In a 1994 science-fiction novel called Interface, a presidential candidate has an electronic chip in his brain that links his mind to real-time polling data. His words, deeds, even his thoughts are immediately responsive to the public mood. Mitt Romney seems a lot like that -- except that Romney's chip is connected to money.
That money's Romney's own, along with that of his contributors and his entire financial class. His economic arguments may be incomprehensible but his motives are easily understood. In the words of Snoop Dogg, "he's got his mind on his money and his money on his mind."
To know the man you must know his money. That means a new report listing his chief campaign contributors can also give us insight into Romney's mind, and those of his powerful backers.
The Campaign for a Fair Settlement's new report provides detail on some of Romney's major financial supporters, individually and by industry, with an emphasis on banking. The list includes a number of financiers with extreme political views, many of whom have a history of non-productive and socially destructive investments. That's not an accident.
The report's Principal Author, Dan Petegorsky, focuses on the "bundlers" who corral and browbeat others into contributing to the campaign. Bundlers are motivated enough to contribute hard work, as well as lots of cash, to a campaign. (They're also easier to identify; campaign laws and court rulings have made it much harder to identify Super PAC and other contributors.)
I provided some research support for this report. Sometimes that involved phone calls with Petegorsky, where he'd float a name and I'd laugh and say something like "Really? He's the one who said ABC/was charged with XYZ/had a bacchanal at..."
But while the anecdotes can be entertaining, their plans for the country are no laughing matter.
Who's raising money for Mitt? There's Daniel S. Loeb, the "Robespierre of the Hedge Fund Revolution." Loeb compared himself and his coddled peers to exploited laborers at the thought of paying the same tax rates as everyone else, using the words of Thomas Jefferson: "...A wise and frugal government ... shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned."
International Wagerers of the World, unite! You have nothing to lose but your capital gains... What triggered this Joe Hill-like rhetoric? The thought of asking hedge fund managers to pay taxes under the same rules that apply to people like police officers, firefighters or nurses.
Then there's Steve Schwarzman, who raised the ante on Loeb by saying that eliminating the hedge fund managers' loophole would be like "Hitler invading Poland." Schwarzman co-founded the Blackstone firm with Peter G. "Pete" Peterson, the billionaire who has funded so much of the "deficit" hysteria and austerity hype that's being embraced by both parties under the "Simpson Bowles" umbrella.
Barclays Bank, which illegally rigged LIBOR lending rates, is well-represented on the bundler list. (Its CEO, Bob Diamond, was scheduled to host a Romney fundraiser in London but was inconveniently forced to resign shortly before Romney's arrival on that ill-fated visit.)
Goldman Sachs executives are Romney bundlers, as is John Paulson. While Paulson's name is less well-known, he made a fortune betting against mortgage-backed securities. Goldman did too -- especially because they let Paulson pick the securities they sold to their own customers in the ABACUS trade. They concealed Paulson's involvement by fraudulently claiming someone else was selecting the securities, and then placed large bets against their own clients.
John Devanay's on the list. Like Goldman, he sold securities he knew were junk. So's my former employer, AIG. (I wasn't in the financial products division.) And so are the accounting firms that were at the heart of so many of these scandals, and against whom there seems to be very strong prima facie grounds for charges. (We'll never know, since the Justice Department chose not to pursue the investigation.)