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Thursday, June 6, 2013 01:51 pm

Kleptocrats eager to stop disclosure

Perhaps I’ve been too harsh on congressional Republicans.

I had assumed that their vitriolic attacks on even the meekest of proposals to restrict the tsunami of secret corporate cash slamming into our elections stemmed from a hallucinogenic mix of partisan self-interest and Koch-induced plutocratic ideology. But I’ve since learned that they might simply need medical help.

Take Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican who recently came unglued at a public hearing before the House Financial Services Committee. Mary Jo White, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, had been summoned by GOP inquisitors to answer to a modest, straightforward proposal involving the disclosure of corporate political donations. Actually, it is not her proposal, but a citizen petition – signed by a record half-million Americans – asking the SEC to require that corporate executives reveal to shareholders how their money is being spent in elections.

That’s entirely reasonable – unless, like Garrett, you’ve got the political temperament of a live grenade. He exploded on White, demanding in a bullying manner that she “refuse to be bullied by these outside radical groups” who submitted the petition. He insisted that she declare, then and there, that the agency would not even consider the citizens’ proposal.

Yes, Garrett is a corporate toady, but that can’t explain his foam-at-the-mouth hissy fit. Then I learned about a new medical study that offers a clue about the source of such behavior. It seems that conflicts at work cause some people’s brains to release hormones that prompt them to fly into a rage and even threaten others. The researchers found out that corrosive hormones can make blood platelets stickier, causing the brain to go “boom,” creating angry outbursts of stupidity.

So maybe Scott’s problem is not merely toadyism, but the terrible tragedy of sticky platelets syndrome.

Still, one wonders: What did Rep. Garrett mean when he squawked about “outside radical groups” daring to submit that disclosure petition to the SEC? How radical is it to seek restraints on corporate chieftains who are pouring unlimited (and untold) amounts of their shareholders’ money into our elections?

The great majority of Americans – including rank and file Republicans – agree that, at the very least, the shareholders who own the corporation have a right to be told how much of their money is being spent on behalf of which candidates. This explains why more than 500,000 citizens have petitioned the SEC to require disclosure.

Who, you might wonder, exactly are these scary citizens, considered such a threat to corporate power that a Congress-critter is tarring them publicly as radical outsiders? They’re professors from leading law schools, state and national elected officials, pension fund directors, public interest advocates and corporate shareholders. Not exactly outsiders, much less radicals.

And that’s what makes them so dangerous to the autocratic elites who run corporations as their own fiefdoms. Top executives want no accountability for the hundreds of millions of shareholder dollars they’re spending to elect corporate lickspittles like Garrett, so they feel it necessary to demonize the citizenry itself. Don’t question us, they demand, just trust us.

Uh ... no. Far from earning trust, they’ve already wrecked our economy and betrayed our nation’s egalitarian ideals – while feathering their own plutocratic nests. Now they want free rein to pervert America’s democratic process with clandestine election campaigns secretly financed with other people’s money.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.
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