Monday, July 31, 2000 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: A Reality Tour Through Philadelphia
2000-07-31

Billionaires for Bush...Or Gore

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A lot of money is pouring into Philadelphia this week. More than 240 corporations, government agencies and other sources have poured in more than $40 million for the Republican National Convention. Bell Atlantic gave $3 million. AT&T gave a million dollars. Microsoft a half-a-million dollars. Tobacco giant Phillip Morris pumped in quarter of a million dollars, Weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin doled out $100,000. [includes rush transcript]

And the list goes on and on.

One of the more interesting groups rallying around George Bush this week are the Billionaires for Bush...or Gore. They have taken to the streets to bring their message to the convention. They marched through the streets yesterday chanting "Bush...Gore... Bush... Gore... we don’t care who you vote for. We’ve already bought them." They originally started off as the Billionaires for Steve Forbes. But now that Forbes is long gone, they’ve decided to endorse...both candidates.

Guests:

  • Phil T. Rich, with Billionaires for Bush (or Gore).
  • Millie O’Nair, with Billionaires for Bush (or Gore).

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, here with Juan Gonzalez. We’ll be your hosts for this week on community radio and on public access television and the DISH Network, bringing you the voices from the convention, as you heard with Mr. Nicholson, to the streets.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Yes, Amy. And, of course, this is a return home for me of sorts. I lived in Philadelphia for many years. I was a reporter here and, interestingly enough, John Street, who is the Mayor now, was — I remember him from decades ago, when he was a militant protester. He’s changed dramatically since those days, when he was fighting for redevelopment and community control in North Philadelphia. Now, he’s the Mayor in charge of keeping the peace for this convention.

And, of course, Philadelphia is unique in a lot of ways. It’s the — 65 percent of the housing in Philadelphia is owner-occupied, the largest percentage of owner-occupied housing in the United States of any major city, and it’s a city that is about 50 percent African American and about another ten percent — five to ten percent Latino. And John Street, of course, is the second African American mayor in the history of the city. And I think that we’re going to see real conflict between this administration, which considers itself more of a liberal, I guess, reform administration, and the protest in the streets, because many of the people sitting in City Hall used to be protesters twenty years ago, and it’s an interesting change in what’s happened here in the city.

AMY GOODMAN:

Speaking of the streets, there are major demonstrations planned for every day this week. As we speak, I understand there is a direct action taking place of people who are protesting the continuation of the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, and we’ll let people know what happens.

We have a problem in the city when there are protests, and that is, cell phones go down on a regular basis. Electricity can be cut off and then put back on. We’ve seen it in this country and in others, and we’ll let people know about that.

Also, the only one of the unpermitted demonstrations, the city refused to give a permit to the demonstration against homelessness and poverty that is set for today in Philadelphia. We hope to be joined by Cheri Honkala, the founder of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, which is a group that set up a Bushville in northern Philadelphia to portray the level of poverty in the city.

Interestingly enough, in that area, in Kensington — I believe in Philadelphia 44 percent of registered voters voted in the last election. That’s considered high in this country. We’re talking less than half. In Kensington, 17 percent of registered voters — not just registered, think of how many aren’t registered — actually voted. We are talking about a tale of two cities.

And as we talk about those two cities, let’s look at some of the figures. More than 240 corporations, government agencies and other sources have poured in more than $40 million for the Republican National Convention. Bell Atlantic gave $3 million. AT&T millions of dollars. Microsoft, half-a- million dollars. Tobacco giant Philip Morris pumped in a quarter of a million dollars. Weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin doled out $100,000. The list goes on and on.

The City of Philadelphia itself gave a whopping $7 million. Interesting to note, Philip Morris, Microsoft, these corporations have — are involved in litigation, have legislation before Congress —- don’t think there’s any mystery about why they’re pouring the money into the parties, as well as the party here in Philadelphia. When we come back, we’ll be joined by some of this city’s, well, minority elite. That is, the Billionaires for Bush, they’ll be joining us, and then we’re going to be talking -—

MILLIE O’NAIR:

Or Gore.

AMY GOODMAN:

Or Gore, excuse me. We’ll be joined by the Billionaires for Bush —

MILLIE O’NAIR:

Or Gore.

AMY GOODMAN:

— and we also then will be talking about a very serious issue, and it is the theme of tomorrow’s protest: police brutality and the death penalty. We’ll be joined by Ramona Africa, as well as writer and professor Linn Washington

You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!, the Exception to the Rulers, broadcasting live from the Independent Media Center in the middle of Center City, Philadelphia, where hundreds of video and radio activists have come to the city, as they went to Washington for the IMF-World Bank protests, as they went to Seattle in November and December of 1999 saying that they weren’t going to let this corporate global uprising against — or the global uprising against corporate power be covered by a corporate lens or captured on a corporate microphone, and so we broadcast from the center of that independence. You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN:

You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, here with Juan Gonzalez, broadcasting from the Independent Media Center in Center City, Philadelphia, just a few miles away from the convention center, where the Republican National Convention is set to begin in just a few hours. And the music you just heard, Samsara, “I Want to Log Your Land.”

