Dark Money
Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers?The conventional answer is that a popular uprising against “big government” led to the ascendancy of a broad-based conservative movement. But as Jane Mayer shows in this powerful, meticulously reported history, a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system.The network has brought together some of the richest people on the planet. Their core beliefs—that taxes are a form of tyranny; that government oversight of business is an assault on freedom—are sincerely held. But these beliefs also advance their personal and corporate interests: Many of their companies have run afoul of federal pollution, worker safety, securities, and tax laws.The chief figures in the network are Charles and David Koch, whose father made his fortune in part by building oil refineries in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany. The patriarch later was a founding member of the John Birch Society, whose politics were so radical it believed Dwight Eisenhower was a communist. The brothers were schooled in a political philosophy that asserted the only role of government is to provide security and to enforce property rights.When libertarian ideas proved decidedly unpopular with voters, the Koch brothers and their allies chose another path. If they pooled their vast resources, they could fund an interlocking array of organizations that could work in tandem to influence and ultimately control academic institutions, think tanks, the courts, statehouses, Congress, and, they hoped, the presidency. Richard Mellon Scaife, the mercurial heir to banking and oil fortunes, had the brilliant insight that most of their political activities could be written off as tax-deductible “philanthropy.”These organizations were given innocuous names such as Americans for Prosperity. Funding sources were hidden whenever possible. This process reached its apotheosis with the allegedly populist Tea Party movement, abetted mightily by the Citizens United decision—a case conceived of by legal advocates funded by the network.The political operatives the network employs are disciplined, smart, and at times ruthless. Mayer documents instances in which people affiliated with these groups hired private detectives to impugn whistle-blowers, journalists, and even government investigators. And their efforts have been remarkably successful. Libertarian views on taxes and regulation, once far outside the mainstream and still rejected by most Americans, are ascendant in the majority of state governments, the Supreme Court, and Congress. Meaningful environmental, labor, finance, and tax reforms have been stymied.Jane Mayer spent five years conducting hundreds of interviews-including with several sources within the network-and scoured public records, private papers, and court proceedings in reporting this book. In a taut and utterly convincing narrative, she traces the byzantine trail of the billions of dollars spent by the network and provides vivid portraits of the colorful figures behind the new American oligarchy.Dark Money is a book that must be read by anyone who cares about the future of American democracy.

Dark Money Details

TitleDark Money
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 19th, 2016
PublisherDoubleday
ISBN-139780385535601
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Politics, History, Economics, Business

Dark Money Review

  • Will Byrnes
    January 1, 1970
    We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Louis D. BrandeisIt has been a consistent element of modern life in the USA that the public polls as more progressive than our elected officials. Given that in a democracy one would expect representatives to more or less reflect the views of the people who make up the population, and not speak in opposition to them, this seems surprising at first blush. Yes, we have o We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Louis D. BrandeisIt has been a consistent element of modern life in the USA that the public polls as more progressive than our elected officials. Given that in a democracy one would expect representatives to more or less reflect the views of the people who make up the population, and not speak in opposition to them, this seems surprising at first blush. Yes, we have our extremist elements, but by and large, the political position of the majority of the nation is a bit left of center. And yet, there has been a remarkable shift in the nation’s political direction. At least the political direction of the professional political class, elected officials, lawmakers, government executives, members of the judiciary, political operatives, lobbying organizations, interest groups. This pushing of the political gauge, this redefinition of what constitutes the center in American political thought, can only be understood by looking below the surface at actions that have been going on for decades, stealthily, effectively, dangerously.Jane Mayer - from WashingtonNote.com There is a cancer on American democracy. It began with the accumulation of unimaginable amounts of capital in a few hands. It spread through targeted application of that money to the political process, under the fig leaf of philanthropy, and has metastasized into a life-threatening malignancy. It does this through the application of billions of dollars to stealth organizations, set up specifically to propagandize against government programs and policies that the uber-rich oppose. It does this through the application of billions of dollars to tar political candidates who are not with the program, regardless of party affiliation. It does this through application of billions of dollars to programs promoting the redrawing of voting districts to minimize and eliminate, where possible, the chances that candidates with any respect for democracy might be elected to public office. It does this by applying untold millions to target those who expose their secret doings, whether that means going after whistle blowers, within their own organizations, whose consciences have outgrown their need to earn a living, their fear for their personal safety, or following, investigating, smearing and attempting to intimidate journalists who dare to speak (and document) truth to power. The only question at this point is whether it is, even now, too late to prevent the oligarchs from amassing total power within the USA, and beyond. Is democracy already at Stage 4? If it is, it will be no problem identifying those guilty of democricide. Of course it will be impossible to prosecute them, as they have gained considerable control of the courts that were once upon a time a barrier to the dismissal of the national interest by the uber-wealthy. Consider, even now, how none of those responsible for the economic meltdown have seen the inside of a cell. The truth is becoming ever more stark, ever more frightening. There is no law, only power. And the big money group has the biggest army in town, having gained control of Congress, and the judiciary, and they are very much hoping to get their greedy paws on the presidency. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Charles Koch - from USA Today So how did this dire state of affairs come to be? Jane Mayer digs through history and shows us, stage by stage, how fanatical right wingers with vast sums, have moved from the political fringes to the mainstream, not by, themselves, shifting, but by using the gravity of their money to pull the mainstream closer to their far-right positions, positions erstwhile right-wing centerfold William F. Buckley once called ”Anarcho-Totalitarianism.”David Koch - from artnews.comThere are two parallel tracks in Dark Money. One looks at the mechanisms by which the oligarchs have converted their money into political power, and thus into even more money. And the other is the personalities behind this movement. Although calling it a movement may be offering more credit than is due. It is less a movement than a well planned putsch. Think of the dark-hearted spouse who feeds an ailing partner increasing doses of poison, evading suspicion, and then inheriting an entire estate. There are plenty of billionaires on display in Dark Money, but the primary focus of the book is the brothers Koch, particularly David and the leader of the pack, Charles. We peek into the family history, which includes providing significant material support to Stalin and that other moustachioed European dictator as they ramped up for WW II. The brothers’ father, Fred, was so smitten with what he saw as the German work ethic that he hired a German nanny for his sons. Think Nurse Ratched, complete with white uniform and pointed cap. Freud would have had a heyday with this one. She made the boys defecate at the same time every day, and if they did not produce, it was cod-liver oil and enemas. And read them stories from sundry cruel German children’s books, including Der Struwwelpeter, which includes warnings about horrifying things that might happen to misbehaving children. These include being burned alive, starving to death for refusing to eat a particular kind of soup, and having ones thumbs cut off for the crime of sucking on them. It is the sole place in the book where one can actually feel sorry for these kids. Excited about the Nazi conquest of France, this anti-Poppins spit-spotted back to Germany to join in the celebrations. Papa Fred was not one to spare the rod, and physical abuse of his children was a significant feature of their less than joyful upbringing. Frederick Koch the elder was certainly a dark force. Ever eager to bring the joys of fascism home, he was an ardent supporter of the fanatically and paranoiacly anti-Communist John Birch Society. (In 1978, he declared, “Our movement must destroy the prevalent statist paradigm.” - p3). Charles embraced the Birchers as an adult, but it may have been just to suck up to his old man and gain a favorable seat at the inheritance table. However, while his allegiance to the Birchers may have less than whole-hearted, he does appear to have incorporated much of what they stood for. Charles was much taken with a nutjob named Robert Lefevre, who established what he called The Freedom School. Notable among its teachings was a view that the robber barons were heroes. LeFevre was basically opposed to any form of government. Charles seems similarly inclined. The Brothers Koch have also had their own power plays within the family, dragging each other through lawsuits, and even threatening to out one brother suspected of being gay. Other members of the billionaire (mostly) boys club and their political fellow travelers come in for a look as well. Richard Devos, head of Amway, for example, and Richard Mellon Scaife. And there does seem a considerable proportion of these folks who suffer from significant mental illness and/or substance abuse issues. But the peregrinations of the Kochs is the primary focus on the personality side. Of far greater interest is learning what these people want and how they have gone about building a massive machine to manufacture it.In 1980 David Koch ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party line. The party’s platform was an almost exact replica of the Freedom School’s radical curriculum. It called for the repeal of all campaign-finance laws and the abolition of the Federal Election Commission (FEC). It also favored the abolition of all government health-care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. It attacked Social Security as “virtually bankrupt” and called for its abolition too. The Libertarians also opposed all income and corporate taxes, including capital gains taxes, and called for an end to the prosecution of tax evaders. The platform called for the abolition too of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FBI, and the CIA, among other government agencies. It demanded the abolition of “any laws” impeding employment—by which it meant minimum wage and child labor laws. And it targeted public schools for abolition too, along with what it termed the “compulsory” education of children. The Libertarians wanted to get rid of the Food and Drug Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, seat belt laws, and all forms of welfare for the poor This is what they want. And this is how they have gone about getting it. [In the late 1980s, Richard Fink], after studying the Kochs’ political problems for six months, drew up a practical blueprint, ostensibly inspired by [right-wing icon, economist Friederich] Hayek’s model of production, that impressed Charles by going beyond where his own 1976 paper on the subject had left off. Called “The Structure of Social Change,” it approached the manufacture of political change like any other product. As Fink later described it in a talk, it laid out a three-phase takeover of American politics. The first phase required an “investment” in intellectuals whose ideas would serve as the “raw products.” The second required an investment in think tanks that would turn the ideas into marketable policies. And the third phase required the subsidization of “citizens” groups that would, along with “special interests” pressure elected officials to implement the policies. It was in essence a libertarian production line, waiting only to be bought, assembled and switched on. In the same way that those seeking to promote war use mercenaries, so that voters need not be concerned about Johnny becoming cannon fodder in some pointless foreign adventure, the warfare that is politics has likewise been outsourced. Prevented by law from contributing mass quantities to your favorite tax cutter? Not to worry. Just set up a non-profit foundation and have the foundation redirect your contributions to Astroturf political creations where foundation money is magically transformed into a paid-in-full army of attack ads. And this is legal? Democracy? We doan need no steenking democracy.The Kochs broke new ground in political gamesmanship, showing impressive creativity. In 1996, for example, they used tax-exempt non-profits as cutouts to evade limitations on company campaign donations. This was a new thing. As part of the implementation of Fink’s plan, they began funding stand-alone departments at universities. They gave them innocuous names, but the intention was to provide the intellectual underpinning (or fig-leaf construction) of their anti-government efforts. George Mason University was the first of these, housing The Mercatus Center. Once they had seeded enough such centers, particularly at Ivy League universities, the next phase was to build up a ground force. Thus the Tea Party.In his 1894 novel, The Red Lily Anatole France wrote, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” Were he writing today he might have added “and permits the poor as well as the rich to contribute unlimited amounts in support of political causes.” The biggest tumor of all on the body politic is the Citizens United decision. By removing limits to campaign giving, the highly partisan Supreme Court put American democracy up for sale. Total liberty for wolves is death to the lambs – Isaiah BerlinAnd the highest bidders have created a diverse political network that rivals and in many ways exceeds that of our major parties.There is clearly a pathological hunger afflicting the super-rich. No matter how much money, property, or power they accumulate there remains a compelling need for more, ever more. And in seeking ever more, the affects their actions have on the rest of us is of no concern. We are all what notorious real-estate dragon lady Leona Helmsley once called the “little people.” We do not matter to them. They do not care if they destroy the environment. (The Kochs in particular are notorious scofflaw polluters) They do not care if they destroy the economy. (Banksters, anyone?) They feel no obligation to contribute to the common welfare (the above-noted Queen of Mean, Leona Helmsley, convicted tax-evader, and poster girl for nastiness, was best known for saying,"We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes") They do not care if people starve while they feast. (Cake, anyone?) They do not care if they have many mansions while millions go homeless. They are murderers, not just of people, but of our natural environment. They are destroyers. They do not care if children go uneducated, so long as they do as they are told. They do not care if the sick cannot afford to get medical care. They do not care if the life expectancy of the “little people” declines. They would probably see the conditions Dickens portrayed as too good for the poor, who, to their damaged minds, clearly have brought their poverty on themselves. This may be a form of mental illness, but at some point, the concerted actions this group of people take, primarily in the interest of increasing their already obscene wealth, crosses the line from madness to monstrosity. Charles Koch, and people of his ilk, are not unwell, they are evil, and such large-scale evil cannot be tolerated, no matter how much they might also contribute to sundry benign non-profits. Wars have been fought to destroy, or at least to fend off, different forms of darkness. The Civil War was fought to cleanse the nation of the dark stain of slavery. World War II was fought to put down the mad dog of fascism. Another war will need to be fought to treat the cancer of oligarchy. The question is whether that war will be one of ballots or something more kinetic. The rule of the oligarchs is ushering in nothing less than a new form of slavery, a new form of fascism. Is it possible to slow the progress of this disease by exposing it to the light? Jane Mayer has been doing her part to shine her beacon on the history and activities of this group. Maybe if we know this devil and show the world what he has been up to, we can find a way to oppose him. Hopefully, by shining enough light, the dark forces that are at work will scurry back into the shadows. Of course it is possible that photodynamics will not do the trick. There are people who are immune to truth, people who will cling to their illusions and misconceptions despite the existence of scientific proof, birthers, climate change deniers, racists, and plenty more. But the patient is in the ER, suffering from the effects of the disease. Whatever resistance exists and whatever resistance grows, it had better get moving and show some success (replacing Scalia with a sentient, not entirely corrupt human would be a good start) before democracy flatlines completely. At that point it will be mourning in America for real.Published – January 19, 2016 (hc) January 24, 2017 - paperbackReview posted – February 19, 2016=============================EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pagesIn the normal course of preparing reviews I look for author on-line presence. Usually this includes Facebook, Twitter and a personal page. Mayer’s web site, Janemayer.com, is noted on the inside flap of her book. But when I tried to access it directly, it was not found. I then tried her Facebook page, and there was a place where one could request access to Mayer’s personal web page. Certainly this suggests that the free flow of information we all need is under threat. I expect that Mayer has been besieged by the sort of on-line jack-booted trolls that are employed by the monsters she portrays in her book, necessitating this sort of screening. I included Jane-Mayer.com here as her personal page, but it really is not. It is a Random House page. Just so’s ya know. More from Mayer - New Koch - The billionaire brothers are championing criminal-justice reform. Has their formula changed? - from The New Yorker Magazine – January 25, 2016A Mother Jones piece (1/21/16) by David Korn on the perils of telling the truth – How the Kochtopus Went After a Reporter - In Jane Mayer's new book, she reports how the conservative machine sicced private detectives on her. - Hail Hydra!A Gawker article on a smear campaign against Mayer5/10/16 - An interesting Op-Ed in the NY Times, by Kathleen M. Donovan-Maher and Steven L. Groopman - Why Dark Money Is Bad Business - a recommendation for shining some sunlight on corporate political spending, for the benefit of investors9/6/16 - A very scary piece in the NY Times on how the Kochs are planning a school for right-wing activists. I guess the only house in this school would be Slytherin - With Koch Brothers Academy, Conservatives Settle In for Long War - by Ashley Parker and Maggie Haberman11/23/16 - Dark Money is named to the NY Times list of 100 Notable Books of 20165/5/18 - NY Times - I'm shocked, shocked to learn that the Kochs actually told George Mason University who to hire for posts in the libertarian think-tank they fund there - What Charles Koch and Other Donors to George Mason University Got for Their Money - By Erica L. Green and Stephanie Saul6/19/18 - NY Times - How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country - by Hiroko Tabuchi - Very interesting granularity on how the Kochs use big data to preserve their own profits at public expense
