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Greg Palast: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

Investigative reporter Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy:The Truth About Corporate Cons, Globalization and High-Finance Fraudsters gave a wide-ranging talk through a solar-powered sound system at the One World Fair, held in Cummington, Massachusetts September 20, 2003. Shel Horowitz, editor of Peace and Politics, was in the audience taking these notes.

Iraq and Oil

When George W. Bush made his "high noon," Saddam get-out-of-town speech, he said he wanted to speak to the Iraqi people—but he doesn't speak Arabic. He said, "do not destroy oil wells." He said he was going after those with links to Al Qaida—he's going to bust his daddy!

I found on page A22 of the Times that Bush said there's no connection—but then why are we there? Some of you are cynical and say we went in for the oil.

I do investigative reporting, which used to be legal before the Patriot Act. This is the plan for the post-conflict economy of Iraq. It was written many months before we knew there was going to be a conflict in Iraq. Selling off the water and electric systems is in this plan. The contractor will approve private-sector involvement in oil and strategic assets. We may not have gone in for the oil, but we sure as hell aren't leaving without it.

[New York times columnist] Thomas Friedman: "elections are loopy...transfers of sovereignty." We're there to prevent elections. We shouldn't count votes in Iraq before we count them in Florida. But the document says 240 days to set up the market in oil securities in Iraq (Jay Garner said 90 days).

Who won Gulf War I? Chevron! Americans died in Kuwait to bring democracy there—but I haven't seen the election returns. Just like we brought democracy to Afghanistan. Bush I didn't write and say "our kids died for democracy, where is it?" He wrote to the Emir and asked for a concession for Chevron (which made a large campaign contribution to the George W Bush campaign).

Our pres has been at war with Osama, with Saddam—and with affirmative action. He thinks everyone should have their job through merit. Bush scored 26 out of 100 [to get his cushy reservist job during the Vietnam War].

George Bush's Favorite Mining Company Killed 50 Innocent Miners—And Netted Billions

The point of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy is who owns democracy. The guy with the most votes lost, the guy with the most money is in the White House. We've moved from elections to auctions. Exxon, Chevron, Enron were among his biggest campaign contributors. And Barrick [a multinational gold mining company based in Canada], with George Bush I as a Senior Advisor. Just before he left the White House, George Bush changed the rules for gold mines, which allowed this company to lay claim to the largest mine in the hemisphere. $10 billion in gold and they paid $10,000. And then George Bush joined the board. And then Barrick sued me and my paper, the Guardian. They didn't disagree that they paid 10,000 for a concession worth 10 billion, and gave George Bush a job. But they were concerned that people might see a connection. I had to sign a paper that there was no connection.

What do you do with a used president? I looked on Barrick's website. George Bush and his cronies helped them get a gold mine concession in Tanzania. But there were already 30,000 miners on the site. So they ran bulldozers across the property, firing weapons, clearing the place for Bush's operation. They smashed down all their homes, all their mining equipment. But there were 50 miners still in the pits when they were sealed. I reported it. You didn't see it on 60 Minutes because my paper was sued. We want you to sign a paper that it's a fabrication. There's no First Amendment in Britain, no freedom of speech or the press. I've been campaigning for it. I've suggested they can borrow ours because we're not using it.

We sent one of the top human rights lawyers, Tondu Lisse, Tanzanian by birth, and he sent back pictures of crushed corpses, videotapes of the bodies being exhumed. There was a lot of pressure to sign, and I refused because I didn't want to hang Tondu Lisse. He was charged with sedition.

Is Venezuela Next?

They're stealing the planet, anything that's not bolted down. We have to have eyes in the back of our head in every continent. They don't sleep. Remember I told you we're going next to Venezuela. Go to and keep up with the information. You can see those BBC television reports, which are too dangerous for the American media. I was told by Dan Rather, we can't ask tough questions, I'd be lynched as unpatriotic.

Bill O Reilly told me, "one negative word about George W. Bush and you're off" the air. I did anyway.

Bush won the Presidency Because Jeb Bush Illegally Ordered 57,000 Black Voters Purged

On top of all these wars is the war on terrorism. ChoicePoint is a company that benefits from war on terror. That name was familiar from the 2000 election.

I was watching the US returns from Britain, and the next day seeing one black person after another come forward and say they weren't allowed to vote. On BBC we're allowed to show black people on TV who aren't criminals. In my conspiracy-nut mind, I'm thinking there's some kind of computer program picking out black people and removing them from the rolls.

I got a computer program from Katherine Harris, 50,000 people who were removed from the Florida rolls five months before the election. Harris said they're all felons. I got hold of the list for BBC TV. I'm going down the list and I find Thomas Cooper, convicted of a felony on 1/3/2007. By her count, Gore lost by 537 votes. There were way more than 500 criminals of the future on this list.

We found clerks who said what to do. We found someone who said if you remove the dates [of the supposed crimes, no one would be able to tell those crimes hadn't hapened yet.] There were 4000 with dates removed. The race of the voter is right there on the list, white, black. There are 97% whose crime was Voting While Black. [The list was produced by ChoicePoint, in a no-bid contract.] They have files on every American, which are now in the hands of Homeland Security.

ChoicePoint informed the state, these are not felons. I have the documents.

I decided to ask Katherine Harris about this document, marked secret and confidential, which indicates they knew these were innocent people. She directed me to her elections chief. I filmed Mr. Roberts about the purge of the so-called felons. It was a very nice interview until I pulled out the sheet. As soon as I showed it, he ripped off his microphone, did a 50 yard dash, locked himself in his office, and called in state troopers to remove me and my crew.

PBS and CBS Refuse to Run the Story

While BBC was filming Roberts, PBS had a crew filming me. They now had actual investigative reporting footage, despite their rules and traditions. Danny Schecter made a documentary. PBS looked at the film and decided there was a technical difficulty. So Danny and I have made several thousand copies.

If you think that was the story, it's the future. There's a voting booth I want you to use. George W. Bush has signed a law called the Help America Vote Act, adopting the Florida purge system, and to adopt computerized voting. Martin Luther King III and I have a petition going to stop and reverse this act. Martin knows exactly who they're going to help not vote.

We have a lot of work to do. You almost saw the election story on CBS. I got called by Dan Rather's operation. Can you give us a piece of it, we'd like to run it on the news tonight. Jeb Bush's office sent a letter in September 2000 illegally ordering the removal of thousands of voters, almost every one of them Democratic. CBS didn't run it that night or the next night. I called and asked what happened? They said it didn't stand up—"we called Jeb and he said he didn't do it."

The Smoking Gun? Letter From Jeb Bush's Clemency Office

One of my editors at Harper's got a long screeching letter from Harris. She said I was twisted, maniacal, but not that I was wrong. She said, "it wasn't my fault, I got a letter from the governor" [ordering the purge].

I called her office and said she referred to this letter, it's probably dated September 18, 2000—and ten minutes later, in my fax machine… [editor's note: Palast's website tells a rather different story, with a letter signed by Janet Keels of the Governor's Office of Executive Clemency stating that felons whose voting rights have been restored in another state have to petition the governor's office for reinstatement, which you can see by clicking here. While this is clearly against the law (and has been superceded by more recent orders), it is not the same thing as a letter form Jeb Bush ordering voters removed.]

They say the Iraqis are not ready for democracy; Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Saddam agree on something. Bush said in his March speech, "do not fight for this dying regime; it is not worth your life."

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