Well, we are joined right now by one of the more interesting groups rallying around George Bush this week, the Billionaires for Bush.

MILLIE O’NAIR:

Or Gore.

AMY GOODMAN: They have taken to the streets to bring their message to the convention. They marched through the streets yesterday chanting, “Bush, Gore! Bush, Gore! We don’t care who you vote for! Well, we’ve already bought them.” They originally started off as the Billionaires for Steve Forbes, but now that Forbes is long gone, they’ve decided to endorse, well, both candidates?

MILLIE O’NAIR:

Absolutely. We really don’t think that’s there’s that much of a difference between either one of them. They may differ on some policies and sometimes wear different color power ties, but we’re confident that both of our candidates are deeply committed to economic inequality.

AMY GOODMAN:

Now, we should introduce you, actually. Millie O’Nair is with us today, one of the Billionaires for Bush.

MILLIE O’NAIR:

Hello.

AMY GOODMAN:

And Phil T. Rich is with us, as well.

PHIL T. RICH:

How do you do, Amy?

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Well, Phil, one of the things you said —

AMY GOODMAN:

I think he likes to be called by his full name.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

I’m sorry.

PHIL T. RICH:

That’s Mr. Rich.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Mr. Rich, I’m sorry. Mr. Rich, I’ve heard you say that corporations are people, too?

PHIL T. RICH:

Yeah. You see, I mean, for example, with the welfare protest coming up today, I mean, the Kensington Welfare Rights Union? I mean, poor woman and children, they have the right to welfare? That’s not the way it is. Corporations have the right to welfare. I mean, look at the numbers. Tens of billions of dollars in welfare tax breaks, subsidies, extensions on patents for corporations, but we’ve cut the legs out from under the federal guarantee of assistance to poor women and children, and that’s why corporations are people, too.

AMY GOODMAN:

You spoke, Millie O’Nair, last night at an R2K press conference. That’s the press conference of the resistance, of the protesters who come to Philadelphia. And can you talk about the message you brought to the press?

MILLIE O’NAIR:

Well, the message that I brought to the press was really that we are down here celebrating our victory. I know that a lot of these people have come down here to protest the Republican Party, but we’re actually very happy with them and the Democrats. We’ve already bought both of the candidates, and we’re down here celebrating. Yesterday, we held our Million Billionaire March and really decided that it was time for us to come out in full strength and celebrate our collective power and unity as wealthy people. For years now, billionaires, we’ve been running this country from behind closed limousine doors, and we felt that it’s high time that we come down here and show these people what we’re really made of, which is money.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

But shouldn’t money be kept out of politics? A lot of Americans feel that way.

MILLIE O’NAIR:

Oh, you don’t understand. People don’t vote. Money votes. I don’t see any problem with that system. It’s working quite well for us. Don’t you think, Phil?

PHIL T. RICH:

It’s a fantastic system. In fact, you know, to those critics who say big money should stay out of politics, they don’t understand. I mean, where in the Constitution does it call for a mandatory separation of cash and state. I mean, show me. I mean, in fact, politics is the best business there is. Look at the numbers. In an average money market fund, you know, we wealthy people might be satisfied with a 20 percent return on our investment, but in the dynamic low-risk, high-yield world of legislation, incredible investment arena, you can expect almost over 100,000 percent return on your investment.

MILLIE O’NAIR:

As a matter of fact, the advertising industry — the advertising industry, that’s us, that’s you, and we bought them — they invested $7 million — no, that’s not true. They invested how much money?

PHIL T. RICH:

Well, the broadcast industry, I think, is what you might be thinking of —

MILLIE O’NAIR:

Thank you.

PHIL T. RICH:

—- and that was for $5 million dollars -—

MILLIE O’NAIR:

That’s right.

PHIL T. RICH:

—- in campaign contributions. They were able to secure for themselves a $70 billion value, free digital -—

MILLIE O’NAIR:

TV licensing.

PHIL T. RICH:

—- TV licenses were lent to them. That’s -— you know, some people might think of that as public property. I mean, the airwaves, do they belong to the people? I don’t know, but the government, for $5 million in campaign contributions, gave that to the broadcasting industry. That is a 1,400,000 percent return on their investment, and that’s kind of what we’re talking about here. Politics is a great business for us.

