Mike Gravel: Sanders Could Win Despite Campaign Financing Systemic Corruption


Mike GravelThe 2008 presidential candidate and former Alaskan senator Mike Gravel criticized the current campaign finance system as a corruption of democracy but nonetheless foresaw a victory path to the presidency for Vermont’s junior Democratic senator.

“The most interesting campaign is that of Bernie Sanders,” Gravel told the Justice Integrity Project in an interview Aug. 15. Gravel, now 85 and shown at right in an official photo from his 2008 campaign, made his comments by phone from his home in California. Our project sought his opinion on the under-reported story of how campaign finance regulations are affecting the race, especially regarding public financing of long-shot candidates.

The two-term Democratic senator (1969-1981), a hero of the Pentagon Papers transparency battle in the 1970s, said of Sanders: “He’s got a very viable shot at winning the primary and the presidency. He’s capturing the sense of economic outrage. He may have jumped in just when people are fed up enough to nominate and elect him.”

Sanders is shown below in a photo taken by the Justice Integrity Project March 9 at the National Press Club. Sanders told the audience he was trying to decide then whether he could gather enough financial Bernie Sanders National Press Club JIP Photosupport for a viable race, which he entered six weeks later.

Gravel's critique follows former President Jimmy Carter's comment last month that The U.S. Is an "Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery," and the rise of insurgents Sanders and Donald Trump in polling for the Democratic and Republican nominations, respectively.

Gravel described the current financing system as a mess, especially after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision allowed a non-profit corporation to spend for independent political campaigns. A Republican majority decided the case on First Amendment case grounds. The holding was extended to enable donations supposedly "independent" of campaigns to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations.

The decision was on a 5-4 party line vote on its most important provisions. It has enabled what some predict to be a 2016 contest that will cost $4 billion total for Democrats and Republicans.

The essential fifth vote for the Republican decision was provided by Justice Clarence Thomas. Yet he ruled with a major conflict of interest. The litigant Citizens Union had provided him with massive public relations support two Clarence Thomasdecades previously in its lobbying campaign urging Senate confirmation despite the notorious sexual misconduct allegations raised against Thomas by such former Thomas staffers as Anita Hill.

Shortly before the Citizens United decision was announced, Virginia Lamp Thomas, the justice's wife and a longtime Republican lobbyist and advocate, incorporated a consulting business in late 2010 with the help of one of the couple's longtime wealthy financial backers in order to take early advantage of the vast business opportunities that would become available for political consultants under the decision. Our Justice Integrity Project reported that story in multiple columns in 2011 after the Los Angeles Times learned that Thomas had failed for years to report his wife's income, as required under his sworn financial statements,

In sum, and as illustrated by Common Cause Files Against Justice Thomas's Wife's Group, a greedy and conflicted justice helped change the nation's laws in a scheme with his puppet masters to profit personally with a minimum of oversight by other legal authorities and the mainstream media.

But arguments that Citizens United corrupted politics are thus a familiar story, at least in the alternative press.

So we were especially interested in Gravel’s take on whether public financing of candidates encouraged long shots to compete for money-making even if they have no realistic hope for winning a nomination. In 2002, for example, the Federal Election Commission allowed federal candidates to receive salaries from their campaigns, as reported by the New York Times in Candidates Allowed to Have Salaries From Campaigns.

Gravel recalled that he received some $400,000 in federal reimbursements for his 2008 campaign, which he began in 2006 as the first Democratic candidate. By the time of the Iowa caucuses in January 2008, however, he was barely competing because of lack of funds and polling support.

Bernie Sanders OfficialHe noted that Sanders, shown in an official photo, has refused corporate donations and is likely to seek public financing and obtain it. 

FEC rules require, for example, that a candidate raise $5,000 in at least 20 states to qualify for reimbursement, with additional restrictions (such as a limit of $250 per donation counted toward the $5,000 limit) that are designed to provide reimbursement only for reasonably serious major party candidates. Candidates from small or new parties have separate requirements.

