Sunday, November 6, 2011

Chapter Five

"Mr. Kelo, your guest is ready to see you now".

"Thank you, Justin. I will be up to the suite momentarily. Would you see that she has refreshments please."

"Of course, sir". Justin Pearce retired from the small private room, leaving his boss alone in the hotel’s private dining room with his distinguished guest.

It had been a long day for Martin Kelo and it seemed that it was not over yet. He had been in Chicago for two days now and had been in meetings almost non-stop since he had arrived by private jet at Midway Airport. Over the years he had found that he required very little sleep and midnight meetings like this were not uncommon for a driven man. He found that meeting at a late hour gave him an advantage over his business associates who might not be as clear-headed as he was. Justin, who had adapted to this schedule and worked these long hours alongside his boss, assisted by serving only decaffeinated coffee and keeping the lighting rheostats artificially low. Martin had negotiated some of his best deals after his associate was yawning opposite him at a table. As the tired gentleman with him right now was doing.

“Senator Bastean, thank you for seeing me at this late hour.”

“It’s not a problem, Mr. Kelo. I was in town anyway working out of my offices downtown. Besides, meeting at this time keeps us off the record, so to speak. The press has given up following me by this time, and has gone to bed. Now is the best time to conduct some real business. Isn’t Chicago beautiful this time of night?” the Senator asked, yawning as he gestured out at the view over the Navy Pier and Lake Michigan.

“Indeed it is. That’s one of the pleasures of my visits here. But, I am keeping you from retiring after a long day of serving your constituents. May I just ask, how is the Amendment coming?”

The Senator suddenly seemed tired, and sat back into his plush chair. “Well, as you know, the battle for affordable health care in our country has been a long and, I would say continuing, fight. As you know, as one of the chief sponsors of the “America’s Healthy Future Act” I have been in the fight for a few years know, and have spent a lot of my political capital.”

“And you have done well, Senator, for the people of Illinois and of your nation. It was a close vote, but you pushed it through to completion over what I must say was some fierce resistance from the other party. Stubborn lot, they are. Single-payer health care is the right future for your country. Right both economically, and as a matter of fairness for all of your citizens and not just those of us with means to pay for our care. Health care is a right for all, as my countrymen in Canada decided quite a while back. We’re frankly puzzled that it took your country, a superpower, so long to make progress in that direction.”
“I am as puzzled as you are, Mr. Kelo. But, that is the task for us Progressives in the Congress of the United States. To make progress that direction as did the Progressives that came before us. With your generous help, of course.”

“And you shall continue to have it, Senator. Mr. Pearce has a check for you – from our US subsidiary - on your way out for the Party, to spend as you see fit as you fight for this bill.”

“You’ve been very generous, Martin. Thank you, my friend.”

“It is nothing. Again, how is the Amendment coming?”

“Remind me, Martin, of your interest in the bill? Why are pushing for it?”

“Pushing is a loaded word, Senator. I have interest in it, yes. I believe that the “Techology and Education” Amendment to the health care act is beneficial to your country. Companies like some that I own need the go-ahead signal to invest in the technologies that will advance the boundaries and quality of care for your citizens. Technologies that you haven’t yet seen and would want for your people, as soon as we can get it in the hands of providers.”

“I see.”

Martin Kelo became quiet and pensive as he stared out of the panoramic hotel windows at the Windy City below him. “I have a personal interest in this as well. Get it done.”

Senator Richard Bastean started to answer, but Mr. Kelo was already up and out of a side door and his assistant Mr. Pearce was there in his place ushering the Senator out of the room and into a freight elevator to leave the hotel through the kitchen and out into a back alley into the night.

Martin used the elevator ride up to his suite to clear his mind and to transition to his meeting with his guest upstairs. It had been a whirlwind of meetings since he had arrived in Chicago, and the pace was not likely to let up in the coming days he would be spending in the Midwest. He was, however, hoping to mix a little pleasure with his business.

Before he left Toronto for the States, Martin had seen to it that his business ventures were in good shape with a strategy developed for each division for the coming year. Martin Kelo Enterprises was a global conglomerate with several subsidiaries and front companies and boards of directors for each. Martin was the driving force for the rapid growth of the company in the last ten years, and was perhaps the only one who knew the complete organizational reach. He had started with a nest egg of inherited money and had entered the field brashly in the money markets. He aggressively played in the field of hedge funds, which did quite well in the run-up to the housing-bubble crash. He had sizeable venture capital investments in companies in the growing health care fields. He was also known, though less so by the general public, for currency speculation - famously shorting countries that he predicted would have major fluctuations in their currency. Global companies knew no nationalist loyalty, Martin's least of all. There was a greater good to be serviced than any national need, and for Martin that good was accumulating wealth rapidly.

