Many have focused on the Israeli connection to Republican Senator Tom Cotton’s letter to Iran since it was publicized on March 9th. This connection is obvious since it was orchestrated to coincide with Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. Our understanding of the extent of cooperation between Israel and the GOP is growing, as it was recently revealed that Israel spied on the US and shared the information with Republicans to use against the White House. But it is also the tip of the iceberg of a much larger network of financial and ideological interests much closer to home. The armada of new Republicans, slick and gritty, who stormed into Washington in January like Viking berserkers, benefited from a network that combined old, established financial powers and new players. Who they are and what they want can tell us quite a lot about what goes on behind the scenes in DC. Obama’s deal, along with the UN Security Council and Germany, to cool Tehran’s centrifuges is potentially the diplomatic breakthrough of a generation. That a constellation of hard power institutions is so dead set against it that they are pulling all their levers of influence, and risking their anonymity and a major backlash, gives us a unique opportunity to really peer behind the curtain of power. There are three major industries pulling the puppet strings, and they are the ones Eisenhower was so worried about.
March of the Tin Soldiers
Following the embarrassing implosion of Republican candidates like Todd “legitimate rape” Akin in the 2012 election, prime GOP strategist Karl Rove set out to ensure that Republicans would run electable candidates with his Conservative Victory Project. What better way to maintain discipline among the party ranks than by staffing it with former soldiers? An unusual number of the incoming freshman Congressional class has significant military experience. While we should honor our veterans, those who gain power should also honor their fellow veterans by being deeply skeptical of feeding Pentagon bloat and avoiding unnecessary wars. Unless, of course, someone is paying them a lot to lead the cheer for a new war. The tin soldiers who pocketed tons of laundered corporate campaign cash, smiled and stayed on message, include some of the most high profile Republican candidates of this past cycle: Senators Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst, Dan Sullivan, and in the House, Martha McSally and former CIA agent, Will Hurd. Cotton, Ernst and Sullivan often rubbed shoulders at the same fundraisers.
The three groups that spent the most on getting these candidates into office are Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, the Koch brothers’ Freedom Partners’ Action Fund, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Where their money comes from, is where things get interesting. Several smaller groups that are likely auxiliary to these three played a targeted role in key races. One such group was Allen West’s comparatively smaller fund that specifically targeted the tin soldiers, the Allen West Guardian Fund. Allen West and Karl Rove have directly echoed each other on talking points. This suggests that West’s nascent donor group, which was hyper focused on supporting far right veterans like himself, may be an arm, or at least an ally, of Karl Rove’s group.
Wall Street’s War Drum
It’s pretty clear that Netanyahu and his American supporters among the ideological neocons are trying to torpedo the nuclear deal. Neocon and Iraq war architect Bill Kristol’s group Emergency Committee for Israel seems to have been formed nearly for the sole purpose of donating a million dollars to Tom Cotton. What is more opaque is their deep connections to Wall Street.
Cotton seems to have been groomed by Republican foreign policy adviser and Kristol protege, Dan Senor. Senor was the spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, run by Paul Bremer, in Iraq. Senor was the biggest apologist of the de-Baathification policy, the biggest bungle of the Iraq debacle. He aggressively spun the situation as trending in a positive direction, even as his arguments became ludicrously disconnected from reality. De-Baathification created a lot of powerful but unemployed former Saddam Hussein loyalists who knew where the weapons were. Arguably, this was the biggest single cause of the dreadful power vacuum that led to the rise of militias, created a Sunni-Shia civil war, facilitated Iran’s takeover of the Iraqi government (which Cotton now cites as a reason to resist peace with Iran) and incubated al Qaeda in Iraq, which eventually splintered off into ISIS.
Senor was also Romney’s ranking foreign policy adviser. While they were in Jerusalem in 2012, Senor said that Romney would “respect” a decision by Netanyahu for Israel to unilaterally strike Iran, an action that has been opposed by the Pentagon, the CIA, and the State Department in both the Bush and Obama administrations.
After doing his neocon duty to set fire to the country and lie about it, Senor skedaddled from Iraq and got cushy jobs in Wall Street. He joined the Carlyle Group, which was founded in the waning days of the Reagan administration and grew explosively. The Carlyle Group manages corporate private equity, is a major revolving door for Republican elites, has deep connections in the Pentagon, and has billions invested in oil and weapons. He also joined Elliot Management, a hedge fund that manages over $25 billion worth of investments. It provides investors with a much higher than average annual return. It is run by billionaire Paul Singer, one of the 400 richest men on earth, and a major GOP donor and activist.
In 2013, Senor tweeted that he was jogging with Cotton in Jerusalem, where the two of them were raising money. They also raised money together in 2013 in New York City, along with Senor’s hedge fund boss, Singer. Casino billionaire and lunatic who is in favor of using nuclear weapons against Iran, Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam donated, and Cotton hauled in over $100,000. Apart from being two of Cotton’s biggest donor’s, Adelson and Singer have also created or funded an army of anti-Iran and pro-Israel think tanks and lobbying groups.
Singer is a quickly growing money man and conservative power broker. He is deeply ensconced in Wall Street, and is a major American supporter of the Israeli right. He corrupted several journalists in an effort to fund a media campaign to smear and discredit the Occupy Wall Street movement. He has donated extensively to candidates who support the repeal of Dodd-Frank, the regulations designed to prevent another major Wall Street crash.
He is essentially an international repo man. As a ‘vulture capitalist,’ his main gimmick is to buy up distressed debt from tanking companies, such as Enron, and poor countries, at deep discount, then force them to pay him back at astronomical interest. He stops at nothing to pursue defaulting countries’ assets all over the planet. He once created an international incident by contriving to have an Argentinian naval warship along with 220 crew members, detained in Ghana as collateral on a debt that Argentina was late on repaying him. Singer paid for advertising which absurdly implied that Argentina was being taken over by Iran and referred to Iran as “the devil.” Singer relies on the courts to twist arms for him. And he has been seen at fundraisers with Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
Singer and his hedge fund were among the largest donors to both American Crossroads and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. There were other major Wall Street and high finance sources among the largest donors, including Goldman Sachs, Jerry Perenchio, and the US Chamber of Commerce. Cotton is obviously a puppet, of a sprawling network of financial interests. Together, Singer, Adelson, Senor, Rove, West, the Kochs, and Kristol form the nexus of a financial network that marries the predatory interests of international mega-finance with the war hawk ideology of the resurgent neocon wing of the Republican party. They got Cotton, and the other tin soldiers, into office. These new hard right politicians now march to the beat of their war drum.
While ideology is a real force in politics, the money behind it is an important driver of action. Deep Throat’s axiom to “follow the money” is becoming truer every day since the Citizens United decision, and the followup McCutcheon decision. The money that poured into the tin soldiers’ war chests flows through Wall Street, where it is deeply invested in oil and weapons.