In 2012, more than 150 candidates were contending according to a count by Washington Update co-host Scott Draughon on a radio show we co-hosted that invited serious presidential candidates to air their views. Only a tiny few would even attempt to win reimbursement from the FEC.  
Gravel said the FEC rules appear to be working reasonably well in restricting the payments to serious candidates. But he noted that other factors create and compound similar problems, such as the desire of some no-chance presidential candidates to increase speaking and consulting fees, or visibility for book sales and talk show appearances. He noted that Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Hillary Clinton are among those who have clearly benefited in such ways from presidential runs.

In sum, Gravel believes that the election finance system is deeply flawed, as are similar civic problems that prompted his 2008 campaign. So, his views are not a surprise.

They are worth recording given his experience as a recent long shot candidate under the current financing system and his leadership during the Vietnam War and subsequent constitutional crisis. As summarized by Gravel's Wikipedia bio:

As a Senator, Gravel became nationally known for his forceful but unsuccessful attempts to end the draft during the War in Vietnam and for putting the Pentagon Papers into the public record in 1971 at some risk to himself. He conducted an unusual campaign for the Democratic nomination in 1972 for Vice President of the United States, and then played a crucial role in getting Congressional approval for the Trans-Alaska pipeline in 1973.

In 1971, Gravel began an epic filibuster where he read the Pentagon Papers, first released by Daniel Ellsberg, during a meeting of his Senate Buildings and Grounds Subcommittee . Gravel was able to enter the remaining thousands of pages from the Pentagon Papers into the congressional record -- thereby ensuring they would be public before the Supreme Court could rule on whether or not the controversial documents could be published in the press.

Gravel's Pentagon Papers fight contrasts with the current cowardly deference of Congress to the CIA, Pentagon and White House regarding the still-hidden secret of who funded 9/11 hijacking suspects.

As we reported in June in Rand Paul, 2 Other Senators: Expose Financers Of 9/11 Hijacker:

The relevant 28-pages of the Joint Senate-House investigation into 9/11 have remained classified since the committee reported its findings in 2002 despite the longstanding efforts of 9/11 families and former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham and a few colleagues to obtain declassification for the enlightenment of the public, particularly given the enormous cost of Middle Eastern wars since the attack in 2001 and the resulting constriction of American civil liberties and economic opportunities to pay for wars and increased "homeland security."

Members of congress could not repeat what Gravel did with the Pentagon Papers because they are prevented from taking notes on the hijack funding report, which is kept under top security. Those who helped write it, such as Graham or who otherwise know its contents face imprisonment if they discuss it, an obvious corruption of constitutional checks and balances whereby Congress is supposed to provide oversight over the Executive Branch and military.

Indeed, Graham this month shared with the Tampa Times that he and his family (including a daughter who is now a member of Congress) were detained at great length in 2011 by authorities, who interrupted what the family thought was a routine flight from Florida to the nation's capital for Thanksgiving. To this day, Graham -- a former U.S. senator, Florida governor and 2004 presidential candidate -- does not know how the FBI learned his family was flying or a rational basis for his extended interrogation. Details: Why did the FBI detain Bob Graham?

As noted, former President Carter said he was not sure that the United States could be classified as a democracy anymore.

Evidence of political cowardice abounds much wider, as in the failure of most congressional members even to read their own chambers' report on who funded 9/11, much less release the report to the public. It has been reported based on sources, however, that the report implicates foreign powers in the Middle East who are enormously influential in funding politicians and assisting contractors profiting from Middle East wars and homeland security crackdowns.

Our project has urged voters to confront their elected representatives during their prolonged break underway this month, and vow to defeat any member member who will not read at the minimum such an important report.

If the point of elections is to empower fighters for the public not many equal Gravel, who risked imprisonment to enable the public to understand via the Pentagon Papers how the military-industrial complex had imposed the then-raging Vietnam War upon Americans and the world.

His stance for democracy and defiance surely deserves at least a few more successors in Congress today, if not as contenders for the White House.


