Levin’s bread

carl levin press conference

Got some time to kill? Drone assassination czar and torture proponent John Brennan will appear Thursday, February 7, before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as it considers his nomination for Director of the CIA. Among his interrogators will be Senator Carl Levin, an advocate of decreasing government secrecy but a supporter of indefinite detention even of US citizens. Human Rights First reports that a dozen former interrogators have written a letter requesting that Levin and other members question Brennan specifically about torture:

We know from experience that torture is unreliable, unlawful and un-American. But, does Mr. Brennan?

In 2007, Mr. Brennan said on The Early Show that approximately one-third of the 100 terrorism suspects held by the CIA were subject by CIA officers to “enhanced interrogation tactics,” which is a euphemism for torture. In the same interview, he claimed that information gotten through enhanced interrogation “has saved lives.”

Mr. Brennan was Deputy Executive Director of the CIA from 2001-2003 when the Bush administration adopted torture as an interrogation tactic. What role did Mr. Brennan play in the development, review or approval of what he has called “enhanced interrogation?”

In preparation for the hearing, as well as for the budget battles of the coming month, I decided to look at Levin’s top donors. Automobile companies lead in donating money to the Michigan Senator’s numerous campaigns. Detroit multinational General Motors was his top donor with $120,800, just ahead of Dearborn-based Ford. DaimlerChrysler came in fourth with just under $80,000. (Daimler sold Chrysler in 2007.) The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee also receives contributions from defense contractors General Dynamics (seventh) and Lockheed Martin (18th).

Unions feature prominently in Levin’s top twenty list. Teachers’ union the National Education Association ranks 13th with $43,000, followed by the construction workers’ Laborers’ Union (14th) and the Sheet Metal Workers’ International (15th). AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, came in 19th; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ranked 20th.

Political action committees advocating close support of Israel by the US make up Levin’s second largest source of campaign funds. These include individual organizations such as the Join Action Committee for Political Affairs (12th) and The Washington PAC (16th). The legal industry is his largest financial pool, with donors such as Michigan business law firm Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn (sixth), multinational legal giant DLA Piper (tenth), and trial lawyers’ lobby the American Association for Justice (17th).

Health insurance behemoth Blue Cross Blue Shield (third) gave Levin just under $100,000. Security firm Guardsmark ranked fifth and real estate developers Forest City Enterprises eighth. Detroit utility DTE Energy (ninth) and Jackson-based utility CMS Energy (eleventh) notably made billions from 2008-2010 and spent millions to lobby Congress, then paid no income taxes, actually receiving millions back in rebates.

Absent from this list are financial firms such as JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, whose practices Levin’s committee has been investigating for some time. Although the Senator has received half a million over his career from securities and investment corporations, they don’t make an appearance on his top twenty list of donors.

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