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<div style="float: left;">''[[Deutsche Bank crisis]]''</div>
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<div style="float: left;">''[[Featured article(s)]]''</div>
''[[EU Referendum comment-catch-up]]''
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''[[Boris Johnson]]''
 
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=== <center>[[George Monbiot]]: [http://www.monbiot.com/2017/05/26/lighten-the-darkness/ Lighten the Darkness]</center> ===
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=== <center>[[George Monbiot]]: [https://www.monbiot.com/2019/01/06/the-mind-hackers/// Owned]</center> ===
<center><span style="color:grey">How dark money is subverting democracy in the UK</span></center>
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<center><span style="color:grey">As I’ve found to my cost, the billionaire press seeks to kill change before it happens.</span></center>
  
26th May 2017
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8th July 2019
 
   
 
   
How is this acceptable? A multimillionaire City asset manager [https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/13/millionaire-brexit-donor-targets-remain-mps has pledged to spend up to £700,000 on ousting Labour MPs] who campaigned against Brexit. [https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/13/brexit-referendum-general-election-jeremy-hosking-conservative-party-mp-europe-eu Jeremy Hosking] will use his money to ensure that there is as little parliamentary opposition to a hard Brexit as possible. Why should multimillionaires be allowed to try to buy political results?
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All billionaires want the same thing – a world that works for them. For most, this means a world in which they are scarcely taxed and scarcely regulated, where labour is cheap and the planet can be used as a dustbin, where they can flit between tax havens and secrecy regimes, using the earth’s surface as a speculative gaming board, extracting profits and dumping costs. The world that works for them works against us.
  
Allowed? That’s too soft a word. It is enabled by our pathetic, antiquated and anti-democratic rules on political spending. Hosking claims he wants to secure “the sovereign future of this independent-minded democracy”. But there is no greater threat to sovereignty, independence or democracy than the power money wields over our politics.
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So how, in nominal democracies, do they get it? They fund political parties and lobby groups, set up astroturf (fake grassroots) campaigns and finance social media ads. But above all, they buy newspapers and television stations. The widespread hope and expectation, a few years ago, was that news controlled by billionaires would be replaced by news controlled by the people: social media would break their grip. But social media is instead dominated by stories the billionaire press generates. As their crucial role in promoting Nigel Farage, Brexit and Boris Johnson suggests, the newspapers are as powerful as ever.
  
There are three categories of concern here. The first is transparent political funding, such as Hosking’s. Then there is opaque funding, that the Electoral Commission has so far failed to prevent: a shocking example has been [https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens uncovered by Peter Geoghegan and Adam Ramsay of openDemocracy.]
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They use this power not only to promote the billionaires’ favoured people and ideas, but also to shut down change before it happens. They deploy their attack dogs to take down anyone who challenges the programme.
  
We already know that a vast payment was made by Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party (DUP) for a [https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts newspaper advertisement urging people to vote for Brexit.] Remarkably, this ad was not circulated in Northern Ireland, but only in England and Scotland.
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It is one thing to know this. It is another to experience it. A month ago, seven of us published a report to the Labour Party called [https://landforthemany.uk Land for the Many.] It proposed [https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/04/tackle-inequality-land-ownership-laws a set of policies] that would be of immense benefit to the great majority of Britain’s people: ensuring that everyone has a good, affordable home, improving public amenities, shifting tax from ordinary people towards the immensely rich, protecting the living world and enhancing public control over the decisions that affect our lives. We showed how the billionaires and other oligarchs could be put back in their boxes. The result has been four extraordinary weeks of attacks in the Mail, Express, Sun, Times and Telegraph. Our contention that oligarchic power is rooted in the ownership and control of land has been amply vindicated by the response of oligarchic power.
  
