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Drain That Swamp!



That Donald Trump got away with being the anti-corruption candidate is even more infuriating when that not only does he have a long history of shady dealings and ripoffs, but that the Republican Party is openly pro-corruption.

For decades in its foreign policy and development programs, the United States has pressed for measures to reduce corruption. Its efforts stretched across administrations from President George H.W. Bush to President Barack Obama and were part of a broader foreign policy agenda to promote democracy, accountability and transparency, and to level the playing field for businesses and countries seeking investment. As former Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell famously said in 2002, “Capital is a coward. It flees from corruption and bad policies, conflict and unpredictability.”

But in a little-noticed vote last week in the Senate, the United States took a step back from that longstanding commitment to transparency and to the citizens suffering under corrupt, unaccountable governments. The vote of 52 to 47 would scrap a 2010 bi-partisan addition to the Dodd Frank Act, called section 1504. The law, known by shorthand for its two sponsors Democratic Senator Ben Cardin (MD) and Republican Senator Richard Lugar (IN), required oil, gas and mining companies that are listed on U.S. stock exchanges to declare to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) payments made to foreign governments in their investments overseas. The change is now on the President’s desk waiting for his approval.

The risks of its repeal are real and deserve attention. For one, by allowing gas, oil and mining companies to bribe with impunity with no effective government or citizen oversight, the Congress is rolling back decades of the U.S.’s commitment to its democracy, human rights and liberal agenda that have been a central part of its foreign policy since President Ronald Reagan. Without SEC oversight, the likelihood increases that indefinite, unaccountable funds will flow to autocratic leaders with which they can line their pockets and the pockets of their cronies, and use those funds to repress their populations. It will also make it more difficult for the U.S. to speak out against cases of corruption internationally and maintain its commitment to anti-corruption treaties like the OECD’s Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Second, giving resource extraction executives the right to bribe at will behind closed doors places at severe risk the international and domestic commitments many states have to protect their communities from abusive extractive practices. One of those is the International Labor Organizations Convention 169 to which—in the Western Hemisphere alone—Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, among others, are signatories. The convention guarantees indigenous and, in some cases, Afro-descendant communities the right to be consulted when state policies will affect their cultural heritage; that right has commonly been interpreted to include land. Throughout these countries, governments are starting to put in place—in varying degrees—processes to ensure that indigenous and Afro-descendant communities are respectfully consulted over resource extraction investments in the lands that many of them have occupied for centuries.

But hey, Rex Tillerson having to respect the rights of indigenous people in Ecuador is the true outrage! Of course, this isn’t just the world view of the American right. It’s also that of conservatives in nations from Romania to South Korea. But whereas anti-corruption protests led to the eviction of the Korean president and threatens the government of Romania, in the U.S., conservative voters couldn’t care less. And while you might say that this corruption is only for U.S. companies operating in foreign nations, I have absolutely no confidence that a Romanian-type law legalizing at home would move conservative voters to outrage at all. I don’t think they would care. They’d probably support it just because it makes liberals mad. And what higher goal exists?

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  • LeeEsq

    The Republicans are pro-corruption but it was Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party that get cast as the reincarnation of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall.

    • Nobdy

      As Scott likes to point out her email server management was sub-optimal. Like if you were writing a manual on good IT practices you wouldn’t describe hers. If you were grading someone on email security she would get like a B- at best. AT BEST. That is a 2.7. It is not very good.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        Hillary used a suboptimal set of sendmail switches, it’s true.

      • ΧΤΠΔ

        but at least we have International Man of Intregritude James Comey to keep a tight leash on donald AMIRITE

      • JMP

        Although there is no evidence that her email server was ever hacked, unlike the DNC and RNC severs and the actual State Department server. It was actually more secure than the government servers.