The money market companies that were the core of  Martin's success were now safely diversified into more tangible assets under the directorship of some able managers that ran the day to day business in his absence. Martin had been one of the very few to see the recession coming in the States, and had moved his money out of securitized mortgages and heavily into U.S. Treasury Bills. After the downturn happened in 2009, Martin had begun buying distressed companies that had laid off half of their workforce, betting that they would return to fiscal health as the demand for industrial products would inevitably come back. With the price of minerals and precious minerals depressed, Martin bought mines in Africa, and set up an office in Johannesburg. With the mining businesses in hand, he bought mining equipment manufacturing companies in the U.S. and South America, and idle shale oil mines in Canada. He choose Toronto to base his headquarters for the Kelo Americas subsidiary, where he was currently building Kelo Towers.

Those risks that Martin had taken in 2009 in buying the distressed companies, against the worried advice of some of his board members from the financial services sectors, had begun paying back in slowly burgeoning recovery of early 2010. His personal wealth was growing, pushing him well into the billionaires club.

That level of wealth had Martin thinking about his responsibilities as a global citizen, and he  began investing in a different line altogether - political activism. He formed new organizations, with new directors and new boards to influence the direction of progressive politics in Canada, in the Eastern European countries that were still finding their way after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and in the United States that was transforming itself in the wake of the election of a charismatic and forward thinking President in 2008. The political activities were his new passion, and were the principal reason for his visit here in Chicago.

Martin was proud of the impact that his umbrella organization Progress for A New Global Century had made on the American political landscape in a short timeframe. He was confident that his spending had been able to blunt the unexpected rise of the Liberty Movement that had grown up in the wake of the recession to demand a halt to out-of-control spending and the expansive growth of the federal government. Martin believed in a larger government capable of delivering on the need for social and economic justice, and sought to accelerate that justice  through his political front groups, which he met with yesterday.

Martin had chosen his team well. They were all grade A leaders, with a passion for social justice and skills at electioneering. Each filled a necessary niche.

Kamillah Washington headed up the community organizer organization that was handling voter registration among the disenfranchised. She ran a network of paid organizers that enrolled voters on college campuses, at unemployment offices, at rallies, and at union halls. Kamillah was arranging buses from those locations to the polls for election day in November.

Kim Woodruff ran the County Clerks Project, and ambitious plan that recognized the importance of county officials in the counting and reporting of results on election day. Martin had watched the 2000 Presidential election recounts in Florida from overseas and was fascinated by the county clerks sitting in rooms counting the hanging chads and was struck by how few votes in one location could affect a nation-wide election. He became convinced that having progressive champions in those positions could make the difference in a close election, and was putting a serious amount of his money behind that proposition.

David Hallstrom supervised the think tank that produced white papers on various topics that advanced the progressive movement for distribution to the more progressive journalists around the country. David also fed stories to a network of libreral bloggers that blew stories up to the mainstream aggregator sites for immediate impact on the casual web surfers. David also headed up a separate journalistic pseudo professional organization that provided funding for hundreds of new correspondents at public radio member stations with a mission to focus on human interest stories about the downtrodden and oppressed peoples of America.

Finally, Juanita Alvarez handled direct funding of the campaigns of Congressman in the moderate to liberal ranks. She was a master of financial bundling and was funneling money through the various house caucases to the member's re-election committees. Lately, Juanita had significant success attracting donors throughout Martin's international connections through the use of untraceable prepaid debit cards by encouraging members to disable the verification systems required by the election laws. Those might or might not be challenged after the election, but were very useful to fund ad campaigns before the election.

One other, retired master sargeant Malcolm Gunn, had reported separately about the black ops activities that he was personally handling for Martin. Operations that he was about to share with his last guest.

Bing. The doors of the direct elevator openend and Martin stepped out to find himself face to face with Ms. Jiao Luo. CEO of the South Asia exports, and his partner in more and more of his enterprises.

"Martin, it's so good to see you again."

"A pleasure, Jiao, as always."

"Did you get good reports from your team?", Jiao asked

"I did indeed. Everything is going as planned."

"Well", Jiao sighed, "I guess now we just take our chances with the voters next month."

"Who said that I was leaving it up to chance?"

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