Billionaires for Bush

Meet Iona Senator. This fur- and diamond-clad 40-year-old sees her recent $50 million contribution to President George W. Bush’s 2004

Meet Iona Senator. This fur- and diamond-clad 40-year-old sees her recent $50 million contribution to President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign not as a donation, but rather as an investment that will help her live out the rest of her days sipping raspberry lemonade on the porch of her mansion in Martha’s Vineyard.

Senator, though not, in fact, a real person, is a typical member of Billionaires for Bush (B4B), an “exclusive” club that, as its website claims, helps to “counterbalance the overwrought concerns that are spoon-fed to voters about tax fairness, clean elections, global justice and environmental problems.” A strong supporter of George W., Senator, much like the other members of the club, will tell you that she joined to help those politicians who will keep her comfortable lifestyle unchanged for years to come. B4B chapters are springing up all around the country, the newest one dropping anchor here at Harvard.

B4B is a growing, nonprofit, “nonpartisan” network of activists and artists whose goal is to challenge President Bush’s administration and expose its failed policies through witty and strategic media and theater campaigns. Launched during the 2000 presidential campaign as “Billionaires for Bush or Gore,” it uses a wily combination of satire and facts to communicate through grass-roots organizations and the Internet. The campaign aims to alert the public to the fact that Bush is, in fact, not the ordinary, down-to-earth guy he purports to be. Instead, they claim, he is a power-hungry, lobbyist-pleasing politician. Their intriguing tactics are reminiscent of Jonathan Swift. By pushing for the deregulation of elections, defending big business and encouraging wealthy individuals to manipulate government policy through generous campaign contributions, Billionaires for Bush makes a strong, potently ironic case against Bush as he attempts reelection.

“[B4B] is a grassroots political action committee advocating for the rights and interests of people of phenomenal wealth. We go to Republican fundraisers and cheer on Bush’s wealthy donors as they pour millions into his campaign chest,” says Matthew R. Skomarovsky ’03. Skomarovsky or “Seymour Benjamins,” as he is known to his brethren, is the co-chair of the national organization. He continues, “We go to town hall events with Republican officials and make sure our interests are given priority over the unwashed masses that also voted for Bush.”

B4B, despite its exclusivity, only requires a few things from its members. First, it requires that they choose names for themselves that reflect the true spirit of the club (e.g. Dee Regulation, Ivana Censorhugh, Lou Pole), dress the part (cummerbunds for gentlemen, tiaras for women) and, of course, adopt a “billionaire persona.” Entourages are encouraged. Finally, perhaps the most important caveat of B4B is that its members be nonpartisan—they are not allowed to support a candidate or advocate or dissuade a voter from voting for a candidate. Ingrid Schorr (a.k.a. “Maura B. Formi,” the ‘B’ standing for ‘Bucks’), a non-resident tutor in Adams House, joined because “it combines dress-up and political theatre.”

Dressed up and in character, B4Bs attend Republican fundraisers and applaud Bush’s wealthy donors. At town hall events, they stand beside Republican officials to make sure their interests are given priority over other Republicans. At leftist protests they can be heard loudly advocating, “Four more wars! Tax work, not wealth!” Harvard’s own chapter, which currently enjoys a membership of 40 and continues to grow, has plans for elaborate dinners in campus dining halls and lavish downtown soirees. Regardless of the pursuit, Billionaires for Bush relishes making a scene.

When B4Bs traveled to New York two weeks ago to “welcome” Karl Rove to a high-priced, $2000-per-plate Bush fundraiser, they came face-to-face with the people who raised $100,000 or more for the president’s reelection campaign, known as “mavericks.” “Most [mavericks] were visibly uncomfortable having their heavy financing of the Bush campaign draw so much attention,” Skomarovsky says. However, he adds that a few “ordinary” Bush supporters smiled, amused, as B4B members chanted “Write big checks!” from across the street.

Such reactions are fairly commonplace. “You dumb block of unworthy chimp vomit,” Skomarovsky reads from a letter received by B4B. “I haven’t a clue how one human nor a collective group of humans could be so outlandishly fucking filthy.”

Ultimately, Skomarovsky says that he joined because “four more years of Bush is damn good for [his] bottom line.” On a more serious note, though, he views the organization as a stern critique of American democracy in its current form. “Our brand of democracy serves primarily the wealth and corporate interests that wield outrageous influence through campaign contributions and lobbying,” Skomarovsky says. “[B4B is] a creative and immensely fun way to challenge the Bush administration without having to knock on doors pretending the prevailing democrat is the best thing since sliced bread.”