Naderites Craft "Fix It or Nix It" Campaign

Michael Pugliese debsian at
Fri Dec 31 01:03:21 PST 1999

Earlier today (Thusday) Doug wrote:
>Do you mean this as a critique of the >Naderites whom you otherwise
>defend? Because they're very comfortable >with rhetoric about national
>sovereignty, very happy to take money (quietly) from right-wing
>union-hating magnates like Roger Milliken, >and quite eager to enter
>coalitions with Buchanan and Congressional >Republicans. Do you like

Textile Baron Milliken always has an ad in the magazine of the John Birch Society, "The New American," and now the (secret) about Milliken bankrolling Naderites is out the bag, at least in terms of mainstream highbrow opinion mongering media like The New Republic. (A friend, who I give old TNR's, Nation's, In These Times, N.Y. Rev. of Books and other rags, always has cutting things to say about, "even the liberal New Republic, "(remember that was the phrase Reaganite policy wonks would use to defend aid to the contras, for example, to signify that various right-wing policies had/have centrist liberal support,) which TNR editorially defended and Bill Bradley voted for. In response to that TNR editorial support for contra aid, half the editorial board including Howe comrade in arms, Michael Walzer, raised a stink. (BTW, the contra apologetics, editorially (and don't forget flacking in the pages of TNR for same by ex-Maoist, and Monthly Review contributor, Robert Leiken) and the counter from the anti-contra aid libs is in an anthology of TNR pieces entitled, "The New Republic Reader : Eighty Years of Opinion and Debate by Dorothy Wickenden (Editor)

(And as long as I'm on Howe [since a mini-thread is going on there too] and Walzer, another college friend after reading Walzer's, "Just and Unjust Wars," quipped that Michael was against all wars, except those against Palestinians.)

Anyway, time to just stop the stream of consciousness, free association rant I've fallen into again here on lbo list and just cut and paste the friggin' piece on Milliken and the Naderites.

Another btw, at the very end is mention of recent pieces by Orlando Patterson on race, and John Judis on China & WTO admission. Haven't read those pieces yet, think I'll read from the new book by Rebecca Klatch from UC Press on SDS and YAF (Blurbed on cover by Buckley and Hayden, reminded me, of Sidney Hook and Tom Hayden blurbing a book by Polish "revisionist" Marxist, [well at the time he was], Leszek Kolakowski, the author of a 3 volume intellectual history/critique of Marxism from Oxford Univ. Press, pick those puppies up) I just picked up. On the bus back home read of the 1969 convention of Young Americans for Freedom, and a delegate burning his draft card. Sounds like he was lucky to get out alive, it'll be interesting to see how Klatch compares that convention to the last SDS convention in '69 in Chicago, and overall the political cultures in SDs and YAF and the trajectories activists from both have taken since the end of the sixties.

-----Jeez, what was in that coffee, I drank to make me type so much? Was just gonna let the TNR piece go w/o all this prefatory toing and froing. The friend I give the old magazines to after I've finished with them says that come the time when I'm in my eighties and in a "rest home", I'll be raving about the Schactmanites and Lovestoneites like they had just been in the news carrying through some new class betrayal. And that friend has a Dad that studied under Leo Strauss, extolls Commentary magazine, and is the chair of the GOP in the county in Ohio he lives in, so I think my friend, Dave, can spot craziness esp. ideological/polemical overload tendencies pretty well.

Michael Pugliese The man behind the anti-free-trade revolt. Silent Partner

By RYAN LIZZA Issue date: 01.10.00 Post date: 12.30.99 I'm on the phone with Mike Dolan, the Public Citizen activist who led the charge against the World Trade Organization in Seattle a month ago. The lefty Dolan is packing for a much-needed vacation to (where else?) Cuba as he banters in his friendly, Jesse Ventura-esque voice about his yearlong effort to bring the anti-free-trade movement to the Pacific Northwest. "I was the first one out there," he says. "I pulled together a whole lot of people." Suddenly we're interrupted. "I'm sorry; I have to put you on hold for a second," he says. Three minutes later, he's back on the line, telling me he can no longer talk with me. His boss, Lori Wallach, chief Washington lobbyist for Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, has just instructed him to end our on-the-record conversation. "You and I," he says, "are about to go on deep background, OK?"

