Billionaires for Bush

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Billionaires for Bush was a culture jamming political street theater organization that satirically purported to support George W. Bush, drawing attention to policies which were perceived to benefit corporations and the super-wealthy. The group would typically dress as parodies of wealthy "establishment" figures in tuxedos while proclaiming slogans such as "Two Million Jobs Lost—It's a Start".

A secret New York City Police Department intelligence report based on undercover surveillance of the group in 2003 and 2004 in advance of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, described the Billionaires as "an activist group forged as a mockery of the current president and political policies."[1]

History[edit]

Forbes 1999[edit]

The organization had first been founded by Andrew Boyd as "Billionaires for Forbes", but Forbes left the 2000 race for the Republican Presidential nomination early due to a lack of adequate voter support. In 1999, Billionaires were present as Steve Forbes announced his candidacy for President and jeered him as he signed a flat tax pledge in New Hampshire.[2] The Billionaire Manual describes the action:

They wore conservative jackets and ties (but no bowler hats, etc.) and carried innocuous signs such as "Run, Steve, Run." Happy to have grass-roots support, the Forbes handlers (who believed the Billionaires were students from a nearby business school) placed them in front of the cameras, very near to the podium from which Forbes was speaking. However, each of their signs had another sign behind it. And behind their banner (which read "Forbes 2000: He wants YOU to win") was another banner, waiting. At the most dramatic moment of his announcement, the Billionaires flipped their signs, and pulled away the large banner to reveal one which read: "Billionaires for Forbes: Because Inequality isn't Growing Fast Enough." The Billionaires started chanting "Let workers pay the tax so investors can relax!" and other slogans. Forbes and his handlers were completely thrown off, a little tussle ensued, and the Billionaires were pushed off to the side away from the cameras. Not wanting to miss the action, half the TV crews left the Forbes speech to cover the Billionaires. The action got lots of coverage.

Bush (or Gore) 2000[edit]

During the 2000 U.S. presidential election the organization was led by Andrew Boyd and Jenny Levison as "Billionaires for Bush (or Gore)," with the message that whichever candidate became president, corporations and the wealthy were guaranteed to benefit. The group spoke out under the motto "Because Economic Inequality Is Not Growing Fast Enough".[3]

The group appeared at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, California, satirically praising major corporations for their financial support of the convention by attempting to deliver thank you cards to Fleet Bank, Fidelity Investments and Verizon Communications.[4]

The Billionaires planned a "Million Billionaires March" at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia held the day before the convention. Other activities included a "Vigil for corporate welfare" and an auction of corporate advertising rights for the Liberty Bell.[5]

Bush 2004[edit]

At a March 2004 fundraiser on Long Island attended by President Bush, Billionaires for Bush came to show their "support", with men dressed in tuxedos with top hats and women in evening gowns and long gloves. The groups laminated posters featured such slogans as "Leave No Billionaire Behind" and "Corporations Are People Too."[6]

Their largest events to date took place as part of the 2004 Republican National Convention protest activity. A separate group, however, continued on in the plague-on-both-your-houses style as "Billionaires For Bush Or Kerry".

A "Million Billionaires March" on July 27, 2004, in conjunction with the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, attracted 150 marchers who presented a faux check made out for the amount of "whatever it takes" to the local offices of the Republican Party, as part of an effort to "defeat" Kerry.[7]

Lawsuits filed against the New York City Police Department after the 2004 Republican Convention uncovered the fact that Billionaires for Bush had been among groups infiltrated by the NYPD by its undercover officers gathering intelligence in advance of the convention.[8]

2005 and beyond[edit]

The group remained active after 2004, but was less prominent. It used its established meme to raise awareness to a myriad of economic issues including Social Security privatization, the Iraq War, the Estate Tax and gentrification.

The group was led by a triumvirate of co-chairs Elissa Jiji, Marco Ceglie, and Melody Bates.

Attire[edit]

Members typically dressed in stereotypically wealthy attire, such as tuxedos and top hats or evening gowns and pearls and adopt names like "Mo Bludfer Oyle" (more blood for oil, a reference to the Iraq war) and "Phil T. Rich" (filthy rich).

Members also dressed in less stereotypical attire to perform more subtle pranks, as described in the Forbes example, above.

Events[edit]

Examples of Billionaire events include:

  • Musical entertainment at anti-Bush events
  • Thanking George W. Bush on his birthday for their tax cuts
  • Protesting protests of the Bush administration
  • Taking a pro-war stance at peace rallies
  • Cross-country limousine tours [9]
  • A petition to allow oil drilling and logging of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco
  • Bush League baseball

These events and message were designed to attract media coverage.

