When billionaires brawl… (some US election thoughts)

So, the US elects its next President (or re-elects its current one) today.  One hopes that our southern cousins avoid the fiascos of 2000 and 2004.

As all but the young recall, the 2000 Gore vs. Bush US election hinged on Florida, where George Bush’s brother Jeb was governor.  Before the election, Republican operatives had conducted a voter purge to illegally remove thousands of people from the voters’ lists — conveniently, people who overwhelmingly tended to vote Democratic.  After the election, a Supreme Court voted 5-4 that rejected votes shouldn’t be re-examined and where appropriate, added to the tallies.  Two judges on the majority had been appointed by Bush’s father, George HW Bush, who chose not to recuse themselves from the judgement.

The voter purge, incidentally, was a feature story by the investigative journalist (and Canadian!) Greg Palast in December 2000 in the online magazine Salon, and was televised in early 2001… on the BBC.  It never aired in America.

In the 2004 Kerry vs. Bush election, Ohio went Republican after condemnable measures by the Republican state government to suppress voting in Kerry-leaning districts.  (Astonishingly, the state even limited the access of international observers.)  It couldn’t’ve hurt that the private-sector companies which owned and operated the voting machines, were Republican as well.  To quote from the blistering Harper’s story, None Dare Call it Stolen:

In Butler County the Democratic candidate for State Supreme Court took in 5,347 more votes than Kerry did. In Cuyahoga County ten Cleveland precincts “reported an incredibly high number of votes for third party candidates who have historically received only a handful of votes from these urban areas”—mystery votes that would mostly otherwise have gone to Kerry. In Franklin County, Bush received nearly 4,000 extra votes from one computer, and, in Miami County, just over 13,000 votes appeared in Bush’s column after all precincts had reported. In Perry County the number of Bush votes somehow exceeded the number of registered voters, leading to voter turnout rates as high as 124 percent. Youngstown, perhaps to make up the difference, reported negative 25 million votes.

Yes, the roughly 60,000 voters in Youngstown, Ohio cast roughly four hundred negative ballots, each.  When a mandatory hand recount of 3% of Ohio’s precincts showed discrepancies between the manual totals and the computer-generated ones, by law full recount should’ve been performed, but one wasn’t.

Bush’s margin of victory in Ohio was 100,000, for a 51% to 49% advantage in the vote totals — which may or may not have been bigger than the effect of the manipulations outlined above.  We’ll never know whether Bush would’ve won the state without performance-enhancing help, but the Simpsons’ Mr. Burns commented a few years ago that at least Bush won the second time around… unless people found the missing ballot boxes.


Fortunately, Obama seems to have a big enough lead in 2012 that these kinds of electoral chicanery crimes won’t change the outcome — though one can’t fault Mitt Romney for trying.  He’s got close ties to Hart InterCivic, which provides voting machines for Ohio.  Fortunately for the optics of the situation, Hart only counts a small percentage of Ohio’s total votes.  Organized voter-intimidation and -disenfranchisement tactics will probably have a bigger effect, but again not big enough to remove Obama’s apparent lead.


Mr. Burns also endorsed Mitt Romney this year, joining fellow billionaire and New York’s richest man, David Koch.  In the past few years, Koch Industries has invested tens of millions through a variety of organizations trying to oust Obama and otherwise return America to the good old days of the late 19th century.

New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg, on the other hand, endorsed Obama after Hurricane Sandy, strictly on the basis that Obama is more likely to actually do something about climate change.  Using his power as the owner of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine he penned an op-ed to that effect in their pre-election issue, It’s Global Warming, Stupid:


Ah, it’s nice to finally a see publisher to the left of Rupert Murdoch finally meddle editorially with their publication.  :)

While Bloomberg has continued a number of policies which are unfair to New York’s African-American and Islamic-American communities, his various wrongdoings are probably more than offset by this editorial, and the fact that he’s donated $50 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.  Which makes him a foreign funder of “hijacking radicals” who’re causing headaches for Canada’s fossil fuel industry… and by extension, our current petro-administration.

The donation and magazine cover probably put him in David Koch’s crosshairs, too — and part of me would be interested in seeing two billionaires (billionaires who’ve proven they’re willing to open the vaults) throw down to see who gets to be the Big Apple’s undisputed King Kong.  In no small part because I’m sure Bloomberg would still win.  :)

Consider that before he was elected the first time, Bloomberg spent $75 million of his own money on his campaign, which included mailing a video to every household explaining why they should vote for him!  He then went to $85 million for 2005 (perhaps on an inflation-adjusted basis, it was the same amount?) before jumping to $102 million on his 2009 campaign.  (He — one man — spent about as much the entirety of Canada did, in the 2011 Canadian federal election.)  And keep in mind, that was just his own pocket money, which he spent against a totally-outgunned opponent.  Imagine what he’d do if he had some real competition…!


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