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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 uprisi 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.


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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 uprisi 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.

30 review for Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

  1. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    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.com There 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. ==========In the summer of 2019 GR reduced the allowable review size by 25%, from 20,000 to 15,000 characters. In order to accommodate the text beyond that I have moved it to the comments section directly below. You can find it in comment #41

  2. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "I just want my fair share--which is all of it." - Charles Koch, quoted in Jane Mayer, Dark Money I'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 Money I'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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    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!"

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    I am utterly astounded. Not surprised, mind you. But I am utterly astounded. It feels like there are no books written any more that rely on real investigative journalism. But this is one, and it has meticulous, astounding scope. It's one thing to point out the flaws in your opposition. Those kinds of books are commonplace and are always designed to sway you persuasively. And then there are books that give you a very, very big picture that shows you something so scary, so pervasive, that it boggles I am utterly astounded. Not surprised, mind you. But I am utterly astounded. It feels like there are no books written any more that rely on real investigative journalism. But this is one, and it has meticulous, astounding scope. It's one thing to point out the flaws in your opposition. Those kinds of books are commonplace and are always designed to sway you persuasively. And then there are books that give you a very, very big picture that shows you something so scary, so pervasive, that it boggles the imagination and is worse than any horror novel ever written. This is about the Koch brothers. Two men in the 6th and 7th richest place in the world, who built an empire on oil money with the very worst record for ecological disasters, where ends always justify the means, turned all their money toward politics. How did they do this? Philanthropy. As in, pouring all their money into foundations and trusts that then poured all their money into other foundations and trusts in such a horribly convoluted shell-game that it takes full-time researchers to uncover where the money originated. Why did they do this? To bypass political financing regulations. Where did these foundations and trusts lead to? Educational institutions in order to promote radical right wing agendas in all the biggest schools, tempting all students with ongoing stipends and opportunities as long as they tow the line. Astroturfing. Creating hundreds of seemingly grass-roots organizations like the Tea Party and many like it, like the Heritage Foundation, etc., to provide ideological foot-troops against any target they pleased. Fundraising campaigns that stagger the imagination, still using the shell-game premise, that led to nearly 300 billion dollars just to capture all the seats in congress and the senate. And the presidency. They used every trick in the book. Smear campaigns in advertising was only a small part of it. They bought and paid for several networks, tons of writers, and spread their right-wing agenda across so many fronts that it APPEARED to be THE only game in town. They even eventually strong-armed the Republican Campaign into giving over the reigns. It started with the Koch brothers and their ideological obsession. Now it's a full network of the richest banding together to create what, in the parlance, can only be an Oligarchy. Rule by the rich. What is the bottom line? The rich get richer. No one else matters. Definitely not the middle class or the poor. If you're not in the upper 1%, you're nothing. They have bought the political system. If you think this is a propaganda piece by the left, then try reading it and prove me wrong. Check https://www.politifact.com/ It is so much worse than you might imagine. They have lied through their teeth on practically anything and everything. They have done everything they can do to dismantle the EPA, health care systems, anti-trust laws, inheritance laws (That ONLY affect the upper 1%), brainwashing the intellectual elite (or at least giving them all monetary incentive to tow the line even if they don't BELIEVE), fund every group that nay-says global warming, blames every victim for the housing crisis, and, of course, the Obamacare act. None of this is about the reality any of us regular people believe in. They say whatever they want in order to accomplish only ONE thing: their bottom line. If that means dismantling all government, all checks and balances, and the possibility of ever having an egalitarian society ever again, then it JUST DOESN'T MATTER. Almost everyone in the government has a major financial hand in the Koch pie. Local, State, Nationwide. The regulators have either worked for or still work with the worst abusers. If it sounds like some mob-run scheme, then you're right. The fact that normal people can't untangle the web, or if they've gotten far enough in the tangle, they throw up their hands and cry for mercy, is exactly the point. People ARE untangling the web and this book is a fantastic example of it. Am I scared of what I've learned? Oh hell yes. I was so scared back in the 2000's that I swore off political reading or watching tv ever again. If I couldn't trust anything I heard, then I would spend my time better by reading fiction. I stopped being depressed and feeling helpless. And now that I feel a bit better, I decided to step back into the knowledge playground. I have strength I didn't have back then. This book doesn't make me spiral into desperation. Rather, it makes me proud that there are still people willing to report the truth. Maybe someday, this book will be required reading after we get over this crisis. Or perhaps it will be an underground book suppressed by the Oligarchy. Either way, we will have seen how we got here.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    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.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tulay

