If you haven't heard yet about John Podesta, don't be surprised - the major media's radio silence belies his power and influence, working both inside and outside the US government to bundle campaign money and influence policy. Outside the US, his family's lobbying firm is a magnet for gobs of cash coming from Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Qatar and many others hoping to curry favor on the inside track.
The above video demonstrates the bluntness of Mr. Podesta, one time chief of staff to Bill Clinton, as he lay out his ill-fated scheme for public education, raining aggressive standardized testing policies, Common Core and charter schools onto the states through an avalanche of money. Buddied up with Jeb Bush, this 42 minute conference unpacked in 2012 how the Race to the Top initiative would transform every 3rd-8th grade public school into testing factories built on unproven, secret logarithmic formulas to rank students, teachers and schools.
PEARSON PAYDAY: The clip shows Bush and Podesta laughing about how strongly they agreed that billionaire philanthropists, corporations, hedge fund managers and political action committees should pump money into "infrastructure" for education reform. The plot would succeed, farming out major education functions to testing firms and consultants as schools lost student funding, precious learning time, arts, sports and counseling services.
Part of the plan was to generate PR and "communications" through advocacy organizations, but the heavy lifting came as hedge funders flooded statehouses with campaign cash. Once elected, Podesta's revolving door came into use, dispatching staffers to write the policy for busy politicians. He founded Center for American Progress, the think tank Politico calls Hillary's "policy shop" and hired a slew of former Dept of Education officials to write articles.
The implementation of Common Core has been roundly panned, with Hillary Clinton herself deeming it a botch-job after it led to explosive test refusals across the states, led in striking fashion by New York. Podesta noted in the video that education "reform" would go through ups and downs, insisting the donors anticipate fierce, sustained resistance.
He accurately described how teachers would reject his corporatization, but he left out how parents and students would opt-out of exams en masse, turning the resultant data into "swiss cheese" and thereby, making expectations of standardization pointless. Yet Hillary doubled down just last week, saying she would encourage her granddaughter to take the Common Core exams. This signals to education reformers to keep funding candidates and keep promoting the "valuable data" claim.
DEEDS, NOT WORDS: Hillary promised last month to end the revolving door onstage in televised debates, but her closest advisers took funding from the Gates, Waltons and Wall Street to promote privatization. Her current staff includes lobbyists for Keystone XL, private prisons and big finance firms.
The idea that she takes Wall Street money yet would still be tough on them defies common sense, as did the claim Obama was tough on banks after he took their millions. Like David Dayen, those following the issue know Obama went exceedingly soft on banks, failing to prosecute securities fraud, robosigning and granting backdoor immunity deals that only cut in the government on the heist.
Hillary says she needs corporate cash to compete with Republicans, but this was proven wrong by Bernie, raising record-breaking amounts at the same time making PAC money a liability. Hillary's lack of vision shows how little faith she had in working class Americans.
THE ESTABLISHMENT HELPS IT'S OWN: But it also shows how entrenched Hillary is in the money-fueled status quo. Podesta has been running SuperPACs since the Obama years, but was also given powerful advisory positions in the White House, picking Obama's cabinet members and advising on education and environmental issues.
Podesta's family lobbies for a variety of corporate interests, foreign governments and fossil fuel producers, including Sberbank, the biggest state-influenced bank in Russia, who was looking to avoid sanctions following the occupation of Crimea. The same bank was just found to have shell corporations in the Panama Papers.
The major media won't report this, but here, Salon exposes how foreign entities ply The Podesta Group with rich lobbying fees, notably Saudi royalty, the governments of Iraq and Kuwait, Qatari liquid natural gas producers and many US corporations including Walmart, Monsanto and Lockheed Martin.
The Podesta Group was founded by John Podesta but is now run by Tony Podesta, also a large bundler for Hillary. The firm was instrumental in brokering unconscionable deals as Clinton administration officials like Madeline Albright and Wesley Clark actually acquired major telecoms in Kosovo, capitalizing on their diplomatic contacts. The revolving door is still in full swing today. Dubbing John Podesta the "Hillary moneyman", reporter Michael Isikoff listed a number of foreign lobbyists who also bundle big bucks for Hillary including some who served with her at the State Dept.
ABOVE REPROACH: The Podestas maintain that the millions the firm receives do not affect John's work on policy matters. John also told Politico that speeches the Clintons gave to Wall Street and overseas conglomerates don't affect their decisions. Podesta himself advised Bill Clinton to repeal Glass-Steagall, in a hasty 3-day decision that is today seen as a contributing cause of the 2008 fiscal crisis, only to lobby for Bank of America and others after leaving office.
Writing for The Nation in 2013, Ken Silverstein described CAP as an uncommonly secretive revolving door to the Obama White House, basically an unregistered lobby shop promising access to important officials for large contributions. CAP took exception, yet refused to disclose donors or basic financial statements.
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