Sunday, July 06, 2003

On the DLC: Duh!

After reading this editorial “Activists Are Out of Step” in the LA Times by From and Reed (7/15/03 note: A copy can be viewed this way: here is a wonderful response to this editorial in by John Vigileos; within it is a link to the LA Times article), I was appalled. So these guys are Democrats? Could have fooled me. And do they really run the Democratic Party? A very scary thought. I know it sounds as though I just crawled out from underneath a rock. (Actually, I did, and I know there are a lot of slow learners like me out here.) So, I read up more on that darn DLC.

This article by Bruce Dixon in Common Dreams with information about the right-wing corporate end of the Democratic Party caught my eye a few weeks ago. He writes:
    “…The DLC doesn't represent any Democratic Party voters. Its masters include American and United Airlines, Aetna and New York Life Insurance, Microsoft, DuPont, the agribusiness and pharmaceutical industries, Citigroup and, until recently, Enron, among many others. The DLC is an organization conceived in the boardroom and dedicated to the proposition that moneyed interests trump all others. About two hundred corporations comprise its Board of Advisors (fee: $5,000), and nearly 100 pay the cost to be the boss on the DLC's Policy Roundtable ($10,000 each). For $25,000, around 30 corporate executives pretend to be Democrats as members of the DLC Executive Council. Enron sat there, along with Philip Morris, Texaco, Chevron, and Dupont…”

More gory details are here in this 2001 article in the American Prospect by Robert Dreyfuss on how the DLC works.

    “…While the DLC will not formally disclose its sources of contributions and dues, the full array of its corporate supporters is contained in the program from its annual fall dinner last October, a gala salute to Lieberman that was held at the National Building Museum in Washington. Five tiers of donors are evident: the Board of Advisers, the Policy Roundtable, the Executive Council, the Board of Trustees, and an ad hoc group called the Event Committee--and companies are placed in each tier depending on the size of their check. For $5,000, 180 companies, lobbying firms, and individuals found themselves on the DLC's board of advisers, including British Petroleum, Boeing, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Coca-Cola, Dell, Eli Lilly, Federal Express, Glaxo Wellcome, Intel, Motorola, U.S. Tobacco, Union Carbide, and Xerox, along with trade associations ranging from the American Association of Health Plans to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. For $10,000, another 85 corporations signed on as the DLC's policy roundtable, including AOL, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Citigroup, Dow, GE, IBM, Oracle, UBS PacifiCare, PaineWebber, Pfizer, Pharmacia and Upjohn, and TRW.

    And for $25,000, 28 giant companies found their way onto the DLC's executive council, including Aetna, AT&T, American Airlines, AIG, BellSouth, Chevron, DuPont, Enron, IBM, Merck and Company, Microsoft, Philip Morris, Texaco, and Verizon Communications. Few, if any, of these corporations would be seen as leaning Democratic, of course, but here and there are some real surprises. One member of the DLC's executive council is none other than Koch Industries, the privately held, Kansas-based oil company whose namesake family members are avatars of the far right, having helped to found archconservative institutions like the Cato Institute and Citizens for a Sound Economy. Not only that, but two Koch executives, Richard Fink and Robert P. Hall III, are listed as members of the board of trustees and the event committee, respectively--meaning that they gave significantly more than $25,000.

    The DLC board of trustees is an elite body whose membership is reserved for major donors, and many of the trustees are financial wheeler-dealers who run investment companies and capital management firms--though senior executives from a handful of corporations, such as Koch, Aetna, and Coca-Cola, are included. Some donate enormous amounts of money, such as Bernard Schwartz, the chairman and CEO of Loral Space and Communications, who single-handedly finances the entire publication of Blueprint, the DLC's retooled monthly that replaced The New Democrat. "I sought them out, after talking to Michael Steinhardt," says Schwartz. "I like them because the DLC gives resonance to positions on issues that perhaps candidates cannot commit to…"

Why do we need to know this? It’s extremely important to know what is going on with the Democratic Party, especially since it is vital that we elect a non Republican President in 2004. (There, I said it without using his name). If it’s true that From and Reed are part of the power structure in the Democratic Party, then how does a progressive candidate make progress in such an environment? By selling out? I get it now. Hence, the numerous urgent calls to action as well as for a sense of vision: Don Hazen in Alternet, Bill Moyers at Take Back America Conference, the whole Take Back America conference, Borosage from Take Back America, Dave Johnson's notable piece in Smirking Chimp, Richard Byrnes in the Boston Phoenix, and so many others. It’s vital to have Kucinich running for President to keep the progressive agenda on the table.’s work and Howard Dean’s campaigns are also critical. What is the next step?

Note: I have been reminded that the DNC is not the DLC. Please repeat this mantra three times.