Sunday, February 7, 2016

Best candidate money can buy?

Charles M. Blow calls Marco Rubio "a too-slick-to-be-trusted stripling who oozes ambition with every obviously rehearsed response." And Chris Christie hammered Rubio in last night's debate for being "scripted" by his handlers (which Rubio then demonstrated to the audience by continuing to repeat his prepared soundbite three more times).

But that's not what bothers me the most about Rubio. What bothers me the most is that he's pretty much owned by billionaire Norman Braman.
He has bankrolled Mr. Rubio’s campaigns. He has financed Mr. Rubio’s legislative agenda. And, at the same time, he has subsidized Mr. Rubio’s personal finances, as the rising politician and his wife grappled with heavy debt and big swings in their income. ...

A detailed review of their relationship shows that Mr. Braman, 82, has left few corners of Mr. Rubio’s world untouched. He hired Mr. Rubio, then a Senate candidate, as a lawyer; employed his wife to advise the Braman family’s philanthropic foundation; helped cover the cost of Mr. Rubio’s salary as an instructor at a Miami college; and gave Mr. Rubio access to his private plane.

The money has flowed both ways. Mr. Rubio has steered taxpayer funds to Mr. Braman’s favored causes, successfully pushing for an $80 million state grant to finance a genomics center at a private university and securing $5 million for cancer research at a Miami institute for which Mr. Braman is a major donor.

Even in an era dominated by super-wealthy donors, Mr. Braman stands out, given how integral he has been not only to Mr. Rubio’s political aspirations but also to his personal finances.

Now, there's even more information about that teaching job:
Marco Rubio has received plenty of attention - and criticism - for skipping Senate hearings and votes as he campaigns for his White House bid.

But this isn't the first job where Rubio has taken heat for failing to go all in. Documents and records obtained by NBC News suggest that as a visiting professor at Florida International University, he worked less than 10 hours a week and missed three-in-10 classes during his first semester of teaching - all while making more than most part-time visiting professors. ...

For that, he would earn $69,000 ...

Yes, Rubio was paid $69,000 for working less than 10 hours a week and missing three out of ten classes that semester. (And this was at a time of "layoffs and tuition hikes caused by what the university president called 'the most serious budget crisis in our history.'")

Note that he didn't even teach the class by himself. His "longtime friend and pollster Dario Moreno" taught the class with him, and by Moreno's own admission, Rubio didn't even have to grade papers. (If you're a teacher, or you know a teacher, you should know what a huge deal that is.)

So why did the golden boy get such benefits? Well,... maybe because his billionaire backer, Norman Braman, gave $100,000 to the school?

Norman Braman owns Marco Rubio. His money is everywhere in Rubio's life, both his private life (and his wife's) and his public life.

I know that the five Republicans on our Supreme Court have declared that "money is speech," but this guy owns a U.S. Senator and a guy who might well become President of the United States. Certainly, if he does become president, that will be almost entirely a result of Braman's money (which not only bankrolled Rubio's U.S. Senate campaign, but started his political career in the Florida state legislature, too).

This isn't particularly unusual. Now that we've sold our country to the highest bidder, billionaire sugar-daddies are common in the Republican Party. Sheldon Adelson almost single-handedly kept Newt Gingrich in the presidential race in 2012, and Foster Friess did the same thing for Rick Santorum.

Other billionaires are bankrolling their own candidates, or pooling their money into Super PACs. But even for Republicans, the extent to which Braman's money pervades every aspect of Rubio's public and private life is just astonishing, isn't it?

And I'm sure he's got the best handlers that money can buy. Whether or not that means he can win the presidency is an open question. But if this doesn't work, there's plenty more money out there to try with other candidates.

What have we done to our democracy? Make no mistake, we did it to ourselves. Certainly, we elected the Republican presidents who appointed right-wing ideologues to the Supreme Court.

(OK, maybe we didn't elect George W. Bush in 2000, but we let the election get close enough that the five Republicans on the court could appoint him to that position. And the fact that Republicans were a majority on the court was because of our previous bad decisions in electing presidents.)

Of course, when it comes to presidential candidates, the entire Republican slate is horrible. As Charles Blow points out, the top three finishers in the Iowa caucus were "a much-loathed anti-institutional who has shown a pyromaniac’s predilection for wanting to torch Washington rather than make it work; the real estate developer spouting nativist and even fascist policies with the fervor of a prosperity preacher" and Rubio, scripted and packaged and entirely bought.

What have we done to ourselves?

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