February 24, 2010

One of the more disturbing -- and little noted -- aspects of the Supreme Court's execrable ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is the way it legitimized, if inadvertently, the far-right operatives at Citizens United.

These are, after all, some of the sleaziest and most mendacious political operatives in business in America today. Citizens United has a record not only of peddling fabrications, distortions, and baldfaced lies, they are one of the more significant transmitters of far-right extremist beliefs into mainstream politics.

Remember that David Bossie, the longtime head of the organization, was fired by Republican Rep. Dan Burton in 1998 for distributing doctored audio tapes of prison conversations with former Clinton aide Webster Hubbell that purported to demonstrate Hillary Clinton's complicity in corruption, but which in unedited form clearly demonstrated the opposite.

This is an organization that should have no credibility on any level, except among the fringes of the right where any concocted smear is gobbled up like cotton candy.

Yet there was Bossie, along with his cohort from CU, Stephen K. Bannon, getting an entire hour of Sean Hannity's Fox News show last night to promote their latest fabrication, a pseudo-documentary titled Generation Next.

The film's subject is perhaps Citizens United's biggest lie yet: It claims that the current economic crisis is not the product of misbegotten conservative governance, but rather is the product of Dirty F--king Hippies and their degenerate "Me Generation" ethos.

Bossie: Look, the Greatest Generation, the World War II generation, it would never dawn on them to take the type of risk that these people did. The people who were the '60s hippies, the people at Woodstock in the '60s, who became the yuppies of the '80s and really the barons of the 2000s, and really are the leaders around the country that helped cause this. It really is a remarkable thing.

In other words, Bossie and Co. have concocted the perfect fantasy for right-wingers in denial over the complete, fully manifested failure of their approach to governance -- one that lets them, once again, blame those dirty hippies for everything wrong with America. No wonder it was so popular at the National Tea Party Convention and at CPAC.

Bossie has been in the business of peddling lies for a long time (and I've been writing about him quite awhile too

). In the '90s, he was one of the sleaziest of a remarkably slimy collection of characters peddling anti-Clinton conspiracy theories, teamed up with Floyd "Willie Horton's Godfather" Brown. Brown himself resurfaced in the last election peddling "Obama is a secret Muslim" smears and racially incendiary ads in the guise of an "Expose Obama" outfit run by a far-right nutcase.

Eric Boehlert compiled a rundown of Bossie's sleaze for Salon back in 2004:

Bossie has engaged in such questionable or downright slimy tactics on many occasions. Here are some of his more famous misses:

# During the 1992 presidential campaign, Bossie got into a fistfight with a Little Rock, Ark., private investigator, Larry Case, who said he had damaging information on Clinton. Bossie told police that Case had punched him after Bossie refused to pay Case a $10,000 advance as they were preparing to board a flight at Little Rock National Airport.

# That same year, Bossie set out to prove that a young pregnant woman named Susan Coleman had committed suicide in 1977 after having an affair with Clinton. Coleman's mother told CBS that Bossie hounded her relentlessly with his false story, even following her to an Army hospital in Georgia, where she was visiting her husband, in recovery from a stroke. Bossie and another man "burst into the sick man's room and began questioning the shaken mother about her daughter's suicide," CBS reported.

# Also in 1992, President George H.W. Bush, repudiating Bossie's tactics, filed an FEC complaint against Bossie's group after it produced a TV ad inviting voters to call a hot line to hear (almost certainly doctored) tape-recorded conversations between Clinton and Gennifer Flowers.

# In 1994, Bossie traveled to Fayetteville, Ark., with an NBC producer, where the two allegedly "stalked" and "ambushed" Beverly Bassett Schaffer, a former state regulatory officer and a lawyer who had played a small role in the so-called Whitewater conspiracy. The two confronted Schaffer outside her office and, after she refused an on-camera interview, reportedly chased her across town, until she found refuge in the lobby of an office building.

# In February 1996, Citizens United mailed out a fundraising letter bragging that it had "dispatched its top investigator, David Bossie, to Capitol Hill to assist Senator Lauch Faircloth in the official US Senate hearings on Whitewater." Another mailing reported that Bossie was "on the inside directing the probe." Democrats subsequently cried foul that a federal employee was actively raising money for a partisan group, so D'Amato forced Bossie to submit an affidavit proclaiming his independence from Citizens United.

# In November 1996, Bossie improperly leaked the confidential phone logs of former Commerce Department official John Huang to the press. And he did that by deceiving other GOP congressional aides, according to an account published in Roll Call, which quoted one Republican aide comparing Bossie's deceptive presence to "Ollie North running around the House."

# In July 1997, James Rowley III, the chief counsel to the House Government Reform Committee, which was investigating allegations of campaign finance wrongdoing by the Clinton administration, resigned his position after committee chairman Burton refused to fire Bossie. In his one-page resignation letter, Rowley, a former federal prosecutor employed by Republicans, accused Bossie of "unrelenting" self-promotion in the press, which made it impossible "to implement the standards of professional conduct I have been accustomed to at the United States Attorney's Office." (Bossie's habit of self-promotion paid off; during one four-week stretch in early 1994, Bossie and Brown were profiled by the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times and the Washington Post, each marveling at the power the activists were wielding.)

The breaking point came in May 1998, when Bossie, then 32, oversaw the release of the doctored Hubbell tapes. As Roll Call reported at the time, "At Bossie's request, Burton sat on the tapes for nearly a year until word started to leak that Hubbell might be indicted by [Kenneth] Starr for tax evasion. Bossie, who supervised the tapes along with investigator Barbara Comstock, oversaw the editing of Hubbell's prison conversation[s] and decided to release them the day before Hubbell was indicted." According to Roll Call, Bossie enjoyed unusually close working relations with Starr investigators.

