The Billionaire Boys’ Club

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How is It That About 158 Wealthy Families Control the Bulk of Election Spending in America?

Rubio, Cruz Leading the Billionaire Lottery

The 1987 miniseries starring Judd Nelson

The 1987 miniseries starring Judd Nelson

I must tell you that this article is not about the NBC miniseries “Billionaire Boys Club,” based on the real-life story of a Ponzi Scheme run by the sons of wealthy families in southern California in 1983. The boys’ get-rich-quick scheme collapsed and led to kidnappings and murder, and the jailing of its leaders, most notably Joseph Gamsky, aka “Joe Hunt.”

I can only promise one similarity between mine and the mayhem above: the sense of entitlement that leads to offensive behavior. In my story, unfortunately, the rich are getting away with it.

Lock the Doors, Here They Come

With the presidential nomination season upon us, it seems there are 14–count ’em, 14!–Republicans vying for the prize. Did you ever wonder why some of these GOP candidates, the ones polling in single digits, are still hanging around well after their political expiration dates?

The reason, of course: money. Marginal candidates like Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have deep-pocketed sugar daddies who prop their boys up like golden puppets.

How can this be?

Image courtesy laprogressive.com

Image courtesy laprogressive.com

Citizens United Opened the Floodgates

The money spigot started flowing with a 2010 Supreme Court decision commonly referred to as Citizens United. The ruling allowed corporations and labor unions (the latter marginal in comparison) to spend unlimited sums on political advertising and such to support candidates for office…as long as the money didn’t go directly to any candidate. It created the dreaded “super-PAC”  and even permitted its benefactors to remain anonymous. The legal reasoning behind Citizens United can be summarized as follows:

Spending is speech, and is therefore protected by the Constitution…even if the speaker is a corporation.

Democracy Inaction

The Citizens United decision created the deployment of vast sums of money into our political system. According to a New York Times investigation, “Providing almost half of all the seed money to support candidates, just 158 families, along with the companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign”…and we’re still over a year away from the general election.

More than 50 members of these families made the Forbes 400 list of America’s top billionaires.

According to the investigation,

Some are even betting on candidates shunned by their party’s traditional donor establishment. The three families who have provided the largest donations in the campaign to date–the Wilks family of Texas, which made billions providing trucks and equipment in the shale field; the Mercers of New York, headed by hedge fund investor Robert Mercer;  and Tony Neugebauer, a Texas-born private equity investor–have backed Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a socially conservative Tea Party firebrand disdained by Republican leaders.

Yes, that Ted Cruz…the McCarthy-esque, know-it-all bomb thrower, who is polling at anywhere between four and nine percent.

The Billionaire Republican Primary: a Scorecard
Prez candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL) bows to rich car dealer Norman Braman, "the man in France."

Prez candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL) bows to rich car dealer Norman Braman, “the man in France.”

You’d think that with his bloodlines (#41 & #43) and the resulting donor network, Jeb Bush would be well-situated to take the lead in the billionaire lottery. Jeb! has the backing of New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, whose super-PAC has raised more than $100 million year to date. But other high-profile megadonors have demurred, like evangelical billionaire Foster Freiss, who is sticking with doomed sweater-wearing Rick Santorum (R-P-KY).

Bush’s lackluster performance at the recent Republican debate could well have set the table for a more ambitious Florida politician.

Marco Rubio Quietly Emerging

People who follow the money had an a-ha moment when Sheldon Adelson, the conservative casino magnate, signaled that he was leaning toward Marco Rubio (R-FL) in this election cycle. It was Adelson’s $26 billion net worth that kept Newt Gingrich’s ill-fated 2012 presidential campaign on life-support. This time, however, according to Politico:

Rubio and Adelson have grown increasingly close, with the senator phoning the billionaire several times a month to provide in-depth updates on the state of his campaign…Adelson has long looked favorably on Rubio, a fellow son of immigrants.

Billionaire Miami car dealer Norman Braman on Fox News

‘The Man in France’

Marco Rubio can also count on billionaire Miami car dealer Norman Braman, who has thus far donated $5 million to a super PAC supporting Rubio. (The above graphic indicates that Braman has pledged twice that amount, but please consider the source.) Braman has thrown money at Rubio throughout Marco’s political career.

Hardcore pro football fanatics and Philadelphia sports fans (perhaps the same thing) might recognize Norman Braman as the former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles. Braman bought the team in 1985 on the cheap from bankrupt degenerate gambler Leonard Tose and hired as coach a one James David “Buddy” Ryan. Little did Braman know what he was getting into.

Buddy Ryan, a defensive “genius” who couldn’t win a playoff game, had a mouth on him. When the Eagles’ fortunes soured with each playoff loss, Ryan dangled Braman, who owned a villa in France, as a convenient scapegoat. As reporters pleaded with Ryan to explain why such a talented Eagles team repeatedly fizzled in the post-season, Ryan would blame…The Man in France.

Marco Rubio will be a much easier employee.

 

 

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Andrew Goutman

Andrew Goutman is the editor of Enter, Stage Left.

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