Democratic Sen. Barack Obama has seized on a key feature of voters' economic concerns - rising fuel prices - and is casting himself as the candidate who could bring about energy independence because he is not beholden to energy companies.
Last week, Obama aired a television ad in Pennsylvania called "Nothing's changed" that outlines his energy proposals while declaring, "I don't take money from oil companies or Washington lobbyists, and I won't let them block change anymore."
THE SPIN: In his ad, Obama states: "Since the gas lines of the '70's, Democrats and Republicans have talked about energy independence, but nothing's changed except now Exxon's making $40 billion a year, and we're paying $3.50 for gas. ... I don't take money from oil companies or Washington lobbyists, and I won't let them block change anymore. They'll pay a penalty on windfall profits. We'll invest in alternative energy, create jobs and free ourselves from foreign oil."
The Clinton campaign last week accused Obama of "false advertising."
"Senator Obama says he doesn't take campaign contributions from oil companies but the reality is that Exxon, Shell, and others are among his donors," Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said.
THE FACTS: True enough, Obama does not take money from oil companies. No candidate does. It is illegal for corporations to give money to politicians. Corporations, however, do have political action committees that collect voluntary donations from employees and then donate them to candidates. Obama doesn't take money from PACs. He also doesn't take money from lobbyists.
But he does accept money from executives and other employees of oil companies and two of his fundraisers are oil company executives. As of Feb. 29, Obama's presidential campaign had received nearly $214,000 from oil and gas industry employees and their families, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Clinton had received nearly $307,000 from industry workers and their families and Republican Sen. John McCain, the likely GOP presidential nominee, received nearly $394,000, according to the center's totals.
Two of Obama's fundraisers are Robert Cavnar, the chairman and chief executive of Houston-based Mission Resources Corp., and George Kaiser, the president and CEO of Tulsa-based Kaiser-Francis Oil Co.
In January and February alone, Obama received nearly $18,000 from Exxon Mobil workers, according to Federal Election Commission records. Most of the donations were of $250 or less; the money came from workers ranging from executives to engineers to geologists to shift supervisors. Overall, he has raised about $34,000 from Exxon Mobil workers since the beginning of his campaign. Exxon Mobil employees have given Clinton about $16,000 since the beginning of last year.
There are many points to be made here.
First of all, people who have jobs are just as entitled to contribute to the election campaign of a candidate for political office as anyone else; doing so is not sinister, and neither is employment at an oil company.
However, if the leaders of a corporation (or other group) wish to support a candidate, we get a glimpse of how it can be done. First, a political action committee associated with the corporation is formed, and employees contribute to that PAC, which then contributes to the candidate.
Additionally, employees of the corporation can contribute directly to the candidate's campaign; so can others who are perhaps less directly affiliated with a corporation, such as family members of its employees. Someone associated with the corporation may organize and host a fundraiser for the candidate where this happens -- people get to meet the candidate, and have their picture taken with him or her.
Furthermore, people who wish to contribute more to a certain candidate can give to another PAC, and that PAC, in turn, can then support the candidate.
It is also interesting to look at the FEC reports (there's a link in my sidebar so you can do your civic duty and look at them), and see how PACs give money to other PACs. Why do they do that?
Another way of steering money around the legalities and towards the candidate of your choice is to give to a county or state political party, with the understanding that it will spend that money in favor of the candidate of your choice. They may not pay much attention to someone who walks in off the street waving a $5 bill, but if a representative of an important business comes in and talks about doing a fundraiser, the party officials may be interested in that.
This is all basically legal.
There are, of course, illegal methods of channeling money to your candidate -- the paper bag or even suitcase full of small bills being useful, although in this case it would be more likely to be big bills with pictures of Benjamin Franklin on them ($100-bills, the largest denomination in circulation, for my foreign readers) and such Benjamins would more likely be a straight-out bribe.
