First, a confession. If Mitt Romney becomes president I'm partly to blame.
Ten years ago I ran for the Democratic nomination for governor of
Massachusetts -- which would have given me the opportunity to whip Mitt
Romney's ass in the general election,
I blew it. In the final week of the primary I was neck and neck with
the state treasurer, but then my money ran out, which meant my TV ads
stopped. Declining the suggestion of my campaign manager to take out a
second mortgage on my home, I frantically phoned anyone I could find who
hadn't yet contributed $500, the maximum state law allowed. I didn't
raise beans. In the end, the treasurer won the primary, Romney won the
general election and became governor, and I went back to being a
But my fantasy of beating Romney may be nothing more than a fantasy
because Romney had -- and still has -- something I never did (and I'm not
referring to his gleaming white teeth, carefully-coiffed hairline, or
height). He has money, and he has connections to much more money.
Mitt Romney was then and still is the candidate of big money.
In the last weeks before the just-completed Iowa caucuses, Romney
spent over $3 million relentlessly torpedoing Newt Gingrich with
negative ads -- cutting Gingrich's support by half and hurtling him from
first place to fourth. But Romney kept his fingerprints off the torpedo.
Technically the money didn't even come from his campaign.
It came from a Super PAC called "Restore Our Future," which can sop
up unlimited amounts from a few hugely wealthy donors without even
disclosing their names. That's because "Restore Our Future" is
officially independent of the Romney campaign -- although its chief
fundraiser comes out of Romney's finance team, its key political
strategist was political director of Romney's 2008 presidential
campaign, its treasurer is Romney's former chief counsel, and its media
whiz had been part of Romney's media team.
"Restore Our Future" is to Mitt Romney's campaign as the dark side of
the moon is to the moon. And it reveals the grotesque result of the
Supreme Court's decision a year ago in Citizen United vs the Federal Election Commission, which reversed more than a century of efforts to curb the influence of big money on politics.
If income and wealth in America were as widely shared as in the first
three decades after World War II, we'd have less reason to worry. But
now, with an almost unprecedented concentration of money at the very
top, Citizens United invites the worst corruption our democracy has witnessed since the Gilded Age.
And Romney and Citizens United were made for each other.
Other candidates have quietly set up Super PACs of their own,
and President Obama has his Super PAC already busily tapping into
whatever reservoirs of big money it can find. But Mitt's unique ties to
the biggest money pits enable him to take unique advantage of the
Court's scurrilous invitation.
The New York Times reports that New York hedge-fund managers
and Boston financiers contributed almost $30 million to "Restore Our
Future" before the Iowa caucuses. And "Restore Our Future's" faux
independence has allowed Romney to publicly distance himself from them,
their money, and the dirty work that their money has bought.
More than anyone else running for president, Mitt Romney personifies
the top 1 percent in America -- actually, the top 1/10th of 1
percent. It's not just his four homes and estimated $200 million
fortune, not just his wheeling and dealing in leveraged-buyouts and
private equity, not even the jobless refugees of his financial maneuvers
that makes him the Gordon Gekko of presidential aspirants.
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It's his connections to the epicenters of big money in America --
especially to top executives and financiers in the habit of investing
for handsome returns. And there are almost no better returns than those
found in tax benefits, government subsidies, loan guarantees, bailouts,
regulatory exemptions, federal contracts, and trade deals generating
hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars a year.
Romney, in other words, is the candidate Citizens United created, the creature given life by Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito all playing Dr. Frankenstein.
Given what the Court has wrought, my conscience is less burdened. Had
I whipped Romney's ass 10 years ago I might only have delayed his
awakening. But I fear for the country.