There’s an interesting question that’s swirling around Slick Rick Weiland and his allies as they come out in the public eye, promoting Amendment V, a measure that would simultaneously remove most instances of political party labels on the ballot, as well as make sure there’s never another independent or third party candidate who appears on the November ballot ever again.
Recall that chart I posted a couple of days ago on where the money is coming from for the “Yes on Amendment V” movement?
The shadowy out-of-state group “Open Primaries” has put just shy of $250,000 into using South Dakota as their laboratory for promoting Amendment V. But who is this “Open Primaries” group? Who exactly has Rick Weiland – who brought Amendment V to South Dakota – allied himself with? The answer may surprise you.
Open Primaries bills itself as “a movement of diverse Americans who believe in a simple, yet radical idea: no American should be required to join a political party to exercise their right to vote” and that “The mission of Open Primaries is to advocate for open and nonpartisan primary systems, counter efforts to impose closed primaries, educate voters, train and support spokespeople, and participate in the building of local, state and national open primaries coalitions.”
What is is not telling you? Well for one, it’s largely funded and tightly affiliated with a former Enron commodities trader. Yes, that Enron. The one that perpetuated one of the biggest frauds in corporate history.
For starters,Enron billionaire John Arnold has been trying to set himself up as a national political kingmaker, and in the past, as noted by Rolling Stone, he’s allegedly engineered plans to slash benefits for public workers, as well as becoming known as a corporate raider..
The dynamic young Rhodes scholar was allowing her state to be used as a test case for the rest of the country, at the behest of powerful out-of-state financiers with dreams of pushing pension reform down the throats of taxpayers and public workers from coast to coast. One of her key supporters was billionaire former Enron executive John Arnold – a dickishly ubiquitous young right-wing kingmaker with clear designs on becoming the next generation’s Koch brothers, and who for years had been funding a nationwide campaign to slash benefits for public workers.
Anyone who has seen the Oscar-winning documentary The Smartest Guys in the Room and remembers those tapes of Enron traders cackling about rigging energy prices on “Grandma Millie” and jamming electricity rates “right up her ass for fucking $250 a megawatt hour” will have a sense of exactly what Arnold’s work environment was like.
In fact, in the book that the movie was based on, the authors portray Arnold bragging about his minions manipulating energy prices, praising them for “learning how to use the Enron bat to push around the market.” Those comments later earned Arnold visits from federal investigators, who let him get away with claiming he didn’t mean what he said.
As Enron was imploding, Arnold played a footnote role, helping himself to an $8 million bonus while the company’s pension fund was vaporizing. He and other executives were later rebuked by a bankruptcy judge for looting their own company along with other executives. Public pension funds nationwide, reportedly, lost more than $1.5 billion thanks to their investments in Enron.
But more recently, Arnold has been aggressively at the forefront of the Open Primaries movement, actively advocating and opening his checkbook when the effort has gone to various states.
Such as in Oregon in 2014..
Last week, Texas billionaire John Arnold reported giving $500,000 to help pass the top-two primary initiative — setting the record for the largest single political donation in Oregon this year.
Turns out that was just the start. Late Wednesday, the group Open Primaries revealed that Arnold has given another $1 million in support of the ballot measure that would rewrite Oregon’s primary system.
Under Measure 90, partisan primaries in the state would be replaced with a single primaryopen to candidates of all parties. The top two finishers — regardless of party — would advance to the general. California and Washington both have almost identical systems.
Arnold, a former natural gas trader who once worked for the now-bankrupt Enron Corp., has been involved on a number of political causes, including revamping the education system and public employee pensions.
And in Arizona this year..
Organizers of twin initiative campaigns to tighten up on dark money and open up political primaries suspended both efforts Thursday after a key source of funding dried up.
Texas billionaire John Arnold and his wife Laura, who had fronted each of the groups $500,000 with a promise of more, is apparently interested in financing only the proposal to create a system where all candidates ran against each other in an open primary, regardless of party affiliation, said Chuck Coughlin, treasurer for both efforts. Under that system, the top two vote-getters would face off in the general election, even if both were of the same party.
So, why would a billionaire want to push a nationwide effort to eliminate political primaries, and create the jungle primary, where most of the field is swept away early, and party labels are removed from the ballot?
It’s obviously not from an ideological standpoint, given his past track record in trying to push public pension reform as well as eliminate political parties. In fact, according to the Houston Chronicle, John Arnold is a big Obama supporter:
“In the small world of the Houston ultra-wealthy, the Arnolds cut a different profile. They are not on the political right – they have donated significant amounts to the Obama campaign and Democratic National Committee.
So what’s in it for him?
If I were a cynical man, I would point out that political parties serve an important function in supporting a candidate, rallying volunteers, providing a somewhat loose organizational structure, and many things a candidate would otherwise have to have to muster tremendous amounts of time and money to put in place themselves.
What if that was all erased? What if there were no party labels, and you could clear most of the field early – instead of letting them compete at the finish line, and you only had to choose between the last two?
Well, for starters, millionaires and billionaires would have a far easier time buying political races, as they could simply just start opening a checkbook for their hand picked candidates, and not have to contend with pesky political party activists who might be backing candidates because of ideology.
You can very quickly buy a lot of name ID with a million dollar television blitz. But the party apparatus has always served as an organizational counterweight, providing a strong level of support that money can’t buy.
No more party apparatus, and Slick Rick’s new buddies would have a lot easier time buying elections, especially as you get into bigger media markets across the nation.
That is, I’d think that, if I were a cynical man.
Somehow, I don’t think they’re going to put that on the literature.