A Mike Lee story

predator drone picture

Kiss goodbye to another bit of the Bill of Rights. After thirteen hours of delay, the shredding of the US Constitution resumed today, with only a few Senators — mainly Tea Party Republicans — having briefly stood in its way. Torture and assassination supporter John Brennan was just confirmed 63-34 with only three members of the Democratic caucus (Merkley, Leahy and Sanders) opposing him. The delay occurred because, as Kevin Gosztola of FireDogLake wrote yesterday:

The nomination of John Brennan to the position of CIA director is currently being held up by a filibuster being led by Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. He has been joined by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah and even Democratic Senator Ron Wyden to ask “questions” of him as he filibusters.

Much of the motivation for standing on the Senate floor for the past hours has to do with the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder has declined to say outright that targeting and killing a US citizen suspected of plotting a terrorist attack on US soil, who did not pose an imminent threat, would be illegal. Paul submitted three letters and finally on March 5 Holder gave him an answer. However, it did not rule out the use of drone strikes and say this would be unconstitutional.

I’ve previously given an overview of the major contributors to Paul and Wyden. Today I’ll look at who has given money to Lee, who joined the Senate in 2010.

Several major donors to the Utah Senator have ties to Mitt Romney, 2012 Republican presidential candidate and a former Utah resident. Lee’s top donor by far, giving nearly $75,000, was APX Alarm (now Vivint), a Provo-based home security firm; its president is Alex Dunn, Mitt Romney’s former chief of staff. Murray Energy (third), an Ohio coal mining corporation run by prominent Romney supporter Robert E. Murray, fueled Lee’s campaign with $24,000, as did Provo dietary supplement sellers Nu Skin Enterprises (fourth).

Law firms edged out business services as Lee’s biggest industry. Huge corporate law firm Sidley Austin (second) contributed $28,000; mergers and acquisitions specialists Sullivan & Cromwell ranked sixth and bankruptcy law firm Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones 11th.

Many of Lee’s big donors came from his home state of Utah. Payday loan company Tosh Inc. (Check City) (fifth), has its headquarters in Provo. Herbal supplement manufacturers Basic Research (seventh) work out of Salt Lake City, as does billboard company Reagan Outdoor Advertising (eighth). Online marketing business Omniture (tenth), acquired by software multinational Adobe, was moved from Orem to Lehi. Draper professional services firm NPEC (12th-19th) gave $10,000, while Saint George energy company Paydirt Capital, Salt Lake City’s Perry Homes, and Centerville investment advisors Wealth Navigation (20th-23rd) all donated $9,600.

Other significant contributors to Lee include the world’s largest software company, Microsoft (ninth). $10,000 donations came in from lobbying groups the American Bankers Association, the Credit Union National Association, and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors; and political action committees OrrinPAC, representing Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, former Senator Jim DeMint’s Tea Party Senate Conservatives Fund, and the pro-Israel Citizens Organized. Pharmacy services company Medco Health Solutions gave $10,000 too, while venture capital firm Northgate Capital (20th-23rd) gave $9,600.

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.