Category Archives: Community Organizing
A Return to the Gilded Age
Who owns the presidency? An odd question perhaps; but for a race defined by unprecedented spending, state of the art technology, and million dollar ad buys; looking back seems to be the only way to make sense of this election—one that will surely redefine history…again.
While many of these tactics are by no means new, they are being implemented on a scale we have yet to witness; a scale that stands in contrast to so much of what this country was founded upon.
Looking back corporations and big money have always been closely tied to public office. Take England for example; corporate influence established a strong hold during the early years of the 17th century when Elizabeth I granted a royal charter to establish the East India Trading Company, one of the first major corporations.
As corporations began to generate large sums of money, they increasingly became involved in politics, despite the wishes of colonial America. To be clear, this was not a precedent our founders wanted to establish—a lesson today’s Tea Party would be well served by. In fact, opposition to corporate influence was essential to the American Revolution. Colonists dumping tea into Massachusetts Bay were rebelling against the moneyed interests of wealthy corporations and politicians that wielded tremendous political influence. It’s ironic that the original Tea Party was a public outcry against clientelism, graft, and corruption among elected officials; modern Tea Party and conservative ideology is an abhorrent contradiction and a disgrace to all those that fought and died for our nation’s independence.
Unfortunately, corporate influence over public policy has only increased and become less regulated over time, especially with the rise of super-PACs—a kind of corporate-political action committee that can engage in unlimited political spending “independent” of candidate and party. Super PACs are essentially what this nation is turning into—corporations, organizations, and wealthy individuals with unlimited amounts of money and the ability to raise funds without legal limits. So its not a far cry to say that 2012 is a return to the corruption and shoddy ethics of the Gilded Age, which influenced business and political discourse in late 19th century America.
Fast forward to recent events, and the similarities are striking…
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that conservative billionaire Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade, was considering a $10 million plan—“The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good;” the plan stated it would do “exactly what John McCain would not let us do in 2008.” It would capitalize on President Obama’s relationship with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright in a “big, attention arresting way,” read the proposal. It further detailed a plan to hire an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who would act as a spokesman; the aim was to paint the president as a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.”
This is just one example of what we are likely to witness over the next 6 months, and I promise it will get worse. The real takeaway though is the influence and ability of these enormous fiscal entities to say whatever they want without any oversight. In 2008, candidate Obama dominated John McCain in every aspect of fundraising. Small donations poured in from millions of individual supporters giving the Obama campaign the ability to outspend the opposition at every corner. This time Republicans are attempting to drown out that support with a wave of cash from a handful of super PACs.
For example, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads—one of the largest and most influential of the super PACs intends to raise $300 million by Election Day. The Democrat’s are unlikely to receive this level of support from super PACs, which speaks volumes as to how the GOP and the Romney campaign intend to run this race. When a mere 5 corporations make up the bulk of American Crossroads’ major contributors, it is clear that an elite group of very wealthy donors are attempting to put a price tag on the Oval Office. These corporate donors are spread across nearly every major industry in American—Bob J. Perry, President of Perry Homes, Houston Texas ($7 million); Wayne Hughes, founder of Public Storage Inc. ($2.3 million); Trevor Rees-Jones, President and CEO of Chief Oil and Gas ($2 million); Dixie Agriculture ($1 million), American Financial Group and Alliance Resources ($2 million).
And while the Democrats have sought funds from various progressive super PACs, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) found that this new wave of “independent” donors are mostly on the Republican side. True to form, they have risen to take advantage of court rulings easing restrictions on political expenditures. Spending by these conservative groups during the 2010 midterms eclipsed $400 million. It remains to be seen what the final number will be in 2012 once all the receipts are counted, but if early donations are any indicator, Americans on both sides of the fence don’t just need a voice, they need a megaphone if they are to have a stake in the outcome of this election.
Finally, I would like to digress for a moment in my remarks…
I still have faith in the American people. I profess that at times I have become pessimistic, or downright cynical. However, if you look at what the average American is bombarded with on a daily basis, is there any wonder as to why we often vote against our own interests, or why opinions are so conflicting? Sit in on any political science or public policy course in this country and observe how these topics are discussed. They are not presented in a partisan—right or wrong manner. Rather, they are taught within the context of both past and present. They are meant to inform so that you are capable of evaluating both sides of an issue. You are not informed by turning on 15 minutes of network news every morning. Instead, you are getting a sensationalized opinion, which leads you to believe you have taken a position based in fact.
