Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing is Turning America Into a One-Party State

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The bestselling authors of Weapons of Mass Deception expose how the "right-wing conspiracy," as represented by the GOP and its mouthpieces in media, lobbying groups, and the legal system, is undermining dissent and squelching pluralistic politics in America.

The U.S. economy is on the ropes, fear grips the nation, and we are embroiled in two overseas military quagmires with no end in sight. Outside its borders, the United States is hated and ...

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Overview

The bestselling authors of Weapons of Mass Deception expose how the "right-wing conspiracy," as represented by the GOP and its mouthpieces in media, lobbying groups, and the legal system, is undermining dissent and squelching pluralistic politics in America.

The U.S. economy is on the ropes, fear grips the nation, and we are embroiled in two overseas military quagmires with no end in sight. Outside its borders, the United States is hated and feared as never before.

For the first time in living memory, a single party-the Republicans-controls every major institution of the federal government: the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate and House of Representatives-not to mention the "fourth branch of government," the mass media. How did this come to pass?

Banana Republicans reveals how the national GOP maintains its hold on power through the systematic manipulation of the electoral system, the courts, the media, and the lobbying establishment. The book examines:

• The legacy of the Florida ballot scandal, and how it has played out in the recall movement in California-and other states, where recall efforts are under way-and in the redistricting controversy in Texas.

• How a GOP echo chamber systematically spreads its views through conservative media giants-e.g., Clear Channel, Fox-and highly placed columnists, journalists, and opinion makers.

• How the Bush administration is loading the federal courts with a generation of demagogues, and smearing the names of legislators who attempt to stand in its way.
• How House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has strong-armed traditional lobbying firms into exclusively hiring Republicans, so that even K Street is political, rather than merely opportunistic.

• How the GOP has equated dissent with treason-e.g., Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accusing war critics of abetting terrorism.

• How the Bush administration uses its power to punish dissent, such as the leaking of a CIA agent's name to the press, and unprecedented lawsuits against activist organizations such as Greenpeace.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585423422
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 5/24/2004
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.32 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

John Stauber (right) is founder and director of the Center for Media & Democracy. He and Sheldon Rampton write and edit the quarterly PR Watch: Public Interest Reporting on the PR/Public Affairs Industry. They are the bestselling authors of Weapons of Mass Deception, Toxic Sludge is Good for You! , and Trust Us, We're Experts! In 2001, the National Council of Teachers of English gave Rampton and Stauber its annual George Orwell Award for exposing the use of doublespeak in American life.

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Read an Excerpt

Banana Republicans

How the Right Wing Is Turning America Into a One-Party State
By Sheldon Rampton John Stauber

JEREMY P. TARCHER / PENGUIN

Copyright © 2004 Center for Media and Democracy
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-58542-342-4


Chapter One

The Marketplace of Ideas

"It was like hell had opened up," said Danny Smalley, as he testified in court about the death of his 17-year-old daughter, Danielle, on August 24, 1996.

Danielle had been packing for college at her home near Lively, Texas, a small town southeast of Dallas, when her friend Jason Stone, also 17, stopped by to help plan her farewell party. They noticed the odor of butane gas about the same time that dozens of other people in the neighborhood began to notice it as well. "We had twenty-one nine-one-one calls in this area from the fumes so terrible that they were scared to turn their lights on, scared to leave, start their cars," recalled an emergency worker summoned to the scene.

Because the Smalley family did not have a phone, Danielle and Jason offered to go alert county emergency workers. Danny Smalley watched them get in the family pickup truck and drive off. Later, he said, he wished he had known how dangerous it was to operate a vehicle amid flammable vapors. "We would have run," he said. "I'm ignorant-I blame myself. Why didn't I get into the truck?"

A few moments later, he heard the explosion. The road had taken Danielle and Jason into a low-lying area where the leaking gas had collected, causing their truck to stall. When they attempted to restart the engine, the ignition spark was like a match dropped in a 16-acre puddle of fuel. The explosion blew out the back windshield of the truck and sent a 150-foot fireball shooting from the ground at the spot where a high-pressure butane pipeline had rusted through. Despite rainfall that evening, the fireball continued to rage through the night, spewing smoke into the air and leaving a swath of more than 15 scorched acres looking as though they had been hit with napalm.

"I was hoping it wasn't my daughter, that it was something else," Danny Smalley recalled. "And then I seen the truck, and I knew that my baby had been killed."

The pipeline belonged to Koch Industries, a company that operates one of the largest pipeline systems in the United States. Residents in the Smalleys' neighborhood said Koch had not told them about the pipeline's history of corrosion problems (which dated almost to the minute it was put into the ground) or that the electrical system intended to inhibit corrosion was not working properly. Most residents had no idea that there was even a pipeline next to their homes.