    more
  • Darwin8u
    January 1, 1970
    "I just want my fair share--which is all of it."- Charles Koch, quoted in Jane Mayer, Dark MoneyI'm not sure reading this right after Trump got elected was the right decision. As I write this Betsy DeVos (sister of Eric Prince, daughter of billionaire Edgar Prince, daughter-in-law to Amway founder Richard DeVos) just got picked to be Trump's Secretary of Education. Let it sink in for a minute. We just had a billionaire nominate another billionaire for a seat at the political table. It is really "I just want my fair share--which is all of it."- Charles Koch, quoted in Jane Mayer, Dark MoneyI'm not sure reading this right after Trump got elected was the right decision. As I write this Betsy DeVos (sister of Eric Prince, daughter of billionaire Edgar Prince, daughter-in-law to Amway founder Richard DeVos) just got picked to be Trump's Secretary of Education. Let it sink in for a minute. We just had a billionaire nominate another billionaire for a seat at the political table. It is really starting to feel a bit like we are living in a Plutocracy. Jane Mayer's brilliantly researched book into the Koch political machine (and other closely related political organizations) has only exacerbated this feeling.The sad part is how many people I personally know that are somehow connected to this Dark Money web. I have friends that have worked for various Koch groups, other friends who have taught "leadership" courses in Koch-funded university courses. I have old professors who now do research at the Mercatus Center at George Mason, etc.. Hell, I have more than a dozen friends in common with Sean Noble, the AZ political operator largely created with initially setting up much of the Koch network. In some ways, this book almost reads as much a biography of Noble's rise and fall as it does the Koch brother's rise. I give the book five stars, but almost want to remove a star because it just makes me mad and sad. I'm sad that so many people I like seem to operate as mercenaries for the Koch brothers interests and their extreme vision of our future. I'm sad because with the election of Donald Trump (even though Trump at one level isn't a part of the Koch network, he might further enable it since he shares many of the same interests as his fellow GOP billionaires) I see this extreme plutocracy getting worse not better.I remember reading a couple years ago about how our country was evolving into a plutocracy. I felt at the time, that might be a bit extreme. After the last couple elections and after reading this book, I feel a bit naïve. We are living in a nation that is designed to largely serve the interests of its richest 1%. It isn't evolving. The egg has hatched.
    more
  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not American, but my reaction to Dark Money is that everyone in the US -- and elsewhere for that matter -- who has any interest in politics must read it. For reasons related to my busy life and not the quality of the book, I listened to the audio of Dark Money sporadically over several weeks. But each time I picked it up I was mesmerized. And I suspect that Dark Money has made me a conversational bore because in so many conversations over the past few weeks, I have found a way to relate the I'm not American, but my reaction to Dark Money is that everyone in the US -- and elsewhere for that matter -- who has any interest in politics must read it. For reasons related to my busy life and not the quality of the book, I listened to the audio of Dark Money sporadically over several weeks. But each time I picked it up I was mesmerized. And I suspect that Dark Money has made me a conversational bore because in so many conversations over the past few weeks, I have found a way to relate the conversation back to Dark Money and urged whoever I am speaking with to read it. Why? In a meticulously detailed and researched book, Jane Mayer recounts the rise in political power of a handful of ultra conservative self-interested billionaires in the US over the last 30 years or so. Through numerous channels, they have used their money to influence the course of public policy and discourse, legitimizing points of view that had no legitimacy many years ago. Using the same publicists as the tobacco companies had used many years ago to obfuscate the true dangers of tobacco, these individuals have formed think tanks, backed political candidates, and influenced the curricula in high schools and universities in ways that have obfuscated issues such as global warming, public health care, the regulation of industry's impact on the environment and the root causes of unemployment and poverty. Mayer's narrative ends in late 2015, and I am dying to know what she would have to say about the current battle for the Republican nomination. Again, to me this is a must read. Even for those who agree with some of the views pushed forward by these oligarchs and their money, it's important to understand how these opinions are shaped and to try to think about how to ensure that political debate and democracy are based on accurate information and a level playing field for those involved in the discussion. I highly recommend Dark Money. I suspect that I will continue to bore many friends, family and colleagues for a long time, urging them to read this powerful book.
    more
  • Paquita Maria Sanchez
    January 1, 1970
    We're all fucked. Everything is fucked. Mitch McConnell, I hope you and the rest of you soul-selling goons really do believe in hell, because I'm sadistically delighted by the idea of you guys having to drink yourselves to sleep every night expecting that you're going to burn there for allll eternity. No worries, though, eventually the whole planet will be a ball of fire thanks to your collective flipflopping on global warming for Kochtopus money, so it looks like we'll all be burning with you i We're all fucked. Everything is fucked. Mitch McConnell, I hope you and the rest of you soul-selling goons really do believe in hell, because I'm sadistically delighted by the idea of you guys having to drink yourselves to sleep every night expecting that you're going to burn there for allll eternity. No worries, though, eventually the whole planet will be a ball of fire thanks to your collective flipflopping on global warming for Kochtopus money, so it looks like we'll all be burning with you if we haven't already starved to death. Thanks for that, by the way! Fuck you. Fuck the lot of you. Satan's going to eat your hideous souls, and he's going to love every delicious minute of it. Drink that down.----------------------------------------------------------------------David Koch makes a dick joke:"It all started when I was a little boy. One day, my father gave me an apple. I soon sold it for five dollars and bought two apples and sold them for ten. Then I bought four apples and sold them for twenty. Well, this went on day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, until my father died and left me three hundred million dollars!"
    more
  • Trish
    January 1, 1970
    It will not be surprise to anyone who has been paying attention that for the past twenty years our political system has been awash in special interest money. Mayer tells us it is forty years. What Mayer does in this detailed accounting is to elucidate the sources of that money and the routes it takes to influence votes. What may be more surprising to readers is how often that money has failed in its mission. Probably the best reason for reading this book is to see how Jane Mayer allows these ind It will not be surprise to anyone who has been paying attention that for the past twenty years our political system has been awash in special interest money. Mayer tells us it is forty years. What Mayer does in this detailed accounting is to elucidate the sources of that money and the routes it takes to influence votes. What may be more surprising to readers is how often that money has failed in its mission. Probably the best reason for reading this book is to see how Jane Mayer allows these individuals and groups to speak for themselves. She quotes from statements spoken by fund raisers at their own gatherings, from the literature distributed under their aegis, and from interviews with associates. Mayer also traces the many shell companies through which the money flows to hide its origins. She documents why the groups feel it is necessary to hide the source of the monies and why the folks involved do not want their names to be known. Many of the families besides David and Charles Koch who most ardently support far right wing causes are not the self-made men of legend. They are heirs of fortunes who seek to retain those fortunes. The tax laws in our country have been such that persons with enormous fortunes could use a portion of it for charitable giving rather than have it taxed by the government. These generous brethren have decided to do the patriarchal thing: to “give” portions of their fortune to like-minded groups they create to influence the populace. I am not suggesting they don’t work hard at it. They do. Lots of effort has gone into creating an empire on the backs of a people they disparage.What I cannot reconcile in my own mind is how these folks, experienced in the advantages (and disadvantages) of great wealth, don’t come to the conclusion that money isn’t the point. There have been too many studies on the limits of wealth to ensure happiness for these experienced folks to have missed the central point. Money does buy power, but look at the uses to which these folks want to use their power: to perpetuate their own wealth, despite the documented injury to the environment their companies perpetuate and to the continued abasement of their workforces. Even Koch scoffs at the notion that he needs more money. I just don’t get it. And, it seems, neither do the American public. Despite libertarian donors of like-minded billionaires pooling their capital donations and pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into influencing the last presidential election, their arch-nemesis Obama was reelected. Of course, he was unable to accomplish much in his term because of the groups were successful in filling the House and Senate with politicians they’d supported financially: the darlings of what is still called the Republican party, e.g., Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, among many others. When Mitch McConnell became Majority Speaker of the Senate, he hired a new policy chief who was formerly a lobbyist for Koch Industries. Neither Ohio Governor John Kasich or real estate magnate Donald Trump have a part in the Koch money cabal. But…remind me again, who won in the presidential election primaries in NH this year?If you have been confused about the obstreperous obstructionism Obama encountered in the House and Senate even after he was elected, twice, to the presidency, you may be interested to learn that the money promised to groups favoring select Republican candidates for the coming presidential election has been estimated to be over $800 million. Apparently the Republican Party itself is the poor step-sister of a shadow organization that dwarfs it in money and reach. These monies have begun in recent years to target local elections and judge nominations. In these arenas dark money seems to have more effect (see the change in the red/blue map of governerships and local districts after 2010), perhaps because national elections get more voters. More voters often translate into more moderate results. In addition, the money is going to influence academic centers and think tanks. Penetrating academia – a delivery system for the group’s ideology by winning the hearts and minds of college students--has long been on their wish list. Academia is an investment for the Koch’s ambitious designs. Their own literature claims they have funded 5,000 scholars in some 400 universities throughout the country. “Privately funded pro-corporate centers can replace faculty teachings with their own.” The groups are also pouring money into online education, paying lower-income students to take more courses. The intent is to create an “idea pipeline.” I have to say, Bernie Sanders’ proposed free college education sounds better than ever.But at the end of it all, I am still perplexed. We know the sources of the dark money discussed in this book believe in small government free enterprise. But do they really believe that corporations do not have a responsibility to provide living wages and a non-polluting environment? At the same time company profits and management wages soar. Unfortunately for their argument is the fact that many of the corporate heads financing opposition to regulation are under indictment for pollution, tax avoidance, or other financial irregularities. They are trying to address this also, changing perceptions by calling their investments “wellbeing” grants.In the end, what I don’t like about the current system of free enterprise and/or payments for work is that corporations have shown that they don’t do very well at controlling themselves. Corporate governance is beginning to sound like an oxymoron. Corporate boards blame their inability to control costs on the need to make profits for stake-holders or investors, but the salaries and bonuses these boards award themselves at the expense of cleaning up pollution caused by their companies or to avoid paying a living wage to workers make them look foolish (and greedy).I guess it really is so simple as narcissism: the wealthy come to believe they deserve to be wealthy because they are either smarter or more deserving in some other way. If that is the inevitable outcome of the free market system, I think we can state unequivocally that it does, in fact, need regulation. We could, I suppose, just throw away the whole system. Which, do you think, sources of dark money would prefer? I think everyone needs to read or listen to this book but if you don’t feel you have the time, go to the library or a bookstore and read Chapter 14. While in previous chapters Mayer tells us how the groups began, which groups and donors comprise dark money, and what they have tried to do, in this final chapter Mayer tells us what is happening now. This is important for how we integrate and process any new information we learn. Mayer has also written several smaller articles in The New Yorker, beginning in 2010. A wonderfully informative January 24, 2016 NYTimes book podcast is also available on this title. Get the information piecemeal if you must, but you will definitely want to inform yourselves. Link to a list of groups created and sustained by Koch Family Foundations.
    more
  • Tulay
    January 1, 1970
    Urge you to read this book.Leave your political beliefs aside and read this book. How commercials, news media reports are influencing us how to vote country, state and every two years. All the dark money behind all those 501 (c)... billionaires and millionaires. We don't have one person one vote anymore, our cabinet members already made of billionaires and millionaires. Even university courses, professors, judges, senators, representatives are elected.After reading how four Koch brothers were br Urge you to read this book.Leave your political beliefs aside and read this book. How commercials, news media reports are influencing us how to vote country, state and every two years. All the dark money behind all those 501 (c)... billionaires and millionaires. We don't have one person one vote anymore, our cabinet members already made of billionaires and millionaires. Even university courses, professors, judges, senators, representatives are elected.After reading how four Koch brothers were brought up, understand why Charles and David brothers do and say what they are doing. They even turned their backs on their two younger brothers.For me reading and listening this book again and again for a month was taking a semester course, Jane Mayer was my professor. I had to pass the test. As many of you know I wasn't burn in this country and English is my second language, I used to believe that my vote counted. Not any more.Just imagine, all this money for elections raised to influence us how to vote can be used to better. Just imagine...
