Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chamber, Bank of America spy targets speak out

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's plan to run an undercover smear campaign against its critics (including the Teamsters' federation, Change to Win) received little attention in the mainstream media. That is unsurprising, as the concerns of working people don't interest corporate-owned newspapers and television networks. (And they wonder why they're dying.)

The Chamber wasn't happy that its critics pointed out its true political agenda: making it easier for multinationals to ship jobs overseas and destabilize working families by lowering their wages. (The Chamber, by the way, gets support from the union-busting billionaire Koch brothers.)

The dirty tricks story got plenty of buzz, though, in the blogosphere, tech media and alternative news outlets. firedoglake, for example, interviewed one of the targets:

Brad Friedman is the co-founder of the group, which created, which is unaffiliated to the union-led US Chamber Watch effort. ...“We created this campaign calling these guys out for the creeps and the criminals that they are,” Friedman said. “What’s amazing is, US Chamber watch is affiliated with unions, they have some funding. We don’t. We’re a citizens group, period. We raise 5 or 10 bucks wherever we can.”

“But these guys” in the Chamber of Commerce, he continued, “the money they were playing with is our fucking tax money. They’re funded by corporations like AIG and Bank of America who received billions in bailout dollars, and Exxon-Mobil with billions in tax subsidies. They take that money and use it to attack private citizens and private organizations for having the temerity to stand up and say, you guys are wrong. We’re fighting against how our own tax dollars are being spent against us.”
...Last year Fox News ran a story about claiming that they put a bounty on the head of Chamber CEO Tom Donohue. “Like clockwork we received hundreds of death threats,” said Friedman. “The article came out of the blue, so somebody clearly tipped off Fox News. We don’t have direct evidence, but it’s interesting.”
Another target is journalist Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald was spied on by the same private security companies used by the same lobbying firm hired by the Chamber to run its smear campaign. In this case, the companies were hired by Bank of America because WikiLeaks claimed to have damaging information about the bank, and Greenwald (a constitutional lawyer) defended WikiLeaks.

Greenwald makes a convincing case in Salon that the lesson here is the frightening power of corporations aligned with the government to destroy individuals. He writes:
...this should be taken seriously...As creepy and odious as this is, there's nothing unusual about these kinds of smear campaigns. The only unusual aspect here is that we happened to learn about it this time because of Anonymous' hacking. That a similar scheme was quickly discovered by ThinkProgress demonstrates how common this behavior is. The very idea of trying to threaten the careers of journalists and activists to punish and deter their advocacy is self-evidently pernicious; that it's being so freely and casually proposed to groups as powerful as the Bank of America, the Chamber of Commerce, and the DOJ-recommended Hunton & Williams demonstrates how common this is....
But the real issue highlighted by this episode is just how lawless and unrestrained is the unified axis of government and corporate's easily one of the most critical yet under-discussed political topics. Especially (though by no means only) in the worlds of the Surveillance and National Security State, the powers of the state have become largely privatized. There is very little separation between government power and corporate power. Those who wield the latter intrinsically wield the former. The revolving door between the highest levels of government and corporate offices rotates so fast and continuously that it has basically flown off its track and no longer provides even the minimal barrier it once did. It's not merely that corporate power is unrestrained; it's worse than that: corporations actively exploit the power of the state to further entrench and enhance their power.

Well said, brothers.