May 13, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 127

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.


Topics: Marco Rubio’s close ties to billionaire Norman Braman; UK election results discussion. People: Bill, Nate. Produced: May 11th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Has presidential candidate and US Senator Marco Rubio crossed an ethics line with his billionaire patron, Norman Braman?
– What if anything does the 2015 UK election outcome mean for Labour’s future? Should US Democrats take any lessons one way or the other?

Episode 127 (49 min):
AFD 127

Related Links

Guardian: “2015 UK general election results in full”
AFD: “Marco Rubio’s Miami Vice”
NYT: “Billionaire Lifts Marco Rubio, Politically and Personally”


RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Marco Rubio’s Miami Vice

Don’t feel bad, Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. We found someone probably as corrupt as you to run for president while you’re in prison — Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami, Florida:

As Mr. Rubio has ascended in the ranks of Republican politics, Mr. Braman has emerged as a remarkable and unique patron. 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.

Rubio seems pretty convinced that this is all above-board because he doesn’t try to hide any of his extensive campaign finance ties and personal (financial) relationships to Braman. I guess that’s the John Roberts school of non-corruption: If it’s fully transparent and there’s no explicit quid pro quo of money for favors/contracts, then it must not be corrupt.

However, it’s not even clear that there isn’t some kind of quid pro quo, formal or otherwise. It’s not pay-to-play, but Rubio certainly seems willing and eager to play as a thank you for all the paying.

“What is the conflict?” [Rubio] asked. “I don’t ever recall Norman Braman ever asking for anything for himself.” He acknowledged that Mr. Braman had approached him about state aid for projects, such as funding for cancer research, but said that he had supported the proposals on their merits.
Mr. Braman acknowledged seeking the occasional “small favor” from Mr. Rubio’s Senate office. There was the daughter of the woman who does his nails, Mr. Braman recalled, who had an immigration problem, and the student from Tampa who wanted a shot at military school. In both cases, he said, Mr. Rubio’s staff was quick to respond. (Mr. Rubio’s staff said it had decided not to recommend the Tampa student.)

Um, ok. Whatever this is, maybe it’s not strictly speaking illegal, but it’s certainly against the spirit of ethics and anti-corruption laws and principles. It’s disproportionate and narrow favoritism for a specific wealthy benefactor.

And I guess Rubio would probably suggest he’s not the only one doing this kind of thing and just happens to be one of the least affluent and most indebted high-profile U.S. politicians (and certainly is one of the least cash-flush presidential candidates on a personal basis).

There’s a lot more in the NY Times article (quoted above) about how much Rubio has benefited from Braman’s support. The latter has been saying he was going to make Rubio president since before he was even in the U.S. Senate — and he’s paid for most of the steps to get him close to that goal.


Sanders outraises Rubio, Paul, and Cruz

Sanders-021507-18335- 0004Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced his Democratic presidential campaign this week and raised an impressive $1.5 million in the first 24 hours from about 35,000 donors. Although Clinton obviously has a much larger warchest on tap, this figure has at least put him solidly on par with major Republican contenders in terms of grassroots fundraising:

But the Sanders haul outpaces the three major Republican candidates who already have announced. In the first 24 hours since launching their campaigns, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) raised $1.25 million and Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) raised about $1 million each, according to their campaigns.

They, of course, can count on a lot of super PAC support, as well, in a way Sanders can’t (and doesn’t want to), but this stark comparison has suddenly vaulted Sanders into at least being taken semi-seriously by the U.S. media rather than being roundly mocked as a far-left socialist. (I’ve spotted a lot of recent headlines calling him a “liberal” and “independent” instead of a socialist.) And in truth, he’s certainly not more extreme or fringe than the aforementioned three jokers in the Republican Party’s nomination contest.

Indeed, he’s probably more mainstream than they are. In the words of The Onion on Bernie Sanders:

Biggest Political Liability: Completely out of touch with the average American corporation
Dangerously Radical Fringe Views: Reform Wall Street, avoid costly and ineffective conflicts in Middle East, help working families prosper


Charlie Crist: Future slashfic author

Dave Weigel recently reviewed the decisive ambivalence and non-ideology of former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, as seen in his new memoir. Crist, for those who may not remember, switched from Republican to independent during his failed 2010 US Senate bid against Marco Rubio. Since then, he has puttered around regaining much of his once very high popularity, and he has launched a bid for a second (non-consecutive) term as governor, this time running as a Democrat against incumbent Medicare fraudster and Voldemort lookalike, Gov. Rick Scott (R-Deeply Unpopular).

As Weigel observes, Crist seems to be running primarily on a rose-colored and self-idolizing platform of “Hey, remember how you guys liked me and I wasn’t too offensive or partisan most of the time?” — which may actually work out for Crist, given that he is pretty popular and most people want Rick Scott gone. Plus, it’s Florida, and a lot of people aren’t all that committed to party affiliation (relative to some other states), which makes Crist’s switching palatable and understandable to many voters.

Weigel also highlights how the book dwells heavily, even creepily, on the career-derailing hug Charlie Crist received from President Obama when the former was still a Republican:

In The Party’s Over, his unimaginatively titled memoir of a political life cut short by the Tea Party movement, Crist returns again and again to his February 2009 appearance with President Obama. “As he and I made our way through the crowd toward the stage,” Crist writes, “how could anyone not feel the power of this man?” When they reach the podium, Crist gave a short speech about budgets and infrastructure that was, he reminds us, interrupted frequently by applause.

Then came the moment. “The new president leaned forward,” Crist writes, “and gave me a hug. Reach. Pull. Release. As hugs go, it wasn’t anything special. It was over in a second—less than that. It was the kind of hug that says, ‘Hey, good to see you, man. Thanks for being here.’ It was the kind of hug I’d exchanged with thousands of thousands and Floridians over the years … reach, pull, release—just like that.”

After the shudder fades, the reader at least understands where Crist is coming from. In 2009, a few months after Obama had carried his state, Crist was one of the only Republican governors willing to take strings-attached stimulus money and denounce anyone who wouldn’t. One of the first rallies of the nascent Tea Party movement took place outside the Crist–Obama rally. Marco Rubio created a fundraising site consisting entirely of the “hug” photo. Conservatives heckled Crist, dared him to “hug Obama again.”

So if this governor campaign doesn’t work out, I’m thinking maybe Charlie should consider going into self-publishing weird romance e-novels. I hear (minute 28) there’s a growing market for dinosaur-based romances; maybe he could write slashfic between some Everglades gators and “Florida Man.”