By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Prayer in the schools? Holy Joe lined up with the GOP’s religious zealots to push it repeatedly in the Senate. Subsidizing parochial schools at the expense of public education? Holy Joe has sponsored legislation to give parents vouchers to send their kids to parochial schools, draining money from the public schools to which most Americans send their kids. And Lieberman just last year joined with rabid gay basher Rick Santorum — the Pennsylvania Republican who compared same-sex love to bestiality and incest — to co-sponsor George Bush’s faith-based initiatives, praising Bush’s “leadership” in tearing down the constitutional barrier between church and state. The faith-based initiatives turned out in practice to be a political-patronage operation for churches and ministers that support Bush. Lieberman’s censorious partnership with slot-machine addict Bill Bennett in attacking the entertainment industry has been widely publicized. Less well known, however, are Lieberman’s ties to a skein of religious-right and conservative organizations. Holy Joe has been closely involved with The Empowerment Network (TEN), which proclaims that it “provides the winning edge” on “the unleashing of faith-based initiatives and cultural remedies.” Lieberman and his buddy Rick Santorum are listed by TEN as Empowerment Caucus chairmen. As Bill Berkowitz has reported in his “Working for Change” column, TEN was “founded in 1992 by a coterie of right-wing ideologues.” They include Clint Bollick of the anti–affirmative action, pro–school voucher Institute for Justice; David Caprara, TEN’s current president, lately the American Family Coalition’s national director, and a former top aide to Housing Secretary Jack Kemp in the Bush I administration; and Sam Brunelli, national finance chairman of the Republican Liberty Council.
Lieberman, in 1995, joined with Lynne Cheney — the wife of Dubya’s veep and a longtime left-baiter of academics in universities — to found the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA, formerly the National Alumni Forum), whose mission was to fight “political correctness” on campus. ACTA, which has helped whip up anti-intellectual hysteria in the post-9/11 period, came to public prominence when it issued and widely publicized a McCarthyite blacklist of 117 so-called “anti-American academics” who questioned America’s infallibility in wartime. One of them was Douglas J. Bennet, the president of Wesleyan University in Connecticut. After this incident was aired in the Connecticut press, Holy Joe expressed “regrets” to the university prez and asked ACTA to stop identifying him as a “founder” on its Web site. But have-it-both-ways Joe didn’t resign from the group.
Then there’s Lieberman’s long record of coddling Corporate America, as befits a DLC ideologue who benefits from corporate campaign cash. If the Democrats failed to make political hay out of the corporate scandals when they still had control of the Senate — and thus blew a chance to revive their waning electoral fortunes — it was in large measure due to the conciliatory spinelessness of Lieberman as former chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, which has primary jurisdiction over fraud and corruption within the executive branch. In an article, “The Tyranny of Triangulation: Can Joe Lieberman Lead?,” in the May 20, 2002, issue of The American Prospect, Nicholas Confessore related how “Three months after Lieberman said he would launch an investigation of Enron’s collapse, his committee has held only a handful of hearings and has yet to subpoena a single Bush administration official. Contrast [this] with [his predecessor, GOPer] Fred Thompson’s wide-ranging probe into fund-raising abuses during the 1996 election: The committee held 33 days of hearings, interviewed 200 witnesses, and issued dozens of subpoenas to Clinton administration officials.”
When Lieberman gave what aides billed as a major Enron-related speech in New York entitled “Business Ethics in the Post-Enron Era,” Lieberman told his audience that Enron was “a grand metaphor” — not for the dangers of market fundamentalism or crony capitalism, but “for the real human problems that profit pressure can produce when it is unchecked by personal principles or business ethics.” No mention from Lieberman of the many incestuous contacts Texan Ken Lay and his corrupt cronies had with top Bushies, including Vice President Dick Cheney, the husband of Joe’s pal. Holy Joe, of course, had taken Enron campaign cash, and his ex–chief of staff had become a pricey Enron lobbyist, as the AP later reported.
There’s so much corporate water carrying in the senator’s record it’s hard to do it justice. A little-noticed Jim VandeHei story in the September 11, 2000, Wall Street Journaldetailed how Lieberman was the insurance industry’s “go-to guy on the Democratic side of the aisle.” He teamed up with Dick Armey to successfully limit lawsuits stemming from auto accidents by permitting lower rates for drivers who forfeit their right to sue for pain and suffering; and sponsored bills that limited legal damages against tobacco producers, HMOs and drug companies as well as against asbestos manufacturers and any business that manufactured a defective product — and, by extension, protecting their insurance companies. The chief lobbyist for the American Tort Reform Association — a lobby funded by manufacturers — told the National Law Journal, “If it were not for Lieberman, there would never have been a Biomaterials Access Act,” which immunized corporate giants such as Dow and Dupont against lawsuits for defective components used in the manufacture of medical implants.