One person one vote, the maxim that supposedly defines the core of American democracy, may linger on in the memory of our republic (and probably not for long if the rightwingers behind Voter ID laws have their say), but the corruption of our political system by corporate billionaires increasingly makes a mockery of that fundamental ideal.
Sen Bernie Sanders has helpfully put together a "who's who" of 26 billionaires who are dominating the political process in 2012. A group, says Sen. Sanders, who "have a combined $195 billion in wealth, more than the bottom 43% of American households – 50 million families."
This year alone, the 26 plutocrats have funneled more than $61 million to super PACs,
according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Sanders reports, and he adds, "that’s only what has been publically disclosed."
The list includes some familiar names, notably the nefarious Koch brothers, who are well known for their efforts to hijack our political system for their rightwing agenda, and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
And it includes some who may be less recognized on the national scene, like Jerrold Perenchio. former chairman and CEO of Univision, who is a little better known in California. Perenchio was for years a principle political funder of disgraced former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. This year Perenchio has given $800,000 to the campaign for the anti-union initiative Prop. 32.
California, even though it is out of the national limelight as a non-swing state, has long been a playtoy of the obscenely wealthy.
This election year the California ballot has been heavily influenced by billionaires and millionaires. Such as George Joseph, a billionaire who did not make Sen. Sanders list, but is on the ballot in California. Joseph, the founder of Mercury Insurance, is financing a deceptive initiative that would effectively raise auto insurance rates, the second election in a row he has tried to do so.
As the Los Angeles Times just noted, Joseph "has personally contributed 99.5% of the $16.2 million raised by Proposition 33's official sponsor, the American Agents Alliance, a trade group of independent insurance agents and brokers, including many who represent Mercury."
Then there's the millionaire Munger duo, Molly and Charlie Jr., scions of billionaire Charles Munger Jr. Molly is the financier behind Prop. 38, the more flawed of two education related ballot measures on the ballot, and like the typical spoiled rich kid, since her measure is floundering, she's now seeking to undermine the other measure, Gov. Brown's Prop. 30 as well.
Molly's brother Charlie, meanwhile, has pulled $22 million out of his overstuffed pocket to pass Prop. 32, joining the club of Super PAC billionaires, Wall Street investors, hedge fund managers, real estate developers, and other wealthy interests behind that deceptive measure.
Sen. Sanders statement on the billionaires is titled "America for sale," a disgraceful fact it would be hard to dispute with the auction block that now passes for politics in this country.
Here is Sen. Sander's list of the 26 billionaires:
1. Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands Casino, is worth nearly $25 billion,
making him the 14th wealthiest person in the world and the 7th richest person in America.
While median family income plummeted by nearly 40% from 2007-2010, Mr. Adelson has
experienced a nearly eightfold increase in his wealth over the past three years (from $3.4 billion to $24.9 billion).
Forbes recently reported that Adelson is willing to spend a “limitless” amount of money or more than $100 million to help defeat President Obama in November.
While $100 million sounds like a lot, it equals the same percentage of Adelson’s wealth that $300 to $400 does for the typical middle class family (with a net worth of about $77,000).
Sheldon Adelson owns more wealth than the bottom 40.2% of American households or 47.2 million American families.
2. The Kochs (David, Charles, and William) are worth a combined $103 billion, according to Forbes. They have pledged to spend about $400 million during the 2012 election season.
The Kochs own more wealth than the bottom 41.7 percent of American households or more than 49 million Americans.
3. Jim Walton is worth $23.7 billion. He has donated $300,000 to super PACs in 2012.
4. Harold Simmons is worth $9 billion. He has donated $15.2 million to super PACs this year.
5. Peter Thiel is worth $1.5 billion. He has donated $6.7 million to Super PACs this year.
6. Jerrold Perenchio is worth $2.3 billion. He has donated $2.6 million to super PACs this year.
7. Kenneth Griffin is worth $3 billion and he has given $2.08 million to super PACs in 2012.
8. James Simons is worth $10.7 billion and he has given $1.5 million to super Pacs this year.
9. Julian Robertson is worth $2.5 billion and he has given $1.25 million to super PACs this year.
10. Robert Rowling is worth $4.8 billion and he has given $1.1 million to super PACs.
11. John Paulson, the hedge fund manager who made his fortune betting that the sub-prime mortgage market would collapse, is worth $12.5 billion. He has donated $1 million to super PACs.
12. Richard and J.W. Marriott are worth a combined $3.1 billion and they have donated $2 million to super PACs this year.
13. James Davis is worth $1.9 billion and he has given $1 million to super PACs this year.
14. Harold Hamm is worth $11 billion and he has given $985,000 to super PACs this year.
15. Kenny Trout is worth more than $1.2 billion and he has given $900,000 to super PACs this year.
16. Louis Bacon is worth $1.4 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.
17. Bruce Kovner is worth $4.5 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.
18. Warren Stephens is worth $2.7 billion and he has given $500,000 to super PACs this year.
19. David Tepper is worth $5.1 billion and he has given $375,000 to super PACs this year.
20. Samuel Zell is worth $4.9 billion and he has given $270,000 to super PACs this year.
21. Leslie Wexner is worth $4.3 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.
22. Charles Schwab is worth $3.5 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.
23. Kelcy Warren is worth $2.3 billion and he has given $250,000 to super PACs this year.
(Sources: Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances published in June 2012; and the Forbes billionaire list of April 2012. Sylvia A. Allegretto, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley helped us gather the data from the Federal Reserve study to come up with these statistics.)