Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.
While having super rich and powerful American oligarchs running the show is one thing, the reality of the situation is actually far worse. Thanks to a recent article in Vice, we now know that foreign governments are aggressively employing their extraordinary wealth to advance their interests here on American soil. In many cases, these are autocratic regimes, which not only do not care about the best interests of the nation, they are often caught actively funding ISIS and even perpetuating 9/11 itself. Here are some excerpts from the piece:
For ex-congressman and GOP strategist Vin Weber, Christmas came a few days early and from an unlikely source: the Qatari government. In December, three days before the holiday, the former Minnesota lawmaker and his lobbying firm, Mercury LLC, signed a lucrative lobbying contract with theGulf State,receiving a $465,000 advance for the first few months of work.
Weber isn’t alone. Over the past year and a half, regimes throughout the Middle East, from Turkey to the United Arab Emirates, have gone on what appears to be a shopping spree for former members of Congress.Compared to the rest of the world, Middle East governments have accounted for more than fifty percent of the latest revolving door hires for former lawmakers during this time period, according to a review of disclosures by VICE.
What’s also striking about the latest surge in foreign lobbying is that many of these former lawmakers maintain influence that extends well beyond the halls of Congress. Former Michigan Representative Pete Hoekstra, who used to chair the House Intelligence Committee, appears regularly in the media to demand that the US increase its arms assistance to the Kurds in northern Iraq. Writing for the conservative news outlet National Review, Hoekstra argued that, “the United States needs to immediately provide [the Peshmerga] with more than light arms and artillery to tip the scales in their favor and overcome the firepower of the Islamists.” In that instance and in others, Hoekstra has often not disclosed that since August 12th, he has worked as a paid representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government, which relies on the beleaguered Peshmerga militia for safety against ISIS.
The same goes for former US Senator Norm Coleman, a lobbyist who serves on the board of the influential Republican Jewish Coalition, and whose Super PAC, American Action Network, spent over $12.3 million to help elect Republicans last year. Since July, Coleman has been a registered lobbyist for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, hired in part to work on sanctions against Iran, a key priority of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family. Shortly after signing up as a lobbyist for the Saudis, Coleman, introduced only as a former Senator, gave a speech on Capitol Hill imploring his congressional allies to realize that Israel and Saudi Arabia have many shared policy priorities, and that the United States “should be hand in glove with our allies in the region.” And in a Twitter message greeting the new Congress last week, Coleman wrote that a “nuclear Iran” is the biggest threat and linked to an article calling for Congress to prioritize a new round of Iran sanctions.
It’s not always clear what these lawmaker-lobbyists say or do on behalf of their foreign supervisors, but what is clear is that many of these politicians are willing to renege on their past commitments to human rights. Delahunt, for example, led inquiries in Congress to cast a light into the brutal abuses of Azerbaijan. If anything, Azerbaijan has gotten worse, according to international observers, who note that since last year, the country has gone on an unprecedented crackdown of activists, journalists, and other perceived opponents of the regime. But instead of pushing back against such crimes, Delahunt now works to put a positive spin on the developments.
The influx of foreign influence into Washington is a growing phenomenon. As the New York Times reported late last year, major think tanks, including the Brookings Institute and the Atlantic Council, have allowed foreign donors to call the shots on their policy prescriptions. Major trade groups that can now play an unlimited role in influencing elections, thanks to the Citizens United ruling, receive direct funds from corporations headquartered in foreign lands. The American Petroleum Institute, for instance, is run by a board of directors that includes an executive from ARAMCO, the Saudi state-owned oil company that takes its orders from the Saudi ruling family.
Remember that next time you read a report from a “think tank,” or hear one of their “expert” analysts on some mainstream media propaganda show. You’ll probably hear as much truth from them as you received from Fox News’ recently shamed “terrorism expert,” Steve Emerson.
Even more troubling, is the fact that several of the governments mentioned in the Vice piece, specifically Qatar and Saudi Arabia, were instrumental in funding the emergence of ISIS, the latest existential terrorist threat du jour. Remember the post, America’s Disastrous Foreign Policy – My Thoughts on Iraq, in which it was noted that:
But in the years they were getting started, a key component of ISIS’s support came from wealthy individuals in the Arab Gulf States of Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Sometimes the support came with the tacit nod of approval from those regimes; often, it took advantage of poor money laundering protections in those states, according to officials, experts, and leaders of the Syrian opposition, which is fighting ISIS as well as the regime.