This might suggest that someone was making use of Northern Ireland’s secrecy regime. Political donations there remain hidden from view. Funders wishing to disguise their identities can use Northern Ireland as a back channel into UK politics. After sustained pressure, [https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/electoral-commission-contradict-dup-on-brexit-donor-transparency the DUP revealed] that the money came from a donation of £425,622, passed through an organisation called the Constitutional Research Council.
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Some of these reports peddle flat-out falsehoods. [https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7171049/Report-lays-Corbyns-proposal-grab-inheritances-tax-profits-family-house-sales.html A week ago], the Mail on Sunday claimed that our report recommends a capital gains tax on people’s main homes. This “spiteful raid that will horrify millions” ensures “we will soon be joining the likes of China, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam in becoming one of the world’s few Marxist-Leninist states.” This claim was picked up, and often embellished, by all the other right-wing papers. The policy proved, [https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2019/06/23/labours-wealth-grab-would-iniquitous-country/ the Telegraph explained], that “keeping a hard-Left Labour Party out of office is not an academic ideological ambition but a deadly serious matter for millions of voters.” Boris Johnson, Phillip Hammond and several other senior Tories weighed in, attacking our “mad” proposal.
  
But the original source remains a mystery. Though electoral law in Great Britain states that “a donation of more than £500 cannot be accepted … if the donation is from a source that cannot be identified”, [https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/mysterious-dup-brexit-donation-plot-thickens the DUP claims that] it doesn’t need to know who provided this money. All we know about the Constitutional Research Council is that it’s run by a man called [https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service Richard Cook], who lives in a small house outside Glasgow. He seems unlikely to have been the original source.
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But we made no such recommendation. We considered the idea, listed its possible advantages and drawbacks, then specifically rejected it. As they say in these papers, you couldn’t make it up. But they have.
  
What else do we know about him? [https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/secretive-dup-brexit-donor-links-to-saudi-intelligence-service OpenDemocracy discovered] that in 2013 he helped found a company called Five Star Investments, 75% of which was owned by Prince Nawwaf al-Saud, former head of Saudi Arabian intelligence. Nawwaf’s son is currently the Saudi ambassador to the UK.
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There were dozens of other falsehoods: apparently we have proposed a “garden tax”; we intend to add [https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7105601/James-Brokenshire-blasts-Labours-planned-tax-raid.html “an extra £374 a year] on top of what the typical household pays in council tax” (no such figure is mentioned in our report); and inspectors will be sent to people’s homes to investigate their bedrooms. Dozens of reports claim that our proposals are “plans” hatched by Jeremy Corbyn: “Jeremy Corbyn’s garden tax bombshell”; “Jeremy Corbyn is planning a huge tax raid”; “Corbyn’s war on homeowners”. Though Corbyn is aware of our report, he has played no role in it. What it contains are not his plans but our independent policy suggestions, none of which has yet been adopted by Labour. The press response gives me an inkling of what it must be to walk in his shoes, as I see my name (and his) attached to lurid schemes I’ve never heard of, and linked to Mugabe, Maduro and the Soviet Union. Not one of the many journalists who wrote these articles has contacted any of the authors of the report. Yet they harvested lengthy quotes denouncing us from senior Conservatives.
  
There is currently no known connection between these facts, and Cook has denied any foreign funding for the CRC. But he has not yet answered calls from openDemocracy or the Guardian. Though the Electoral Commission [https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-peter-geoghegan/electoral-commission-contradict-dup-on-brexit-donor-transparency was asked 11 months ago] to investigate, it has done nothing.
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The common factor in all these articles is their conflation of the interests of the ultra-rich with the interests of the middle classes. While our proposals take aim at the oligarchs, and would improve the prospects of the great majority, they are presented as an attack on ordinary people. Progressive taxation, the protection of public space and good homes for all should strike terror into your heart.
  
This story resonates with the [https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy deeply troubling revelations by Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer], which suggest that the US billionaire Robert Mercer may have played a questionable role in our EU referendum. Thanks to the Observer, the Electoral Commission is investigating. But if it discovers any breaches of the rules, the penalties are feeble. The monumental decision this country has taken, which may have been unduly influenced by [https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/14/robert-mercer-cambridge-analytica-leave-eu-referendum-brexit-campaigns the forces Cadwalladr describes], will not be reversed.
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We’ve a lodged a complaint to the press regulator, IPSO, about one of the worst examples, and we might make others. But to pursue them all would be a full-time job (we wrote the report unpaid, in our own time). The simple truth is that we are being outgunned by the brute power of billionaires. And the same can be said for democracy.
  