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Federal Election Commission Guides on Financing

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), is a U.S. constitutional law case dealing with the regulation of campaign spending by organizations. The United States Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation. The principles articulated by the Supreme Court in the case have also been extended to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations. A summary via Wikipedia continues below on the decision by the court, whose personnel continue from its 2010 photo at right:

U.S. SurempremeIn the case, the conservative lobbying group Citizens United wanted to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton and to advertise the film during television broadcasts in apparent violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (commonly known as the McCain–Feingold Act or "BCRA").[2] Section 203 of BCRA defined an "electioneering communication" as a broadcast, cable, or satellite communication that mentioned a candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary, and prohibited such expenditures by corporations and unions. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia held that §203 of BCRA applied and prohibited Citizens United from advertising the film Hillary: The Movie in broadcasts or paying to have it shown on television within 30 days of the 2008 Democratic primaries.

The Supreme Court reversed this decision, striking down those provisions of BCRA that prohibited corporations (including nonprofit corporations) and unions from making independent expenditures and "electioneering communications." The majority decision overruled Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) and partially overruled McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003). The Court, however, upheld requirements for public disclosure by sponsors of advertisements (BCRA §201 and §311). The case did not involve the federal ban on direct contributions from corporations or unions to candidate campaigns or political parties, which remain illegal in races for federal office.


Mike Gravel Biography (Excerpted from 2008 Presidential Campaign Website)

Mike Gravel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, to French Canadian immigrants. He attended French-speaking Catholic schools and as a teenager, when he wasn’t working with his father and brothers in the Mike Gravelhouse painting and construction business, volunteered in local Springfield politics, developing an avid interest in government. Senator Gravel enlisted in the U.S. Army (1951-54) and served as special adjutant in the Communication Intelligence Services and as a Special Agent in the Counter Intelligence Corps. He received a B.S. in Economics from Columbia University, New York City, and holds four honorary degrees in law and public affairs.

Mike Gravel served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1963-66, and as Speaker from 1965-66. He then represented Alaska in the U.S. Senate from 1969-81. He served on the Finance, Interior, and Environmental and Public Works committees, chairing the Energy, Water Resources, Buildings and Grounds, and Environmental Pollution subcommittees.

In 1971, he waged a successful one-man filibuster for five months that forced the Nixon administration to cut a deal, effectively ending the draft in the United States. He is most prominently known for his release of the Pentagon Papers, the secret official study that revealed the lies and manipulations of successive U.S. administrations that misled the country into the Vietnam War. After the New York Times published portions of the leaked study, the Nixon administration moved to block any further publication of information and to punish any newspaper publisher who revealed the contents.

From the floor of the senate, Gravel (a junior senator at the time) insisted that his constituents had a right to know the truth behind the war and proceeded to read 4,100 pages of the 7,000 page document into the senate record. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Senator Gravel did not have the right and responsibility to share official documents with his constituents. He then published The Senator Gravel Edition, The Pentagon Papers, Beacon Press (1971). This publication resulted in litigation, Gravel v. U.S., resulting in a landmark Supreme Court decision (No. 71-1017-1026) relative to the Speech and Debate Clause (Article 1, Section 6) of the United States Constitution.

He has worked as a cab driver in New York City, a clerk on Wall Street and as a brakeman on the Alaska Railroad. He founded and served as president of The Democracy Foundation, Philadelphia II, and Direct Democracy, nonprofit corporations dedicated to the establishment of direct democracy in the United States through the enactment of the National Initiative for Democracy by American voters. Books authored by Senator Gravel are Jobs and More Jobs, and Citizen Power. (with Joe Lauria). He lectures and writes about governance, foreign affairs, economics, Social Security, tax reform, energy, environmental issues and democracy.

Campaign To Declassify Suppressed 9/11 Report on Funders

Bob Graham, Steve Lynch, Walter JonesFormer Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, left, fields a question Jan. 7 as a press conference on Capitol Hill. U.S. Reps. Steven Lynch, center, and Walter Jones joined Graham and 9/11 family members in advocating for a resolution demanding that President Obama release a congressional study in 2002 identifying funders for 9/11 hijackers (Photo courtesy of LaRouche PAC).

