Plutocracy: Government by the wealthy.
At the end of the 1964 epic, The Fall of the Roman Empire, ambitious generals hold an auction to determine who becomes the next all-powerful Caesar.
After 236 years as a Republic, the United States appears to be doing the same.
As of this writing, at least 32 billionaires have made huge contributions to the Mitt Romney Presidential campaign. And President Barack Obama has had 164 fund-raising events.
Among the Romney backers:
- Sheldon Adelson, international casino magnate. By preying on the gambling habits of millions, he has amassed a fortune estimated by Forbes at $24.9 billion. This makes Adelson the eighth richest person in the United States.
Adelson contributed $21.5 million to a super PAC that supported Newt Gingrich’s failed presidential bid. Adelson then gave $10 million to Restore Our Future, the super PAC, of Mitt Romney–who had defeated Gingrich.
He has promised to give $71 million to both super PACs and nonprofits spending money in the 2012 election.
“I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,” he said during a February 21, 2012 Forbes interview. “But as long as it’s doable, I’m going to do it.”
Adelson, a right-wing hawk on Israel, believes that President Obama hasn’t been sufficiently pro-Israeli. (The President has called for an end to Israeli settlement-building in the occupied West Bank.)
But that’s not Adelson’s only beef with the President. Adelson, like most right-wingers, fears that “class warfare” might curtail the privileges enjoyed by the super-rich against the poor and middle-class:
“What scares me is the continuation of the socialist-style economy we’ve been experiencing for almost four years.
“That scares me because the redistribution of wealth is the path to more socialism, and to more of the government controlling people’s lives.”
- Harold Simmons, the industrialist who heads Contran Corp, donated $17.7 million to right-wing super PACs through April, 2012. In a March 22, 2012 Huffington Post interview, he called Obama “that socialist.”
“Obama is the most dangerous American alive … because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country,” he added.
- Kenneth Griffin is the head of the massive hedge fund Citadel. By April, 2012, he had contributed $2.08 million to super PACs favoring right-wing candidates.
A billionaire who’s ranked 173rd on the Forbes list of 400 richest Americans, Griffin believes Obama has engaged in “class warfare” rhetoric for political gain.
In his view, “class warfare” can only occur if the poor and middle-class are assailing the super-wealthy.
“This is the first time class warfare has really been embraced as a political tool. Because we are looking at an administration that has embraced class warfare as being politically expedient,” he told the Chicago Tribune in a March 11, 2012 interview.
Asked if he thought rich people had too great an influence on politics, he said: “I think they actually have an insufficient influence.
“Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system more than ever now owe a duty to protect the system that has created the greatest nation on this planet.”
Griffin added that he believed he should be able to donate an unlimited amount of money to Super PACs.
Like most wealthy right-wingers, Griffin thinks that government has no business policing even companies whose toxic pollution threatens the environment–and their fellow Americans.
“When a company creates a product that directly or indirectly adversely impacts the health of people, that product must be regulated,” he stated in the Tribune interview.
“No company has the right to injure people. At the same time, the answer to this is not for the company that injures people to be shut down and for the government to start a competing enterprise.”
Griffin’s answer: “Encourage other free-market institutions…to [create] the value consumers are looking for.”
- Harold Hamm, the CEO of the oil company Continental Resources, is ranked by Forbes as the 30th richest person in America with a fortune of $11 billion.
In March, 2012, Romney named Hamm as his energy advisor. Soon afterward, Hamm donated $985,000 to the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future.
The candidacy of Mitt Romney–and his rise as the first Mormon nominee for President–has inspired enthusiasm among wealthy Mormons. For them, this has produced a rare combination:
- A feeling of religious solidarity in backing one of their own, and
- A longstanding commitment to a right-wing agenda.
Among the biggest Mormon donors so far have been:
- Blake Roney and Steven Lund, executives with Nu Skin marketing company, contributed $1 million to Restore Our Future.
- J.W. “Bill” Marriott, the chairman of Marriott International, gave $1 million to Restore Our Future.
- Kevin B. Rollins, head of TPA Private Equity, gave $500,000 to Restore Our Future.
- David Lisonbee, CEO of 4Life, a multi-level marketing company that sells health products, contributed $500,000 to Restore Our Future.
And the ”Buy Yourself a President” auction isn’t over. The 2012 campaign still has more than four months to go.