    more
  • Lewis Weinstein
    January 1, 1970
    I haven't finished the book yet, but the thrust is clear. The Koch brothers and their billionaire friends are implementing a plan to take over American government at every level. Their objectives are purely personal greed: no taxes, no regulation (especially environmental), minimal government for all people and programs except defense and whatever benefits the very wealthy. The problem is they're succeeding. They can't win the Presidency yet, but at every other level - Congress, Senate, state le I haven't finished the book yet, but the thrust is clear. The Koch brothers and their billionaire friends are implementing a plan to take over American government at every level. Their objectives are purely personal greed: no taxes, no regulation (especially environmental), minimal government for all people and programs except defense and whatever benefits the very wealthy. The problem is they're succeeding. They can't win the Presidency yet, but at every other level - Congress, Senate, state legislatures, local government and even school boards - they have already made major inroads. Voter suppression, gerrymandered districts and reduced budgets are all part of their agenda. They have created so-called "think tanks" and have infiltrated universities (George Mason is one) in order to fool Americans, especially under-educated Americans, into believing that the billionaires' objectives are good for America. This is the most insidious, dangerous force alive in America today. They are not looking to take over the Republican Party, but rather to replace it. If we let the Kochs and their ilk continue on their path, it will be a disaster.Mayer has accumulated an impressive and detailed case to prove her allegations. We should pay attention. So should Hillary.
    more
  • Bam
    January 1, 1970
    What an important book! I'm planning to read it slowly and will note some key quotes and information from each section. "We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Louis BrandeisINTRODUCTION:"We are on the road not just to a highly unequal society, but to a society of an oligarchy. A society of inherited wealth. When you have a few people who are so wealthy that they can effectively buy the political system, What an important book! I'm planning to read it slowly and will note some key quotes and information from each section. "We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Louis BrandeisINTRODUCTION:"We are on the road not just to a highly unequal society, but to a society of an oligarchy. A society of inherited wealth. When you have a few people who are so wealthy that they can effectively buy the political system, the political system is going to tend to serve their interests." Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist.The Koch brothers are the sixth and seventh wealthiest men in the world, owning the second largest private company in America, and espousing libertarian conservative political views which call for limited government regulation.PART ONE: Weaponizing PhilanthropyCHAPTER ONERadicals: A Koch Family HistoryFred Chase Koch, the founding founder of the vast Koch family fortune, learned a valuable lesson early on over a patent infringement case brought against him by America's major oil companies in 1927: "The fact that the judge [in the case] was bribed completely altered [his] view of justice. [He] believed justice can be bought, and the rules are for chumps," said one long-time family employee. Leading up to WWII, "Fred Koch's willingness to work with the Soviets and the Nazis was a major factor in creating the Koch family's early fortune." But there too he would become disillusioned by Stalin's brutal purges and later regretted his collaboration. His dealings with the Nazis seem to be glossed over in the official record of the family business.In 1958, Koch "became one of eleven original members of the John Birch Society, the arch-conservative group best known for spreading far-fetched conspiracy theories about secret Communist plots to subvert America."Two of his sons, Charles and David, have gone on to help build the Libertarian movement, indoctrinated with the view 'that big government [is] bad, and imposition of government controls on our lives and economic fortunes [is] not good." CHAPTER TWOThe Hidden Hand: Richard Mellon ScaifeMany of America's greatest corporate fortunes have learned the benefits of setting up foundations as tax shelters through which they can then support the conservative movement while appearing to support high-minded causes. Robert Reich, professor of political science is quoted as saying that such private foundations are 'troubling because they [are] considered deeply and fundamentally anti-democratic...an entity that would undermine political equality, affect public policies, and could exist in perpetuity.' They are by definition 'plutocratic.'Another tax-free shelter to push the conservative agenda are think-tanks which can be "almost completely under the thumb of its wealthy sponsors." Scaife was described as "the most important single figure in building the modern conservative movement and spreading its ideas into the political realm" in David Brock's tell-all book, Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative. Charles Koch too set up his own think tank, Cato Institute, from his private foundation. He wanted it to appear as if his philanthropy supported nonpartisan ideological projects but instead its philosophy dovetailed completely with Koch's own business interests to increase his accumulation of wealth and power: "lower taxes, looser regulations, and fewer government programs for the poor and middle class."CHAPTER THREE:Beachheads: John M. Olin and the Bradley Brothers"The aim was to establish conservative cells, or 'beachheads,' at the most influential schools in order to gain the greatest leverage." "Through these carefully curated programs, the foundations trained the next generation of conservatives."'The overarching purpose was to use philanthropy to support a war of ideas." Their aim was to take the LIBERAL out of a Liberal Arts Education. Foundations became big contributors to colleges and universities, including Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale, with courses entitled Law and Economics. THE OLIN FOUNDATION: John M. Olin, The Olin Corporation--think DDT, think mercury pollution in our rivers, whole communities sickened. "Common sense should have made companies take responsibility, but until the 1970s there were no regulations on this. The EPA became a form of accountability." Think about that as the Trump administration wants to ease/eliminate restrictions!THE BRADLEY FOUNDATION: Lynde and Harry Bradley, The Allen-Bradley Company, a Milwaukee electronics manufacturer, bought by Rockwell International (then America's largest defense contractor) in 1985, for $1.65 billion in cash.With this influx of cash, the Bradley Foundation 'became increasingly politicized.' Originally their purpose was to aid the needy and prevent cruelty to animals. But their new mission statement was to support 'limited, competent government,' 'a dynamic marketplace,' and 'vigorous defense.'CHAPTER FOUR:The Koch Method: Free-Market MayhemOh dear Lord! This has been the hardest chapter to read so far. Nothing is too despicable for these people! I am so depressed. Is it better to know what these people are willfully doing to our planet and human lives in the name of obscene corporate profits or go blindly along, living our simple lives in total ignorance? How can we stop these people who are richer than God? When fines are just a drop in the bucket of the immense profits they make by ignoring regulations? A mere annoyance for them. "In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency's database revealed Koch Industries to be the number one producer of toxic waste in the country...producing 950 million pounds of toxic waste."In 2007, Charles Koch said in his book, The Science of Success, "We were caught unprepared by the rapid increase in regulation. While business was becoming alarmingly regulated, we kept thinking and acting as if we lived in a pure market economy." And so they could do as they pleased apparently. To other businessmen in the Libertarian Review, Koch said, "We should NOT cave in the moment a regulator sets foot on our doorstep...Do not cooperate voluntarily; instead, resist wherever and to whatever extent you legally can. And do so in the name of justice." Justice?? Really?? My head is exploding!!!Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter with Kansas?: "Libertarianism is supposed to be all about principles, but what it's really about is political expedience. It's basically a corporate front, masked as a philosophy." CHAPTER FIVEThe Kochtopus: Free-Market MachineRichard Fink, Charles Koch's main political lieutenant, came up with a blueprint for advancing their free-market agenda. Called "The Structure of Social Change," it planned a three-phase takeover of American politics:1) an investment in intellectuals,2) an investment in think tanks, turning ideas into marketable policies, and3) the subsidizing of "citizens" groups that would pressure elected officials to implement the policies."It was to be a libertarian production line." This multi-armed assembly line became dubbed the 'Kochtopus.'"By 2015, the Charles Koch foundation was subsidizing pro-business, anti-regulatory, and antitax programs in 307 different institutions of higher education in America and had plans to expand into 18 more.""John David, an economics professor at West Virginia University Tech who witnessed the school's transformation wrote in a scathing newspaper column that it had become clear that 'entire academic areas at universities can be bought just like politicians. The difference is that universities are supposed to permit open dialogue and exchange of ideas and not be places for indoctrination of innocent students with dictated propaganda prescribed by outside special interests.'"PART TWO: SECRET SPONSORSCovert Operations, 2009-2010"Total liberty for wolves is death to the lambs." Isaiah BerlinSo far in CHAPTER SIX: Boots on the Ground, and CHAPTER SEVEN: Tea Time, the author is showing how the big money groups have tried to make their political maneuvers look like grassroot groundswells of popular opinion when in fact, they are probably better described as fake ASTROTURF. CHAPTER EIGHT: The FossilsThis was another emotionally-charged chapter for me to read because it is how these people put their BIG money behind climate-change denial to discredit the science and protect their special interests instead of the health of the planet and its people: US!!From an official U.S. National Security Strategy report: "THE CHANGE WROUGHT BY A WARMING PLANET WILL LEAD TO NEW CONFLICTS OVER REFUGEES AND RESOURCES; NEW SUFFERING FROM DROUGHT AND FAMINE; CATASTROPHIC NATURAL DISASTERS; AND THE DEGRADATION OF LAND ACROSS THE GLOBE."Sorry for the shouting, folks, but this is important to remember when the 45th president starts out his illegitimate reign with a gag-order on the Environmental Protection Agency!!CHAPTER NINEMoney is Speech: The Long Road to CITIZENS UNITEDI admit I've been fairly ignorant--too busy with my everyday life to really understand what has been going on in our branches of government to be aware of how decisions 'they' are making could affect ALL of us. Case in point: "On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court announced a 5-4 decision on the CITIZENS UNITED case, overturning a CENTURY of restrictions banning corporations and unions from spending all they wanted to ELECT CANDIDATES." Corporations, the Court decided, have the same rights to FREE SPEECH as citizens. We kept hearing about PACs--political action committees--during the recent presidential elections, but did you really understand what those were and what they could contribute to campaigns? I didn't!Previously, contributions to PACs had been capped at $5,000 per person per year but in an appeals court ruling in a case called SpeechNow, the limits had been overturned--"there could be no donation limits as long as there was no coordination with the candidates' campaigns. Soon, the groups set up to take the unlimited contributions were dubbed super PACs for their augmented new powers."Jeffrey Toobin wrote in THE NEW YORKER, that "it gave rich people more or less free rein to spend as much as they want in support of their favored candidates."If you are upset about Betsy DeVos being Trump's Secretary of Education, read about the DeVos family and their extreme free-market economic theories on pages 230-239 0f this chapter. We have put the education of our nation's children in her hands!CHAPTER TENThe Shellacking: Dark Money's Midterm Debut, 2010The Supreme Court's decision for CitizensUnited opened the floodgates for political spending to influence the midterm elections in 2010. PART THREEPRIVATIZING POLITICSTotal Combat, 2011-2014"There's class warfare all right. But it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." Warren BuffettCHAPTER ELEVEN--The Spoils: Plundering Congress and CHAPTER TWELVE--Mother of All Wars: The 2012 Setback are about the political maneuverings to gain seats in the House and Senate once PACs entered the political arena. "Obama had reserved some of the harshest words of his presidency for the CITIZENS UNITED ruling, saying that he couldn't 'think of anything more devastating to the public interest.'"CHAPTER THIRTEENThe States: Gaining GroundGerrymandering, a practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries, is a bipartisan game as old as our country but it was now funded by the unelected rich in states like North Carolina to gain seats in Congress.CHAPTER FOURTEENSelling the New Koch: A Better Battle PlanIn March of 2013, at the annual Conservative Political Action Committee meeting, the heads of conservative think tanks realized their big mistake in the election of 2012 had been to let the Democratic party seem to be the guys who helped the people, the guys who helped the vulnerable, while the Libertarians and Republicans were 'the money guys.' "They needed to rebrand themselves as champions of the other 99 percent.""Mark McKinnon, a centrist political consultant who had advised both Republicans and Democrats, declared, 'We have reached a tipping point where mega donors completely dominate the landscape. Let's call the system that Citizens United and other rulings and laws have created what it is: an oligarchy.'"-------------------------------------------------------------------------------An excellent, well-researched book that I highly recommend to educate oneself on what is really going on behind the scenes of American politics. I suggest reading it slowly, as I did, to avoid an information overload that dulls the senses or can make a person lose heart. Mayer doesn't say much about who the Kochs backed for president in 2016--just that the White House was still a 'major item on their shopping list.' One can expect any politician who promises less regulation on businesses and fewer taxes on the rich would be welcome--especially one who is also a climate-change denier, wants to open oil pipelines against all protests, endanger our pristine national parks and decimate the Environmental Protection Agency. First they came for the scientists...with gag orders.Reading on! More to follow...
