Dollars for Udall

mark udall campaigning
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Should John Brennan expect the Spanish Inquisition? At the Senate hearing scheduled for Thursday, February 7, Mark Udall (D-Colorado) can be expected to grill the nominee about his past support for torture, as Brennan seeks to be confirmed as Director of the CIA. A preliminary meeting between the two men did not go well, writes Denver reporter Eli Stokols:

“I was deeply disappointed today during my meeting with John Brennan,” Udall said. “A few weeks ago, I had asked that he be prepared to discuss at today’s meeting the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s comprehensive study on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program.

“Not only was he not prepared to discuss the important findings, but he hadn’t reviewed the report at all,” Udall continued.

“Brennan promised today to review the findings before the Intelligence Committee’s confirmation hearing next Thursday. I intend to hold him to that promise, and I hope Mr. Brennan will be more forthcoming in his testimony next week.

Yesterday I looked at the list of top contributors to Carl Levin, who was also at that meeting; today I’ll look at fellow Senate Armed Services Committee member Mark Udall.

The legal industry gives more to Udall than any other group. A few individual firms placed among his top twenty contributors, such as his biggest donor, Denver’s real estate lawyers Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which gave the Senator just over $100,000 since 1998. DC-based legal/lobbying powerhouse Patton Boggs, which has an office in Denver, ranked fifth, and Denver’s corporate lawyers Holland & Hart came in sixth. Trial lawyer lobbying group the American Association for Justice ranked eighth.

Numerous unions give generously to the Democratic Senator, making up almost half his top twenty. The Teamsters, one of the largest unions in the world, have donated $64,000 to Udall making them his seventh biggest contributor. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ranked ninth; the United Food and Commercial Workers Union tenth; the Service Employees International Union eleventh; AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 13th; the United Auto Workers 14th; the Communication Workers of America 18th; and the Air Line Pilots Association, the Carpenters and Joiners Union, and the United Steelworkers all tied for 20th, pitching in $45,000 apiece.

Other top donors to the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks include environmental groups such as the League of Conservation Voters, Udall’s second largest contributor with just under $100,000, and the Sierra Club (12th), with half that amount; internet service provider Level 3 Communications (third) of Broomfield, Colorado; the University of Colorado (fourth); employee-owned engineering and construction firm CH2M Hill (15th) and satellite TV corporation Dish Network (16th), both of Meridian. The Credit Union National Association (17th) and multinational media conglomerate Time Warner (19th) round out Udall’s list.

Udall’s refusal to “look forward, not backward” on torture is commendable, particularly given his colleagues’ acquiescence in the cover-up. On budget matters, however, he becomes a typical DC Democrat, advocating a bipartisan budget plan like Bowles-Simspon:

There should be no higher priority for this Congress than crafting a balanced, comprehensive and bipartisan deficit-reduction plan along the lines of Simpson-Bowles. To do anything short of a longterm grand bargain is unacceptable and only sets us back into the old ruts of impasse that created the problem in the first place. Coloradans deserve better.

To be sure, we will have our disagreements along the way. Both sides will have to make hard choices about seemingly sacred programs or uncompromising pledges. But true sacrifice and compromise are the only ways we, the Congress, and we, the people, can confront our budget challenges and turn this heavy yoke into an opportunity.

Only a politician who looks on voters as cattle would see a yoke as an opportunity — at least for the drivers.

Who stakes Dianne?

eye in keyhole
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Who’s got a secret? If Senator Dianne Feinstein has her way, almost no one. Chair of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, the California Democrat has voted to modify FISA to allow much wider surveillance of Americans’ phone and e-mail communications by the US Government; to extend the Patriot Act that, among other provisions, authorizes indefinite detention and warrantless searches; and advocates hunting down and harshly punishing government whistle-blowers.

Yet despite all her access to classified information, and knowing no convincing evidence of weapons of mass destruction existed, Feinstein voted for the Iraq War. As former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter reported in 2005:

Today, Feinstein all-too conveniently “regrets” her vote in favor of war on Iraq, but defends her yes vote in 2002 by noting that “the intelligence was very conclusive: Saddam possessed biological and chemical weapons.” This is a far different from the statement Feinstein made to me in the summer of 2002, when she acknowledged that the Bush administration had not provided any convincing intelligence to back up its claims about Iraqi WMD.

One thing that isn’t altogether secret is who contributes to her political campaigns. The top donor to the chairperson of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development was Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which from 2008-2010 used $79 million to lobby Congress while paying no income taxes and indeed getting a billion bucks back in tax breaks. Another California-based utility, Edison International, was her third-largest contributor, donating an eighth of a million dollars. Wells Fargo, a megabank with its headquarters in San Francisco, ranked sixth on her list, and like PG&E paid millions in lobbying but nothing in income tax.

With a two-trillion-dollar economy, California possesses the eighth largest economy in the world, and many of its businesses contribute to Feinstein’s campaigns. The Senator’s second largest donor was the University of California; the world’s largest media conglomerate, the LA-based Walt Disney Company, was fourth, immediately followed by Time Warner, the second-largest media corporation on Earth. Also pouring local money into Feinstein’s campaign accounts: Modesto’s E&J Gallo Winery (seventh); LA law firms O’Melveny & Myers (eighth), Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher (13th) and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips (14th); San Francisco clothing retailer The Gap (16th); the nation’s biggest construction company, San Francisco’s Bechtel (19th); San Diego semiconductor makers Qualcomm (20th).

Defense Appropriations Subcommittee member Feinstein receives plenty of money from huge military contractors such as Northrop Grumman (ninth) and General Dynamics (11th) of Virginia as well as San Diego’s General Atomics (12th). She also gets funds from the country’s fifth largest company, financial powerhouse Bank of America (tenth); French mass media corporation Vivendi (15th); the politically active Seafarer’s International Union (17th); George Soros‘s Israel-oriented, two-state solution advocates JStreetPAC (18th).

Feinstein may also have more personal reasons to support increasing the military’s snooping authority. As Glenn Greenwald reported in December as the Senator led the FISA reauthorization fight:

Feinstein is one of the Senate’s richest plutocrats, whose husband, Richard Blum, has coincidentally been quite enriched by military and other government contracts during her Senate career. During this time, Feinstein has acted as the most faithful servant in the Senate of the National Security State’s unchecked, authoritarian power.