The third issue is political funding that operates in a different sphere. It’s not illegal, it’s worse than that: there are no effective rules of any kind. This is the use of [https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/02/corporate-dark-money-power-atlantic-lobbyists-brexit dark money that seeks not to influence elections directly, but to change the broader political landscape]. Dark money is funding used, without public knowledge, by front groups.
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It is easy to see why political parties have become so cautious and why, as a result, the UK is stuck with outmoded institutions and policies, and succumbs to ever more extreme and regressive forms of taxation and control. Labour has so far held its nerve – and this makes its current leadership remarkable. It has not allowed itself to be bullied by the billionaire press.
  
There are various ways in which it is spent. One of them is “astroturfing”: the creation of fake grassroots movements. Pioneered by the tobacco companies, this later became a [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2006/sep/19/ethicalliving.g2 crucial strategy for fossil fuel companies] trying to prevent action on climate change, and [http://www.monbiot.com/2002/05/14/the-fake-persuaders/ biotech firms] trying to get their [http://www.monbiot.com/2002/05/29/corporate-phantoms/ products on the market]. It was a major component of the [https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/oct/25/tea-party-koch-brothers Tea Party movement] in the United States, whose real members were coordinated by a group called Americans for Prosperity, founded by the Koch brothers.
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The old threat has not abated – it has intensified. If a newspaper is owned by a billionaire, be suspicious of every word you read in it. Check its sources, question its claims. Withhold your support from any party that allows itself to be bullied or worse guided by their agenda. Stand in solidarity with those who resist it.
 
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Another outlet for dark money is the organisations that call themselves thinktanks, but look to me like covertly funded lobbyists. The less transparent they are, the greater their presence in the media.
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The research group [http://www.transparify.org/publications-main/ Transparify ranks these “thinktanks” by their openness about their funding]. The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the Adam Smith Institute and Policy Exchange, for example, are rated as “highly opaque”: they refuse to reveal any information about who sponsors them. But they are all over the BBC the Today programme , Question Time and the rest and other media.
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The industry whose funding we know most about, thanks to a legal settlement that forced open [https://www.industrydocumentslibrary.ucsf.edu/tobacco/ its archives], is tobacco. We now know, for example, that the IEA has been [http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/IEA:_History_of_Close_Ties_with_the_Tobacco_Industry sponsored by tobacco companies since 1963]. It has [http://www.tobaccotactics.org/index.php/Institute_of_Economic_Affairs received regular payments] from British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Philip Morris International, which has described the institute as one of the groups that would “establish an echo chamber for [Philip Morris] messages”.
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Last week the [https://iea.org.uk/media/uk-is-second-worst-country-in-the-eu-for-nanny-state-interference/ IEA published a report] inveighing against the UK’s smoking ban and tobacco packaging law. This was picked up across the media, but with never a word about the institute’s funding. Apart from the BBC’s editorial guidelines, which are [https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/12/bbc-declare-interests-contributors-tobacco routinely flouted], there are no rules of any kind to prevent or reveal such conflicts of interest.
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Is this democracy? Is this sovereignty? No. It’s the replacement of informed political choice with an onslaught of corporate propaganda and fake facts, which, as we don’t have 100 years between elections to check and refute, we have little chance of resisting.
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Why has there been no effective action on climate change? Why are we choking on air pollution? Why is the junk food industry able to exploit our children? Because governments and their agencies have rolled over and let such people make a mockery of informed consent.
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Now the whole democratic system is sliding, and the Electoral Commission is neither equipped nor willing to stop it. There’s an urgent, unmet need for new laws to defend democracy.
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[http://www.monbiot.com/ &copy;www.monbiot.com]
 
[http://www.monbiot.com/ &copy;www.monbiot.com]

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Boris Johnson

George Monbiot: Owned

As I’ve found to my cost, the billionaire press seeks to kill change before it happens.

8th July 2019

All billionaires want the same thing – a world that works for them. For most, this means a world in which they are scarcely taxed and scarcely regulated, where labour is cheap and the planet can be used as a dustbin, where they can flit between tax havens and secrecy regimes, using the earth’s surface as a speculative gaming board, extracting profits and dumping costs. The world that works for them works against us.