MILLIE O’NAIR:

And if you can get that type of return when you buy a handful of congressmen, just imagine what you can get when you buy the President.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

So if big money does all this, why have an election at all?

PHIL T. RICH:

Well, that’s — see, that’s the beauty of democracy. I mean, we can handpick the candidates, because they have to compete for our cash and that whittles down the field to two who are acceptable to our positions. But the beauty of democracy is then you have to have an election, and that’s where people come in. I mean, if people didn’t vote, who would?

JUAN GONZALEZ:

What about Ralph Nader and the Greens or Pat Buchanan?

MILLIE O’NAIR:

Well, you know, it’s a little bit hard to buy off a candidate who only has a black-and-white television and lives on a very small amount of money a year, but we’ve already bought off the Republicans and the Democrats, and we would try very hard to buy off Ralph Nader, as well, but he’s got a little way to go.

PHIL T. RICH:

Every man has their price, but we just haven’t found what Nader’s is yet.

AMY GOODMAN:

Can you, Millie O’Nair or Phil T. Rich, whichever of you would like to take this question, talk about your stance, for example, on child care.

MILLIE O’NAIR:

Who needs child care? Hire an au pair.

PHIL T. RICH:

Right, Millie, I like that. Works for us at home, doesn’t it?

AMY GOODMAN:

Now, when you go around and you endorse Bush and Gore, I guess you started with Forbes, did Forbes accept your endorsement?

MILLIE O’NAIR:

Oh, as a matter of fact, the first time that the Billionaires for Steve Forbes ever came out to publicly support him and invite him into a photo opportunity with us, he graciously accepted.

AMY GOODMAN:

Wait a second. He actually took — came and joined you?

MILLIE O’NAIR:

Oh, but, of course, he did. He was — he understood that we were his true supporters. He got into a photo opportunity with us.

AMY GOODMAN:

And he heard that there were Billionaires for Forbes?

PHIL T. RICH:

He, himself, is nearly a Billionaire for Forbes. I mean, he’s become a charter member, as we’ve gone along and the campaign has developed.

AMY GOODMAN:

Juan, this is actually very interesting, because I do understand that when they first came out with their endorsement and held a news conference, Forbes showed up thinking, in fact, there were Billionaires for Forbes — of course, there are — but that these were the ones, and he stood with them in a photo opportunity. When was it that he realized — when was it that he realized what?

MILLIE O’NAIR:

That we were his actual true supporters? Oh, I think it might have been when he noticed the ties made out of money.

AMY GOODMAN:

He got a little nervous.

JUAN GONZALEZ:

Well, Phil T. Rich, how does the average person fit into all of this?

PHIL T. RICH:

Well, it’s very important for the continuation of the system. The average person should, you know, consume, vote and die. I mean, we couldn’t have the kind of system we have without that kind of contribution.

AMY GOODMAN:

Any last words for our listeners on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! and for viewers around the country?

MILLIE O’NAIR:

We would like to join people —- ask people to join us. Wear your mink stoles, put on your top hats and your black suits and come to Philadelphia and join us. Today at 11:00, we’ll be holding a candelabra vigil for corporate welfare at 11:00. That will be at the Kensington Welfare Rights Union’s march and -—

PHIL T. RICH:

At City Hall.

MILLIE O’NAIR:

At City Hall, and you can also join us in Los Angeles, where we’ll be holding another Million Billionaire March.

PHIL T. RICH:

That’s on August 14th at 5:00 p.m., leaving from Pershing Square, Downtown LA.

MILLIE O’NAIR:

And please check out our website. It’s lovely. It’s got a beautiful photo of our candidate. Our website is www.billionairesforbushorgore.com.

PHIL T. RICH:

Our candidate is Bush-Gore, and if you go to the website, you’ll see an incredibly professionally done computer composite morphing of the two portrait photographs of Bush and Gore. That’s our candidate, Bush-Gore.

AMY GOODMAN:

Well, we want to thank you both very much, Phil T. Rich and Millie O’Nair —

MILLIE O’NAIR:

Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN:

— for joining us today. I understand you’re headed over to the Shadow Convention that’s taking place at the Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania, because there are many tiers of gatherings that are taking place at the Republican National Convention this week. There is the main convention that’s taking place at the First Union Center in South Philadelphia. There is the Shadow Convention, that is a group of nonprofit organizations dealing with money in politics. Yesterday that event was kicked off by John McCain, who got some boos when he announced or reiterated his endorsement of George Bush, considering this was considered a counter-convention. There are the protests in the streets, and we are covering them on a regular basis. And there are the parties, not only in the corporate suites, but all over this city yesterday. Last night, big fireworks display in Camden, New Jersey, just across the river. And there were protesters there, as well.

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