Transcript: Thom Hartmann: are the Wall Street bankers trying to hijack the entire political system? December 12, 2011

Thom Hartmann: Welcome back, Thom Hartmann here with you. In our first hour we heard from Joshua Holland over at about what he, live from the Port of Oakland about the Occupy the Ports movement that is going on all day today up and down the west cost. We’ll keep you up to date on that. But broadly, we’ll see how it shakes out. But there’s, and toward the end of the last hour I got a number of callers, well I got a couple of callers. It was interesting. We had callers on both sides, who were saying, you know Obama, you know he was supporting like Blanche Lincoln, he was supporting, he’s the right wing president. And you know my push back, or my position on that was before we were in the streets, before the occupy movement, I don’t frankly think that Obama saw much more than the tea party out there. I don’t think he felt that he had the, it’s not even a matter of he felt that he had the support. Politicians, it’s not like they hope they have the support or something like that. They get pressed.

I was over the weekend listening to tapes of William Howard Taft. And I would play them for you, but the audio quality was so bad. William Howard Taft was the president who followed Teddy Roosevelt. He was a republican. Teddy Roosevelt was a republican. And the tapes were about how you know, labor should have the right to organize. Labor should have the right to strike. You know how, you know the tariffs are a good thing for America. It was pretty amazing actually. And how important it is to bust up trusts, to bust up big corporations.

Well, here’s my concern and I want to lay this out for this hour, is that what we are seeing, we have seen now, as a result of the Citizen’s United decision, big corporations particularly through the Chamber of Commerce. You know, we’re looking at an oligarchy here in the United States. Big corporations and people who got rich via big corporations like the Koch brothers, taking that money, the corporate money or their personal money, and basically buying politicians. Or buying policy through, like in the case of the Koch brothers, funding things like ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has been writing all these laws in the various states that disenfranchise African Americans, poor people, young people, old people, so they can’t vote. That you know make it, that strip the rights of unionized workers, and on and on it goes. I mean, you know ALEC’s agenda is pretty clear. So what we’ve been seeing is working through the democratic and republican party, principally the republican party.

We had on this program back I don’t know three months ago or so, the last ALEC meeting was down in, as I recall, New Orleans. And a democratic law maker from Madison, Wisconsin, attended. Now any lawmaker, any state lawmaker can attend for $100. if you’re a lobbyist, I think it’s a hundred thousand. It’s or maybe it’s ten thousand. It costs a whole lot more. I think it’s a hundred thousand. But if you’re a lawmaker it’s only a hundred dollars. And so basically what they try to do is get a 50/50 balance of lawmakers and lobbyists. And they sit in rooms together and they lay out legislation. So this is an attempt to hijack the political system of America by these corporations and rich people through the republican party. And you’ve seen them do it in Wisconsin, you’ve seen them do it in Ohio, you’ve seen them do it in Michigan, you’ve seen them do it in Texas, you’ve seen them do it in Florida. We’re all familiar with those. And others, in Virginia, and New Jersey, and on and on it goes.

So the question is now are the Wall Street bankers trying to hijack the entire political system? And I believe they are. David Gregory and NBC news over the weekend gave a 20 minute infomercial to a corporation funded apparently by major Wall Street hedge fund guys called Americans Elect. Here’s clip 12, this is David Gregory asking one of his many softball questions on this absolutely disgusting interview this weekend.

David Gregory: What happens if you have somebody that’s selected, and it could be president Obama, right, it could be Ron Paul.

Thom Hartmann: No. It won’t be either.

David Gregory: What happens if you have a partisan who’s selected and you ultimately don’t get to the goal of a nonpartisan ticket?

Elliot Ackerman of Americans Elect: Well as a requirement for them to pursue the Americans Elect nomination, they have to reach across the space and form a nonpartisan ticket.

David Gregory: I thought, you mean, as long as it’s balanced.

Elliot Ackerman:Right, as long as it’s balanced. So, and you know, we’ve seen this in the past. There was a lot of talk in 2008 that Senator McCain would run with Senator Lieberman. That was a ticket that couldn’t get sold to the party.

