Saturday, November 3, 2012

Beltway Urchins: AECorp Alumni Who Still Can't Shoot Straight

Like their big brothers, the notorious Beltway Bandits (but considerably younger, and much less savvy), a small clutch of Junior League political hacks, whom we like to think of as 'beltway urchins,' wander the streets of DC searching for special interest groups with two nickels to rub together and a pressing need for some youthful-looking front men. Call them The Millenials That Couldn't Shoot Straight, if you will. You'll find them wherever an old-rich-white-guys' DC gambit is in need of a bit of a Youth Movement patina. Hey, it's a living.

Americans Elect Corporation - the quintessential old-rich-white-guys gambit - snatched up as many of these itinerant Millenials For Hire as it could find at its founding in 2010. Chief among them was Nick Troiano, AECorp's National Campus Director. Troiano came with great rich-guy toady creds, having served first as a college coordinator for Unity08 (AECorp's stillborn 2008 forebear), then as an intern for Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, then as an intern for ultra-conservative billionaire Pete Peterson's Concord Coalition. But in April of 2012, as it was becoming apparent (to insiders anyway) that the wheels were about to fall off of Americans Elect's bus, Troiano checked out of AECorp to found The Committee To Get Walker Running, a group dedicated to promoting the presidential candidacy of billionaire Peterson's favorite CPA, David Walker. Troiano was joined in this quixotic adventure by fellow beltway urchins Yoni Gruskin and Ryan Schoenike, fellow past beneficiaries of crumbs from Pete Peterson's Concord Coalition table.

Gruskin's fifteen minutes of fame as a beltway urchin had come (and gone) in 2010, when he testified before the Simpson-Bowles commission "on behalf of the millennials, the generation of 80 million Americans who find their futures endangered by runaway deficits...." Gruskin was there as the founder of Concerned Youth of America (CYA), an organization "...representing nearly 1,400 young people" - yet another Pete Peterson-funded front for his enduring war on the social safety net. Following a brief flurry of interviews on CNN and other media outlets, both Gruskin and CYA disappeared from public view until his re-emergence in 2012, with AECorp's Nick Troiano, to found Get Walker Running, then disappearing yet again when Walker's peek-a-boo presidential campaign fell on deaf ears.

Today, according to his LinkedIn profile, Gruskin works as an "Analayst at Citi" (we hope he analayzes better than he spells). But despite his day-job, the carefree Granny-austerizing life of the  beltway urchin apparently still beckons. For, today, Gruskin's freshly re-painted Concerned Youth of America "serves as the 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor of The Can Kicks Back" (according to the latter's web site). The Can Kicks Back, in turn, is "a millennial-driven campaign to solve America's fiscal crisis," founded by AECorp alumnus Troiano, which, not coincidentally, "serves as the Millennial outreach partner for Fix the Debt," a new high-profile political initiative of 70+ American CEOs. A recent AlterNet article reminds us that these austerity-promoting CEOs include the leaders of GE (which pays an average corporate income tax rate of just 2.3%), Boeing (which pays its CEO more than it pays in corporate income taxes), Goldman Sachs (alive today thanks only to the 2008 debt-funded federal bailout), Bank of America (ditto), and Verizon (whose federal taxes were literally less than nothing on its $32.5 billion in earnings from 2008- 2010).

We can only surmise regarding precisely how Gruskin's Concerned Youth of America fits into Troiano's The Can Kicks Back fits into Peterson's and the tax-dodging CEOs' Fix The Debt's grand design. Our bet is that, as a 501(c)(3) that just happened to be laying around doing nothing, those billionaires found it a convenient vehicle for funneling undisclosed sums to Fix The Debt's junior league toady, The Can Kicks Back, which shares the same DC address as Fix The Debt). But CYA's recent reincarnation nicely illustrates that when you're merely a youthful hand-model for old rich guys with liver-spots, 'attention to detail' doesn't rank high up in the list of required job skills. For while CYA's home page has been freshened up to bemoan how the "demands of special interest groups...have put our futures at risk," if you dive just one page deeper into the web site you find...literally nothing. Its About The Organization page is blank, except for the same graphics to be found elsewhere throughout the site. If you don't know about CYA, well then you just don't need to know. Its template "First News Story" is Latin thoughout: "Nullam mattis tempor nunc at dapibus. Sed auctor justo..." it intones ominously. A nice touch of class, that. Perhaps most curious of all, CYA's Facebook page, hardly touched and apparently unviewed since 2011, prominently features an odd diatribe by a woman rambling about her "chemically induced stroke-like illness and endocrine disorder, which resulted in permanent infertility," which were mysteriously brought on while she was investigating Microsoft Corporation, and concludes with "Never buy a Microsoft product again! They come from the dumpster!"

Did we mention that Microsoft's leader, Steve Ballmer, is one of the heavyweight CEOs behind CYA's sugardaddy, Fix The Debt? Oops.

What does it all mean, these thumping and bumbling wheels within wheels? Nothing, of course. Just like Americans Elect's plutocratic fumblings. Just like Fix The Debt's earnest desire to visit upon middle America the subtle joys of fiscal austerity. Just like the political mumblings of itinerant beltway urchins who shill for rich old men in need of a grassroots Fountain of Youth.

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