    more
  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer is a 2016 Doubleday publication. I can read supernatural horror novels, the grittiest crime thrillers, true crime and a host of other material that sends shivers down my spine, but nothing paralyzes me with fear more than hidden forces influencing government in barely detectable ways, influencing the quality of life for millions of people in the process. After this election, it has become clear, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer is a 2016 Doubleday publication. I can read supernatural horror novels, the grittiest crime thrillers, true crime and a host of other material that sends shivers down my spine, but nothing paralyzes me with fear more than hidden forces influencing government in barely detectable ways, influencing the quality of life for millions of people in the process. After this election, it has become clear, this radical right wing movement has been brewing for a good while. Billionaires basically buying America, using their money to infiltrate government to either promote or thwart policies in a way the average American could not imagine, in order to protect and add to their vast wealth. Hedge funds, special interests, propaganda, the works! The Koch brothers, Charles and David, extreme libertarians, have been systematically chipping away at ‘big government’ for years, along with a select group of other billionaires, bent on keeping the rich, rich and the poor, poor, while they amass even greater fortunes for themselves. Power and money have always gone hand in hand. The Koch’s and their cronies simply devised clever ways to keep their agendas hidden, and side step some tricky tax laws and rules, in order to force their personal beliefs onto an unsuspecting public, finding and using tax loopholes that benefit them, at the expense of the working class, while attempting to reduce regulations that would effectively should them down. “There’s a class warfare, all right. But, it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning” Warren BuffetWhile Donald Trump doesn’t appear to have found much favor with the Koch’s while running for office, often spouting rhetoric that did not fit perfectly into their ideal plan, it would seem things may have worked out for some of their pals, though. Just look at the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, by the incoming Trump administration. The DeVos were heavy contributors to the Koch brother’s causes over the years and Betsy has already stated she would like to freeze the federal government out of our educational system. No matter what your political views are, or your opinion on climate change, the chapters that show the Koch brothers sending out propaganda pushing climate change as a hoax, while being funded by those who stand to lose the most by environmental efforts, is disturbing to say the least. It doesn’t matter what the issue is, really, it’s the possibility that anything can be manipulated, or enough doubt created to kill or promote whatever they wish, with their money and power. This book traces the origins of the Koch brother's campaign, who helped them, supported them, and the tactics they used in building the radical right movement, which kept Obama from making good on some of his promises and effectively, had a role in putting America in the situation we now face. “When called upon to split a treat with others, he would say with a wise-guy grin, ‘I just want my fair share- which is all of it’- Charles KochOne interesting point the author makes points to an interview Charles Koch gave, in which he stated- That welfare condemned the poor to a lifetime of dependency and hopelessness. He claimed he wanted people to have the hope that they can advance on their own merits, rather than the hope that somebody gives them something. Only, to state, in the very same interview that he promoted his own son to the presidency of Koch fertilizer. It didn’t seem to occur to him that his son, like many others in his network benefited from a job in the family business, or inherited a fortune, rather than being condemned to a lifetime of dependency and hopelessness, because ‘somebody gave them something’.The Koch’s, among others, diligently worked behind the scenes, through organizations, like the AFP or Super PAC’s, or in some case through entities completely unknown, thus the term, ‘Dark Money’ to fund their agendas, which amounted to a mind boggling amount of money. It didn’t always go their way…Trump is not exactly on the same playing field as the Koch’s, especially with his threats to impose tariffs on businesses, and such, but they did help pave the way for him, with their building of the conservative, radical right, and looking at Trump’s cabinet picks, which are packed with billionaires, I think we need to be very concerned and watchful, more so than ever. Overall, this is a book I would recommend everyone read, no matter which way you lean politically. There is a lot of information to digest, but, reading this book is truly eye opening, exposing the battle between big government and big money. Either way, in all likelihood, the middle and working class citizens lose, with the rich staying rich and the poor staying poor.
    more
  • Clif Hostetler
    January 1, 1970
    This book shines a light on dark money. It’s called dark money because it is of unknown origin (i.e. secret), unlimited in its amount, intended for political purposes, and in the United States it’s legal and often tax deductible. This book based on thorough research turns the darkness into a bit lighter shade of dark.The conservative shift in American politics, and its continuing movement toward the radical right didn’t just happen. This book makes it clear that it was paid for by wealthy intere This book shines a light on dark money. It’s called dark money because it is of unknown origin (i.e. secret), unlimited in its amount, intended for political purposes, and in the United States it’s legal and often tax deductible. This book based on thorough research turns the darkness into a bit lighter shade of dark.The conservative shift in American politics, and its continuing movement toward the radical right didn’t just happen. This book makes it clear that it was paid for by wealthy interests. These payments were made via circuitous channels designed to obscure their origin and encourage the impression that the changes were grass-root in their origin.This book follows the trajectory of political influence of Charles and David Koch, the wealthy owners of Koch Industries, the second largest privately held company in the United States. Over the past thirty years they have helped finance and organize an interlocking network of think tanks, academic programs and news media outlets that far exceeds anything the liberal opposition could manage.By the midterm elections of 2010 the Republicans dominated state legislatures, controlled a clear majority of the governorships, taken one chamber of Congress, and were on their way to winning the other. But even more significant is that many of these Republicans were not middle-of-the-road pragmatists. Uncoincidentally they were antigovernment libertarians of Kochs’ own political stripe. From the perspective of those who oppose these changes they are nothing less than a hijack of American democracy.The author Jane Mayer spent five years working on Dark Money, which began with an article she published in The New Yorker in 2010. Research for this book was done without the cooperation of Charles or David Koch nor many others in their network of funders. But she has obviously used what sources were available to connect the available clues to determine how their money had been used. In the end Dark Money appears to be well written and thoroughly documented.The so-called Tea Party loomed larger than their numbers would have otherwise over national news because of the influence of dark money. If the estimates were correct the actual number of hard core Tea Party activist was not by historical standards all that large. But the professionalization of the underground infrastructure, the growth of sympathetic and in some cases subsidized media outlets, and the concentrated money pushing the message from the fringe to center stage were truly consequential. Toward the end of the book the rise of the influence of the Koch brothers is summarized in the following quotation: Charles Koch's trajectory had been a longer climb, but it was hard not to marvel about how far he too had come from the days when he had haunted the John Birch Society Book Store in Wichita and teetered with the Freedom School and the Libertarian Party on the outermost fringe of political irrelevance. The force of his will combined with his fortune had made him one of the most formidable in modern American politics. Few had waged a more relentless or more effective assault on American's belief in government. He and his brother had built and financed a private political machine that had helped cripple a twice elected Democratic president and begun to supplant the Republican Party. Educational institutions and think tanks all over the country promoted his world view. Doubling as a talent pipeline, a growing fleet of non-profit groups mobilized public opinion behind his agenda. The groups trained candidates and provided the technological and financial assistance necessary to run state-of-the-art campaigns. The money they could put behind their chosen candidates was seemingly limitless. Congressmen, senators, and presidential hopefuls now flocked to their secret seminars like supplicants eager to please them in hopes of earning their support. Interesting story about what happened to Mayer when her subjects found out she was on to them:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/27/nyr...Here's a report of political spending for 2015 (nearly 1 billion before one vote was cast):http://billmoyers.com/story/candidate...Link to a list of groups created and sustained by Koch Family Foundations
    more
  • howl of minerva
    January 1, 1970
    Nothing in America makes sense except in the light of moneyed interests. Essential reading. If you don't read it, for the love of Christ at least read about it. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/...Mayer's original New Yorker article from 2010http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/201...
    more
  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    Our government has been hijacked by billionaires who are only interested in making themselves money. This book should be required reading for anyone living in America today to understand our political climate, and for anyone outside of America who lives in a representative democracy.Charles and David Koch have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into redefining American politics. The basic amount alone - on whatever side of the aisle - should stagger you. It would stagger any American voter Our government has been hijacked by billionaires who are only interested in making themselves money. This book should be required reading for anyone living in America today to understand our political climate, and for anyone outside of America who lives in a representative democracy.Charles and David Koch have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into redefining American politics. The basic amount alone - on whatever side of the aisle - should stagger you. It would stagger any American voter in any previous election cycle:As The Washington Post’s Dan Balz observed, “When W. Clement Stone, an insurance magnate and philanthropist, gave $2 million to Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 campaign, it caused public outrage and contributed to a movement that produced the post-Watergate reforms in campaign financing.” Accounting for inflation, Balz estimated that Stone’s $2 million might be worth about $11 million in today’s dollars. In contrast, for the 2016 election, the political war chest accumulated by the Kochs and their small circle of friends was projected to be $889 million, completely dwarfing the scale of money that was considered deeply corrupt during the Watergate days.The Kochs are the engine of a small group of extremely wealthy libertarian activists who use their billions of dollars to prop up business practice that hurt millions of Americans. The organizations that they fund and have founded are far-right libertarian think tanks that masquerade as independent, non-partisan machines:During the next three decades, they contributed well over $100 million, much of it undisclosed, to dozens of seemingly independent organizations aimed at advancing their radical ideas. Their front groups demonized the American government, casting it as the enemy rather than the democratic representative of its citizens. They defined liberty as its absence, and the unfettered accumulation of enormous private wealth as America’s purpose. Cumulatively, the many-tentacled ideological machine they built came to be known as the Kochtopus.This is the same story that we all know. The owners of these companies - the Kochs, the Scaifes, the Coors, the Olins - benefit from massive government military contracts, lack of regulation on environmental effects, and low tax rates. The government subsidizes projects; in turn, these owners decry governmental involvement while accepting enormous handouts and funneling that money back into projects that call for "limited" government - limited government that cuts welfare for the poor while supporting unnecessary military expense.I can no longer read my Kindle notes for this book because I am disgusted and tired with the hypocrisy and rhetoric that attend our political system. Citizens United allows corporations to funnel untraceable money into politics; the unfathomable wealth of the Kochs, built on pollution and extortion, allows them to buy down-ballot races in contested states and move our entire political discourse to the right; and we then blame Democrats and "politics" for our inability to compromise or use basic principles of governance to move forward as a country. Charles and David Koch single-handedly turned our country's stance on climate change; regulations enjoyed bipartisan support during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, and now no one in the Republican party will admit the climate change is even scientifically accurate. When you read this, just remember:On its own, in 2012 the Kochs’ network of a few hundred individuals spent at least $407 million, almost all of it anonymously. This was more than John McCain spent on his entire 2008 presidential bid.It's worth noting that Jane Mayer was harassed and followed by private investigators after reporting her initial story on the Koch brothers in the New Yorker.
    more
  • DeB MaRtEnS
    January 1, 1970
    I'm sorry. I bailed. I simply felt as though I was suffocating under the piles of Dark Money, the angles to obstruct President Obama politically and these greedy billionaires who don't give two hoots about anyone except their fortunes and the relatives who will inherit. The author names names, lists companies, organizations which hide behind fronts as philanthropic efforts but are just tax shelters (oh, trumped?)- and as I was reading, Trump was naming the head of Amway's daughter to his inner s I'm sorry. I bailed. I simply felt as though I was suffocating under the piles of Dark Money, the angles to obstruct President Obama politically and these greedy billionaires who don't give two hoots about anyone except their fortunes and the relatives who will inherit. The author names names, lists companies, organizations which hide behind fronts as philanthropic efforts but are just tax shelters (oh, trumped?)- and as I was reading, Trump was naming the head of Amway's daughter to his inner sanctum. "We need to keep income taxes to less than 15%!", Trump harrumphed through his election campaign. And all of the poor people clapped... But if they make nothing, that is zero tax paid already and the rich are investing less in what keeps a country healthy: schools, diverse farming, safe food handling, an energetic and fit workforce motivated and able to find money to build businesses for a middle class. The wealthy don't want taxation. Trump pulled that wool over an electorate's eyes...I couldn't read any more. If there was ever a dystopian prediction, it was this book. Trump is the living embodiment. So I bailed. From the book. I don't know if the USA political system can float through the flimflam infiltrating its "democracy" by those determined to turn the country into an oligarchy like Russia, but I couldn't read anymore while watching and hearing Tweets that show one rich guy thinks this show is all about him.No rating. American readers - this book is for you. I wish you good luck.