David Gregory: Could it also be a popularity contest where somebody could say, I’d like, you know, General, former General David Petraeus to be president and I’d like you know John Stewart as well. I mean you could have a kind of popularity contest that renders this sort of moot, doesn’t it? If neither one of them want to move forward?

Elliot Ackerman: I don’t think that’s, the American people take the selection of their president very seriously.

Thom Hartmann: Yep. So let me answer the question that David Gregory started out by asking which is what happens if, Americans Elect…Americans Elect is this shadowy group that will not disclose its donors although it’s raised tens of millions of dollars, will not disclose its donors and is getting on the ballot in all 50 states. And as I said, they got a 20 minute infomercial on NBC this weekend. They’ve been on, they’ve been all over the place. You know from Huffington Post to Colbert Report these guys. And the answer to the question of what if you get, you know, Ron Paul on the ticket or Barack Obama, is that they reserve the right, according to their bylaws, to simply say no, we are not going to go with the people, with the person that everyone voted for on our website. And I guarantee you that’s to block Ron Paul, because Ron Paul has got a very strong grass roots support, and for that matter to block President Obama who has a very strong grass roots support, at least among web activists. So what the hell is Americans Elect?

Irregular Times, by the way, has been doing some very good blogging and reporting on this over the years. But Americans Elect is, it came out of this thing called Unity 08. The CEO is Kahlil Byrd, the chairman is Peter Ackerman. Go through this list. It’s a 501(c)(4) social welfare group which means they don’t have to disclose their donors. Their website retrieved on 9-24-2011 according to Wikipedia lists Kellen Arno as the national field director and Michael Arno as the ballot access advisor. Michael Arno is the president of Arno Political Consultants.

So who is Arno Political Consultants? Arno Political Consultants is a company based in Lincoln, California founded in ’79 by Michael Arno. Their former and current clients include the National Rifle Association and RJ Reynolds. This from the Wikipedia on Arno Political Consultants. “APC, Arno Political Consultants, has frequently been the subject of controversy over their bait and switch techniques, tactics, bribery, forgery and other types of fraud in gathering signatures.” In 2004 they tricked people into registering to vote as a republican, or they hired JSM who hired YPM who was accused of. In 2004 APC is accused of forging signatures on a petition to legalize slot machines in Miami, Dade, and Broward County. In 2005 paid signature collectors from APC revealed that an unknown but large number of signatures for a petition to remove the right of same sex marriage in Massachusetts had been collected through fraud. In 2007 APC hired JSM Inc. who hired independent contractors who gave snacks and foods to homeless people in exchange for signing petitions and registering to vote. But that’s not even the beginning of it.

The whole idea of this Americans Elect website, this from the Guardian, will allow ordinary Americans to participate in an online "convention" in June that will pick a presidential candidate to run in the 2012 race. This in my mind is an attempt to either promote the interests of Mayor Bloomberg or Evan Bayh or something like that or to basically just blow up our political process. Or to make sure that the republican is elected.

So what is Americans Elect all about and why won't they discolse their donors? Oh, well, because they're shy, they're shy.


Well, if you had ten million or a hundred million or a thousand million - a billion - or ten thousand million - the billion - then maybe you would fund Americans Elect. As Justin Elliott wrote for on December 9 2011:

Here’s what the group is not so up front about: It’s fueled by millions of dollars of secret money, there is a group of wealthy, well-connected board members who have control over Americans Elect’s nominating process, and the group has myriad links to Wall Street.

Thomas Friedman, the famous corporatist, who today, Dean Baker wrote this brilliant piece, yesterday, about Thomas Friedman, the headline "Thomas Friedman Is Flat: More Nonsense on Economics in the NYT". He says:

The NYT continues its policy of affirmative action for people ignorant of the world by allowing Thomas Friedman to write two columns a week on whatever he chooses. Today he talks about the job crisis.

And he points out Thomas Friedman doesn't know what he's talking about. So, anyhow, Thomas Friedman back in July about Americans Elect:

What did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, what the iPod did to music, what did to pharmacies, Americans Elect plans to do to the two-party duopoly

In other words, they are going to destroy it. I mean, that's not the conclusion Thomas Friedman came to, he thought it was a wonderful thing, they're going to:

Remove the barriers to real competition.

