Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Perils of Plutocracy

Appropriating part of Mark Kleiman's title (and fixing his many typos):

1. Billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson is involved in a lawsuit in Nevada about the corrupt practices of his casino in Macao. (Technically, it’s a wrongful-termination case brought by someone who claims to have been fired for blowing the whistle.)

2. Adelson has been fighting with the judge, Elizabeth Gonzalez.

3. Through a cut-out, Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the dominant newspaper in the state, keeping his ownership a secret until others broke the story.

4. Three staffers at the paper were then ordered to do a hit piece on the judge. No story resulted.

5. The editor of the Review-Journal then learned, by reading the front page of his own newspaper, that he had “accepted a buy-out.”

6. Michael Schroeder, who runs Adelson’s media empire and who also publishes a small paper in Connecticut, went straight to the printer of that paper, over the head of the editorial staff, to order a 2000-word piece critical of Judge Gonzalez to run there.

7. People quoted in the story say they were never contacted by the reporter whose by-line appears on the story, Edward Clarkin.

8. In fact, no one seems to have ever met Edward Clarkin in person. However, Schroeder’s middle name is “Edward,” and his mother’s maiden name was “Clarkin.” (No, seriously.)

9. A reporter for Schroeder’s paper quit in disgust.

Despite its comic-opera aspects, this story is truly scary. If plutocrats can buy newspapers to intimidate judges, what happens to the rule of law? And how much of Adelson’s media power will be exercised on behalf of his business partners in the Chinese Politburo? They made him a billionaire by giving him the casino concession in Macau, and they can take it away at a moment’s notice.

Here’s hoping this gets to be an issue in the campaign. I’d love to the Republican presidential candidates say what they think of Adelson’s behavior. Come to think of it, I’d love to hear Hillary Clinton do so.

Update: A timeline of the events from Jay Rosen's Pressthink.

Seen The Big Short yet?  Read the book if you want to know the names of the actual players.  In short (no pun), a few very prescient broker/banker/hedge fund types saw the mortgage meltdown coming a couple of years in advance, and then ran out and "shorted" -- bet it would drop -- the mortgage industry's secondary loan market, even as the Goldmans and Lehmans of the world laughed at them and gleefully took their money for those bets.  Those two or three guys also understood that the global economy would collapse as a result, ruining millions of common people's lives, and some of them felt a little nauseous about that, but still went on and made hundreds of millions of dollars on the collapse anyway.

And now the dude who first saw it coming sees it coming down the pike again, the big banks are bigger today than they were when they were Too Big To Fail almost ten years ago, and Hillary Clinton's response has been "9/11" -- just like Rudy Giuliani -- and ""I told them to cut it out".  Except she didn't.  Not really.

Maybe this will help people understand why so many people say they won't vote for her.  It's not just Shelley Adelson or the media or the GOP presidentials drooling on Adelson's shoes that's the only problem here.

The top fundraisers for Clinton include lobbyists who serve the parent companies of CNN and MSNBC.

The National Association of Broadcasters, a trade group that represents the television station industry, has lobbyists who are fundraising for both Clinton and Republican candidate Marco Rubio.
Presidential campaigns are obligated by law to send the Federal Election Commission a list of lobbyists who serve as “bundlers,” collecting hundreds of individual checks on behalf of a candidate’s campaign.

CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, is represented on Capitol Hill by Steve Elmendorf, an adviser to Clinton during her 2008 campaign, who is also known as “one of Washington’s top lobbyists.” He’s lobbied on a number of issues important for media companies like CNN, including direct-to-consumer advertising policy.

Elmendorf, according to disclosures, has raised at least $141,815 for Clinton’s 2016 bid for the presidency.

Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal, which includes cable networks NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC, has a number of lobbyists on retainer who are working to raise cash for the Clinton campaign, including Justin Gray, Alfred Mottur, Ingrid Duran and Catherine Pino.
Much of the $5 billion expected to be spent over the course of the 2016 presidential election cycle will be on cable and network news advertisements. The election-related spending bonanza is singularly boosting the profit margins of many media companies, as we’ve reported.

“Super PACs may be bad for America, but they’re very good for CBS,” Les Moonves, president and chief executive of CBS, memorably said.

Money isn't fixing any of the problems with our politics, our political parties, or our politicians.  More money is only making things worse.


Gadfly said...

I assume you saw the whole string of Tweets I had yesterday about Adelson?

PDiddie said...

No, but I'll go look. I spent yesterday at the movies (Big Short, Star Wars).

Gadfly said...

Gotcha ... I wound up hashtagging his name, I had so many.

meme said...

Does the same thing that the Chronicle does, with so called real reporters, what is the world coming to?