“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
—Louis D. Brandeis
If Michael Bennet wins the Democratic Primary tomorrow, it will be a bitter disappointment to those of us who still hope that we can stop money from killing our political system. Michael Bennet is a wealthy man, having made millions as a corporate raider, and his donations to the Democratic party reflect this. Over the years, according to the FEC records, he has donated around $30,000 to various politicians and causes, notably to the Obama campaign and to Harry Reid, Democratic Senate leader. Is there any doubt that he was being rewarded for his donations when he was appointed to the vacant Senate seat by the Obama administration?
33 out of 35 Democratic County Chairs wanted Andrew Romanoff to be appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Ken Salazar in 2008. At the Democratic Party Assembly in Broomfield in May 2010, 60% of delegates voted to endorse Andrew Romanoff. In spite of this expressed will of the people, Washington went ahead and picked the wealthiest candidate to support in the Primary.
Michael Bennet portrays himself as a financial guru and a Washington outsider. So how is he doing as a Senator so far? Well, according to an article in this week’s New Yorker, he doesn’t know what he’s doing there and admits to achieving nothing. “You know what you’ll see happening? Nothing. When I’m in the chair, I sit there thinking, I wonder what they’re doing in China right now.”
He no longer needs to wonder. An article in today’s Apollo Alliance newsletter states that China plans to invest 5 trillion yuan, or $738 billion, into renewable energy projects over the next decade, according to the state-owned China Securities Journal. Now, maybe Senator Bennet’s time would be better spent applying his mind to a meaningful energy bill for our country, but given the fact that some of his biggest donors are BP, ConocoPhillips and NationalFuel, it hardly seems likely.
Challenging Bennet in the Senate race is Andrew Romanoff, who refuses any corporate or special interest funding at all. He has attracted enormous grassroots support and admiration for his integrity on this issue. His campaign has been run on small donations and the energy of his volunteers, not the corporate dollars of Bennet’s campaign which has massively outspent Romanoff on TV propaganda. Now the Obama administration is adding their weight to the campaign with support and funding, it is patently obvious that donations buy favors. The oil companies and other big corporations understand this. And politicians who give hefty donations to the Party understand they get a payback in return.
It is all a distasteful reminder of how money dominates politics – not only dominates, but distorts and corrupts – no matter which party you support.
With Andrew Romanoff, Colorado Democrats had a chance to take their agenda to the polls. Clean campaigns, clean energy, clean government. His message energized all those who still had the idealism that Obama’s campaign had ignited, now so long ago. Here was a man who promised that he would represent the individual in Congress, not the corporation. Here was a candidate who had been elected over and over again to public office in Colorado, with an honorable track record in legislation. Instead of Andrew Romanoff being our chosen uncontested candidate in the Primary, Washington has forced upon us a wealthy corporate raider, a man whose campaign is awash with special interest money, a man appointed to office instead of being elected.
Is it any wonder that this race is being seen as a race for the soul of the Democratic Party – if indeed it has one left?