    more
  • Max
    January 1, 1970
    Charles and David Koch grew up rich in Wichita Kansas. Their father Fred had built a fortune overseeing oil refinery development for both Stalin and Hitler and establishing a thriving oil refining business in the US. He learned to despise the communists but he admired the German work ethic. He became a strong libertarian supporting the John Birch Society. He was a strict disciplinarian to his four sons not hesitating to beat them. Two sons in particular, Charles and David, reflected their author Charles and David Koch grew up rich in Wichita Kansas. Their father Fred had built a fortune overseeing oil refinery development for both Stalin and Hitler and establishing a thriving oil refining business in the US. He learned to despise the communists but he admired the German work ethic. He became a strong libertarian supporting the John Birch Society. He was a strict disciplinarian to his four sons not hesitating to beat them. Two sons in particular, Charles and David, reflected their authoritarian upbringing and embraced their father’s philosophy. After bitter sibling infighting, Charles and David took control of the business with Charles calling the shots. He ran it with no respect for the law or anybody who stood in his way. Koch Industries routinely ignored safety regulations resulting in many large oil spills, mercury contamination, injury to and the death of personnel from chemical exposure. Koch Industries also defrauded Indian tribes deliberately under measuring the oil it took from tribal lands. In 1999 a jury found Koch Industries guilty of both negligence and malice for knowingly using a corroding pipeline that exploded killing two people. The award, $296 million, was the largest for wrongful death up to that time. In 2010 Koch Industries was listed as one of the top ten air polluters in the country. In 2012 the EPA cited Koch as the largest producer of toxic waste in America. But they were profitable. By 2015 their privately held enterprise was grossing $100 Billion.That road to success was paved by a myriad of front organizations used to distribute Koch money for political influence. Charles’ guiding principle was that no one else should be able to tell him what he can do. Thus estate taxes, income taxes, the EPA, OSHA and financial regulations must go. Charles and David funded organizations, usually tax deductible, to fight for their interests, even though the stated purpose would be couched in more lofty terms. For example, in 1976 Charles began financing and taking control of the Cato Institute. Cato hired extremely conservative scholars who would appear to be non-partisan, but the Institute’s every move was directed by Charles Koch. The Koch brothers invested heavily in programs they could control at universities. One recipient of tens of millions was George Mason University in Virginia outside Washington which transformed the thinking of the school’s economics department. The Koch’s established the Mercatus Center at GMU which was so effective in promoting Koch positions such as business and environmental deregulation that The Wall Street Journal reported in 2004 that 14 of 23 regulations on George W. Bush’s hit list had come from Mercatus scholars. The center even held that smog was good because it prevented skin cancer, an idea that was put forth in a winning case against the Clean Air Act in a DC Circuit Court in 1999. All the judges had been on a fancy junket provided by a Koch front organization. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned the decision.Beyond think tanks, academia, legal and advocacy groups the Kochs wanted to directly influence politicians. Initially they focused on libertarian politics but by the 1990’s they realized they were getting nowhere and started plying Republicans with money. Kansans Bob Dole and Sam Brownback were early beneficiaries. The Koch brothers quickly realized the need to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. To make this more palatable for them and their network of donors, trusts and non-profits were used to make the money tax deductible and difficult to trace. To push Koch causes they used private foundations such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. By 2008 Koch money supported a network of 34 public policy and political organizations in what Mayer calls the “Kochtopus”. One, Americans for Prosperity, aggressively attacked the Obama stimulus program. Another, the Heritage Foundation, gave millions to the Rush Limbaugh Show’s syndicator to support characterization of the stimulus as a “slush fund”. Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute actively supplied Tea Party protesters with speakers, talking points, press releases and transportation. As a tax deductible 501(c)4 “social welfare” organization, Americans for Prosperity could fund political causes as long as this was not its “primary” activity. Its money came from its sister division, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation incorporated as a 501(c)3 “educational organization” which made it a charity. The Koch sponsored Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce was a 501(c)6 “business league” which meant contributions could be deducted as business expenses and donors names hidden. Freedom Partners financed much of the advertising demonizing Obamacare including the ad featuring an Uncle Sam popping up between a woman’s legs. In all Koch and friends spent $235 million for TV ads attacking the lawAfter the Citizen’s United vs. FEC Supreme Court decision and Scott Brown victory in the Massachusetts senate race in January 2010, the Kochtopus was both energized and primed to unload torrents of cash to defeat Democrats in the 2010 elections. Funds for state senate and house races were distributed in accordance with a targeted strategy called REDMAP. It focused on pivotal state legislature races to gain control of the redistricting that would occur following the 2010 census. The program succeeded beyond the organizers wildest expectations ensuring heavily gerrymandered districts and Republican congressional majorities. In 2010 the Kochtopus increased its use of 501(c)4 “social welfare” organizations. These tax deductible entities can directly fund political causes up to 50% of their expenditures. Nesting such organizations allows even this requirement to be circumvented. For example, the 501(c)4 Center to Protect Patient’s Rights claimed it spent no money on politics in 2010 but it gave over $100 million to other politically active organizations. Democrats in 2010 were overwhelmed by hundreds of millions of Kochtopus dollars given to nonprofits that did not have to publically disclose their donor’s names.The Kochs and allies put $760 million into their non-profit fronts in the five years leading up to 2015. The money was clearly targeted to enhance their fortunes which during the Obama presidency grew from $14 billion to over $40 billion. Not bad considering they felt Obama was hurting their business. The last figures Mayer cites in early 2015 show the Kochtopus had already raised almost $900 million for the 2016 election, nearly what each major party planned to spend. The Koch machine impact on the 2014 and 2016 elections was so profound that the Kochtopus held more influence over Republican politicians than did the RNC. Leading Republicans from Mike Pence to Paul Ryan to Mitch McConnell are beneficiaries of the Koch network and its vast financial resources. Not surprisingly their policies are right in line with the Kochs. An example of the ongoing power of Koch influence is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC. ALEC was set up as a tax deductible 501(c)3 “educational” entity but in reality operates as a lobbying organization focused on legislation at the state level. ALEC writes proposed bills that politicians can adopt. As former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson put it, after absorbing ideas at ALEC meetings, “Then I’d take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit and declare that ‘It’s mine’”. ALEC provided Trump EPA Chief Scott Pruitt with ready to legislate policies when he was Oklahoma Attorney General. The court ordered release of Pruitt’s emails became public while I was writing this (2/22/17). The emails showed that Pruitt didn’t bother to change at all the proposed legislation he received from ALEC and the oil industry. Thus the Koch network was getting its unvarnished policies put directly into action. Through ALEC the oil and gas industry proposed some seventy bills to limit the development of renewable energy. The private prison industry also has a large ALEC footprint. Thus it’s no surprise that ALEC has proposed mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders and that, reversing the Obama administration, the Trump administration wants to expand private prisons. Financing for ALEC and similar groups is hidden by running the money through organizations such as DonorsTrust which doesn’t have to supply the names of its donors, some 200 who supplied over $750 million. This is just one more example of the organizational shell games Mayer details that enable the Kochs and their friends to take tax deductions for undermining the democratic process.As Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse noted in a 2/26/17 Business Insider interview, “If you have to compete with an entity that is actually a front group for a big special interest and you haven't successfully told the story of how it's just the end of the tentacle, then you're going to be at a huge disadvantage....they have such benign sounding names. Franklin and Madison and Jefferson and George C. Marshall and Heartland and Heritage. It all sounds so wonderful until you see what it is.”Mayer covers much more than I’ve highlighted here. Particularly noteworthy is her description of the Koch network’s financing of the climate change denial movement. Reading Dark Money helps you spot Koch network activities in the daily news. Thus I added the example of ALEC and Scott Pruitt that was reported as I wrote this. The GOP replacement for Obamacare was presented today 3/7/17. The Koch network unleashed an immediate attack seeing it as far too liberal. The attack is being conducted by the same organizations mentioned by Mayer making it obvious who is behind it. With the Kochtopus swinging into action, we should expect the proposal to be changed significantly.Mayer has changed the way I take in news. No longer will I listen to a politician without wondering who is paying for him or her. Nor will I assume that groups like the Tea Party are spontaneous or grass roots. These groups are seeded, nurtured and grown by media savvy political operatives armed with sophisticated demographic data bases. Exploiting their extreme wealth the Kochs and allies have defined the agenda of the Republican Party. The 2010 Citizens United decision turned the powerful Koch influence into a dominant one. Dark Money is an important book and a must read for those who want to understand politics in America today.
    more
  • Donald Owens II
    January 1, 1970
    This is a 464 page newspaper article by a liberal with an agenda, who seems to honestly believe only those on the right have agendas or corruption. I would highly recommend this book as a companion text for logic students, showcasing many logical fallacies, particularly ad hominem, attacking the motive, and genetic fallacies, as well as her unabashed propaganda techniques throughout. For instance, she consistently refers to teaching conservative principles as "indoctrination", describes conserva This is a 464 page newspaper article by a liberal with an agenda, who seems to honestly believe only those on the right have agendas or corruption. I would highly recommend this book as a companion text for logic students, showcasing many logical fallacies, particularly ad hominem, attacking the motive, and genetic fallacies, as well as her unabashed propaganda techniques throughout. For instance, she consistently refers to teaching conservative principles as "indoctrination", describes conservatives with denigrating labels like "ilk", "cronies", and "operatives", liberal beliefs as "mainstream" and fiscal conservatism as "fringe".I have no love for either party, I condemn deceit and I am quite willing to believe any man corrupt. But this author is so dishonest in her spinning and propaganda techniques, whether willfully or ignorantly, I don't know why I would believe anything she says.Never, in these many repetitive pages, does she actually engage the ideas she opposes. Rather, she mocks them or attacks the men who hold them. Neither does she give reasoned defenses for her own assumptions, like 'all information should be public' or 'minority opinions are wrong (unless they're liberal)".If I were lobbying against murder, Mayer would call me corrupt because I stand to benefit from living in a safer country. Unless I were a liberal.
    more
  • Tim
    January 1, 1970
    As a Brit who had never heard of the Koch brothers – to my knowledge not once have they ever been mentioned on a news or current affairs programme in the UK – this was a startling and terrifying read. Now and again I had the feeling the US might, in the not too distant future, become the dystopian society we often read about in novels and see in films where the many are surfs ruled by an elite few corporations. This will certainly be the case if the individuals this book is about get their way. As a Brit who had never heard of the Koch brothers – to my knowledge not once have they ever been mentioned on a news or current affairs programme in the UK – this was a startling and terrifying read. Now and again I had the feeling the US might, in the not too distant future, become the dystopian society we often read about in novels and see in films where the many are surfs ruled by an elite few corporations. This will certainly be the case if the individuals this book is about get their way. And, scarily, they are getting their way. There’s a lot of information in this book, much of it not riveting to the layman. The central premise though is something everyone should know about. That a group of American billionaires, driven by pure self-interest and the will to power, is investing millions of tax free dollars in trying and succeeding to undermine the political system in the USA. Almost all of these individuals have earned their vast wealth by damaging the environment. No surprise then that top of their agenda is deregulating all government law relating to climate change. (Koch Industries was the number one producer of toxic waste in the United States most years. “Nearly half of America’s population live within ten miles of a toxic waste plant”, according to studies.) They are also vehemently opposed to all government public spending, including health care and unemployment benefit. They want to do away with tax, except for the poor. Essentially they want to do away with government; they want to rule themselves. What’s clever is they have misdirected the anger and gained the support of lots of ordinary working people who they would crush if they got their way. It’s like the US version of Brexit which most economists agree will chiefly benefit the super rich who have a vested interest in any deregulated form of government and yet Brexit was the battle cry of the UK’s working class, the section of society with least to gain and more to lose from the dismantling of EU regulations. Interestingly this book was finished before Trump came to power except it tells us towards the end that Trump disassociated himself from the group of donors over which the Koch brothers preside. You sense this was either a smokescreen or another instance of Trump’s monumental vanity – he simply didn’t want anyone else getting the credit for his success because, in essence, Trump is doing a lot of things these guys have been lobbying for for years. Pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement and dismantling Obamacare for example. The huge irony is that the Koch brothers saw Obama as the devil incarnate and to crush him were willing to facilitate the collapse of the American economy and yet under the Obama administration the profits of their firms tripled from $28 billion dollars in 2009 to $83 billion dollars in 2014. Obama ended up their pal, largely because they bullied and undermined him constantly through the Senate, which says a lot about the disappointment a lot of us felt in the somewhat banal nature of his presidency. These guys basically rendered Obama impotent.
    more
  • Peter
    January 1, 1970
    First, let me begin by stating unequivocally that Jane Mayer is an important journalist whose work should be required reading for everyone – not just people interested in politics, but everyone. She continues to write, daring and dauntless, about the secret workings of very powerful forces, be they governmental forces like the NSA and CIA, in her previous book, The Dark Side, or private, like the Koch Company, whose attempts to silence her have been documented in the NYT along with other news ou First, let me begin by stating unequivocally that Jane Mayer is an important journalist whose work should be required reading for everyone – not just people interested in politics, but everyone. She continues to write, daring and dauntless, about the secret workings of very powerful forces, be they governmental forces like the NSA and CIA, in her previous book, The Dark Side, or private, like the Koch Company, whose attempts to silence her have been documented in the NYT along with other news outlets. You can read about it here:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/27/nyr...Secondly, let me state as strongly that Charles Koch is a dick. A man who would blackmail his own brother to buy out his shares, at less than market value, in the company founded by their father. A man who, as a child, when asked to share a treat would repeatedly reply, “I just want my fair share – which is all of it.” Yep, a colossal dick.Thirdly, let me say that Charles Koch is very, very smart. He’s a James Bond-villain-genius kind of smart, who has designed and implemented a long-term plan to pervert the political process and control it to his benefit. And it is working. For those that aren’t aware of the Koch’s and their enterprises, a quick tutorial: Koch Enterprises is the second largest privately held company in America, with annual revenues of $115B as of 2014. They are intensely secretive about their operations, but because of their multiple legal troubles, a picture can be put together using the resultant publically available documentation. And it is not at all a pretty picture. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/...Dark Money is an attempt to shine a light on the spending of some this money and it is an infuriating book. I first threw it against the wall at page 17 and found myself putting it down repeatedly as I learned about this very small group of billionaires, led by the two Koch brothers, who have essentially set up a secretive political pipeline. They use their massive fortune to fund the bending of the conservative party toward policies that favor their companies. Through the use of charitable foundations, think tanks, university grants and fellowships, they have literally purchased the American political system. The House, the Senate, state legislatures and governors, judges - virtually any elected official – all bought and beholden to the network of billionaires who pull their strings. Reading this book will, at times, leave you breathless. It traces what the author calls the “weaponization of philanthropy”, the systematic use of “charitable” foundations and social welfare groups to subvert the legal political system by creating a pipeline of tax deductible money, seeding various groups to front for their agenda, and. This effort consists of the many foundations that the Koch brothers have formed, think tanks that are funded by the network, universities who received massive donations to support various studies, as well as fake populist movements secretly sponsored to replicate grass roots movements known as “Astroturf”. The Heritage Foundation, The Cato Institute, Americans for Prosperity, American Enterprise Institute, are all familiar names in the conservative movement, and all of them were founded and are funded by the Koch network. The amount of money spent on these think tanks is unknowable because the movement of money is shrouded by the multiple entities it passes through, but it’s certainly in the many hundreds of millions. The Mercatus Center at George Mason University , founded by the Kochs, was the template they used to establish the first of many academic beachheads at university campuses across the country, bankrolling institutes for conservative thought that masqueraded as independent intellectual centers but were actually extensions of the Koch’s lobbying effort and served as incubators of libertarian scholars for the next generation. These have been particularly effective in changing the political discourse on climate change. Up through 2014, the Koch’s have spent $110M on 361 different campuses.The Tea Party is the best example of the fake populist movements known now as Astroturf. Again, we can’t really know how much money was funneled to support this movement, but we do know that from mid-2011 to October of 2012, two of the Koch’s non-profits handed out $264M to 30 other non-profit groups, who then dispersed those millions to a constellation of other groups, one of which was the Tea Party Patriots, founded by the Kochs. All of this money is being used to reinforce the virulently anti-government and anti-tax philosophy taught to the brothers by their father, who made his fortune with the help of a massive construction contract with Joseph Stalin in the 1930s and then went on to build Nazi Germany’s third largest oil refinery for Hitler. The facility produced fuel for the Nazi Luftwaffe, until Allied bombers destroyed it in 1944. Some book throwing examples:Ever wonder why Mitt Romney would have chosen Paul Ryan as his running mate in 2012, when clearly he brought nothing to the ticket? David Koch wanted him on the ticket and told Romney to do it. Ever wonder why North Carolina, a Democratic blue state for decades, would suddenly go red? The Kochs had poured huge money into the state contests and virtually hijacked the Congressional delegation and the state legislature, then installed one of their own as budget director, who then decimated the budgets for public education and environmental protection. Remember when David Koch was the Libertarian candidate for President in 1980? Because the current campaign finance laws would not allow them to donate enough money to any one candidate to influence the election, the brothers decided to have David run, because there was no limit to how much money a candidate could spend on his own campaign. He admits in a letter to the actual libertarian presidential candidate that he has no experience in politics or campaigning, will not be in a position to actually campaign himself, and will readily turn over his donations to the party’s presidential candidate. In the hours before he was to receive the ceremonial gavel from Speaker Pelosi in 2011, John Boehner entertained David Koch in a private meeting in his Capital Hill office. Remember the debt-ceiling stalemate later that same year? What few people know was the John Boehner, one of the most powerful officials in the country, third in line for succession to the presidency, traveled to Manhattan to personally ask David Koch for his help in resolving the stalemate. As a congressional staffer described it, Speaker Boehner flew to New York, to the offices of David Koch, to ask him “to call off his dogs.”The amount of money they have spent is staggering. The amount of influence is mindboggling. Up to now, they have managed to buy everything that they’ve wanted except the presidency. The amount they have pledged to spend on this election cycle is unprecedented. (The Democratic and Republican parties have estimated the spending on their candidates to exceed $1B each. The Kochs will be spending $900M themselves.) The question is, how does anyone withstand that kind of financial muscle? This book only lays out in detail how this is happening. The answer to that question has to come from the voters in November.