What's the problem? Something that has been whispered about on the left for some time now: the suspicion that Roger Milliken--billionaire textile magnate from South Carolina, founding member of the conservative movement, and patron of right-wing causes for almost 50 years--has been quietly financing the anti-globalization efforts of Public Citizen and related organizations. "This is the dirty little secret in the anti-free-trade crowd," says one prominent left-of-center activist. If it's true, then a man who once banned Xerox copiers from his offices because the company sponsored a documentary about civil rights played a key role in filling the streets of Seattle with protesters in December. "They were out there [in Seattle] months in advance. They were paying for offices and computers. Where did all that money come from?" asks one economist whose organization is a member of Citizens Trade Campaign, the anti-globalization coalition of environmental, labor, and other progressive groups dominated by Public Citizen. Milliken, Public Citizen, and the Citizens Trade Campaign all give the same answer when asked about a financial relationship: they will neither confirm nor deny it. But what is clear is that Milliken's decade-long fight against free trade is finally bearing fruit.

Never heard of Roger Milliken? You're not alone. His name is unfamiliar even to most political junkies. But, to historians of conservatism, Milliken is synonymous with the rise of the American right. From Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich, from the John Birch Society to National Review to the Heritage Foundation, Milliken has been a key financial backer at every juncture. He has a history of picking winners--candidates, journals, and think tanks that have shaped American politics.

All of which makes his ideological shift so striking. In recent years Milliken has shed his financial ties to mainstream conservatism, choosing to lavish his millions on nationalist causes instead. From the battle against nafta to the street warfare in Seattle to the Pat Buchanan presidential campaigns, the anti-globalization eruptions of the 1990s have seemed disparate and ad hoc. But Milliken has been a major player behind each one, and, unlike most of his new allies, he has the means and the experience to build the infrastructure of an American political movement. If the anti-free-trade turbulence of last fall leads in the coming years to a genuine nationalist counter-establishment--complete with intellectuals, magazines, lobbyists, and legislators--it will be largely the work of one practically invisible man. A man who has built a counter-establishment once before.

It's often said that William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater are, respectively, the intellectual and political co-fathers of modern conservatism. Milliken financed both men before most Americans knew them as conservative icons. In 1954, when Buckley was trying to scrape together half a million dollars to start National Review, Milliken was one of a dozen people invited to a dinner where Buckley pitched the idea for his new conservative journal. A Yale University alum like Buckley, Milliken committed the largest single contribution ($20,000), and he became one of National Review's few corporate sponsors in the magazine's early years. To this day his South Carolina textile firm, Milliken & Co., runs a full-page ad in each issue.

Milliken helped launch Goldwater's career, as well. At the 1960 Republican convention in Chicago, although Richard Nixon was sure to win, Milliken led a band of conservatives who bluntly informed the reluctant Goldwater that, with or without his permission, he was going to be nominated. In 1961, Milliken and 21 other conservatives began a successful movement to draft Goldwater in 1964. Milliken was the wealthiest man among them and became one of Goldwater's most significant benefactors. Former South Carolina Governor Jim Edwards says matter-of-factly, "Roger was responsible for getting Goldwater the nomination in 1964."

Edwards also credits Milliken with rebuilding the Republican Party in the South: "I've said many times that Roger Milliken will never get the credit that's due him." Milliken was instrumental in convincing Strom Thurmond to switch from the Democratic Party to the GOP, a switch that instantly made it respectable for conservative Southerners to vote Republican. Milliken was also a major financial backer of Nixon's 1968 Southern Strategy, the plan, run by hardball political operative Harry Dent, under which Nixon won the South with a racially tinged appeal. "If there had been no Roger Milliken," says Dent, "it would have been very difficult to pull off what we did." And Edwards has his old friend Milliken to thank for helping him become, in 1974, the first Republican governor of South Carolina in 100 years. But, despite his indispensable philanthropy, Milliken has remained in the shadows. "He's the guy that stays behind the scenes," says Dent. "You couldn't see him out there directly in politics." Adds the Heritage Foundation's Lee Edwards, "He's even more quiet and off-the-record and afraid of interviews than Mr. [Richard Mellon] Scaife." (Sure enough, my requests for an interview with Milliken for this story were rebuffed.)

Given Milliken's long, ultraconservative history, it's hardly a surprise that many leftists cringe at the thought of forming alliances with him today. Indeed, Ralph Nader, the unions, and the environmentalists have all gone head-to-head with him in the past. Milliken is notoriously anti-labor, establishing that credential in 1956 by shutting down his Darlington, South Carolina, plant after his workers voted to unionize. He then fought his former workers for 25 years before being forced to give them $5 million in back pay, by which time 144 of them had died.