It was not the first time that Koch Industries had operated a pipeline known to have problems. Just two years previously, corrosion in one of its oil pipelines had contributed to a 90,000-gallon oil spill that fouled miles of shoreline along the Texas Gulf Coast. In fact, Koch Industries is one of America's most notorious polluters. During the 1990s, its faulty pipelines were responsible for more than 300 oil spills in six states, prompting a landmark EPA penalty of $35 million. In Minnesota, it was fined an additional $8 million for discharging oil into streams. During the months leading up to the 2000 presidential elections, the company faced even more liability, in the form of a 97-count federal indictment charging it with concealing illegal releases of 91 metric tons of benzene, a known carcinogen, from its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. If convicted, the company faced fines of up to $352 million, plus possible jail time for company executives. That's more than small change even for a company the size of Koch Industries, the nation's second largest privately held company, with annual revenues of more than $25 billion.

Fortunately for Koch, it also had a cozy relationship with America's future ruling party. During the 2000 election campaign, Koch Industries and its employees donated more than $1 million to political campaigns, 90 percent of which went to Republicans. Shortly after Bush's election, his Justice Department announced a deal with Koch, dropping all outstanding environmental charges against the company in exchange for a one-time fine of $20 million-about 5 percent of its potential liability if the case had gone to trial. In addition, the administration also launched several policy initiatives to gut the Glean Air Act, the Glean Water Act and other environmental laws, thus opening the way for corporate polluters to dump toxins into the environment without fear of fines or prosecution. Of course, Koch was not the only company that gave big to Republicans and got a boost from Bush's policies. During the 2000 elections, the oil and gas industries overall gave 77 percent of their $14 million in contributions to Republicans. (The biggest single energy-industry contributor was Enron.)

The money that Koch gives to political candidates, however, is only a small part of the role that it has played in influencing politics. It has also played a key role for decades in financing the ideas that have driven the rise of the conservative movement. The company is owned by brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, each of whom has a net worth of $4 billion, earning them separate spots in the Forbes list of the 50 richest people in America. Like their father, Fred Koch, an oil-and-gas entrepreneur who was a founding member of the far-right John Birch Society in 1958, they have used their wealth in concert with a handful of other extraordinarily wealthy individuals to build a political machine that spreads their ideas about law, culture, politics and economics throughout the political and media establishment. The Kochs are part of a network of conservative benefactors that support industry-friendly think tanks, experts and subsidized media that repeat, embellish and reinforce their core message that corporations are good while government regulations, labor unions, environmentalists, liberal Democrats and anything else that might restrict corporate behavior are bad.

A Million for Your Thoughts

The Koch brothers began actively funding conservative political causes in the 1970s through the Koch Family Foundations, which consist of the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. Since then, they have lavished tens of millions of dollars on "free market" advocacy in and around Washington. According to their filings with the Internal Revenue Service, they gave away more than $9 million in 2001 alone, almost all of it to conservative groups such as the libertarian Cato Institute (which Charles co-founded in 1977), Citizens for a Sound Economy (which David helped launch in 1986), the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Reason Foundation, Heritage Foundation, Landmark Legal Foundation and Young America's Foundation.

Like the Koch brothers, another conservative billionaire, Richard Mellon Scaife-a member of the Mellon banking and oil family-also began giving heavily to conservative causes in the 1970s. According to former Wall Street Journal reporter Karen Rothmyer, Scaife was "the biggest funder of the New Right, spending millions of dollars a year to help establish the Heritage Foundation and a host of other think tanks focused on marketing conservative ideas both to Congress and to the public." Since then, he has continued to be a prodigious funder of the right. After Republicans won a majority in Congress in the 1994 elections, political science professor Thomas Ferguson commented that Scaife "had as much to do with the Gingrich revolution as Gingrich himself." By 1999, the Washington Post reported that Scaife's foundations-the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, the Allegheny Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation-had given $340 million over a period of four decades to conservative causes and institutions. By 2002, they held more than $230 million in assets, and in that year alone they gave away more than $22 million.

Other leading conservative funders include the following:

The Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, with assets exceeding $532 million, was founded by brothers Lynde and Harry Bradley, who made their fortunes producing electronic and radio components. Harry Bradley was an early financial supporter of the John Birch Society and a contributor to William F. Buckley's National Review. The foundation gives away more than $25 million a year to promote the deregulation of business, privatization of public education, the rollback of social welfare programs and the privatization of government services. Bradley money supports major conservative groups such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

The John M. Olin Foundation, which grew out of a family manufacturing business in chemicals and munitions, had assets of approximately $90 million in 1998. Since the year 2000, however, it has begun spending down its endowment at a rate of about $20 million per year, with the goal of putting itself out of business by the end of the year 2005. This policy reflects the wishes of John Olin, who selected politically like-minded colleagues to manage the fund upon his death and who wanted to make sure that following their deaths, the fund would not pass into the hands of people with contrary views.