The tapes were edited for "privacy" considerations, according to Bossie. But they were also edited to completely omit key exculpatory passages, including one in which Hubbell exonerated Hillary Clinton of wrongdoing. Gingrich ordered a reluctant Burton to fire Bossie.

Bossie also heavily promoted the anti-Kerry "Swift Boat" story in 2004, as Joe Conason reported then, and produced an embarrassing valentine to George W. Bush at the same time.

Then there was the extremism. In the 1990s, Bossie and Citizens United were inordinately fond of peddling anti-Clinton conspiracy theories claiming the president was part of a plot to enslave Americans under a "New World Order". Check out, for instance, this archived version of the Citizens United front page from 1999.

In addition, naturally, to a bevy of Monica-related impeachment screeds, you could find screaming exposes of the Clintons' alleged involvement in the United Nations one-world-government plot. A streaming banner on the site shouted: "Secret United Nations Agenda Exposed In Explosive New Video!" (The video in question prominently featured an appearance by then-Sen. John Ashcroft.) A little further down, the site explains: "This timely new video reveals how the liberal regime of Bill Clinton is actively conspiring to aid and abet the United Nations in its drive for global supremacy." These are tales lifted straight from the conspiracy theories of the 1990s militia movement.

What makes Bossie's latest fabrication so outrageous is that it blames "liberal hippies" for the very policies and legal positions long championed by conservative ideologues, as embodied by the very Supreme Court ruling that seemingly just legitimized him. Oliver Willis points this out at Media Matters:

In the segment ... Hannity and the filmmakers lay blame for the crisis on baby boomers (or "'60's hippies," in the words of producer David Bossie) moving away from conservative ideas by taking advantage of corporate personhood in order to avoid personal responsibility for the risks they took with the funds their banks controlled ...

This denies reality. It is in fact the conservative movement that has regularly supported the power of personhood for corporations, and the resulting dissolution of personal responsibility for corporate decisions. In fact, one of the producers of this very film is David Bossie. Bossie is behind Citizens United, the conservative activist group who recently won a Supreme Court case that affirmed the power of political speech for coporations like Citizens United (the case was decided 5-4 with the justices regularly categorized as conservative voting in the affirmative).

Hannity also claims that Generation Next "debunks the myth that deregulation caused the economic crisis"? Oh, really? None of the clips they showed last night did. I haven't seen the film whole, but if what they showed last night was their best evidence, they have a long way to go before they can "debunk" what is a well-established reality.

Of course, someone like Bossie would naturally reject the findings of the "New World Order" United Nations report on the causes of the global economic crisis:

The Global Economic Crisis: Systemic Failures and Multilateral Remedies contends that the systemic failures – driven by financial deregulation, large-scale financial investments on commodity futures markets, and widespread currency speculation – have deeper roots that call for in-depth analysis and need to be approached through recognition of their multilateral dimensions.

Well before the crisis erupted, we were being warned that it was coming, by people like Paul Krugman, who particularly points to Reagan-era deregulation as a leading cause of the crisis.

Or you could consult Kevin Phillips, whose book Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism predicted the crisis well before it erupted, and consider the factors underlying his prediction:

The focus of Phillips’ concern this time out is the overweening dominance of the financial-services sector in the 21st-century American economy — how their growing power inside the halls of government has led to rampant abuses, dubious practices that have hollowed out the real-estate bubble they’ve created this decade, while simultaneously building a massive economy founded on debt. This has occurred, as Phillips explains in studious detail, even as shifts in the global economy — particularly the changes in the oil market, which have wrought a rapid deceleration in the value of the dollar — threaten to expose that economy for the hollow thing it has become.

We’re now living in an economy, as Phillips explains, in which financial services — banks, credit and loan services, real estate, and the like — now constitute fully 21 percent of our gross domestic product. Americans’ public and private debt combined now stand valued at three times our GDP. It now takes about 20 cents of debt to create a dollar of the GDP.

The financial-services sector is the real locus of this bubble (the increase in government debt, though substantial, was comparatively minor), which has been inflated steadily by the expansion of leverage and what Phillips correctly describes as "reckless innovations" — CDOs, SIVs, and various other fast-money devices. This house of cards is about to collapse, Phillips warns, in a "credit implosion" whose consequences will be felt globally. A run on the dollar, he says, is a fair possibility, noting that this would wreak havoc within the context of the current economic downturn.

Bad Money is a thorough and carefully documented — as well as carefully thought-out — examination of our current economic position. Phillips explains in detail how the financial-services sector came to be seen within the Beltway as "the winner" for politicians to back as the nation’s economic workhorse, fueled in no small part by the ongoing activities of the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, even as the nation’s manufacturing capacity was slowly being gutted.

He goes on to explore how this was facilitated by Republican governance this century, particularly from a Bush White House that favored the familial oligarchical approach to economics, and rapidly accelerated during the post-9/11 push to expand credit. This was manifested in the "securitization" mania that took root in the context of a "Wild West" mania for all kinds of moneymaking devices, especially low-interest adjustable-rate mortgages. The invasion of Iraq, coupled with the emerging power of nationally owned oil producers and the increasing manifestation of "peak oil" prophecies about falling supplies, left the United States isolated diplomatically and increasingly vulnerable economically.

The reality check, for conservatives, ultimately comes down to results. When the "dirty hippy" Bill Clinton left office, we had a federal surplus and the economy was robust. When George W. Bush, who followed the conservative prescription to a T, left office we had nearly collapsed the global economy.

That's a reality they really hate being reminded about.

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