Slogans[edit]

Some of their political slogans include "Small Government, Big Wars,"[10] "Because We're All In This Together, Sort Of,"[11] "Two Million Jobs Lost—It's a Start," "Leave No Billionaire Behind,"[1] "Make Social Security Neither,"[12] and "Corporations are People Too."[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Dwyer, Jim. "Is Satire in a Slump? 'Yes' and 'No'", The New York Times, February 16, 2008. Accessed August 20, 2008. "Outside an event in Manhattan where Karl Rove, the president's chief political strategist, was speaking, the Billionaires ran a faux counterdemonstration ('Leave No Billionaire Behind') to a real one mounted by the Sierra Club. ... In a report stamped "N.Y.P.D. Secret," the police wrote: 'Billionaires for Bush is an activist group forged as a mockery of the current president and political policies.'"
  2. ^ Zuckman, Jill. "FORBES SIGNS N.H. ANTITAX PLEDGE FLAT-TAX PROPOSAL PROTESTED AS ELITIST BY BOSTON GROUP", The Boston Globe, March 17, 1999. Accessed August 18, 2008. "But as he stood with his back to the state capitol and promoted his proposal to eliminate the current federal tax code and institute a 17 percent flat tax, protesters from Boston began chanting billionaires for Forbes ..."
  3. ^ DiFilippo, Dana. "FUNNY WAY TO RUN A PROTEST", The Philadelphia Daily News, July 29, 2000. Accessed August 18, 2008. "THE WAY MILLIE O'Nair sees it, it doesn't matter whether George W. Bush or Al Gore wins the presidency. ... Whoever wins, we win! said O'Nair, who co-chairs Billionaires for Bush (or Gore).
  4. ^ "Nader tossed off grounds at debate site", CNN, October 3, 2000. Accessed August 18, 2008. "Others—dressed in fake pearls and top hats—dubbed themselves Billionaires for Bush or Gore, and satirically praised the corporations helping underwrite the debate.
  5. ^ Shaffer, Gwen. "C'mon Buy!", Philadelphia City Paper, July 27, 2000. Accessed August 18, 2008. "The Billionaires may be a hoax, but the events they’ve planned are very real, starting with a Million Billionaire March the day before the convention."
  6. ^ Hitt, Jack. "The Birth of the Meta-Protest Rally?", The New York Times, March 28, 2004. Accessed August 19, 2008.
  7. ^ Vozick-Levinson, Simon. "'Wealthy' Protesters Make Case Outside DNC", The Harvard Crimson, July 30, 2004. Accessed August 18, 2008. "We therefore call upon all loyal People of Wealth to defy the Democratic National Convention and converge on the streets of Boston for a Million Billionaire March on July 27. And converge they did—150 of them, according to those who attended—to take back the streets for the silver-spoon set and present a symbolic check in the amount of “whatever it takes” to the local GOP headquarters."
  8. ^ "Editorial: The Convention Papers", The New York Times, August 18, 2008. Accessed August 19, 2008."The department later said that its actions were based on intelligence gathered by a special unit of undercover officers who had infiltrated dozens of protest groups, including innocuous ad hoc outfits like the comical Billionaires for Bush."
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Trav S. D. "The Art of Party Crashing: Artists and activists stockpile Dick Cheney jokes, Dubya drag, and phalluses in preparation for the Republican invasion", the Village Voice, July 27, 2004. Accessed August 19, 2008. "The use of Republican drag and the just-short-of-plausible pro-Bush sloganeering (Small Government. Big Wars.) also help generate interest."
  11. ^ Montgomerry, David; and Vargas, Jose Antonio. "The Anti's Antidote For the Bush Blues: Counter-Inaugural Ballgoers Don't See Red", The Washington Post, January 21, 2005. Accessed August 19, 2008. "A banner across the stage read Billionaires for Bush -- Because We're All in This Together, Sort of."
  12. ^ Sycamore. "Inauguration Guide for Pissed-Off Patriots", Daily Kos, January 13, 2005. Accessed August 20, 2008. "Some of their slogans: Make Social Security Neither! Cashing In Your Children's Tomorrow...Today! Taking from Main Street, Giving To Wall Street! No Brokerage Firm Left Behind! Drain America First!"
  13. ^ Trigaux, Robert. "Satire in the streets", St. Petersburg Times, August 31, 2004. Accessed August 20, 2008. "They shouted slogans like Four More Wars, sang songs skewering Republican economic policy, and held signs ranging from Free Ken Lay, Privatize Everything and Corporations Are People, Too to Widen the Healthcare Gap and Outsource: Because Cheap Labor Costs Less."

External links[edit]