In the context of all this, it is interesting to review some of my posts in the series entitled "The Heroin Lobby" (see sidebar for March, 2008, when the series began), and examine how I came to some of my conclusions. For example, in The Heroin Lobby, Part 8, I pointed out the $59,600 worth of campaign contributions from two students to various political campaigns. These same two students are supporters of TC-USA PAC, which is affiliated with the Turkish Coalition of America, which we have identified as a front organization for Turkish organized crime.
It is also interesting to consider how, in The Balkan Connection, Part 2, we showed that a group that fronts for Albanian organized crime, the AACL, is associated with pizzerias that have served as fronts for heroin trafficking. Its leader, former Congressman Joseph DioGuardi, has long supported ethnic Albanian groups in the Balkans. He has lobbied politicians for US support of these groups; the groups themselves are linked to Islamic extremist terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, and to the trafficking of heroin, arms, and sex slaves, among other contraband. The associated PAC, AAPAC, has as its treasurer Shirley Clowes DioGuardi, who is also the AACL's Balkan Affairs Advisor. AAPAC, for its part, receives a great deal of money from self-employed business leaders, including a high proportion of "restaurateurs" and owners of pizzerias.
Undoubtedly, many of these people are in family businesses that are on the up-and-up, and are proud to be American citizens -- working hard, earning an honest living and having their voices heard in government -- and there is nothing wrong with that, it is what America is all about.
But, we cannot help but suspect that some of these people have operations and connections that they do not want brought to light. And, as we move up the chain, to former Congressman DioGuardi and his support for Senator McCain, and as we consider Senator McCain's support for Kosovo Islamic terrorists -- the KLA -- we begin to wonder, don't we? Just as we begin to wonder about Senator Hillary Clinton's connections to these same groups of terrorists and mobsters.
Some random thoughts...
An Interview with Sibel Edmonds, Page Two by Chris Deliso, July 1, 2004
SE: I can't say anything specific with regards to these departments, because I didn't work for them. But as for the politicians, what I can say is that when you start talking about huge amounts of money, certain elected officials become automatically involved. And there are different kinds of campaign contributions – legal and illegal, declared and undeclared.
John McCain armed Kosovo Islamic terrorists, February 13, 2008
The Candidates on Kosova ... and perhaps beyond, 2008
(D) Senator Hillary Clinton who insisted that her husband initiate the NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 has repeatedly declared that the bombing of Serbia was "a success". She has been the honored guest to of many Albanian fundraisers and is hailed as someone that would continue her husband's legacy as a friend and defender of Albanians. Hillary receives 63% of her campaign donations from individuals who donate $2300 or more and 37% from those who donate the maximum $4,600; in short, she is a "big money" candidate. Hillary Clinton is a socially liberal and aggressively interventionist.
Big money in politics - sign of excess? March 26, 2008
"That is what should frighten Americans -- when these guys get elected are they looking primarily out for the good of the people or are there debts that they need to pay back," he said.
Former FBI Translator Sibel Edmonds Calls Current 9/11 Investigation Inadequate by Jim Hogue, May 07, 2004
JH: Here's a question that you might be able to answer: What is al-Qaeda?
SE: This is a very interesting and complex question. When you think of al-Qaeda, you are not thinking of al-Qaeda in terms of one particular country, or one particular organization. You are looking at this massive movement that stretches to tens and tens of countries. And it involves a lot of sub-organizations and sub-sub-organizations and branches and it's extremely complicated. So to just narrow it down and say al-Qaeda and the Saudis, or to say it's what they had at the camp in Afghanistan, is extremely misleading. And we don't hear the extent of the penetration that this organization and the sub-organizations have throughout the world, throughout their networks and throughout their various activities. It's extremely sophisticated. And then you involve a significant amount of money into this equation. Then things start getting a lot of overlap -- money laundering, and drugs and terrorist activities and their support networks converging in several points. That's what I'm trying to convey without being too specific. And this money travels. And you start trying to go to the root of it and it's getting into somebody's political campaign, and somebody's lobbying. And people don't want to be traced back to this money.