On the News With Thom Hartmann: Karl Rove’s Super PAC Under Scrutiny, and More

In today’s On the News segment, George Zimmerman out on bail, for-profit college supporters in Congress opposing student loan reforms, Colorado and California look to pass marijuana legalization laws this fall, and more.

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. A secret cadre of rich people, corporations, and possibly even foreign powers are buying our elections – and we don’t even know who they are. Karl Rove’s Crossroads SuperPACs have raised $123 million since 2010 to use against President Obama and Democrats nationwide. That’s more money than the John McCain campaign spent in the entire 2008 presidential election. But, as the Center for Public Integrity points put – 62% of that money – or $76 million – comes from fewer than 100 completely secret donors. That means a handful of very wealthy and powerful forces are spending big bucks to run ads to build up or destroy American politicians and we’ll never know what sort of string are attached. That money could be coming from oil barons at BP – banksters at Goldman Sachs – or war profiteers at Lockheed Martin. Or – it could be coming from foreign dictators like Mahmoud Ahmadenijad. After all – Republicans have always been good to the Iranians. Reagan sold them weapons in the 1980’s – Dick Cheney sold them material that could be used to build nuclear weapons in the 1990’s – and George W. Bush took out Iran’s biggest enemy – Saddam Hussein – in 2006. So the question – is Karl Rove using Ahmadenijad’s money to destroy Democratic politicians? Or is it just money from American oil and Wall Street oligarchs?

In post-Reagan America, it pays to be greedy and screw your workers. The AFL-CIO is out with their new Executive Pay Watch report – showing that CEOs at Fortune 500 companies made on average $12 million each in 2011. That’s a million dollars a month showing up in their personal bank accounts – a quarter million dollars a week – more than brain surgeons or rocket scientists make – and a massive increase since 1980 – when, before Reaganomics, CEOs were paid only 42-times more than their average worker. On top of that – while CEO pay increased nearly 14% in 2011 – average worker pay went up a meager 2.8% that same year. The rich are getting richer and the working class aren’t even keeping up with inflation – creating the largest wealth inequality gap in America since right before the Stock Market crash of 1929. And rather than doing something about it – multi-millionaire Congressman Paul Ryan and the Republicans want to make wealth inequality even worse with a $3 trillion tax cut for the nation’s Romney-rich. We can’t afford to do that – in fact, we need to be doing just the opposite. We need to roll back the Reagan tax cuts – and make the Romney-super rich pay their fair share in taxes again.

In the best of the rest of the news…

After a hearing today in Sanford, Florida – a judge set bail for George Zimmerman at $150,000. The conditions of the bail include GSP monitoring, no possession of firearms, and no use of controlled substances. Zimmerman himself took the stand during the hearing, telling the family of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who he gunned down 7 weeks ago, that he was sorry for the loss of their son and that he had no idea just how young Trayvon was. The next hearing is scheduled for a week from today. But as long as these Shoot First laws remain on the books in Florida and 24 other states around the nation – then shootings like this will keep happening. It’s time to stop letting corporations and the NRA write our laws and launder them through ALEC, the US Chamber of Commerce, and other corporate front groups who put the profit motive over what’s best for the community.

Could the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal soon hit Fox so-called News? A team of lawyers are in the United States working with at least ten people who have complaints against Murdoch’s News Corporation – the parent company of Fox News. Most of the complaints are against the now-shuttered British tabloid News of the World – but the lawyers claim the allegations extend to Fox News as well. As the lead lawyer, Mark Lewis, said about his clients’ claims – they are, “raising issues against other [News Corp] titles or Fox News, not necessarily about hacking but about other untoward dark arts to obtain information that should be private.” The Republican Party should be most frightened by this news – since they’d have no chance to win in November without their primary mouthpiece.

Republican Representative Virginia Foxx knows not to bite the hand that feeds her. Foxx made a bizarre remark this week about American students – saying she has “very little tolerance” for young people saddled with student debt – which now tops one trillion dollars in America. The Center for Responsive Politics discovered why Foxx doesn’t care about student loan debt – it’s because she’s making big bucks from for-profit college corporations. The organization found that in just the last year – Foxx has raked in nearly $50,000 dollars from the for-profit college industry, which encourages students to take out larger loans to meet higher tuition costs. The Department of Education found that one out of every six students at for-profit schools eventually is forced to default on his or her student loans. And while President Obama is urging Congress today to not let interest rates on federal students go up, he’s facing a headwind from Republicans like Virginia Foxx who are bought off by profiteers running for-profit schools and don’t give a damn about America’s young people. We need to kick the moneychangers out of our schools.

And finally – today is the day for marijuana. This 4/20 is the first one in history where a majority of Americans support decriminalizing marijuana, and two states – Colorado and California – are poised to pass referendums in November to legalize, tax, and regulate the manufacturing and sale of marijuana and pot products. The tail wind for drug reform in America is remarkable. Now only if we can get President Obama to live up to his campaign promises and stop using federal agents to raid legal marijuana dispensaries around the nation. Nixon’s war on drugs has failed – so let’s hope that by this time next year – our nation will treat marijuana the way it should be treated – as a medicine – and a pretty decent recreational drug, taxed and regulated like alcohol.

And that’s the way it is today – Friday, April 20, 2012. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.