Sheldon Adelson (Reuters/Yuya Shino)

Politico's false equivalence garbage: No, liberal donors are not worse than Sheldon Adelson

On their planet, billionaires seeking to curb inequality are worse than those trying to get even richer. Here's why


Heather Digby Parton
May 1, 2014 9:44PM (UTC)

Yesterday a gimlet-eyed Ken Vogel of Politico took a deep sniff of snuff, shook out his lace cuffs and declared to no one in particular that the Democratic Party's wealthy benefactors are all hypocrites and liars. Then he sighed dramatically, flounced over to a gilded Louis the XIV loveseat and threw himself upon it in despair. Why oh why can no one see the truth as only he can? The burden of such knowledge is exhausting.

Well, perhaps he didn't flounce.  But he did write a very smug, self-serving piece about the hypocrisy of wealthy donors in the Democratic Party. He contends they are not only no better than the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson but are actually worse because they act "morally superior," which obviously annoys him to no end.  Sure, they may be backing candidates who will vote to raise their personal taxes and many of their preferred policies are bound to put a crimp in their profits. But that doesn't mean they are any better than those nice $100 billion men the Koch brothers who also have at least one issue that might cost them the equivalent of pocket change: ethanol subsidies.  And of course there's that paragon of religious virtue Sheldon Adelson, whose only reason for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on politics is his supposedly overriding concern for Israel. Evidently, Vogel forgot to Google his name or he would have been reminded of this other little issue of intense concern:

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“I am willing to spend whatever it takes,” Adelson said in his first interview since The Washington Post revealed that he had hired an army of lawyers and lobbyists to try to convince Congress to ban online gambling. “My moral standard compels me to speak out on this issue because I am the largest company by far in the industry and I am willing to speak out. I don’t see any compelling reason for the government to allow people to gamble on the Internet and nobody has ever explained except for the two companies whose special interest is going to be served if there is gaming on the Internet, Caesars and MGM.”

His moral commitment is very moving.

To further prove his point that Democrats are the real hypocrites, Ken Vogel of Politico did some sleuthing and found one wealthy donor who has invested in environmental technology at the same time as he advocates for environmental policies and if that isn't a conflict of interest I don't know what is. Any billionaire who invests in green technology is clearly in it for the money. And there are those two lawyers who shamefully fought tort reform in Texas, which obviously makes them totally inconsistent in their views.  And anyway, the salient fact is that the Kochs really, truly believe in libertarian ideology which means that if policies end up putting billions more in their pockets they're actually being 100 percent true to themselves. In that sense, they're much less hypocritical than those liberals who should be divesting themselves of their fortunes and donning hair shirts to prove they believe in helping the less fortunate.

Equally damning is the fact that they refused to let Ken Vogel of Politico into their private meetings, which clearly indicates that they are lying about everything. Can anyone think of even one good reason why political strategists would not want to display their plans all over the media? Again, according to Vogel these Democratic donors are far more hypocritical than the Republican moneybags because they advocate for transparency in government and therefore are refusing to practice what they preach. Unless a political party is an open book about how they plan their political campaigns they have no standing to complain about the government refusing to tell the citizens what its doing in their name. Obviously.

But the point is not that the Democrats are good and the Republicans are bad. Both parties are financed by people who have a financial interest in the status quo. (You'll notice that none of his examples include the Wall Street influence in both parties.)  Just a week ago, Politico itself published a major story about a battle within the democratic donor group the Democracy Alliance between the progressive and the more moderate wing of the wealthy Democratic elite.  There is trepidation of one degree or another about "populism" among rich people of all political stripes.

But that doesn't mean that the Democratic donors are somehow dishonest in their attempts to rein in the system. In fact,  there was a time when one might have expected this sort of thing from the main street Republicans. You remember them, the sober businessmen like George Romney who understood that if you let crazy billionaires like the Kochs run wild they'll kill the very profitable goose that's laying all those golden eggs? They don't exist anymore in the Republican Party so the Democrats are playing both roles. It's not hypocrisy -- it's necessity.

In a political system that's drowning in money there's not much choice but for rich liberals to jump in and swim. And if the Beltway scribes look down their noses at them, I suppose these wealthy donors are just going to have to put up with it.  At least I hope they will.  Hypocrites or patriots, they're all we've got.

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Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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