Milliken has fought Nader, too. In the early '70s, Nader launched an attack on the textile industry, accusing manufacturers like Milliken of "unparalleled obstruction" and "political pressure to suppress the results" of studies showing that thousands of textile workers were developing a fatal disease known as "brown lung." But, instead of issuing new Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines on exposure to the cotton dust that causes the disease, the Nixon administration used the issue to raise campaign funds. The textile industry gave Nixon almost $1 million for his 1972 campaign, and, according to The Washington Post, Milliken personally delivered $363,000 in hard cash and checks from textile executives to Nixon's campaign finance director hours before a new law requiring public disclosure of such contributions went into effect. The Post referred to the incident as a "little-known part of Watergate." The government would not issue a cotton-dust standard until the Ford administration, when Nader's Public Citizen filed suit.

But, in the era of globalization, these partisan battles are ancient history, relics of the cold war. If Milliken's political philosophy was once driven by anti-communism, today he's animated by protectionism and nationalism. Milliken's move away from free trade began in the 1980s. Or, more accurately--since the textile industry has long been one of the most protected industries in America--in the mid-'80s official Washington began to move away from Milliken. In 1984, the Heritage Foundation--perhaps the most significant conservative institution in the country, and one that Milliken had showered with annual six-figure donations almost since its founding--refused to support Congress's plan to further limit textile imports. Milliken immediately pulled his funding. "He went from $200,000 a year to zero," says John Von Kannon, Heritage's vice president.

Milliken was also rebuffed by Reagan, the man he had supported for president since 1976. In 1987, Milliken met with Pat Buchanan, then Reagan's communications director, in the White House and implored him to persuade Reagan not to veto a textile quota bill. Buchanan snarled at Milliken, telling him he was "in the office of the stoutest free trader in the West Wing," save Reagan himself. Reagan vetoed the bill.

So, in the late '80s, Milliken turned to the next rising conservative star: Newt Gingrich. Milliken was one of the small circle of wealthy donors who funded Gingrich's influential GOPAC (he gave $255,000). He and his company were rewarded with gushing praise in Gingrich's lecture series "Renewing American Civilization" and his book To Renew America. Milliken had built "the most successful textile company in the world," Gingrich told his students in a lecture devoted partly to Milliken's corporate philosophy. More importantly, Gingrich occasionally championed protectionist legislation for Milliken, and in 1990 the two men were spotted huddling together outside the House chambers plotting their strategy on an important textile bill. But Gingrich's protectionism was half-hearted and short-lived. He soon became an ardent backer of NAFTA and GATT, and Milliken dropped his support.

In the early '90s, scorned by so many former allies, Milliken had a revelation. He could no longer simply fund conservatives in the hope that they'd support protectionism. He needed to build institutions (right, left, or center) that saw protectionism as their primary identity. He teamed up with former Reagan Commerce Department official Clyde Prestowitz in 1990 to start the Economic Strategy Institute (ESI), a think tank funded by labor and business groups and, in its early days, hundreds of thousands of Milliken's dollars. Milliken even moved his Washington office out of Heritage's building and into ESI's. Prestowitz and economist Alan Tonelson began laying the groundwork for what they hoped would become the economic-nationalist alternative to Heritage and the Cato Institute. "We thought we had a major institution created in the early '90s," says Tonelson, who is probably the most significant economist spreading the nationalist gospel.

But Prestowitz, after coauthoring economic-nationalist tracts with Tonelson, split from the Milliken camp and eventually backed nafta and the Uruguay Round of gatt. Once again, Milliken had been betrayed. He pulled his funding from ESI. Tonelson moved on to the U.S. Business and Industrial Council (USBIC), founded in the 1930s to fight the New Deal and the closest thing to a serious economic-nationalist think tank that exists today. Milliken, of course, is usbic's most significant donor. In 1992, Milliken also helped start the Manufacturing Policy Project by giving $120,000 to Pat Choate, the 1996 Reform Party vice presidential candidate who recently orchestrated Buchanan's flight from the Republican Party.

Choate and Tonelson, who see themselves not as conservatives or liberals but as economic nationalists, are key players in Milliken's burgeoning empire. Another is Jock Nash, Milliken's full-time Washington lobbyist. Nash was the best man at Choate's wedding and is a regular guest on Choate's radio show. He is also a close friend of Bay Buchanan, Pat's sister and chief strategist. Nash is a legendary fount of anti-free-trade information. Activists on both the left and the right speak highly of his daily e-mail dispatches summarizing the day's trade news. "I probably get fifteen e-mail messages from him a day," says one union activist. "It's incredibly valuable." And, just as Nash has linked the Buchananites and the Perotistas, he also connects the Buchananites and the Naderites.