    more
  • Sebastien
    January 1, 1970
    Yowee. What a damning exposé of the role of money in our political system. Jane Mayer mostly focuses on the Kochs, while also highlighting other oligarchic players like the Devos and their role in buying influence and crafting policy often at the cost of the public interest.I'm not going to lie. This was rather a frustrating read for me. It's hard not to get upset at the current paradigm and situation of our political system and how badly it has been subverted by powerful moneyed interests. So y Yowee. What a damning exposé of the role of money in our political system. Jane Mayer mostly focuses on the Kochs, while also highlighting other oligarchic players like the Devos and their role in buying influence and crafting policy often at the cost of the public interest.I'm not going to lie. This was rather a frustrating read for me. It's hard not to get upset at the current paradigm and situation of our political system and how badly it has been subverted by powerful moneyed interests. So yeah, there were times reading this would build me up into a tizzy and I just wanted to throw the book across the room in toddler rage. But I couldn't. Because it was an audiobook. So that made me even more angry because I was thwarted in my ability to participate in angry book throwing to vent my frustrations. Life is not fair. And no I'm not willing to throw my phone (how I listen to audiobooks) against the wall. Although I could have now that I think about it...Our political system has been usurped by these interests, the will of the people is constantly subverted by small oligarchic elites who distort policy and buy politicians to further their narrow self-serving agendas. But of course this elite dresses up their policies and political philosophy (like Ayn Randian brand of economic libertarianism) as moral, beneficial to everyone, while downplaying the costs to society and the amount of power and money they stand to gain from these self-serving philosophies and policies. They camoflauge their deregulation privatization of every last atom on this earth philosophy under the guise and code of "freedom" and "liberty." They use these words as trojan horses to push for complete deregulation, complete free markets, completely unfettered capitalism. Which always cracks me up because the phrase "free market" is a marketing gimmick, there is no such thing as "free market." Markets are organized and guaranteed by strong central powers, they regulate, create legislative framework for trade to take place, manage currency, enforce the rule of law, IP, etc. "Free market" without gov is not possible. Businesses cannot create this framework on their own, they are coupled and beholden to gov to make sure there are avenues for exchange. Anyhow, Kochs and their ilk are masters of PR, they spend a heck of a lot of money on propaganda to push their agenda and sell their platform. They fund politicians, so they push them further to the extreme right, in a way holding our elected officials hostage because they cannot win elections without $$$. The public is much more economically progressive than this small elite, but given their outsized influence and PR budget they can shift things to the extreme right. Anyways, this was a wonderful book, detailed nuts and bolts analysis of how this usurpation has taken place, nicely cataloguing the mechanics and tactics of this elite. Also a great bio and history of the Kochs. Interesting point was how the Koch family fortune really started with deals with the totalitarian governments of Stalin and the Nazis (ironic given their love of libertarianism and small gov). Charles and David Koch are a weird duality, extremely authoritarian figures who champion libertarianism (because it benefits them obviously). What is scary are the measures and tools people like the Kochs will turn to to crush dissent and destroy opposition, whether it be politicians, journalists, etc who challenge them. They have resorted to some very dirty and scary tactics. Powerful moneyed interests have always played a role in government and politics, the question is degree of influence. And right now it is beyond extreme. The current paradigm is fomenting distrust and anger at government across the political spectrum, and I'd say justifiably so.
    more
  • Katia N
    January 1, 1970
    Dark Money“We have two unelected multibillionaires who want to control the US government and exercise the power to decide what is best for more than 300 million American people, without the voices of those people being heard.”This is the quote from the book which summarises it pretty well. Jane Mayer has invested a lot of her talent, courage and energy in investigating and telling the story of systematic attempt in privatising the democratic process in the US. The book tells the story how Koch b Dark Money“We have two unelected multibillionaires who want to control the US government and exercise the power to decide what is best for more than 300 million American people, without the voices of those people being heard.”This is the quote from the book which summarises it pretty well. Jane Mayer has invested a lot of her talent, courage and energy in investigating and telling the story of systematic attempt in privatising the democratic process in the US. The book tells the story how Koch brothers and a few others from 1% of 1% billionaires in the US has built the whole infrastructure of influence in the politics. Eventually, they’ve almost succeeded supplant the Republican party (according to the author).They’ve started 30 years ago from building the network which would allow them to start the battle of ideas (extreme free market ideology). In the 30 years they managed to build up the whole system - think-tanks; nonforprofit organisations through which they can donate money without the trace; grass root movement (allegedly tea-party is their creature). This network has helped them to win the majority in the Congress and totally derail Obama’s agenda while he was in the White house.Of course the book is not balanced - you can see only what drives the process from the right. But there is no comparative picture from the left. So it is difficult to form an opinion why (and if) the democratic institutions in the US do not represent the public any longer. However, the lack of transparency in the network of this people, indoctrination of the academia, influence on the rewriting the borders for congress election and many other things are simply shocking and cannot be right. They preach the entrepreneurial spirit and demonise the government. They quote Hayek and think that anyone is free to chose to be rich or poor. That would be wonderful. But characteristically, there is not a single first generation millionaire in this book - all of them are heirs to the huge fortune. On these grounds, I am not surprised they wanted to stay in the shadow of their creation to keep it credible. The attitude of these people towards the environment and the poor is simply selfish. Reading it I felt how Jane Mayer hates this bunch. Initially I was cautious, because in theory there is nothing wrong to expose people to different ideas in a pluralistic society. But the more I read the more I started to feel the same thing. Especially, hateful I found the story about the North Caroline where these people have managed to gain the control over the local legislature. They slashed the taxes and the spending. But not simply that. They had a go at a decent public education system (and this I find the most abhorrent):“The assault was systematic. They authorised vouchers for private school but put a vice squeezing on public schools budget. They abolish the incentives for teachers to earn higher degrees and reduced funding for pre-school in spite voters will. “it’s sad and blatant” (said - the Professor of English in the State University) - Pop (the local billionaire who got elected) “succeeds in getting higher education defunded, and then uses those cutbacks as a way to increase the leverage and influence over course content.” They also sponsored history project, which aimed to reorient state’s teaching by providing online lesson plans for high school teachers that downplayed the roles of social movement while celebrating “the creation of wealth”. So much for critical thinking in education.A few days ago Betsy DeVos (prominently features in the book) has become the educational secretary in spite of sheer demonstration of ignorance throughout the confirmation hearing. Lets see how she fairs.Some people said they feel sad after reading this book. I do not feel sad. I feel angry, but a bit hopeful as well - Mr Trump, being just blatant populist and the lier (no respect for him) has managed to win against all these money. As did Obama in 2012. So in spite of being immensely influential, this network did not appear to be 100% effective. And due to Jane’s work and courageous citizens alike, they will hopefully fail in the long run.
    more
  • Mal Warwick
    January 1, 1970
    The Koch brothers, Charles and David, get a lot of attention from political observers and, increasingly, from the public. No wonder. The fortune they possess together is greater than those of Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Warren Buffet, and other private individuals who are often characterized as the richest people in the world. But it’s not the brothers’ wealth that attracts the attention. It’s their heavy-handed attempt to dominate American politics. That’s the subject of Jane Mayer’s explosive new The Koch brothers, Charles and David, get a lot of attention from political observers and, increasingly, from the public. No wonder. The fortune they possess together is greater than those of Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Warren Buffet, and other private individuals who are often characterized as the richest people in the world. But it’s not the brothers’ wealth that attracts the attention. It’s their heavy-handed attempt to dominate American politics. That’s the subject of Jane Mayer’s explosive new book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.As Warren Buffet has said, “There’s class warfare all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” The brothers are at the very center of the war machine.The Koch brothers are not aloneThough the Koch brothers provide a convenient (and worthy) target, it’s important to understand that they alone are not responsible for the wrenching changes that have taken place in American politics over the past several decades, and particularly since 2009. As Mayer reveals, the brothers — Charles, especially — preside over a network of billionaires and centimillionaires who operate in tandem in support of the most virulent, Right-Wing causes and candidates in the country’s politics. A total of some 300 individuals constitute the network. As many as two hundred have attended recent annual gatherings hosted by the brothers.The brothers didn’t invent the tactics that have been used to upend the political order. Mayer credits the late Richard Mellon Scaife, the Pittsburgh-based scion of the Mellon Bank and Gulf Oil fortune. In 1964, Scaife set out to change the terms of political debate by investing heavily in think tanks and academic centers to espouse a radical “free-market” ideology and imprint it on a new generation of scholars, lawyers, and activists. Scaife’s various family foundations were soon followed by the Bradley, Olin, and Coors Foundations in advancing the Right-Wing agenda.In addition to Scaife and the Koch Brothers, the “vast Right-Wing conspiracy” they set in motion includes the aging casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, an obsessively pro-Israel donor who has outpaced everyone else in the country in political spending in recent elections, and the De Vos family of Michigan, owners of Amway, as well as other members of the 0.01%, a majority of whose fortunes were built on oil, gas, coal, and finance. Also prominent within this network are ultra-weathy individuals and families who have used similar tactics to bring about dramatic shifts in the politics of individual states — Wisconsin and North Carolina, for example.What do they want?The plutocrats in the Kochs’ network profess similar political beliefs which they characterize as “conservatism” to promote “freedom” and the “free market” in America. However, it’s highly misleading to refer to this ideology as conservative. Instead, it’s radical and reactionary, having nothing to do with conserving anything whatsoever of the past. On the contrary, it’s clear from Mayer’s account that the common intellectual thread that runs throughout this group of supremely privileged individuals is a determination to turn back the clock to the nineteenth century, repealing every political reform instituted under Teddy Roosevelt and all his successors. Child labor laws? Check. Anti-trust legislation? Check. The progressive income tax? Check. Social Security? Check. The minimum wage? You get the point. What these people want is clearly nothing less than the “freedom” to pollute, exploit their employees, avoid taxes, dictate the terms of political debate, and pass their vast wealth on to their children and grandchildren in dynastic fashion.Who are these people, really?Though they tend to style themselves as “self-made,” many of them — including the Kochs — inherited considerable fortunes. They live in multimillion-dollar homes (usually, several of them), preside over huge businesses, and donate millions of dollars to “charity” (usually, arts institutions and universities that will place their names on buildings). However, a disturbing number of them are, not to put too fine an edge on things, criminals. As Mayer puts it in her understated way, it is “striking how many members of the Koch network had serious past or ongoing legal problems.” For example, “between 1980 and 2005, under Charles Koch’s leadership, his company developed a stunning record of corporate malfeasance.” The Koch brothers’ and the De Vos family businesses have paid tens of millions of dollars in fines for violation of environmental laws, worker health and safety regulations, and tax laws, causing far more harm to society than even the worst violent offender. In a just society, many of these people would have gone to prison long ago.A multipronged strategyMayer describes the Kochs’ and their allies’ strategy as multipronged. At the outset, their efforts went largely into intellectual enterprises, chiefly think tanks and universities. The purpose of these “investments” was to nurture a new generation of “free-market conservatives” who would (and did) change the dynamics of public discourse. A second prong of the strategy was to press state and federal legislators and the courts to shift economic policy to their (self-interested) way of thinking. At the same time, they consciously set out to foster the grassroots efforts that eventually produced the Tea Party, by creating phony populist organizations (“Astroturf”), providing funding and political expertise, and subsidizing sympathetic media. For example, they paid Glenn Beck $1 million to hype the Tea Party on his show. To round out the picture, they mounted a lavishly funded effort to seize control of the Republican Party and gerrymander Congressional district lines in states across the country to guarantee a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Have no doubt about the success of this strategy: witness the fear-mongering and Right-Wing platitudes consistently mouthed by the Republican candidates contending for the presidency in 2016.All this is possible now after the 2010 Citizens United decision and its sequels in the courts, which freed what Bernie Sanders calls “the billionaire class” to dominate federal elections to a greater extent than was feasible even under the Robber Barons in the closing years of the nineteenth century. Reportedly, a single session at a gathering hosted last year by the Koch Brothers generated pledges for this year’s election campaigns totaling $889 million, an amount far greater than either the Republican or Democratic parties raised for the last presidential campaign. In all likelihood, this sum will prove to be only a portion of the funds they contribute collectively when the final figures are toted up. After all, they can afford it: together, the men (and a few women) in this network are “worth” considerably more than $100 billion dollars.Where does all the money go?You might think it’s not easy to spend so much money, and you’d be right. To bring these massive funds to bear in the political area, the members of the Koch network have created literally hundreds of organizations — think tanks, academic institutes, SuperPACs, “public welfare” organizations, “charities,” and businesses to put their money to work. Some of these entities evidence no more signs of activity than a post office box. Others, such as the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Federalist Society, and the Kochs’ most identifiable political venture, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), are well known and substantial. For example, AFP employed 550 people in the 2012 election cycle. Most of the organizations created by the members of the network exist merely to launder money from wealthy donors, funneling it through a series of obscurely named entities to avoid the few remaining campaign finance disclosure requirements.To operate this exceedingly complex array of organizations, both bogus and genuine, requires a huge number of political operatives, lobbyists, pollsters, and others. Though none of these people are likely to approach their benefactors in personal wealth, many of them are reaping millions of dollars for their efforts.Surprise!The most dramatic revelation in Mayer’s book is her account of the way the Koch brothers’ father built the fortune that was the foundation of their enormous wealth. Like his sons Charles and David after him, Fred Koch was an MIT-trained engineer. He developed advanced techniques to refine crude oil. Forced by the major players in the oil industry to operate outside the country, he built a thriving business overseas building oil refineries. Among the longest-standing and most lucrative business partnerships he undertook were with Stalin and Hitler’s governments. A scholar who studied Koch’s work for Nazi Germany concluded that “the American venture became ‘a key component of the Nazi war machine.’ Historians expert in German industrial history concur.”Some readers may also find surprises in Mayer’s accounts of the central role of the Koch Brothers and their allies in launching and funding the Tea Party and the protracted (and successful) effort to undermine the public consensus about the serious threat that climate change poses to human life in the near future. Mayer reports that “from 2005 to 2008, a single source, the Kochs, poured almost $25 million into dozens of different organizations fighting climate reform . . . Charles and David had outspent what was then the world’s largest public oil company, ExxonMobil, by a factor of three.”About the authorJane Mayer is an investigative journalist who has been a staff writer at The New Yorker for twenty years. She is a former war correspondent. She has won many of the top awards the journalistic profession has to offer. Dark Money is her fourth book.
