More on the elections from non-U.S. press

Jose G. Perez jg_perez at SPAMbellsouth.net
Thu Dec 7 23:38:03 MST 2000


[From another British commie rag, the Observer. See especially the section
on the "Blackout in Florida."]

 Best democracy money can buy

Gregory Palast examines the sources of the $500m that boosted Bush's bid for
the White House

Sunday November 26, 2000

Last week, I mailed my overseas ballot for the US presidency - and you can
wipe that smug little grin off your face. I won't put up with condescending
comments about America's democratic rituals from a nation with an unelected
House of Lords occupied by genetic fossils and, soon, Chris Woodhead.
In fact, you could think of the $3 billion spent in the US campaign in
positive, New Labour terms. Call it 'the efficient privatisation of the
democracy' - though an outright auction for the presidency would be more
efficient still.

If the guy who lost the vote, George W Bush, nevertheless wins the White
House, he'll have surfed in on a crushing wave of nearly half a billion
dollars ($447 million), my calculation of the suffocating plurality of cash
from corporate America, a good 25 per cent more than Al Gore's take.

George W could not have amassed this pile if his surname were Jones or
Smith. The key to Dubya's money empire is Daddy Bush's post-White House work
which, incidentally, raised the family's net worth by several hundred per
cent.

Take two packets of payments to the Republican Party, totalling $148,000,
from an outfit called Barrick Goldstrike. That's quite a patriotic
contribution from a Canadian company. They can afford it. In 1992, in the
final hours of the Bush presidency, Barrick took control of US
government-owned property containing an estimated $10bn in gold. For the
whole shooting match, Barrick paid the US Treasury only $10,000.

Barrick made deft use of an 1872 gold rush law meant to allow pan-and-bucket
prospectors to gain title to their tiny claims. In 1992, Clinton's newly
elected administration was ready to prevent Barrick's stunning grab. But
Barrick is a lucky outfit. Bush's Interior Department expedited procedures
to ram through Barrick's claim stake before Clinton's inauguration.

Ex-Pres George Bush was lucky, too. When the electorate booted him from the
White House, he landed softly - on the Barrick Goldstrike payroll, where he
comfortably nested until last year.

Who is Barrick? Its founder, Peter Munk, made his name in Canada in the
1950s as the figure in an infamous insider stock-trading scandal. Munk
headed a small speaker manufacturer that went belly-up, just after he sold
his stock. This is not quite the expected pedigree for an international
minerals mogul.

If we look in the shadows behind Munk we can see the more accomplished
player who provided the capital to set up Barrick - Saudi arms dealer Adnan
Khashoggi.

During Bush's presidency, Khashoggi was identified as conduit in the
Iran-Contra conspiracy. He had already run into trouble with US lawmen when,
in 1986, he was arrested and charged - but not convicted - of fraud. He was
bailed out of the New York prison by Munk, who provided the $4m bond. Bush
performed an even bigger favour for Khashoggi: as his last act in office,
the president pardoned Khashoggi's alleged co-conspirators, key members of
Bush's own cabinet. As a result, no case could be made against Khashoggi.

In 1996, a geologist prospecting in Indonesia, Mike de Guzman, announced his
discovery of the world's richest gold field. Munk rapidly deployed his
president. Bush, on behalf of Barrick, contacted officials of the former
dictator Suharto who were in control of mining concessions. Thereafter, De
Guzman's company was told it would have to turn over 68 per cent of its
claim to Barrick.

Barrick didn't have long to gloat. Jim-Bob Moffett, the tough, old,
Louisiana swamp dog who heads Freeport-McMoRan Mining, had a private meeting
with his old benefactor Suharto. At the end of the meeting, Jim-Bob and the
dictator stood on the steps of the presidential palace to announce that
Freeport-McMoRan would replace Barrick. (Ironically, Barrick lucked it
again. The gold find was a hoax. After Jim-Bob learnt he'd been suckered,
his company invited geologist De Guzman to talk it over. Sadly, on way to
the meeting, De Guzman fell out of a helicopter.)