The Adolph Coors Foundation, funded by the family that owns the Adolph Coors brewery, earned notoriety in the 1970s and 1980s for its anti-union, anti-gay, anti-minority stance. Recipients of its funding have included Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation, which has filed legal briefs opposing gay marriage, calling it "an infamous crime against nature." It also helped fund publication of Catholic priest Enrique Rueda's books, The Homosexual Network and Gays, AIDS and You, which refer ominously to "the evil nature" of homosexuality. It has also funded the Heritage Foundation, which opposes gays and lesbians serving in the military and other actions that "advance the goals of homosexual activists." Other recipients of Coors funding have included anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum and Stop ERA campaign, the John Birch Society and a variety of organizations affiliated with the religious right. In the 1990s, however, the Coors company launched an aggressive public relations campaign to repair its image with supporters of gay rights who were boycotting Coors beer. It offered money to gay and lesbian rights groups and became one of the first companies in the United States to offer marriage benefits to employees in same-sex relationships. It hired Mary Cheney, the openly lesbian daughter of current vice president Dick Cheney, as its "corporate relations manager for the gay and lesbian market" and signed a marketing contract with Witeck-Combs Communications, a public relations firm that specializes in niche marketing to the gay community. The Coors family also took steps to distance the Coors name from its political activities. In 1993, it established the Castle Rock Foundation with a $36.6 million endowment from the Coors Foundation. Under the family's direction, Castle Rock continues to pour $2 to $3 million of Coors profits each year into anti-gay and other conservative causes, but the company itself is officially gay-friendly.

Other significant conservative foundations include: the Smith Richardson Foundation, financed by the Vicks VapoRub fortune, with assets of about $250 million, which gives grants totaling more than $20 million per year; the Michigan-based Earhart Foundation, which gives away about $5 million annually, including grants and fellowships to help conservative college students; and the JM Foundation and Philip M. McKenna Foundation, each of which gives away more than $1 million annually.

As conservative groups point out when their finances are scrutinized, theirs is only a tiny slice of the money that foundations give away every year in the United States. The foundations listed above give a total of approximately $110 million each year, which is only one-third of one percent of the $30.5 billion that foundations of all types-left, right, center and apolitical-gave in 2001. The assets held by conservative foundations are also tiny compared to the $24.1 billion held by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation's $9.3 billion, or the Rockefeller Foundation's $2.6 billion. The Gates Foundation gives hundreds of millions of dollars to the National Institutes of Health, the Children's Hospital Foundation, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, the Seattle Art Museum, Mexico's public libraries-recipients that reflect their interest in education and global health. The Ford and Rockefeller foundations concentrate on projects like economic development, human rights and eliminating hunger. Most foundations spend their money on "brick and mortar" philanthropy-hospitals, museums, universities and symphonies. Many foundations have progressive intentions that they express by funding food banks, housing for the homeless and other direct services to the poor, disabled or disadvantaged. What makes conservative foundations different is that they are remarkably unencumbered by these sorts of distractions, enabling them to focus in a disciplined way on achieving their direct political goals. Whereas other foundations mostly try to change the world by offering services, the conservative foundations have prioritized influencing ideas and policies.

Philanthropy Roundtable

Conservative funders also work cooperatively. They share information and strategies for giving through the Philanthropy Roundtable, a clearinghouse for conservative donors that arose in the late 1970s and whose activities exemplify the seriousness with which the conservative movement focuses on coordinating its activities. It holds annual and regional conferences, advises individual donors and grant-making foundations and publishes papers and books with titles like Strategic Investment in Ideas aimed at helping conservatives maximize the political impact of their grant-making. They have a long-term strategic vision forged through several decades of political organizing.

"Things take time. It takes at least ten years for a radical new idea to emerge from obscurity," said Christopher DeMuth of the American Enterprise Institute, who spoke at a conference organized by the Philanthropy Roundtable in 2002. Speaking as one of the panelists in a discussion titled "Philanthropy, Think Tanks, and the Importance of Ideas," DeMuth pointed out that ideas like school vouchers and Social Security privatization were considered radical when first proposed but have now entered public discourse.

Continues...


Excerpted from Banana Republicans by Sheldon Rampton John Stauber Copyright © 2004 by Center for Media and Democracy. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction : the war at home 1
1 The marketplace of ideas 17
2 The echo chamber 47
3 The one-party state 101
4 Pumping irony 132
5 Block the vote 159
6 Traitor baiters 179
Conclusion : the three-banana problem 205
Notes 223
Index 254
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2004

    Informative

    The Republicans have not controlled all three branches since 1932, and let's hope they don't cause the disaster that dominated the 1930's. A must read for anyone who wants the lying and spin to stop.

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