So how, in nominal democracies, do they get it? They fund political parties and lobby groups, set up astroturf (fake grassroots) campaigns and finance social media ads. But above all, they buy newspapers and television stations. The widespread hope and expectation, a few years ago, was that news controlled by billionaires would be replaced by news controlled by the people: social media would break their grip. But social media is instead dominated by stories the billionaire press generates. As their crucial role in promoting Nigel Farage, Brexit and Boris Johnson suggests, the newspapers are as powerful as ever.

They use this power not only to promote the billionaires’ favoured people and ideas, but also to shut down change before it happens. They deploy their attack dogs to take down anyone who challenges the programme.

It is one thing to know this. It is another to experience it. A month ago, seven of us published a report to the Labour Party called Land for the Many. It proposed a set of policies that would be of immense benefit to the great majority of Britain’s people: ensuring that everyone has a good, affordable home, improving public amenities, shifting tax from ordinary people towards the immensely rich, protecting the living world and enhancing public control over the decisions that affect our lives. We showed how the billionaires and other oligarchs could be put back in their boxes. The result has been four extraordinary weeks of attacks in the Mail, Express, Sun, Times and Telegraph. Our contention that oligarchic power is rooted in the ownership and control of land has been amply vindicated by the response of oligarchic power.

Some of these reports peddle flat-out falsehoods. A week ago, the Mail on Sunday claimed that our report recommends a capital gains tax on people’s main homes. This “spiteful raid that will horrify millions” ensures “we will soon be joining the likes of China, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam in becoming one of the world’s few Marxist-Leninist states.” This claim was picked up, and often embellished, by all the other right-wing papers. The policy proved, the Telegraph explained, that “keeping a hard-Left Labour Party out of office is not an academic ideological ambition but a deadly serious matter for millions of voters.” Boris Johnson, Phillip Hammond and several other senior Tories weighed in, attacking our “mad” proposal.

But we made no such recommendation. We considered the idea, listed its possible advantages and drawbacks, then specifically rejected it. As they say in these papers, you couldn’t make it up. But they have.

There were dozens of other falsehoods: apparently we have proposed a “garden tax”; we intend to add “an extra £374 a year on top of what the typical household pays in council tax” (no such figure is mentioned in our report); and inspectors will be sent to people’s homes to investigate their bedrooms. Dozens of reports claim that our proposals are “plans” hatched by Jeremy Corbyn: “Jeremy Corbyn’s garden tax bombshell”; “Jeremy Corbyn is planning a huge tax raid”; “Corbyn’s war on homeowners”. Though Corbyn is aware of our report, he has played no role in it. What it contains are not his plans but our independent policy suggestions, none of which has yet been adopted by Labour. The press response gives me an inkling of what it must be to walk in his shoes, as I see my name (and his) attached to lurid schemes I’ve never heard of, and linked to Mugabe, Maduro and the Soviet Union. Not one of the many journalists who wrote these articles has contacted any of the authors of the report. Yet they harvested lengthy quotes denouncing us from senior Conservatives.

The common factor in all these articles is their conflation of the interests of the ultra-rich with the interests of the middle classes. While our proposals take aim at the oligarchs, and would improve the prospects of the great majority, they are presented as an attack on ordinary people. Progressive taxation, the protection of public space and good homes for all should strike terror into your heart.

We’ve a lodged a complaint to the press regulator, IPSO, about one of the worst examples, and we might make others. But to pursue them all would be a full-time job (we wrote the report unpaid, in our own time). The simple truth is that we are being outgunned by the brute power of billionaires. And the same can be said for democracy.

It is easy to see why political parties have become so cautious and why, as a result, the UK is stuck with outmoded institutions and policies, and succumbs to ever more extreme and regressive forms of taxation and control. Labour has so far held its nerve – and this makes its current leadership remarkable. It has not allowed itself to be bullied by the billionaire press.

The old threat has not abated – it has intensified. If a newspaper is owned by a billionaire, be suspicious of every word you read in it. Check its sources, question its claims. Withhold your support from any party that allows itself to be bullied or – worse – guided by their agenda. Stand in solidarity with those who resist it.

©www.monbiot.com

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