Politico, Rand Paul: Declassify 9/11 report pages on Saudi Arabia, Burgess Everett, June 2, 2015. Rand Paul is already zeroing in on his next national security battle: urging the declassification of a 28-page document many believe implicates Saudi Arabia as a financier in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Kentucky senator and GOP presidential candidate said on Tuesday that he will seek to force a vote that would make it the sense of Congress that President Barack Obama should reveal the redacted pages of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001. Paul said he will push to vote on his legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Paul acknowledged that he also has the ability as a senator to read the classified documents into the congressional record on the Senate floor, a technique that former Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) threatened to use in December to force the release of the executive summary of an internal report on CIA interrogation techniques. But Paul indicated he is not currently entertaining that as an option. “We’re going to try the normal legislative procedure first and see how it goes. But I will bring it up with the president and ask him directly to do this,” Paul said.

Justice Integrity Project, Rand Paul, 2 Other Senators: Expose Financers Of 9/11 Hijackers, Andrew Kreig, June 9, 2015. The campaign to expose the financiers of the 9/11 attacks has heated up as GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul and two other senators co-sponsored legislation to require release of a 2002 joint House-Senate report that has remained secret. Paul, shown in an official photo, spoke at a June 2 press conference on Capitol Hill with representatives of 9/11 families to urge his senate colleagues and President Obama to release the report, which reputedly states that Saudi Arabia funded several of the accused 9/11 hijackers in Florida and California. “Information revealed over the years does raise questions about [Saudi Arabia’s] support, or whether their support might have been supportive to these Al Qaeda terrorists,” said Paul, whose legislation co-sponsors are Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. Neither of the two Democratic senators was present.


Related News and Campaign Coverage

First Look /Intercept, Jimmy Carter: The U.S. Is an "Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery," Jon Schwarz, July 30, 2015. Former president Jimmy Carter (shown in a portrait) said Tuesday on the nationally syndicated radio show Jimmy Carter portrait Deft Newsthe Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.” Carter was responding to a question from Hartmann about recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing like Citizens United.

Intercept, Citizens United Means Wealthy, White Donors Dominate 2016 Presidential Fundraising, Lee Fang, Aug. 13, 2015. Though the American population is becoming more and more diverse, the presidential candidates are being bankrolled by a pool of very wealthy donors, the vast majority of whom are white. The trend is driven in part by Citizens United and related campaign finance court decisions that deregulated much of the campaign finance system. With the exception of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who has rejected Super PAC support on principle, all of the major presidential candidates are relying on big-money donors to finance their presidential aspirations. Out of over 50 individual donors who gave $1 million or more to the Super PACs supporting the current field of presidential candidates, only four are nonwhite. And with the exception of a $2.5 million contribution by a company owned by Cuban-American Benjamin Leon, all of the corporate entities that gave $1 million or more to Super PACs are owned or run by white executives.

The New York Times recently reported that just “130 or so families and their businesses provided more than half the money raised through June by Republican candidates and their super PACs.” And it’s not just the Super PACs, though they are providing the bulk of the money for the race next year. Research compiled by the campaign finance reform group Every Voice Center suggests traditional campaign donations skew heavily to wealthy white neighborhoods.

Unz Review, Trump’s Triumph: Billionaire Blowhard Exposes Fake Political System, Mike Whitney, Aug. 7, 2015. Last night’s FOX News GOP Presidential Debate Extravaganza featured the most riveting two Donald Trump at GOP debate Aug. 6, 2015minute political exchange ever heard on national television. During a brief colloquy between Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and Fox moderator Brett Baier, the pugnacious casino magnate revealed the appalling truth about the American political system, that the big money guys like Trump own the whole crooked contraption lock, stock, and barrel, and that, the nation’s fake political leaders do whatever they’re told to do. Without question, it was most illuminating commentary to ever cross the airwaves. Here’s the entire exchange direct from the transcript.

New York Times, Candidates Allowed to Have Salaries From Campaigns, Katharine Q. Seelye, Nov. 26, 2002. After some old-fashioned horse-trading, the Federal Election Commission voted today to allow candidates running for Congress or president to use their campaign contributions to pay themselves salaries. The move is intended to make it easier for people who are not wealthy to quit their jobs and run for office. Without a campaign salary, they are at a disadvantage against incumbents, who collect taxpayer-paid salaries as they seek re-election. The measure was stalled for years because some commissioners worried that there was nothing to stop someone from running for office just to make a living. The measure that passed today put limits on the amount a candidate could take from campaign coffers. It was passed as a result of some vote bartering by members of the commission. Scott E. Thomas, one of the six commissioners, had long opposed letting candidates pay themselves with their campaign funds. Mr. Thomas said he saw such payments as violating the spirit of the ban on the personal use of campaign money.

