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Who do the Democrats really listen to?

October 26, 2007 | Page 2

SEEMS LIKE the perfect opportunity--a wildly unpopular president, presiding over a wildly unpopular war, whose party supports cutting health care for children and listening in on people's phone conversations without a warrant.

You'd think the "party of the people" would start standing up to the Republicans and make a few demands that might benefit "the people."

But the Democrats are doing nothing of the sort. Instead, Congress voted in October to sustain Bush's veto of legislation that would have expanded the State Children's Heath Insurance Program and for a "compromise" on electronic spying that compromised away civil liberties.

"It was bad enough having a one-party government when Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress," the New York Times wrote in an editorial. "But the Democrats took over, and still the one-party system continues."

But the Democrats are getting a warm greeting from different quarters. According to the quarterly report from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on political giving released last week, the "party of the people" is the big winner in the race for corporate money for the 2008 elections.

"Firms like Comcast, General Electric, Federal Express and UPS have shifted campaign giving away from the GOP," reported the Wall Street Journal.

The three major contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination--those considered "serious" by the Washington establishment--have corporate support that dwarfs the Republican hopefuls.

When Hillary Clinton's campaign scheduled a luncheon called "Rural Americans for Hillary" for later this month, it found itself the target of criticism by John Edwards' campaign. According to a report by ABC News, the event was being held at the Washington office of Troutman Sanders Public Affairs, a lobbying firm that represents none other than Monsanto--the agribusiness mega-giant.

Edwards tried to make hay out of the incident, but it was soon uncovered that he too feeds at the Monsanto trough. When Edwards ran for vice president in 2004, Peter Scher, a Monsanto lobbyist, managed his campaign. Since then, Edwards reportedly kept up ties to Monsanto via Fortress Investment Group, a private-equity fund he worked for last year.

Among the Democrats, Clinton is coming out on top in corporate donations by a staggering margin. According to a Bloomberg news story last week, "Hillary Clinton raised more money on Wall Street last quarter than Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney combined."

Even the defense industry is changing teams. According to the FEC figures, employees of five major defense contractors--Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop-Grumman, General Dynamics and Raytheon--spent $104,000 on Democratic presidential candidates, versus $88,800 for Republicans. Clinton alone got $52,600 in contributions from individual arms industry employees.

"An analysis of campaign contributions shows senior defense industry employees are pouring money into [Clinton's] war chest in the belief that their generosity will be repaid many times over with future defense contracts," reported Britain's Independent newspaper.

The defense bosses can be confident in betting on Clinton. Her hawkish foreign policy stances can go toe to toe with any Republican Party candidate. For instance, she voted in favor of a congressional resolution that ramps up the saber-rattling against Iran by declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a "terrorist" organization.

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CLINTON MAY be Corporate America's favorite Democratic presidential contender, but she isn't unique among her party. The Democrats' true colors aren't blue or red, but green. And in the absence of pressure from below strong enough to force them to do otherwise, the Democrats will do what's necessary to please the corporations that fill their coffers.

It's no secret that millions of people oppose the policies of the Bush administration, and they are increasingly frustrated and angry with Democrats for failing to make good on their promise to take on those policies.

Activists who have mobilized against the war--like those who have marched for justice in Jena, Louisiana, or rallied for immigrant rights--can't let Democratic politicians assume they will go unchallenged.

As Howard Zinn wrote earlier this year, "When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them...Whatever politicians may do, let them first feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not for what is winnable, in a shamefully timorous Congress."

The Democrats count on activists to compromise on their goals at election time. But Corporate America never has to compromise much. It has both main parties in the U.S. political system. Neither of these parties represent us--that's why activists have to take our own independent stand against the war.

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