So…I would like to leave you with a few facts
Around the time of the Boston Tea Party, Parliamentary races were underway in England, races that were not funded by the citizens of Britain, or the colonists in American. Instead, large corporations made generous contributions to the race and nearly every representative in parliament owned shares. This is precisely why restrictions were placed upon corporate wealth and influence in government when America’s founders began to organize our own government and the constitution that would bind it.
Perhaps one of our greatest patriots, and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, wrote a letter in 1802 to Secretary of State Albert Gallatin. In his letter Jefferson wrote,
If the American people ever allow private banks and corporations to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them, will deprive the people of their property and their dignity until their children wake up homeless on the continent their father’s conquered. I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
America must to be aware that no matter where your political views lie the fact remains: corporations are not a substitute for the people; they are not the voice of the people. People are people and that is a fact.
The Speh Family Fundation has awarded Urban Prep Acadamies with a 3 year $300,000 grant!
Tim King and the education model that he has created in Urban Prep is a momentus achievement. One that is changing the face of education in Chicago and around the nation. The Speh Foundation continues to support Mr. King in all of his current and future endeavours.
Congratulations Urban Prep and thank you for all that you have done!
In the summer of 1966 Martin Luther King Jr. took to the streets of Chicago’s Marquette Park where he lead a march of over 700 people. The civil rights leader and his supporters were met by thousands of white protestors who refused to allow blacks to reside within “whites-only” buildings.
As King marched, a nearby protestor hurled a stone that struck the civil rights leader on the head. As he rose, supporters came to his aid as rocks, bottles, and firecrackers rained down on the demonstrators. King later said that he had to “bring this hate into the open”. Something he had done before, but Chicago proved a far greater challenge. King explained, “I have seen many demonstrations in the South, but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I’ve seen here today.”
The Marquette Park march was one of many staged by King’s movement that summer. The protests were designed to pressure city officials into making solid commitments to open and equal housing rights.
Major Richard J. Daley notoriously disdained “outsiders” pointing out Chicago’s faults. The former mayor criticized King for not being a resident of the city. Pointing out that “he doesn’t have all the facts of the local situation.” The former mayor’s comments fail to highlight the severity of the situation; one characterized by brutal attacks by Chicago Police officials, the burning of buildings that accepted black residents, and countless random acts of violence.
Yet, change was on the horizon. Chicago was the beginning of a new period. A transformation was underway and undeterred supporters began knocking on doors and started petitions.
On September 9th 2011, the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation (LCDC) will hold its 4th Annual “Swing for King” golf outing. Proceeds will directly support the completion of phase II of the Dr. King Legacy Apartments and Historic District, which will include new retail space, a state of the art library and memorial park, and a much needed job training center.
We are realizing a dream that began close to a half-century ago with this historical development of 45 affordable, energy-efficient units. Please follow the link to register for the event.
Between now and Monday, October 3rd, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is accepting nominations for the 36th annual Philanthropy Awards Luncheon.
AFP Chicago sponsors an annual awards program to recognize the outstanding achievements of individual, foundation and corporate philanthropists, fundraising volunteers, and professional fundraising executives. AFP Chicago is pleased to honor individuals who demonstrate high ethical standards and exemplify the philanthropic spirit of our great city.
Please take a moment to consider the donors, volunteers, peers, and philanthropic/nonprofit leaders that you feel deserve recognition for their remarkable contributions to the Chicago community.
You will need to complete a nomination packet on behalf of the individual or organization that you wish to nominate. Nominations must be submitted no later than October 3rd.
Additionally, nominators must be current AFP Chicago Chapter members, or have the endorsement of a current AFP Chicago member.
Please review the information regarding the nomination process by clicking on the link below. I am personally submitting nominations on behalf of non-AFP members and would be happy to assist in the nomination process if necessary.
Please take a small amount of time out of your busy schedule to help those that have worked tirelessly for the city of Chicago.