    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...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lewis Weinstein

    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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    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 Buffet While 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 Koch One 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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    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 Brandeis INTRODUCTION: "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 Brandeis INTRODUCTION: "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 Philanthropy CHAPTER ONE Radicals: A Koch Family History Fred 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 TWO The Hidden Hand: Richard Mellon Scaife Many 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 Mayhem Oh 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 FIVE The Kochtopus: Free-Market Machine Richard 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, and 3) 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 SPONSORS Covert Operations, 2009-2010 "Total liberty for wolves is death to the lambs." Isaiah Berlin So 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 Fossils This 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 NINE Money is Speech: The Long Road to CITIZENS UNITED I 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 TEN The Shellacking: Dark Money's Midterm Debut, 2010 The Supreme Court's decision for CitizensUnited opened the floodgates for political spending to influence the midterm elections in 2010. PART THREE PRIVATIZING POLITICS Total 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 Buffett CHAPTER 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 THIRTEEN The States: Gaining Ground Gerrymandering, 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 FOURTEEN Selling the New Koch: A Better Battle Plan In 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...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    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

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    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. 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    howl of minerva

    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 2010 http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/201... 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 2010 http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/201...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Calista

    There book terrified me. I have had problems sleeping reading this book and my family urged me to quit reading it because it was affecting me so. Yet, this book explains everything that is going on in politics and our country today. I finally understand why things are happening to a degree and what once made no sense now makes sense. What I can't fully comprehend is why so many people still vote republican when it is making government a branch of a few billionaires in the country. People are vot There book terrified me. I have had problems sleeping reading this book and my family urged me to quit reading it because it was affecting me so. Yet, this book explains everything that is going on in politics and our country today. I finally understand why things are happening to a degree and what once made no sense now makes sense. What I can't fully comprehend is why so many people still vote republican when it is making government a branch of a few billionaires in the country. People are voting against their own interests. I still don't understand that part of the equation. It is some slick advertising, for sure. Dark money begins with the Koch family and the start they get with their money. They made money of WWI and WWII and like the Bush family they made money from the Nazi's. As children, Charles and David, who run the company today, were raised of a nanny from Germany who was a Nazi. She was brutal and the boys were abused. The father was harsh on his children. We see the rise of the company and the angry that is built up in the Koch brothers because people tried to set limits on them. Who likes limits right? Still, there is a point in life where you simply can't do anything you want just because you want to. These people think you can. It pretty much started with the EPA, notice how the EPA is currently gutted and useless. It came from the plan back in the 70s these brother's launched. The EPA fined the Koch's hard for practices where the were affecting public health. There were dumping hundreds of pounds of mercury into rivers and people were getting sick. This is just one of the many offenses they were fined for. The brothers believe that as a company, they should have the right to do as they please and if people get sick, that's their problem form living below their plant. As a company why do they have to worry about clean water, or air. They don't care because all they care about it money and being in control. The Koch's are libertarian. It is basically a view of anarchy where there is no government. Corporations rule and they can do anything they want. They call themselves conservative, but this is not true. The true conservatives thought these views of libertarians were extreme back then and no one gave their views a second thought. This with the smack down of the EPA set off the Koch machine. From this point in the 80s, they decided to control the way people think and the way government works. The scary part about this book shows that they have largely succeeded. The republican party has been taken over by extremist and the party doesn't even look like the Reagan party looked. They control many middle school and high school textbooks and what is printed there. They teach their ideology from more than 400 universities in the country - all the ivy league. They have been working the past 10 years to control all 3 houses of government and I think it will happen. They are brilliant at making it look like it is grassroots driven, but behind every movement there is Koch money. The grassroots people can't see it. All the organizers are from the Koch machine. They have branches within branches within branches. They are in everything they can influence people. They have moved a whole party to the far right. Their big win and what gave them the whole game was citizens united. That changed everything. The machine that funnels Dark money into the systems has almost become more money than the 2 major parties combined in the last election. Republicans have lost control of their party. Boehner went to David Koch's office to plead him to let them save the country from financial ruin in 2009. As Boehner was leaving office, he even mentions how out of control it is and his party is lost. The Koch's believe in no taxes. They shouldn't have to pay and income tax. They believe that poor people don't need an education and they want to shut down public education. Only the wealthy need an education. They don't believe in any safety net. They package their message as wellbeing and they think that if poor people are poor with no assistance they will work harder to make it. This is greed that is about to kill a nation. I fear that it is the downfall of our country. Democracy is dying if we don't fix this and we are about to be an Oligarchy where to elite or the billionaires/ slash trillionaire run the government. They will