Can the President kill you just for looking at him funny? As the Senate Intelligence Committee prepares to take up the nomination of John Brennan for Director of the CIA tomorrow (February 7), NBC News has published a “white paper” the Department of Justice gave to Congress justifying the assassination of US citizens by the executive branch without judicial review. However, as Marcy Wheeler points out:
[It is] not the actual legal memos used to authorize the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki and who knows who else. As Michael Isikoff notes in his story, the Senators whose job it is to oversee the Executive Branch — even the ones on the Senate Intelligence Committee that are supposed to be read into covert operations — are still demanding the memos, for at least the 12th time. The release of this white paper must not serve to take pressure off of the White House to release the actual memos.
Ron Wyden, who has gotten this white paper, still keeps asking this question.
“Is the legal basis for the intelligence community’s lethal counterterrorism operations the 2001 Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or the President’s Commander-in-Chief authority?”
With Wyden likely to appear more often in the spotlight in days to come, I decided to look at who has funded his campaigns, through the website OpenSecrets.org. (Recent articles have focused on fellow Intelligence Committee members Mark Udall, Carl Levin, and chairperson Dianne Feinstein.
The Oregon Senator’s top donor is sports apparel multinational Nike, headquartered in Beaverton, near Portland; it has contributed over $74,000 to him since 1989. Intel, which is the state’s largest employer with its facility in Hillsboro, gave nearly $54,000, putting it fifth on the Senator’s list. The Oregon Health & Science University, with campuses and hospitals in both Portland and Hillsboro, comes in eleventh.
The legal industry represents Wyden’s biggest source of donations. The world’s largest law firm, DLA Piper, ranked second with $64,000, and the trial lawyers’ lobby the American Association for Justice came in third. Both unions and business groups contribute heavily to Wyden as well. The Teamsters rank sixth, teachers’ union the National Education Association ninth, and the United Transportation Union 15th. On the other hand, the National Association of Realtors ranks 14th, and the National Automobile Dealers Association 16th.
The health care industry (his second largest source of funds) has a particular interest in the Senator, who has a seat on the Special Committee on Aging and oversees Medicare, Social Security, and nursing home conditions, among other issues. Nursing home trade group the American Health Care Association ranks seventh, the hospital administrators’ American Hospital Association 12th, Blue Cross Blue Shield 17th, and nursing home group Manor Care 18th.
The Big Four accounting firms feature often in the top twenty list of contributors to the Senate Finance Committee and Taxation and IRS Oversight Subcommittee member. Deloitte ranks eighth with $50,000, PriceWaterhouseCoopers tenth, and Ernst & Young 20th. Professional organization the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants came in 19th.
Wyden’s close ties with the health care and insurance industries may explain some of his corporate-friendly proposals to change the US health insurance system. When advocating the Healthy Americans Act he co-sponsored in 2009, an alternative to Obamacare that would have even further enshrined the private insurance market into law, he pooh-poohed single-payer systems and even the public option:
“A lot of the people who are for a public option want a single-payer system, and they haven’t minced any words about it. Bless their hearts, extra points for honesty. But that’s not where I am.”
Likewise, in 2011Wyden teamed up with Paul Ryan and proposed partially privatizing Medicare.