National Press Club, NPC Luncheon with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Staff report, March 9, 2015. Transcript. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told a luncheon audience at the National Press Club on March 9 that he has not yet decided whether to run for President in 2016, explaining that his potential candidacy hinges on a number of logistical concerns, particularly his ability to fundraise.

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Washington Post, As Biden weighs a 2016 campaign, does he want to be the anti-Clinton? Dan Balz, Aug. 15, 2015. By many accounts, Vice President Biden has spent his vacation week mulling whether to run Joe Bidenfor president — again. The decision will test head and heart and involve no small amount of emotion. Tracking the story of is-he-or-isn’t-he-going-to-run is akin to chasing smoke, even to those who are loyal friends. Few people beyond his family are privy to his real thinking. Some Democrats say his advisers are making calls. Everyone looks for evidence of active pursuit of a campaign. Friends say they don’t yet sense a real campaign-in-the-making, and they doubt there ever will be. But they hedge.

Washington Post, Backers fear Clinton hurt by old weaknesses, Anne Gearan, Karen Tumulty and Dan Balz, Aug. 15, 2015.  As Bernie Sanders’s popularity grows and the e-mail bad news gets worse, Democrats see the front-runner as insular, defensive and tone-deaf to changes.  “A lot of the people who were hired by the campaign were new to the Clintons,” said a prominent Democrat who counts both Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton as friends. “I kind of assumed it would be different. But it hasn’t changed.” That Democrat and other supporters requested anonymity in order to discuss the shortcomings of a candidate whom they still overwhelmingly support and believe can win the White House. Several supporters said that while no one is pulling the fire alarm, they see worrisome patterns emerging. Among them: insularity, rigidity and a sense that the operation is tone-deaf to changes happening around it.

Washington Post, Why Donald Trump makes sense to many voters — even some Democrats, Trump takes to the campaign trail in Michigan and Iowa, David Weigel, Aug. 15, 2015. A few hours before Donald Trump’s plane landed, 20 minutes south of where he would speak, people gathered outside the Flint Assembly Plant to take a peek into the past. Some of them were retired, reuniting with friends. All of them remembered how there used to be more to the place. “I worked at Plant 36,” said Jerry Hubbard, who retired in 2001, after outlasting his part of the vast “Buick City” complex that was dismantled as the auto jobs left. “It’s all gone. It’s all limestone. You can’t rape a place like that. General Motors jobs made this place.” Only one presidential candidate seemed to care: Donald Trump. “A lot of what he says hits a chord with me,” said Hubbard. “Immigration and jobs going to China — this area’s really suffered from that. I just like somebody that stands up for what he speaks about.” Trump’s rise and persistence as a presidential candidate has been credited to name recognition, to voter anger and to a specific contempt for the Republican Party establishment. But he is also the candidate talking most directly about the loss of manufacturing jobs to foreign countries.

New York Times, Introducing Donald Trump, Diplomat, Maureen Dowd, Aug. 15, 2015. The columnist assess the candidate attempting to be nice while remaining true to his instincts.

Supplemental: New York Times, Lightning Round With Donald Trump, Maureen Dowd, Aug. 15, 2015. Because it’s hard to contain the Vesuvial Donald Trump in 1,300 words of my column, we did a round of questions about his rivals and a few other boldface names in the news this week. Here are Trump’s rapid-fire impressions, delivered over the phone and over lunch at the restaurant in Trump Tower — the art of the meal with the birther of a nation.

On Hillary Rodham Clinton
Highly complex person who can’t help going over the edge. She just can’t stay true to herself. She has a real bad thing going with the emails. I’m not talking politically. That’s one thing and it’s going to be a disaster. But what she did was illegal. She could be having more fun. But this is no fun for her. The F.B.I. is checking everything.”