walk all over anyone else who tries to get in their way. They want to abolish the minimum wage so they can pay employees pennies. They want to be able to pollute and sell goods that might not be safe for us. They have no interest in the wellbeing of the rest of the country. We are on our own. They are all about greed. I kept wondering why Trump cozied up to Russia and North Korea. This is the kind of government they want. Why be in NATO where they have rules and regulations on corporate power. It all makes sense now what they are doing. It will not help the rest of us. We will lose the weekend and sweetshops will come back to the country. There was a point in the 80s where Charles is quoted as saying he thinks children should work in factories. I mean, they have no limits. There are no limits to what they want. They want all the money and all the power. Jane Mayer does an amazing job following the money. She traces all their dealings and how they shelled the money around and she has the references and the proof all in this book. She has done a very detailed job of tracing this family and their work behind the scenes of the last 40 years. Now, everyone knows the Koch's, but people still don't know the extent of what they have done and how they have taken control of power in this country. They are the power behind the throne right now. They are pulling the strings. It was Charles who demanded that Republicans do nothing but obstruct Obama. They would not give an inch. He held a meeting with them. Jane does speak of Soros and she does speak a little about the fact that the democrats run on money too. Both sides do, but there is nothing like the Koch-tapus or the Koch machine. It is in a category all its own. No one is spending money like they are. They have been systematic and they give money to any public figure who uses their talking points like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh. They get money to use those talking points. It is so pervasive and it feels so overwhelming. It almost feels like we don't have a chance. How can average people fight Billions and billions of dollars? In 2016, their machine, which is the Kochs and their donors, spent a record 800 something million dollars on that campaign and this isn't all the money cause some of it can't be traced. The democrats and republicans spent a combined 1 billion dollars roughly on that election. They almost outspent the 2 major parties and this is the money that could be traced. Democrat or republican, we all as a nation should be upset that a few billionaires have their hands on the government. We are in scary times and I pray from the future of our country. I hope we don't give in to greed. I hope we can continue to be a country that cares for our citizenry. Taking care of the poor and healing the sick was the heart of Jesus's ministry. I don't see how a nation that considers itself Christian can go down this road. It certainly won't be Christian any longer if it does so, maybe in name only. This book, I'm sure, is not perfect, but this book has sources and proof. There is a money trail and their are meetings notes and quotes from people. Look at what is happening in todays world and you can see the truth is written here. The Koch's pushed an agenda and people were willing to accept it. Our nation is divided and with what is going on, I don't see any way to fix it. The Kochs will not stop pushing their agenda and fighting. This is a mess we are in and the losers are the American people. This book is important. I know most things in here have been reported. I'm still glad I read this and now I have to find a way to sleep. I guess I need a plan of action. How can I be part of healing the country. I don't want to fight; discuss, sure. The pendulum has swung. The economy collapsed in 2008 and the Koch's blame the government for the collapse when it was the banks doing dirty deals that did it. When their are no checks on the market, the market will crash. Everything has an up and a down. We will all suffer together either way. I know I'm not very positive after reading this book. I do have a little tiny hope that the house and senate can be won back by the dems this election. It is only another battle in a very long battle where the other side is better equipped. This book makes me sad. We have so much right now and because they want more, we might lose it all. None of this mentions having a clean world for people to enjoy and live in. We all share the land. Having clean air is important for people to breathe. Clean water is what makes life possible. Once our water supply is dirtied, there is no way to clean it quickly. Our environment is our most important gift as a nation. My personal view is that corporations are all about money and they don't care about people. Time and again, they have to be forced to do the right thing, otherwise they use people like we are resources. History bears this out. The only tool, the only way we as normal people can protect ourselves from them is the government. They are the thing to keep them in check and keep them from eating the rest of us. I'm sure people disagree, but that is my view. Well, if you read all this - congratulations. You know what I think. You know many of my fears and probably many of my weaknesses too.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    The depth of the undermining of democracy by a very small number of very wealthy people is astonishing. One can look at the state of Congress and know that this is not hyperbole. Citizens united enabled these wealthy beyond the wildest imagination folks to purchase politicians, particularly the GOP because these donors are Libertarian as in...greedy. Greed in ways that "the common man" cannot understand. These folks seek not just to control the government, but to shape the thoughts of the populo The depth of the undermining of democracy by a very small number of very wealthy people is astonishing. One can look at the state of Congress and know that this is not hyperbole. Citizens united enabled these wealthy beyond the wildest imagination folks to purchase politicians, particularly the GOP because these donors are Libertarian as in...greedy. Greed in ways that "the common man" cannot understand. These folks seek not just to control the government, but to shape the thoughts of the populous through philanthropy. Fund college departments that teach their philosophy specifically. They have invaded law schools and environmental science. It's pretty insidious. They have these shadow non profit organizations that spring up with Orwellian names like Americans for Prosperity, etc. They funnel millions into these organizations to help influence the minds of the public. I wish this book was overwrought an overblown, but it is evident by the election of Donald Trump and a large Republican Congress in the last two years that it is not. How else do we end up with an intransigent Congress that passes tax cuts that help a very specific group but want to get rid of health and social security. An administration that has the richest cabinet in history enacting things that enrich them and make it less safe for everyone both in physical terms (climate, guns) and in health terms (healthcare, polluting the environment, loosening food regulations, cuts to federal agencies in place to protect people etc). All so that these billionaires can pass their billions onto their children without it being taxed fairly. Scary times... Almost 4.5 Stars Listened to the audiobook.