        • vic rattlehead

          The double standard is infuriating. The Republican Party is a criminal enterprise. I would trust Tony Soprano and his goons with the federal government over any modern Republicans. Put Paulie at HUD and there’s no way he’s any worse than a Trump lackey. He would certainly have a more entertaining confirmation hearing than human quaalude Ben Carson. “I was born, I spent a few years in the army, a few more in the can, and here I am… a half a wise guy. So what?”

          Or how about State? Paulie ain’t soft on Russia!

          “How ’bout the Cuban Missile Crisis? Cocksuckers flew four nuclear missiles into Cuba, pointed them right at us!”

          I can see the headline “Secretary Gualtieri breaks Russian Foreign Minister’s Legs with a Lead Pipe, Leading Nuclear Exchange”

          • I suspect Soprano would be significantly more competent than most members of the modern Republican Party.

    • Phil Perspective

      How else do dipshit criminals like Rahm Emanuel get elected as mayors? Or idiots like Marty Walsh trying, unsuccessfully thankfully, to bring a future summer Olympics(2024, IIRC) to Boston.

  • rea

    “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn”

    Even the Bible approves.

  • benjoya

    i see you found a miller family photo

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Not COMPLETELY true.

      The one in the middle is Bannon. You can tell by the red nose.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    if you look at the photo long enough you can almost see the water level rising around the gators

  • Nobdy

    It is truly distressing how openly Republicans are embracing evil. Flirting with Nazis (to the point of running a Richard Spencer associate out in a White House communications role?!) embracing corruption, calling women “hosts” and saying that stores should shut so wives can serve their husbands…

    This was always part of the Republican project but it used to be sort of hidden. They were ashamed of it. They used dog whistles and condemned white supremacy even as they advocated nominally “race neutral” policies that were supremacist in nature.

    They tacitly admitted that liberal goals like race neutrality and equality were good even as they tried to subvert them.

    Now they elected a man who is pure ID and they are ready to shed the veneer and just go full on fascist evil. They are no longer hiding in the shadows.

    This is bad because the veneer was useful. They could be shamed and made to at least sometimes do the right thing. Who knows where the fuck this honest incarnation ends. I grew up watching movies where Nazis were the bad guys and everyone except a tiny minority basically agreed it was good to shoot them, not just punch them in the face. Now it seems like 40% of the country is Nazi curious. I get how this happened but I can’t stop thinking “how the fuck did this happen? We had norms. NORMS!!!”

    • rm

      Hail Hydra.

      I share your bafflement. I mean, it’s one thing to be corrupt, or to be misinformed, or have ideological blinders, or to be kind of evil in some respects while okay in others . . .

      but now we’ve got Evil Across The Board, in every possible policy position, in every part of local, national, and international politics. How did we get here?

      I’ve been watching the show “Underground” on Hulu. My inner drama critic — or just my inner white self — wants to say the depiction of the slave regime and its ideologues is awfully scenery-chewing over-the-top surely-they-had-some-human-qualities, but the part of me which got a Ph.D. reading history and slave narratives knows that the show is a watered down portrait of the real slaveholders.

      So, history shows us examples of people doing actual, real evil. Some of those examples are our forebears. I dunno, we’ve got zombies from the 19th century in charge.

      I don’t see how we’ll ever have a government capable of doing foreign policy if Exxon has a more powerful and secret hand in our relations around the world. It’ll be like, this is our pretend diplomacy, but go talk to the oil men if you want to know what’s really up. I guess it’s often been that way, but I want to think this is an escalation.

    • efgoldman

      We had norms. NORMS!!!”

      Norm couldn’t afford Cheers any more. He’s gone to the gin mill down the street.

  • Jackson87

    Just part of the rollback to 1890s era morality and ethics. Might makes right, to the victor go the spoils, etc.,etc.
    Soon we’ll be reliving The Jungle.

  • Davis X. Machina
    • Gee Suss

      So, this measure was passed by Represent.US and a local group (I think). I have some contact with Represent.Us people in the PacNW and they can be insufferable but this seemed like a big win for them. It also seems like it’s straightforward corruption that’s undoing the ballot measure. I’d love someone local or knowledgeable about this to say whether this ballot measure was as good as it seems to be.

