Russell Simmons Praises Edwards: Ponders Obama Fundraising
by RDemocrat, Sun Jun 24, 2007 at 10:07:19 PM EDT
Paul Street of Black Agenda Report recently detailed an exchange between Russell Simmons, and Deborah Solomon of the NY Times:
Leave it to a leading cultural capitalist to call Barack Obama out on his reactionary disregard for the material circumstances that create inner-city misery and for hypocritical reliance on big capitalist political cash. Look at the following recent exchange between New York Times writer Deborah Solomon and Russell Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings and the so-called "CEO of Hip-Hop:
Solomon: "What do you make of Barack Obama, who recently said that rap musicians should reform their lyrics?"
Simmons: "What we need to reform is the conditions that create these lyrics. Obama needs to reform the conditions of poverty. I wish he really did raise his money on the Internet, like he said. I wish he really did raise his money independently."
Solomon: "What are you saying?"
Simmons: "I think about one-fourth of his campaign contributions came from small donations made over the Internet, even though he collected more than any other Democratic candidate from Wall Street people. So at the end of the day, he's controlled, too. That's my point. He's a mouse, too, like everybody else."
Solomon: "Are there any presidential candidates who inspire you?"
Simmons: "I talk to John Edwards more than I talk to anyone. He has said more things about the conditions we need to think about."
Street then goes onto elaborate about how Simmons came to those conclusions:
The junior Senator from Illinois denounces the corrosive influence of private political cash on U.S. democracy while cozying up to Chicago's notoriously corrupt Big Money Mayor Richard M. Daley (with whom he shares the same high-priced campaign consultant (David Axlerod) and raking in campaign largesse from wealthy world-capitalist interests. His top career sponsors include Goldman Sachs, Exelon (the world's leading nuclear plant operator), the Soros Fund Management, J.P Morgan Chase & Co., leading corporate law and lobbying firms (Kirkland & Ellis and Skadden, Arps, Sidley Austin LLP and others), top Chicago investment interests (including Henry Crown & Co and Aerial Capital Management) and the like.
Obama's reliance on such deep-pockets supporters helps explain why he voted for a business-driven "tort reform" bill that rolled back working peoples' ability to obtain reasonable redress and compensation from misbehaving corporations. It is certainly part of why he opposed an amendment to the Bankruptcy Act that would have capped credit card interest rates at 30 percent. It is undoubtedly related to his vote against a bill that would have killed an amendment to the 2005 energy bill that Taxpayers for Common Sense and Citizens Against Government Waste called "one of the worst provisions in this massive piece of legislation." Under the amendment, which passed with Obama's help, U.S. taxpayers are providing millions of dollars in loan guarantees to power plant operators. They "risk losing billions of dollars if the companies default," as Ken Silverstein wrote in the November, 2006 issue of Harper's Magazine ("Barack Obama Inc.: The Birth of a Washington Machine").
He goes on to detail some of Obama's contributors:
Obama, it is worth noting, received $708,000 from medical and insurance interests between 2001 and 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
One day after Obama denounced Big Money control of U.S. politics in Iowa City, Iowa, the Los Angeles Times reported that Obama "raised more than $1 million in the first three months of his presidential campaign from law firms and companies that have major lobbying operations in the nation's capital." Obama has also received a combined $170,000 so far this year from financial giants Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, who together spent $4.6 million on federal lobbying in 2006.
The Los Angeles Times also reported that Obama received more than two-thirds (68 percent) of his first quarter 2007 fundraising total "from donations of $1000 or more." Obama has "played up populist themes of [campaign finance] reform," trumpeting his "large number of small donations" and claiming (in the Senator's words) to be "launch[ing]a fundraising drive that isn't about dollars.". But his astonishing first-quarter campaign finance haul of $25.7 million included $17.5 million from "big donors" ($1000 and up) - a sum higher than the much more genuinely populist and remarkably pro-labor John Edwards' total take ($14 million) from all donors.
In the end he sums up Simmon's support of Edwards:
It is interesting that the race-conscious Simmons would be willing to say that John Edwards, a southern white politician, is better on the real conditions that give rise to black urban misery than the technically black former urban community organizer Obama. Simmons is right. Recently endorsed by the well known Left black actor and activist Danny Glover, Edwards announced his candidacy in New Orleans. He cited the federal government's betrayal of that city's largely black poor before and after Hurricane Katrina as an example of the extreme social disparity and perverted elitist policy priorities he claims to oppose. He has made deepening wealth and social inequality the rallying cry of his campaign and speaks at length in populist terms about the difficult circumstances faced by millions at the bottom of the American System. He draws more sincerely and substantively than Obama on the anti-poverty legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Along with his repeated favorable references to the accomplishments and history of the labor movement and his description of himself as "real Democrat, not a `new' [centrist and pro-business] Democrat," this makes big U.S. and global capitalist money considerably less comfortable with Edwards than with Obama. Edwards' universal health insurance proposal is more specific and progressive than Obama's and unlike Obama he does not flinch at the mention of single-payer coverage.
There are reasons many people have reservations about Obama and his talk of Progressive reform. I hope some people who think that Obama is our real hope for Progressive change will listen to the voices of Danny Glover, and Russell Simmons. Obama may be selling that he is raising all his money from small donors, but this just isn't true. In the end, he is beholden. A "mouse" as Russell Simmons calls it.
There is only one candidate in this campaign who is not taking donations from Goldman-Sachs and Citigroup and is not beholden to them and it is John Edwards. He is our best chance for real Progressive change. I hope more Americans realize it just like Russell Simmons, Danny Glover, and myself have.