    more
  • Maru Kun
    January 1, 1970
    Anyone who has read this book and taken a look at the composition of Trump’s cabinet will understand that the Koch brothers and the right wing network that they helped form and continue to support has, broadly speaking, succeeded in its aims.Let us briefly recap what those aims were. They were the promotion of fossil fuels and the suppression of climate scientists warning against their continued exploitation (Tillerson); tax cuts for the wealthy, paid for by a reduction in social benefits such a Anyone who has read this book and taken a look at the composition of Trump’s cabinet will understand that the Koch brothers and the right wing network that they helped form and continue to support has, broadly speaking, succeeded in its aims.Let us briefly recap what those aims were. They were the promotion of fossil fuels and the suppression of climate scientists warning against their continued exploitation (Tillerson); tax cuts for the wealthy, paid for by a reduction in social benefits such as Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (Ryan); the privatization of key public services like education (De Vos); the removal of environmental legislation and other restraints on the ability of companies to pollute (Pruitt); the roll-back of worker’s rights (Puzder). I think you get the drift.These aims are not supported by the majority of the American public. This point is made obvious by opinion polls but often overlooked by the American public themselves who, thanks to Fox News, Brietbart, the Wall Street Journal and the rest of the junk in the diet of misinformation they are fed every day, don’t appear to know what they support. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck then it is a duck. If it ignores public opinion like a failed democracy, if it rejects the popular vote like a failed democracy, if it enacts public policies that favor a rich, powerful plutocratic elite like a failed democracy then it is a failed democracy.However with Trump’s taking of the 45th Presidential slot American democracy has not failed in quite the way that the Koch brothers wanted it to fail. Rather than bending entirely to the will of the plutocrats American democracy looks like falling over chaotically and unpredictably due mainly to the help of a final push by Trump, Bannon and the right wing lunatic fringe. This may not be what the Koch brothers wanted.Instead of creating some libertarian paradise where they can pluck the ripened fruits of free trade and dance naked in the rays of unfiltered corporate opportunity the Koch brothers seem to be suffering from no small amount of blow-back. Few libertarians celebrate the joy of border controls, the delights of central government registries of religious affiliation or - that most evil serpent in any libertarian Eden – the dreaded imposition of trade tariffs. Trade wars are bad for business and cannot be what the Koch brothers wanted.Developments in the following story will tell us a lot about whether the Koch’s systematic undermining of the foundations of American democracy has succeeded or whether they have brought the edifice down on their own heads as well. Here is the headline: Koch network launches effort to kill Republican border tax planIf the Koch brothers succeed in putting a stop to border taxes being used to make Mexico pay for The Great Wall of Trump and succeed in halting his attempt to renegotiate NAFTA and start a trade war with China then we can say, with confidence, that all of their aims are as good as complete. Let the looting begin.If the Koch brothers fail to head off border taxes and trade wars then it says that they and their Republican stooges are not having everything their own way.It would show the rest of us that there are people in the Trump cabinet outside of the control of the Kochs who have priorities beyond making America a real life Ayn Rand novel. Those other priorities would appear to include such life enriching policies as triggering the violent clash of Christian and Islamic civilization and making America a theocratic state (again, of course, policies that is not supported by the majority of the American public).Either way what we have in front of us, ladies and gentlemen, is without doubt a dead duck. If you want to find out who killed it and how it died then this book as a great place to start.
    more
  • Patrick Brown
    January 1, 1970
    This is your summertime, vacation beach read, right here. If you're looking to escape from it all, stop worrying about trivial things like the death of the American experiment, etc., well, then this baby right here is for you.JK, this is the single most disheartening, depressing book I've ever read (and I have read a lot of downers in my day). To be frank, it sat on my desk for three or four months before I finally picked it up. But once I did, it hooked me in. Partly, it's that it feels necessa This is your summertime, vacation beach read, right here. If you're looking to escape from it all, stop worrying about trivial things like the death of the American experiment, etc., well, then this baby right here is for you.JK, this is the single most disheartening, depressing book I've ever read (and I have read a lot of downers in my day). To be frank, it sat on my desk for three or four months before I finally picked it up. But once I did, it hooked me in. Partly, it's that it feels necessary. Want to understand Trump's success? So much of it seems to come from the idea that the government is inept and inherently incapable of achieving results or making people's lives better. Trump's general incompetence as a president only strengthens this argument. Well, as it would happen, this argument -- that the answer to all problems comes from the free market -- is one that billionaires have successful created, more or less out of thin air. Mayer traces the entire intellectual history of this movement back to the 1950s, and provides compelling biographical portraits of the major players. There's a propulsion to this book that is somewhat surprising, given that it is often following a tortured, twisting money trail. Bottom line is that this book is well worth your time, and probably would be even if we weren't living in the midst of all this...stuff.
    more
  • Rhonda Lomazow
    January 1, 1970
    A fascinating look at the behind the scenes world of politics big money and the people who control so much of the landscape.A meticulously researched look into the Koch brothers their roots and their amazing influence control of today's political world.Perfect read for today in the midst of a particularly weird caucus time from Trump to Cruz toRubio to Jeb this is their world their control &influence .
    more
  • Joshunda Sanders
    January 1, 1970
    I'm probably as guilty as anyone of refusing to really look at things in the world I don't want to see. I think it has to do with self protection but it's possible that more is at work there. I saw Dark Money on a few lists late last year and it was one of a few books I bought for myself for Christmas. As nauseating and dispiriting as the thorough reportage is in Dark Money, it is required reading for anyone who cares about the state of politics, the rise of the radical right and the enormous in I'm probably as guilty as anyone of refusing to really look at things in the world I don't want to see. I think it has to do with self protection but it's possible that more is at work there. I saw Dark Money on a few lists late last year and it was one of a few books I bought for myself for Christmas. As nauseating and dispiriting as the thorough reportage is in Dark Money, it is required reading for anyone who cares about the state of politics, the rise of the radical right and the enormous influence of money in politics. It details the ruthlessness of the Koch brothers and people like them who do not care if they destroy the planet or destroy the lives of working class and poor people as long as they can do what they want in government. Something I sensed but did not have evidence for was the glut of undisclosed money laundered through innocuous sounding nonprofit front groups (like Americans for Prosperity) to exercise influence over policy and public opinion to the tune of upwards of $889 million. I also had no idea the level of investment that the fossil fuel industry has in debunking climate science, no understanding of the DeVos family of Amway fortune or that the Koch brothers' fortunes nearly tripled to nearly $42 billion each under the Obama Administration. Interestingly, Donald Trump appears only as the rare Republican who did not tow the Koch line and was apparently successful- the others who didn't fall in line with them did not fare well. Fascinating, eye-opening read. I will be a Jane Mayer fan for life.
    more
  • Nigeyb
    January 1, 1970
    A deeply disturbing and profoundly depressing account of how a cadre of extremely wealthy US business people continue to use their wealth to subvert American democracy using a variety of integrated techniques. Charles and David Koch, the enormously rich proprietors of an oil company based in Kansas, started their programme in the early 1980s and, by the midterm elections of 2010, they'd ushered in the political system that the'd spent years creating. They had financed and organised a network of A deeply disturbing and profoundly depressing account of how a cadre of extremely wealthy US business people continue to use their wealth to subvert American democracy using a variety of integrated techniques. Charles and David Koch, the enormously rich proprietors of an oil company based in Kansas, started their programme in the early 1980s and, by the midterm elections of 2010, they'd ushered in the political system that the'd spent years creating. They had financed and organised a network of think tanks, academic programmes and news media outlets etc. that far exceeded anything their liberal opponents could conceive. 'Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right' is a dispassionate account of how the Koch brothers and a small number of associated plutocrats have hijacked American democracy. The Kochs and their allies have created a private political bank capable of providing unlimited amounts of funding for favoured candidates with virtually no disclosure of source. They have established a Republican Party in which donors, not elected officials, rule. So what, you may muse, rich people have always sought to influence politics. In 1996, a last-minute $3m campaign of attack ads against Democrats in 29 races was viewed outrageous and extravagant. Now, as result of their lobbying and the supreme court’s Citizens United decision there is no limit & $3m is a tiny number. And what does this influence buy? One example: an EPA database identified Koch Industries in 2012 as the single biggest producer of toxic waste in the USA. The company has been in and out of federal court over the years as defendants in cases alleging careless and sometimes lethal flouting of clean-air and clear-water requirements. Several have paid tens of millions in fines to settle these cases. Holding environmental legislation at bay, or repealing it, helps to increase their profitability. More shockingly, the US Internal Revenue allows trusts and foundations to give their donors tax breaks whilst promoting their political agendas with no need to identify themselves. So the super rich can promote their ideologies across educational institutions whilst simultaneously avoiding taxes. Jane Mayer has done an incredible job in piecing together this outrageous tale of self interest and corruption. In the aftermath of the Citizens United decision this now appears to be just "business as usual" in the increasingly plutocratic USA. There's a lot more to 'Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right' including some eye opening information on the history of the Koch family, and on their co-conspirators. Essential, but grim reading.
