what the voters wanted. And most voters in Ohio wanted JFK, not GWB. But their choice won’t count because their votes won’t be counted.”  (http://www.tompaine.com/articles/kerry_won_.php)
But the crazy doesn’t stop there with Blackwell – he’s quite a multi-tasker. In 2004 he also led the successful push to amend the Ohio constitution to make it unconstitutional for the state to ever allow gays to marry or even have civil unions. That got him the attention of the Family Research Council which made him the Senior Fellow for Family Empowerment. 
OK, so why does all this matter? Well, unlike a lot of rich people these days they don’t mind opening their checkbooks (they just don’t like being taxed).
In 2004 they ran brutal campaign ads against Howard Dean calling him a “tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving left-wing freak” . More recently, they spent $1 million in New York’s 23rd district to back Sarah Palin’s Conservative Party insurgent candidate Doug Hoffman. Luckily, the Republican Party Candidate Dede Scozzafava stepped down and backed the Democrat who won. It’s important to note that the 23rd district has nearly the same population as the state of Alaska. It’s the first time in decades that the seat has been held by a Democrat.
The Club for Growth also has a history of spending big money in Alaska. In a state that you can run a statewide campaign for cheap national money makes a big difference. In 2008 they dropped $350,000 in the Republican Primary for U.S. Congress, running attack ads on incumbent Don Young – the King of Pork. The ads never mentioned his opponent Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell (who lost by by a couple hundred votes) but either way, they pushed the election to a close finish. 
If the Club decides to spend money in Alaska, and that seems very likely with Murkowski back in the race, we can expect to see even larger numbers. The write in candidate, Senator Lisa Murkowski will likely take the brunt of the attack, and the Club will no doubt go after every earmark that she’s had a hand in. 
Joe Miller has said “It takes a lot of money to run a clean campaign,” and just recently Sen. Murkowski has said “the gloves are off.” It may be best if small town mayor Scott McAdams just stands back and rises above the fray, taking the hits about his so-called ‘inexperience’ with stride. 
With a little luck “The Beard” and the daughter of Daddy Murkowski will destroy themselves.
 
Zach Roberts is currently in Anchorage filming “The Rogue Candidate: Sarah Palin’s REAL Alaska.”  He previously worked with BBC journalist Greg Palast as a researcher and producer. Follow him on twitter at zdroberts.

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