Jeb Bush
He’s a stiff. The guy can’t even talk. He has zero energy. You would fall asleep interviewing him.” Jeb said this week that he listens to Paul Wolfowitz’s advice on foreign affairs, that he would not rule out the use of torture and that “taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal."

On Scott Walker
He gave me a plaque and everything is nice. And I like him. And then about a week ago one of his guys came up and said that Donald Trump is full of it. I said ‘Thank you so much. Now I can hit him.’ I hit Scott so hard. I said his state was a disaster. So there’s a lot of power there. He went from Number 1 to Number 4 in Iowa. I went to Number 1.”


Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Surveillance State & Media Issues

Tampa Bay Times, Why did the FBI detain Bob Graham?  Lucy Morgan, August 7, 2015. Going to lunch with former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham can be hazardous to retirement. And extremely interesting. He told us Bob Graham with Keys to the Kingdomabout the day in 2011 when he and Adele were heading to the Washington, D.C., area to spend Thanksgiving with one of their daughters. As they stepped off an airplane at Dulles International Airport, two FBI agents approached and asked the Grahams to accompany them to a nearby agency office. Graham had not informed the FBI that he was traveling to the Washington area and to this day does not know how they knew where he planned to spend Thanksgiving or what airplane he would be aboard. A little scary huh? Perhaps his phone is on the NSA's list.

Editor's note: In a photo by the Justice Integrity Project taken at the National Press Club, Graham is shown with his novel Keys to the Kingdom —  which portrays in semi-fictional form his understanding of how entities affiliated with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia funded 9/11 attackers, whose role has been suppressed by authorities. Although Graham was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and co-authored its 2003 report on the attack he and other elected representatives supposedly providing oversight to the powerful U.S. intelligence community face imprisonment if they tell the public what they know, except in circumstances carefully controlled by the intelligence agencies themselves.


NSA HQ in Fort Meade aerial view

The headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade in Maryland is shown in an aerial photograph

New York Times, AT&T Helped U.S. Spy on Internet Traffic, Files Reveal, Julia Angwin, Charlie Savage, Jeff Larson, Henrik Moltke, Laura Poitras and James Risen. The NSA’s ability to spy on vast quantities of Internet traffic passing through the United States has relied on its extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: the telecom giant AT&T. While it has been long known that American NSA Official Logotelecommunications companies worked closely with the spy agency, newly disclosed N.S.A. documents show that the relationship with AT&T has been considered unique and especially productive.

One document described it as “highly collaborative,” while another lauded the company’s “extreme willingness to help.” AT&T’s cooperation has involved a broad range of classified activities, according to the documents, which date from 2003 to 2013. AT&T has given the N.S.A. access, through several methods covered under different legal rules, to billions of emails as they have flowed across its domestic networks. It provided technical assistance in carrying out a secret court order permitting the wiretapping of all Internet communications at the United Nations headquarters, a customer of AT&T.  Newly disclosed documents show that the National Security Agency gained access to billions of emails through a “highly collaborative” relationship with AT&T.

First Look / Intercept, Jeb Bush, Hosted By Defense Contractor-Backed Group, Calls Iraq War “A Pretty Good Deal,” Lee Fang, Aug. 13, 2015. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said today that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein was a “pretty good deal.” Bush was speaking at an event sponsored by Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security (APPS), a group formed and backed by a number of people associated with major defense contractors. According to journalist Alan He, Bush also criticized efforts to reform the National Security Agency’s dragnet metadata surveillance program, telling the audience that it was a “mistake to repeal the metadata provisions of the Patriot Act.” As The Intercept previously reported, the APPS is advised by Raytheon’s Stephen Hadley, BAE Systems’ Rich Ashooh, former SAIC chief executive Walt Havenstein, among other defense contractors and defense industry lobbyists. APPS was formed earlier this year as a pressure group to “help elect a president who supports American engagement and a strong foreign policy.”  Costs associated with the war in Iraq, including medical treatment for war veterans, could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next decade, according to a study by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. The war killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civillians, as well as nearly 8,000 U.S. forces and contractors, according to the study.

Video of Bush’s remark was posted online by an attendee of the event:

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