  16. 4 out of 5

    DeB MaRtEnS

    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.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Max

    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 law After 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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Donald Owens II

    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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maru Kun

    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 plan If 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.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    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 alone Though 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 strategy Mayer 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 author Jane 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.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    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.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jan Philipzig

    Investigative journalism at its best! Jane Mayer's meticulously researched book takes a close look at a crucially important topic that is largely being ignored by the mainstream media: the fact that a few rather secretive (American, not Russian) billionaires are in the process of hijacking American democracy for their own selfish ends. Essential reading for anybody who has been wondering what the FUCK is going on.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sebastien

    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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nigeyb

    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.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Brown

    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.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katia N

    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.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joshunda Sanders

    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.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nate D

    Actually listened to as an audiobook while animating for roughly 36 hours straight. This seems essential information for seeing how the U.S. came to be so horribly off the rails, detailing the web of dubiously apolitical non-profits and think tanks created by the Koch brothers to funnel incomprehensible sums of money into influencing politics towards enhancing their private fortunes (43 billion each and counting. They are, for instance anti ANY income tax whatsoever, or any government spending o Actually listened to as an audiobook while animating for roughly 36 hours straight. This seems essential information for seeing how the U.S. came to be so horribly off the rails, detailing the web of dubiously apolitical non-profits and think tanks created by the Koch brothers to funnel incomprehensible sums of money into influencing politics towards enhancing their private fortunes (43 billion each and counting. They are, for instance anti ANY income tax whatsoever, or any government spending on social programs of any kind) while obscuring its radical right sources. I checked to around a bit to see if there had been any ripostes or attempts at discreditting this work (first opening a "private browsing window" to expunge any search bias) and even the contrarian coverage was uniformly forced to admit that Jane Mayer's book is impeccably researched and true, questioning only whether it's reasonable to expect any billionaire to act outside self-interest (I should hope so) and whether implying that money influences politics isn't a discredit to the American people (if it is, it seems deserved). The Kochs already tried a smear campaign directly on the author, one that gets a short description in the book, but failed to either come up with anything suitably besmirching or fabricate anything but the most transparent lies.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    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 other books I've read trying to explain Trumpism are missing the point. For example, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, finds that Tru 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 other books I've read trying to explain Trumpism 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 provides a diagnosis.

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