While Mr Munk's president did not pay the cost of his rental in Indonesia,
Bush could redeem himself in Africa. In 1996, as genocide in Rwanda fomented
civil war in Zaire, Barrick smelt opportunity. We have learnt that, at that
time, Bush spoke with his old golfing buddy, Mobutu Sese Seko (then dictator
of Zaire) about diamond concessions.

I don't know what ex-CIA director Bush told the panicked dictator, but we do
know that Mobutu granted Barrick exclusive rights to mine diamonds in
north-west Zaire.

Maybe Bush talked about Barrick's mining experience in neighbouring Tanzania
where, according to Amnesty International, Barrick's subsidiary carried out
'extra-judicial killings'. Amnesty reports that 50 independent miners who
refused to move off the Barrick unit's concession were buried alive in the
pits by company bulldozers. Barrick denies the allegations.

Beyond Barrick, Daddy Bush has many other friends who filled up his
sonny-boy's campaign kitty while Bush performed certain lucrative favours
for them. In 1998, Bush père created a storm in Argentina when he lobbied
his close political ally President Carlos Menem to grant a gambling licence
to Mirage Casino corporation.

Bush wrote that he had no personal interest in the deal. That's true. But
Bush fils did not do badly. After the casino flap, Mirage dropped $449,000
into the Republican Party war chest.

The ex-president and famed Desert Strormtrooper-in-Chief, also wrote to the
oil minister of Kuwait on behalf of Chevron Oil Corporation. Bush says
honestly that he, 'had no stake in the Chevron operation'.

Following this selfless use of his influence, the oil company put $657,000
into Republican Party coffers. Most of that loot, reports the Center for
Responsive Politics, came in the form of 'soft money' That's the squishy
stuff corporations use to ooze around US law which, you may be surprised to
learn, prohibits any donations to presidential campaigns in the general
election.

Not all of the elder Bush's work is voluntary. His single talk to the board
of Global Crossing, the telecoms start-up, earned him $13m in stock. The
company also kicked in another million for his kid's run.

And while the Bush family steadfastly believes that ex-felons should not
have the right to vote for president, they have no objection to ex-cons
putting presidents on their payroll. In 1996, despite pleas of US church
leaders, Daddy Bush gave several speeches (he charges $100,000 per talk)
sponsored by organisations run by Rev Sun Myung Moon, cult leader, tax
cheat - and formerly, the guest of the US federal prison system.

There are so many more tales of the Bush family daisy chain of favours,
friendship and campaign funding. None of it is illegal - which I find
troubling. But I don't want to seem ungrateful. After all, the Bushes helped
make America the best democracy money can buy.

Blackout in Florida

Vice-President Al Gore would have strolled to victory in Florida if the
state hadn't kicked 12,000 citizens off the voters' registers five month ago
as former felons.

In fact, only a fraction were ex-cons. Most were simply guilty of being
African-American. While 8,000 of those disenfranchised went through the
legal rigmarole of getting on to the voting list, the rest - enough to have
won the state for Gore - did not.

A top-placed election official (not a Democrat) told me that the government
had conducted a quiet review and found - surprise! - that the listing
included far more African-Americans than would statistically have been
expected, even accounting for the grievous gap between the conviction rates
of blacks and whites in the US.

The source of this poisonous blacklist: Database Technologies, a division of
ChoicePoint, and hired by Governor Jeb Bush's frothingly partisan Secretary
of State, Katherine Harris. My thanks to investigator Solomon Hughes for
informing me that DBT is a division of ChoicePoint. Under fire for mis-use
of personal data in state computers, ChoicePoint founder Rick Rozar made a
strategic six-figure soft cash donation to the Republican Party.

. Email: Gregory.Palast at observer.co.uk



















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