During the 1993 NAFTA battle, for instance, Nash organized the anti-NAFTA strategy sessions known as the "No-name Group," which included a Nader representative, congressional aides from the right and the left, and others fighting the legislation. The Wall Street Journal described the meetings as sometimes "xenophobic" gatherings where imported wine was banned and anti-Mexican banter was not unusual.

During the last decade of trade fights, Nash has forged a close alliance with Wallach, Public Citizen's top trade lobbyist. When Maude Barlow, a leading progressive anti-free-trade activist from Canada, came to Washington for a conference four years ago, she says she was picked up for a meeting by a man sent by Wallach. As she talked with her driver, Barlow was struck by his conservative rhetoric. "I thought, who is this man?" she says. "Why is this man driving me somewhere?" Barlow says the man was Nash. "He said something about Roger Milliken, and I said, `Who's Roger Milliken?'" Says Chip Berlet, an analyst at Political Research Associates who charts right-wing influence on lefty groups: "It's a little strange--you come down to visit Nader and Milliken's lobbyist picks you up."

The Naderites explain their relationship with Milliken simply as smart politics, a "tactical alliance" no different from Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold working together on campaign finance reform. But some in the labor community complain that the relationship is not simply about tactics; it's about a shared worldview. "What is Lori Wallach's or Ralph Nader's positive agenda for the global economy?" wonders one labor official. "At times it seems to me to be not that different from Buchanan's view."

Nash himself speaks effusively of Nader. When I ask him what he thinks of the sniping about Nader and Milliken working together, he says: "I met Ralph Nader and I was so impressed. I had grown up being taught that Ralph Nader was the devil. OK? And that he didn't like the capitalist free-enterprise system. And he didn't like this and he didn't like that. And then I met him and I saw him up close. And I said, `My God, this is a man with courage. This is a man with enormous intellect. And he's honest.' Courage, intellect, honesty? Excuse me, but that's the same thing Roger Milliken is!... When Mr. Milliken met him ... through the whole meeting these two men were like Velcro to one another. They sat together, talked together, bounced ideas off one another. It was incredible."

As for Nader, he chuckles at Nash's description of the two men's encounter and downplays any relationship with Milliken. "I wouldn't call it a relationship," he says. During the fight over NAFTA, "I had about two or three meetings with people both on the right and the left with Roger Milliken being there," he adds. Nader is understandably coy about his association with the South Carolina textile magnate, but he and Milliken have fought together on every significant trade battle this decade. And Milliken is one of the few rightwing corporate titans Nader doesn't denounce. As far back as 1992, Nader and Nash got together to watch the famous NAFTA debate between Ross Perot and Al Gore on "Larry King Live." And they will certainly team up to fight the coming battle over permanent normal trading relations with China.

As further evidence that Milliken has made inroads on the nationalist left, some point to Dolan, Public Citizen's field director for trade issues. When Buchanan announced his decision to run for president last March, Dolan wrote in an e-mail on Public Citizen's private trade-strategy discussion group, "[W]hatever else you say about Pat Buchanan, he will be the only candidate in the 2000 presidential sweepstakes who will passionately and unconditionally defend the legitimate expectations of working families in the global economy." The subject line of the e-mail read, "Trade Patriot Buchanan." Others report that, privately, Nader has spoken positively of a Buchanan candidacy, arguing that Buchanan will raise important global-economy issues rather than dwelling on social issues.

Indeed, Buchanan's Reform Party candidacy, with its $12.6 million in federal matching funds, is the spark that could light all the institutional tinder that Milliken has been constructing for more than a decade. Milliken is Buchanan's most generous benefactor. In 1994, he gave the nonprofit organizations that Buchanan and his sister Bay operate in between presidential campaigns, American Cause and Coalition for the American Cause, a staggering $2.2 million. Buchanan used the money to buy $1 million in anti-GATT TV advertisements and to lay the groundwork for his 1996 run.

But, although he hosts fund-raisers for Buchanan, Milliken doesn't just raise money. He's also an adviser; he reads drafts of Buchanan's books, and he assured Buchanan of his continued support when Buchanan left the Republican Party last year. In October, Milliken hosted the Washington book party for A Republic, Not an Empire, Buchanan's revisionist take on World War II. Employees of Milliken & Co. have donated more money to Buchanan's campaign than those of any other company, and Buchanan has raised more cash from Milliken's zip code than from any other in the United States. "We love Pat Buchanan, always have," says Nash. "We'll do everything we can to help Buchanan get the Reform Party nomination."