    more
  • Eric_W
    January 1, 1970
    WARNING: This is a long review filled with citations, propositions, and insinuations. Read at your own risk.The demonization of the Koch Brothers political machine by Mayers, while impressive, reminds me of one reason why the Democrats failed in 2016. They will have difficulty regaining Congress if they continue to focus on personalities rather than policies and issues. The book plays into the Democrats' (liberals?) need to blame someone else rather than their own failures. The Democrats' emphas WARNING: This is a long review filled with citations, propositions, and insinuations. Read at your own risk.The demonization of the Koch Brothers political machine by Mayers, while impressive, reminds me of one reason why the Democrats failed in 2016. They will have difficulty regaining Congress if they continue to focus on personalities rather than policies and issues. The book plays into the Democrats' (liberals?) need to blame someone else rather than their own failures. The Democrats' emphasis on right-wing-conspiracies, which may indeed exist, but are far more fragmented than Democrats suppose. The right is splt, e.g., the Koch's support for libertarian issues (note that they part company with conservatives on several issues such as immigration, free-trade, and justice – Liberals would be far smarter to join forces with the Kochs on those issues rather than antagonize them.) The Kochs are using the same techniques developed by the left in the sixties to build support for liberal agendas. In the meantime Democrats have lost sight of the needs of what used to be their core constituency, i.e., blue collar workers, the so-called middle-class. Trump represents a failure of both the right and left. He was able to appeal to economically savaged whites who wrongly blame immigration and free trade for their problems. Free trade and free immigration are core libertarian, i.e., Koch principles. The Tea Party movement may have backfired on the Kochs. "Ordinary conservative citizens and community activists, almost all white and mostly older, provided angry passion and volunteered their energies to make the early Tea Party more than just occasional televised rallies. Grassroots Tea Partiers accomplished an utterly remarkable feat: starting in 2009, they organized at least 900 local groups, individually named Tea Party units that met regularly."1There is no doubt that money in politics decays government. That it has always predominated is hardly a justification. (I'm reading Rubicon, a history of Rome by Tom Holland. The wealthy predominated and controlled the political system. In this country, the wealthy have always controlled the press, and the distribution of information, so little has changed.) But I would have far more sympathy for the "scourge of money" position if the debate were not so content-centric, i.e., the antagonism for money comes primarily from those opposing the ideas promoted by the moneyed class. Theda Skocpol, author of a book on the rise of the Right3, in a review1 of Mayer's book said, "Mayer overlooks divisions within the right and offers no insights that could help us understand the unruly Trump surge. Dark Money portrays an unstoppable, unified far-right juggernaut led by plutocrats. It correctly alerts us to many aspects of their secretive, unaccountable machinations. But the full story of what is happening on the right is more complex and volatile. . . .We learned that grassroots Tea Partiers were far from disciplined libertarian followers of ultra-free-market advocacy groups. Local Tea Party groups met in churches, libraries, and restaurants, and collected small contributions or sold books, pins, bumper stickers and other Tea Party paraphernalia on commission to cover their modest costs. They did not get by on checks from the Koch brothers or any other wealthy advocacy organizations. Furthermore, the views of both grassroots Tea Party activists and of many other Republican-leaning voters who have sympathized with this label do not align with free-market dogmas. Research by political scientist Christopher Parker at the University of Washington reinforces our conclusion that ordinary Tea Party activists and sympathizers are worried about sociocultural changes in the United States, angry and fearful about immigration, freaked out by the presence in the White House of a black liberal with a Muslim middle name, and fiercely opposed to what they view as out of control “welfare spending” on the poor, minorities, and young people. Many Tea Partiers benefit from Social Security, Medicare, and military veterans’ programs, and do not want them to be cut or privatized. About half of Tea Party activists or sympathizers are also Christian conservatives intensely concerned with banning abortion and repealing gay marriage." I suspect Mayer was too enamored of professional politicians' view of the impact of AFP which according to Skocpol was negligible because they missed the true character of the Tea Party, many of whom became Trump supporters and activists. Others are not so sure, suggesting that the money spent by the Kochs on think-tanks and in academia was far more powerful in the long run. This was money not spent directly on candidates, but has had a far more reaching influence. One great sin ascribed to the Kochs is that “They said they were driven by principle, but their positions dovetailed seamlessly with their personal financial interests.” So who among us can say otherwise? We expect them to be more righteous?The debate becomes even cloudier and less germane when the Citizens United decision is added to the mix. It’s important to remember that the decision was about an anti-Clinton movie. The producers had paid for the right to show the movie to a pay-per-view audience. The Federal Election Commission ruled they could not show the movie during the 30-day period before the election. The group called Citizens United, which had sponsored the film, appealed. SCOTUS, in a 5-4 decision reversed a lower court ruling arguing that if the Constitution protects any speech at all, it protects political speech, and it overturned Austin.4 What bothers many people about the decision is they went a little further in saying the FEC could not prohibit political speech during the thirty-day period before an election, by also saying that “While corporations or unions may not give money directly to campaigns, they may seek to persuade the voting public through other means, including ads, especially where these ads were not broadcast.” 2 Citizens United was a public association funded primarily through private donations but also some from public corporations.Ironically, the Citizens United decision had nothing to do with the personhood of corporations. The incorrect - but widely held - reading of Citizens United is that the corruption of elections arose fundamentally because the Supreme Court adopted a legal doctrine of corporate "personhood" which endowed corporations with First Amendment free speech rights, which, combined with the notion that spending money to promote a candidate is a form of speech, gives corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of their money in elections. This incorrect reading of Citizens United is compounded by the further error that a constitutional amendment is necessary and sufficient to remove those corporate constitutional rights and to remove corporate money from elections, or could prevent the pro-corporate majority on the Supreme Court from making further decisions corrupting elections. . . Many may be surprised to learn that no federal campaign finance law has ever been struck down by the Supreme Court on grounds of "corporate personhood" or any kind of corporate rights. The court has consistently hinged its decisions on the First Amendment rights of the listener to hear all sources of the free and open debate and of society to enjoy an abstract "freedom of speech" disconnected from the identity of the speaker.4 The court based its decision on long-standing decisions (going back to 1976 in Buckley v Valeo) that money is speech and that: ... voters must be free to obtain information from diverse sources in order to determine how to cast their votes. . . . . When Government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.Note there are lots of reasons to condemn the Citizens United decision, it's just that person-hood is not one of them so a constitutional amendment to revoke "corporate person-hood" would have no effect on campaign financing at all. What the Nine failed to do was to define the balance between free speech and the corrupting influence of money in elections. SCOTUS may have overstepped its mandate by going further than dealing with just the issue of the movie and striking down a legitimate attempt by the legislature to deal with money's corrupting influence. It certainly does not have authority to deal with election integrity under the Constitution. (See “The Problem with Citizens United is Not Personhood” by Rob Hager at Truth-Out.org4) The SpeechNow 7 decision was perhaps more insidious in opening the floodgates of money through individual contributions.In light of that, I think several questions need to be answered before making what I consider to be rash decisions to control money in politics:1. Fairness. How would you allocate money to anyone to spend on issues. By issue? By mode of expressions, i.e., TV, newspaper, radio, etc.? Do you limit the amount of money anyone can spend? How is that fair if I may feel more strongly about an issue than you do?2. What if I have a zillion dollars and decide I want to influence an election by hiring a bunch of writers to write and publish books about the opposing candidate. Would you prevent the publication of those books? (During oral arguments the issue came up as to whether a corporation could pay for or provide support to have a book published that might be read during the 30-day “black-out” period and the government, to its discredit” said, in response to a question from Justice Roberts, that “ we [the government] could prohibit the publication of the book using the corporate treasury funds. Now that’s pretty dangerous territory and the court was to make it clear in Kennedy’s decision that the medium, i.e. cable, satellite, print, whatever, should have no effect on free speech protection.)3. Should the Koch brothers be prohibited from funding think-tanks or academic institutions like the American Enterprise Institute or the Hoover Institution or any number of right-leaning organizations? Or the Brookings Institute, a left-leaning group? Or endowing university departments? Where do you draw the line?4. Do you prevent corporations and unions, or any type of association, from any kind of political speech? Isn't political speech exactly what the First Amendment was designed to protect? Aren't associations collections of people with a common interest? Should Move-On.org be banned from political support?5. Isn't the issue content rather than policy? If the Koch brothers were spending their money on support for our concerns would we be equally upset? I doubt it.6. Is public financing the answer? Perhaps, but let's not forget Obama was the one who threw that under the bus when he refused to limit his spending after receiving huge amounts of small donations. How do you determine who is a legitimate candidate to receive that funding? Would that not exclude third-party candidates?So what do we do about the corrupting influence of money in politics without impinging on vigorous political dialog?I would suggest the following:1. Public disclosure and auditing of all sources of campaign funding.2. Strengthen ethics rules to prohibit voting on legislation that would favor a person or group having donated to the representative. And make the Supreme Court Justices follow tighter conflict-of-interest rules. (The way it is now, each individual justice determines whether or not there is a conflict.)3. From the Constitution: "The Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact with such Exceptions and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make (US Constitution, Article III, Section 2)." Admittedly dangerous, Congress could simply say, hey SCOTUS, you don't have jurisdiction over election financing and then pass laws passing limits, e.g. banks, or manufacturers, or anyone buying stuff from the federal government can't give money to elected representatives. (Good luck with that one.)4. Consider increasing the inheritance tax to 90%. People should earn their money, not inherit it.5. Revise how government contracts are awarded and prevent congressmen and their staff from going to work in industries they may have regulated. (This is probably an unconstitutional infringement on free movement, but worth a shot.)6. Give some thought (and action) on how to address income inequality. “Wealth begets power and power begets more wealth.”7. Reform the tax code along the lines of New Zealand's which lowers the rates but broadens the base (BBLR), a scheme promoted by TR Reid in his book, A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System. But it requires elimination of virtually all deductions.Dark Money is a fascinating book both for its exhaustive analysis of a political machine, but also the salacious personal details of the rich and famous.Sources:1. https://www.dissentmagazine.org/onlin...2.http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/...3. Skocpol, Theda and Williams, Vanessa. The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism. Oxford University Press, 2013 (Skocpol is cited often by Mayer)4. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/60... 5. For a discussion on the history of personhood and the Constitution see "Personalizing the Impersonal: Corporations and the Bill of Rights"By Carl J. Mayer Hastings Law Journal, Hastings College of Law at University of California, March, 1990; Volume 41, No. 3 republished by http://reclaimdemocracy.org/mayer_per...6. For a really interesting take on the Democrats' desire for a constitutional amendment see Rob Hager's The Amendment Diversion: How Clinton, the Democrats, and Even Sanders Distract Attention from Effective Strategies for Too Much Money in Politics by Promoting Futile Remedies -- Book I: Hillary Clinton and the Dark Money Disclosure 'Pillar'https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.c...7. https://ballotpedia.org/SpeechNOW.org...
    more
  • Louise
    January 1, 1970
    This is a sweeping account of how extremely wealthy individuals have over the past 30 years built an infrastructure to influence/control the US political system. While the book is heavy on policy it gives some background on the Koch brothers, the leaders/developers of this new brand of influence, and others such as Richard Mellon Scaife, the Bradley’s, the Olin’s and the DeVos Family. What these billionaires have in common is a desire to be free of regulations, unions and taxes to enrich themsel This is a sweeping account of how extremely wealthy individuals have over the past 30 years built an infrastructure to influence/control the US political system. While the book is heavy on policy it gives some background on the Koch brothers, the leaders/developers of this new brand of influence, and others such as Richard Mellon Scaife, the Bradley’s, the Olin’s and the DeVos Family. What these billionaires have in common is a desire to be free of regulations, unions and taxes to enrich themselves. For many environmental regulations are costly, and for some such as the Koch's the growth of alternative energy is a threat to their current energy businesses. Author Jane Mayer shows how this group of donors had been playing a long game under the radar screen for many years using an IRS loop hole allowing individual wealth to be sheltered in charities and a different section of the IRS Code allowing the formation of a “business league” to raise money through memberships.All the entities they form are designed to hide their partisanship. They have names like the familiar “Americans for Prosperity” and “The Heritage Foundation” and less familiar names such as “Citizens for a Clean America”, “Citizens for Congressional Reform” “DonorsTrust” and “Foundation for Economic Education”. Tracing their funding and activity is difficult, for instance, “Citizens for a Sound Economy” has its own charitable foundation and its own Political Action Committee. Some publish papers and arrange to get their message in the media; some publish books (such as “The Real Anita Hill” and “More Guns. Less Crime”); others endow university chairs and departments to advance their views and mentor the next generation of like minded activists; some create “synthetic” groups (from the well known Tea Party to others less well known such as “The Coalition to Protect Patients Rights”); others support candidates; others lobby for policy initiatives; others entertain elected officials and judges as “educational” retreats. Mayer takes you through and exhaustive account of the many issues that this handful of billionaires have influenced. She shows how well orchestrated their fight for their control of public policy has been. The most prominent back stories are: North Carolina’s gerrymandering (starting with the local elections); the fight against Obamacare (how pressure was applied to politicians including the loud disruptions when congressmen held local meetings); how Michael Mann's climate change email was obtained and how a tiny phrase about a formula was twisted and blown out of proportion and how Penn State was pressured to fire him, thereby intimidating all those in climate change research. The most eye opening for me was that “Citizens United” was designed by a professional in right wing circles who specializes in manufacturing issues to get from the courts what can’t be achieved through democracy. In the end, you see Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell speaking at Koch funded events and hiring a former Koch Industry lobbyist for his policy staff. While this book was published before the Supreme Court vacancy, an important addendum would be the money trail in showing the uniformity in senators who do not want his vacancy filled by President Obama. Citizens United, if overturned, will not end the big money influency, but could take the steroids out.The book ends with a few words on how the billionaire donor infrastructure may have eclipsed that of the Republican Party and how the 2012 election has caused the Koch’s to soften their image, for instance, donating to the Negro College Fund. We will probably see more of this on issues that don’t effect their bottom line.I highly recommend this book. It puts together the bits and pieces we get through the media and the challenge to our democracy posed by large concentrations of wealth.
    more
  • Christine Zibas
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come.
  • Andy
    January 1, 1970
    Why would millions of people vote for someone who is manifestly incompetent and corrupt? Why is this the kind of candidate we are forced to choose from? It is not an accident. Very powerful, very determined, very patient malefactors of great wealth have been working very hard for decades to create the current situation. All the books trying to explain Trump and Trump voters are missing the point. For example, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, finds that Trump Why would millions of people vote for someone who is manifestly incompetent and corrupt? Why is this the kind of candidate we are forced to choose from? It is not an accident. Very powerful, very determined, very patient malefactors of great wealth have been working very hard for decades to create the current situation. All the books trying to explain Trump and Trump voters are missing the point. For example, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, finds that Trumpists vote based on heartfelt beliefs that are completely dissociated from reality, but sort of leaves it at that, as if truth were somehow just a matter of personal preference. Dark Money explains a big chunk of where the false narrative is coming from. This doesn't fix the problem, but at least it identifies it.
    more
  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    Don't miss this.
Write a review