  • Jay B

    Other things conservatives don’t give a shit about:

    Foreign influences in the election.
    Actual foreign agents in the Executive Branch.
    Sexual assault.
    Bragging about sexual assault.
    National security.

    Conservatives really don’t give a shit about anything but the following things:

    – Stealing money from the public treasury
    – Taking health care away from millions
    – Aligning with Russia at the expense of our post-war allies
    – Giving the rich more money
    – Making women ‘hosts’ without agency
    – Disenfranchising millions of minorities
    – Pissing off liberals

    That’s it.

    • Linnaeus

      Conservatives never really got over the end of feudalism, methinks.

    • Redwood Rhiadra


      Actually, conservatives very much give a shit about autocracy. They want more of it. Lots more.

  • Jake the antisoshul soshulist

    Funny, but the Trumpists I talked to were concerned with corruption, of course it was the Democrats’ fault.
    Unpossible that a rich men like Trump would be corrupt. Unless they give money to Democrats, then they are crony capitalists.

    • rm

      Republican voters have been made to believe that if the government does it, it’s corrupt. Corruption = government doing things. If private business does it behind closed doors, that’s good business.

  • efgoldman

    But whereas anti-corruption protests led to the eviction of the Korean president and threatens the government of Romania, in the U.S., conservative voters couldn’t care less.

    I would bet real money that president Orangemandyas and a good 50% of his voters couldn’t find Roumania on a globe. Probably 1/3 couldn’t find Korea.

  • rm

    Way down in the swamp
    The mean old alligators fight
    They fight all day
    And they fight all night
    They fight all day
    And they fight all night

  • JMP

    “Congress is rolling back decades of the U.S.’s commitment to its democracy, human rights and liberal agenda that have been a central part of its foreign policy since President Ronald Reagan. ”

    Wait, Ronald Reagan wasn’t exactly known for support of democracy and human rights abroad but the opposite; just try telling that to the people of Nicaragua, Guatemala, Chile, Peru, Haiti, Panama, South Africa, the Philippines, …..

  • vic rattlehead

    Semi-OT: why on earth did Manchin vote to confirm Mnuchin? I can understand wanting some racist brownie points for Sessions, but what could he possibly gain with WV voters with Mnuchin?

    Maybe he forgot his glasses, glanced at the name and thought he was voting for himself.

    • efgoldman

      why on earth did Manchin vote to confirm Mnuchin?

      Same as last week: the vote cost nothing (he was going to be confirmed anyway) and it’s one less thing for the rednecks back home to whine about while they’re waiting for Mango Malignancy to reopen the coal mines.

      • vic rattlehead

        I figure it’s some variation on that. But why Mnuchin? I can’t think of an ideological reason. It must be process of elimination. DeVos fucks over a major Democratic constituency. West Virginians love their racism (Sessions). Mnuchin…Manchin can say he don’t take no marching orders from Chuckie Schumer! There’s nothing else I can think of.

  • Brett

    It’s funny. When I was reading Railroaded, White pointed out that the crooked Associates in California were always complaining in their letters about how the politicians they’d paid off were too afraid to openly support their interests lest they be accused of being in the pocket of railroad companies. But nowadays, national Republicans blatantly shill for corporate interests and corruption and don’t suffer for it at all among their voters.

    It probably explains those farmers you posted about a few days ago, who voted for Trump and then seemed shocked that it might hurt them. Combine a strong sense of ethnonational impunity with religious fanaticism . . .

  • I support the EU imposing retaliatory taxes on Exxon etc for corruption dumping. Why should Shell and BP have to report to the London Stock Exchange what they hand over to the Angolan kleptocrats when their American competitors don’t?

  • DrDick

    As Shell Oil attests, this will not end well for anybody except extractive industry execs and investors.

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