Kyle Michaelis over at The New Nebraska Network has written an important piece about who is behind this divisive campaign (and other hard-Right efforts, like the Swiftboaters, etc.). Check it out and pass it along... This is not a parochial issue. Paul Singer represents the kind of sleaze and slime that has been behind much of the hard Right's agenda nationwide over the past many years... Please take some time and give this article a read.
Anti-Affirmative Action Petition Funded By Corrupt New York Billionaire
by: Kyle Michaelis
Thu Mar 06, 2008 at 12:36:26 PM CST
NNN Special Report Reveals Another Attempt At Buying State's Constitution
We've heard this one before. Really, what else is new? In the summer of 2006, the original New Nebraska Network was weeks ahead of the mainstream Nebraska press in exposing the labyrinth of right-wing front organizations funded by New York billionaire Howard Rich to put the Initiative 423 state spending cap on the Nebraska ballot.
More than $2 million flowed into Nebraska politics from that same polluted source, but the people wisely refused to give up control of our state government to a formula concocted by wealthy right-wing extremists. In fact, despite all the out-of-state money that poured into Nebraska, Initiative 423 did not even receive 30% of the vote.
Fast forward to 2008, and we can already see some shockingly similar parallels in the supposed movement to end public affirmative action programs for women and racial minorities. The petition effort sponsored by the so-called Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative (NCRI) is underway, needing to gather approximately 115,000 signatures from registered voters before the July deadline.
Last week, State Senator Mark Christensen pulled the plug on his concurrent effort to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot by a vote of the Nebraska Legislature. That didn't stop the American Civil Rights Coalition's Ward Connerly from visiting the state, making controversial appearances at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Omaha while working behind the scenes to coordinate NCRI's activities with efforts in four other states pushing nearly identical anti-affirmative action measures.
In 2006, the national network of local front groups supporting spending caps were named Stop Over Spending [insert state here]. In 2008, we have the [insert state here] Civil Rights Initiative. The other states where Connerly has set up shop for this election cycle are Colorado, Missouri, Arizona, and Oklahoma. Shouldn't that make Nebraska feel special?
But, what's important to remember about Connerly is that he's just a convenient face and a willing shill in this fight against affirmative action. In fact, as he confessed to his audience at UNL, Connerly is quite well paid for his work with the American Civil Rights Coalition, earning at least $300,000 a year.
As with the 2006 spending lid proposals, true power lies with those who are actually paying the bills. In 2006, that was Howard Rich - a billionaire New York real estate investor who serves on the Board of Directors of both the CATO Institute and the Club for Growth. Already in 2008, Nebraska is seeing similar involvement from another billionaire who shares the same New York zip code and the same right-wing agenda. Except - believe it or not - this guy might be even more corrupt.
Ladies and gentlemen of Nebraska, it's my distinct displeasure and dishonor introducing you to Paul Singer.
Looking at NCRI's first two monthly filings with Nebraska's Accountability & Disclosure Commission (1, 2), the group claims only one financial contribution greater than $250. That contribution came from Singer, who sent $50,000 in start-up cash straight from his Wall Street office.
This begs the question: who is Paul Singer? And, that is where the story gets very, very interesting.
If Ward Connerly and his local supporters are the company they keep, the involvement of Paul Singer should send an immediate message to the people of Nebraska that we want nothing to do with this petition effort and the dirty money that's paying for it.
Paul Singer is absolutely notorious in the investment world. He has brought shame upon the entire industry with his pioneering work as the world's first and foremost "vulture fund" capitalist. With his "vulture funds," Singer became a pioneer in the investment world much like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove established themselves as pioneers in American politics - they've stooped lower than anyone else was willing, abandoning all principles and not caring one bit whom they've hurt in the process.
Essentially, Singer has made his name and increased his fortune by buying third-world debt. He buys the debt cheap - offering guaranteed money - then assumes the role of loan shark suing these poverty-stricken countries for immediate payment. It can be a high-risk and costly game played out in courtrooms all over the world, but Singer has played it and played it well.
The true corruption of Singer's "vulture fund" scheming, though, goes much farther than that. In fact, Singer's capitalist fervor has driven him to commit literal crimes against humanity. You see, the real secret to the success of Singer's "vulture funds" is that the debt they buy shouldn't really have to be repaid. The political movement pressuring wealthier, industrial nations to forgive third world debt has often erased the final obligation, but Singer manipulates the system, forcing third world countries to pay up while reaping the benefits of loan forgiveness entirely for himself (and his investors).
Brilliant? Perhaps. Evil? If this doesn't qualify, I have a hard time seeing what would.
In the most notorious instance of Singer's "vulture fund" investing, he made almost $50 million in profit off the country of Peru on debt for which he paid less than $12 million. Right now, an off-shore arm of his company located in the Cayman Islands is attempting a similar scam on the Congo, seeking $400 million in repayment for a debt they bought for only $10 million.
I'll leave it for others to ponder the racist implications of making a fortune ripping off people in Central America and Africa, then using those proceeds to fund an effort that would erase opportunities for their American-born descendants, who often came to our country in chains.
Of course, the $50,000 Singer has so far spent in Nebraska is hardly more than a pittance for him - even if it is the only major contribution received by the Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative. That $50,000 is also just the tip of the iceberg for Singer's open checkbook funding the far right-wing's political agenda across the country.
Singer has been the Republican Party's biggest financial contributor in New York City, giving $1.7 million to the party and its candidates since George W. Bush's first presidential campaign. With deep ties to Rudy Giuliani's still-born campaign for the presidency in 2008, it's reported that Singer had pledged to raise $10 - 15 million on Giuliani's behalf.
Meanwhile, Singer's dirty money has been a good fit for some very dirty politics. Not only was Singer a contributor to the Swiftboat Vet's 2004 campaign against John Kerry, he was also the secret financial backer behind an effort to change how California apportions its votes in the Electoral College.
In 2007, Singer gave $175,000 supporting a California Constitutional amendment that would have converted California from a winner-take-all state to a system like Nebraska's that is decided by each Congressional district. Thankfully, that petition effort never really got off the ground because it was rightfully seen as nothing more than a back door effort to help the Republican Party hold onto the presidency.
The failure of that petition may explain why Singer has $50,000 just sitting around to send to Nebraska. Otherwise, Singer's jumping into Nebraska politics from his New York City high-rise might have something to do with the huge windfalls he's seeing manipulating the U.S. housing market during the current mortgage foreclosure crisis. Last month's Bloomberg News contained a report that showed Singer practically salivating at the mouth at all the money to be made off the misery of American families.
Once again, a very dark force has entered Nebraska politics, corrupting and making a mockery of our petition process. This Singer is a contemptible crook who shamelessly profits off third world countries while seeking every angle to get richer on the backs of Nebraska homeowners.
We now have a very good sense of the true powers behind ending affirmative action. It's time to stand up once and for all, making clear to the Howard Rich and Paul Singers of the world that we won't sell our democracy to the highest bidder. It's time to fight back by making sure this corrupt petition effort never succeeds at making the Nebraska ballot.
Again, please spread the word by sending the link to this page to concerned people in your circle. It is important to expose this network of sleaze and demystify the radical Right