Pluralistic: 26 Oct 2022 Uline's billions fund voter suppression

Today's links

A paper shredder that is shredding a document labelled 'official ballot'; the box is emblazoned with the Uline logo, as well as a VOTE HERE instruction and an 'I Voted' disc.

Uline's billions fund voter suppression (permalink)

Every billionaire is a policy failure, but every billionaire is also a factory for producing policy failures at scale. The political power conferred by massive wealth accumulation makes a sham of democracy, because "one person, one vote" is easily swamped by "one dollar, one vote."

That's why we need to abolish all billionaires, even the "good" ones who promise to support charities or causes we support. But today, I want to focus on some extremely bad billionaires, Dick and Liz Uihlein, owners of the packing-supply monopoly @Uline.

The Uihleins are a multi-generational far-right clan of wealthy conspiracy peddlers. The family money starts with the founding of the @SchlitzBrewing company (and you thought @MolsonCoors was the only fascist beer!).

The Schlitz fortune let Edgar J. Uihlein pour money into Charles Lindbergh's America First movement, an antisemitic, pro-Nazi isolationist group that was part of a wider anti-Jewish movement that Lindbergh helped found, whose projects included commissioning and disseminating an an English translation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a hoax document purporting to reveal a conspiracy of Jewish bankers to take over the world.

Edgar Uihlein Jr – father of Dick – was a major funder of the John Birch Society, another conspiratorial far-right authoritarian group, who campaigned against secret communists, water fluoridation and civil rights. Edgar lavished funding on pro-segregationists.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Today on @Propublica, @JustinElliott, @MegsNewz and Doris Burke document the vast and shadowy support that Dick and Liz Uihlein provide to far-right causes, using the windfall profits from Uline, whose sales have ballooned along with the rise of ecommerce:

Back in 2002, Uline was pulling in $18m/year. By 2018, it was $712m. The pandemic goosed Uline's sales still further. The Uihleins did their best to prolong the pandemic, putting money into local school-board races to oust trustees who advocated for covid safety measures:

They also campaigned against workplace shutdowns, and turned their own facilities into super-spreader sites where employees sickened at shockingly high rates:

That's just a small corner of the Uihleins' contributions to culture war bullshit in public schools. They're also big donors to the American Principles Project and its anti "transgender ideology" attack ads, which also target abortion and "critical race theory."

There's no anti-abortion candidate too extreme for the Uihlines. They spent $50m to support Darren Bailey's bid for the governorship of Illinois. Bailey says that the Holocaust "doesn't even compare" to abortion" (and Bailey also condemns "perversion in our schools" in the form of curricula that acknowledge the existence of queer people).

Dick and Liz named their foundation after Dick's father. The Ed Uihlein Family Foundation sends tens of millions to the architects of anti-democractic, anti-majoritarian, pro-voter-suppression organizations, including the Federalst Society, the Conservative Partnership Institute and the Foundation for Government Accountability:

The Uihleins play an inside/outside game, funding "think tanks" and other outside/astroturf groups, and also backing election campaigns directly. They're the GOP's largest federal donors. They've backed campaigns for the likes of Jim Marchant, who is running for Nevada Secretary of State on a Big Lie platform that denies the 2020 election. They're also backing the PA gubernatorial bid of Doug Mastriano, the Jan 6 insurrection participant who is associated with notorious antisemites:

The Uihleins epitomize the idea that rich people are born to be in charge of the rest of us, and that their wealth entitles – and even obliges – them to organize the lives of the people around them. They are workplpace tyrants, micromanaging bullies who force their employees to take down their kids' drawings and ban women from wearing pants (they also ban corduroy!).

Employees who arrive for work one minute late are considered "tardy." An employee may not display more than four personal items, and no item may be larger than 5×7 inches. "Liz would walk up and down the aisles, and if your desk looked off, you’d be written up."

The company hosts mandatory "lunch and learn" sessions for employees where they are required to endure speeches from Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and other far-right figures (the Uihleins once hired a Donald Trump impersonator as the warm-up act for one of these sessions).

The Uihleins are ideologues, but it's a mistake to view their authoritarianism, antisemitism, racism, and homophobia as the main force of their ideology. First and foremost is their belief that they deserve to be rich, and that the rich should be in charge of everyone else.

That commitment to the one dollar, one vote system is the motivating factor behind everything else. The Uihleins fund voter suppression, sure, but that's to weaken the power of the ballot box, which might otherwise check the power of oligarchs.

Oligarchs like the Uihleins say they believe the government is incapable of doing good, but it's more true to say that they are committed to ensuring that the government can't do good. They don't want a small state – they want a captive one, one that will do their bidding.

In 2017, Donald Trump achieved the only significant policy victory of his presidency: a $2.3 trillion tax giveaway to the ultra-rich. Trump may have been in charge of the Executive Branch, but he lacked the executive function to get anything done. His plutocratic class solidarity overcame his poor impulse control for this issue alone.

The actual tax bill was an incredible mess. Lawmakers literally scribbled illegible hand-written amendments all over the 479-page bill, carving out tax breaks that sent millions to individual donors.

Two of the biggest beneficiaries of this corrupt bonanza were Dick and Liz Uihlein. Their pet senator, @SenRonJohnson, threatened to tank the entire tax bill unless he was given a clause that created deductions for "pass-through" entities. Johnson claimed this would "simplify and rationalize the tax code" for a wide range of businesses, but that was a lie.

In truth, only a very small number of businesses benefited from this, and right at the top of the beneficiaries were the Uihleins, who donated $20m to Johnson's campaign and got $215m back in the first year. Overall, they stand to make $500m from Johnson's amendment:

The rich are a factory for producing policy failures, and the Uihleins operate one of the most efficient policy-failure factories in the world. Yes, they support causes that threaten to exterminate Black people, Jews and queers. Yes, they want to force women and children to give birth.

But most of all, they want to rule. They want to tell us all what we can wear and to dictate the maximum size of the keepsakes we post around our desks. They want to force us to attend their "learning sessions" and to watch their Trump impersonators and clownish politicians.

They derive this authority from being born rich, and from growing still richer. Having won the lucky orifice lottery and then leveraged the advantages of being born on third base, they get to impose their will on millions of others. They believe that some were born to rule, and the rest of us were born to be ruled over.

This is the core of the monopolist's project – to deprive you of choices, so that you are cornered into doing the monopolist's bidding. Not only do the Uihleins want to take away your vote, they also want to force you to fund it, by monopolizing the packing materials business, so that every time you ship a box, you support your own disenfranchisement.

Hey look at this (permalink)

This day in history (permalink)

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Colophon (permalink)

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