Buchanan's Reform Party candidacy is the latest sign that Milliken's long, dogged crusade to build a nationalist movement in America is bearing fruit. But the more success and scrutiny this movement receives, the more it will face one overriding problem. The conservative counter-establishment of the '70s succeeded because of more than just money and strategic smarts. In an era of bloated and mismanaged government, it suggested serious policy alternatives--alternatives that Reagan tried during the '80s with some success. The Buchanan-Milliken counter-establishment, by contrast, has no plausible alternative to globalization. To understand why, you need only head to upstate South Carolina, home to Milliken's headquarters and a shining example of why America can never be the sovereign economy that the textile baron imagines.

As far back as the '60s, someone driving down Interstate 85 between Spartanburg and Greenville would have seen Swiss and German flags on the side of the road. Today, a visitor to the oddly European-flavored downtown Greenville, which hums with the constant buzz of new construction, can choose from any number of Austrian- or Italian-owned gourmet restaurants, which are packed even during the week. Or he can get his car's windshield fixed at Fuyao Glass, one of the only companies in America owned by the People's Republic of China. At the local GreenvilleSpartanburg International Airport (Milliken is its chairman), there is a constant influx of European and Asian businesspeople. In fact, the mayor of Greenville himself, Knox White, is an immigration lawyer. Per capita foreign investment in the region is the highest in the nation.

How did all this happen? The answer is Roger Milliken. Several decades ago, the dominant American textile loom-maker, the Draper Corporation, made a bet that mill owners like Milliken would never buy the superior new equipment being introduced by foreign competitors. "That was a terrible mistake," Milliken told Wall Street Journal reporters Bob Davis and David Wessel. Milliken replaced the American equipment in his factories with the far superior and cheaper foreign machinery. While Milliken and the foreign loom-manufacturers prospered, Draper flailed and was eventually gobbled up by an Indonesian conglomerate.

Although Milliken is the chairman of the Crafted With Pride in the USA Council, the union and business coalition that has spent millions on ads suggesting that imports are hurting the economy, for decades now he has bought only foreign-made machinery to produce his American textiles. The foreign manufacturers of this equipment, including Sulzer of Switzerland and Menzel of Germany, began to establish a full-time presence in South Carolina in order to service their equipment shipped from abroad. In fact, as Davis and Wessel document in their book, Prosperity, Milliken & Co.'s imports allowed foreign investors to get a foot in the door. Once they realized that upstate South Carolina was a good place to do business, they began pouring in. BMW attracted a great deal of attention in 1992 when it moved to the area. But BMW was a latecomer; 45 German companies were already in the county when it arrived.

Today, BMW, Michelin, Fuji, and a host of other foreign companies have major factories in South Carolina. No longer is it feast or famine for this region once tied to the vagaries of the textile industry; upstate South Carolina is now a diversified economy that has soaked up lost textile employment with new, high-tech, high-wage jobs. Between 1988 and 1994, American-owned firms in the area lost 26,000 jobs, while the state's foreign-owned firms added 20,600--with higher average salaries. Overall, South Carolina added a total of 163,000 new jobs in those seven years. "There's definitely a strong consensus," says Mayor White, "that we have reinvented ourselves and have a big stake in the world economy." Locals joke that the most ardent protectionist in America has inadvertently created one of the crown jewels of the global economy right in his own backyard. "More than any single person," Milliken brought in the foreign investment, says White. As the Marxists Milliken once battled might say, there is an internal contradiction in Milliken's "fortress America" philosophy. He himself has constructed a powerful case for why, despite Seattle and Buchanan and the rash of new institutions springing up in Washington, a real nationalist revolt is probably not at hand. The man behind the next American counter-establishment has feet of clay.

Illustration by Thomas Fuchs.

Recently: David Grann investigated the unholy alliance between Pat Buchanan and the Fred Newman/Lenora Fulani faction of the Reform Party. John B. Judis argued that the counter-establishment's opposition to China's entry into the WTO is doomed to fail. Ryan Lizza last wrote for the magazine about Reagan biographer Edmund Morris's unoriginal sins.

Currently (01.10.00 issue): The Ironist: Sean Wilentz remembers C. Vann Woodward, 1908-1999. Other People's Mothers: Peter Berkowitz on the utilitarian horrors of Peter Singer. The Editors: Vermont, marriage, and civil rights in our time. TRB: Orlando Patterson explains why race won't matter in 21st-century America Campaign Journal: Dana Milbank asks, Can John McCain handle success? Great Falls Dispatch: Montana reaches for the stars--literally. Florence Williams reports. Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy and Tim Robbins's Cradle Will Rock are interesting failures. Code Comfort: Cass R. Sunstein reviews new cyberlaw books from Lawrence Lessig and Andrew Shapiro. New York Diarist: Lee Siegel

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