Filmmaker Michael Moore’s rant against Dubya and clan, Stupid White Men, remains among the top five New York Times bestsellers, despite a virtual press blackout. But much of the guts for Moore’s opening screed on how Bush “stole” the 2000 election came from investigative reporter Greg Palast, whose own book, The Best Money Democracy Can Buy, has fast become a cult fave among progressives.
Palast styles himself as the dogged outsider, a former working-class gumshoe from L.A. now reporting on corporate America for the BBC and The Guardian, unable to secure a regular gig from U.S. media firms wary of his impolitic exposés. Hence his book, which strings together his award-winning reports on everything from the Florida election debacle to the role of the IMF in crashing Argentina’s economy, is as much a portrait of how our profit-addicted American media ignores hard news.
In sold-out appearances, Palast has detailed how Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush swung the Florida election by purging tens of thousands of eligible voters—mostly blacks—using electronically generated “scrub lists” produced by a Texas firm paid millions to screen out felons, yet not required to verify the accuracy of its data.
Florida’s use of an outside firm to in effect privatize voting rights plays into Palast’s central theme: how corporate power is riding roughshod over democracy. From the “cash for access” scandal that rocked Tony Blair’s government in Britain to the revolving door between Monsanto and the FDA that led to the flood of BST growth hormone in America’s milk supplies, Palast lays bare patterns of corruption so sadly commonplace.
Palast’s problem is that he unearths such juicy information without following up in greater detail (see www.gregpalast.com for updates). In one short chapter, he argues that prior to September 11, Bush spiked FBI and CIA investigations of the bin Laden family and alleged Saudi funding of terror networks because of the Bushes’ cozy relationship to the Saudis via companies like Arbusto Energy and the Carlyle Group. Given the current flap about what the Bush administration knew about Al Qaeda threats, one wishes Palast had explored these connections further. But his book provides a road map for other journalists, and he’s donating the proceeds to a fund for investigative reporting. Let’s hope more DIY muckrakers heed the call.