Right. removed the barriers to real competition? No, they put a lot of book stores out of business. You know I,, well, anyway. The Huffington Post: "2012: The Year of the Independent?" - Lynn Forester de Rothschild writes about this "revolutionary new way to nominate a bipartisan ticket to occupy the White House." Who's she? She's a bundler for Jon Huntsman, who by the way is one of the people who they're touting as a possible candidate.

It turns out that all of their candidates, first of all they have to be approved by the candidate certification committee according to the group's bye-laws, and who appoints that? The board of directors. As Thomas Friedman reported over the summer, the group is "financed with some serious hedge-fund money. They've got some fancy office space in New York and DC. Peter Ackerman, chairman of the board, gave over a million bucks to the group. He's a wealthy investment banker. He was on the board of the CATO Institute's social security choice project. The CATO Institute funded by the Koch brothers, the social security choice project a program to destroy social security and replace it with a privatized system where all the money goes to Wall Street.

Maybe that could be because, according to the Guardian, other funders include Melvin Andrews of Lakeside Capital Partners, and Kirk Rostron who formerly worked as a director of Merrill Lynch's hedge fund group. Now who do they have who's political? You've got former McCain aide Mark McKinnon, Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute, former New Jersey governor Christie Todd Whitman, she of the, 'oh yea, you can go down to 9/11, breathe the air, it's just fine'. And Bloomberg Pollster Douglas Schoen, who says, 'why can't we just all get along by agreeing to dismantle social security'. No, he didn't say that, this is what they're saying in Salon:

... suggest the group will promote a kind of pro-establishment, “why can’t we just all get along by agreeing to dismantle Social Security”-style centrism.

This is what they're calling 'centrism'. This is clip 8, David Gregory, interviewing these guys over the weekend, giving them basically, you know, saying, 'bend over, I want to kiss' on NBC nationwide, 20 minutes. Clip 1.

non-partisan ticket. Eliot, why

David Gregory: So the key is a nonpartisan ticket. Elliot, why do we need this?

Elliot Ackerman: Well, you know right now we’ve got government that isn’t working. You know we’re seeing the continued and predictable failure of our elected leaders to reach across the space and work together.

So, the answer is to turn it over to a group that won't disclose it;s donors, that's funded by a bunch of Wall Street people, that has ties to Bloomberg and what not, that is promoting privatizing, that seems to be promoting privatizing social security. Let's turn it over to this group and then have a primary on the Internet in June and everybody can vote, and by the way, if you vote for somebody that they don't like, they're not going to put that person on the ballot. So Ron Paul supporters, Barack Obama supporters, Russ Feingold supporters, don't bother. It's going to be Evan Bayh or Michael Bloomberg. It's going to be somebody who wants to privatize social security. It's somebody who wants to hand America off to Wall Street, I guarantee it. You will see it. Mark my words. Record that, well, they're being recorded right now.

Here's David Gregory kiss number 2, clip 9.

David Gregory: So tell me how it works -- I mean first of all you have to get ballot access. How many states have you gotten access to?

Elliot Ackerman: Right now, we are on the ballot and certified in eleven states, we are in the process of finishing up 30 states that are this year -- that’s the most you can go into in 2011.

And by 2012, election year, they hope to be in all 50 states which means that they can run a candidate against both the Republican and the Democrat in every single state. Clip 10.

David Gregory: So, are individuals nominating figures they’d like to run, or are you know candidates themselves putting themselves, offering themselves up via the website?

Aren't these tough questions?

Kahlil Byrd: Think of it this way: in the normal course of events of a presidential election, the three choices that we have right now -- the Democrat and the two Republicans before Iowa and New Hampshire -- would be all people would have. Americans Elect changes the calendar, by allowing people to envision, since we’re getting ballot access -- which is the big driver -- envision who, what former or sitting governor, what person who’s in corporate life, what person who’s shown leadership in where they are, who should we be putting forward to allow to run for president.

In other words, David, in answer to your question, how do you decide who's going to run, we have this board of directors made of millionaires and billionaires who are going to decide, or it sure looks that way. Americans Elect is the Trojan Horse - look out.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic and Sue Nethercott.

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