Dark Money

Dark Money

The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

Book - 2016
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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 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.
Publisher: New York :, Doubleday,, [2016]
Edition: First Edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780385535595
Branch Call Number: 324.273 Mayer 01/2016
Characteristics: xii, 449 pages :,chart ;,25 cm


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Apr 10, 2021

I have to update my original review of this book as the scene has radically changed. I've since learned that the author comes from a wealthy family background connected to the Rockefeller sector, which is very, very pro---CCP, communist, including the pro---CCP Peterson Institute, Peterson Foundation, Blackstone Group and BlackRock (assuming Blackstone Group still has a 35% investment in BlackRock, which originally spun from them).
The Koch brothers' organizations, or at least some of them, present the only shield against their Maoist agenda. The Washington State Policy Center, part of the State Policy Network, financed by the Kochs, is the only outfit which consistently comes to the aid of small businesses!!! Local Seattle government and state government has led a 20-year assault on small business, with the Rs once in the lead against small biz at the national level --- that radically flipped under Trump --- now the Party of Mao (formerly called the democratic party and Green Party) is leading the way in the assault on small businesses, the backbone and infrastructure of Free Enterprise!

Dec 15, 2020

This is an illuminating book and somewhat depressing. The super-rich are changing our country for their own benefit.

Nov 28, 2020

The title should be: Dark Money- All About the Koch Brothers. I appreciate the information and history of the Koch family but there is so much more to dark money and they missed a good bit of it in this book.

Jan 07, 2020

Sensational book--yet another investigative journalism book that reads like a crime novel. Mostly focusing on the Koch brothers and their nefarious secret network of funding vehicles. But also looking at other ultra-rich people (including the DeVos family) who use their wealth to overpower democracy--basically buying election results, or enabling/funding pro-corporate lobbying interests.
So many stories these days have threads that tie back to the Kochs--even in Canada, due to their tentacles in Big Oil.
Mayer had previously taken on the Koch brothers in The New Yorker...the Kochs then spent years paying private investigators to try to dig up dirt on Mayer (they failed).
Much of the book deals with the Kochs spending billions of dollars behind the scene to fight climate change policies and tax policies that might hurt their oil/gas profits.
Disguising their bankrolling as what Mayer calls “weaponized philanthropy”, they set up shady think-tanks, "non-profit" groups, even charities and academic institutions to funnel money to fight their causes--almost always for Republicans. But in many ways, the Koch empire is now bigger than the Republican Party. Most of the GOP answers to Charles Koch (including the trump sychophants).
465 pages plus footnotes...every page incredibly well researched to help tell such a dark story.

May 22, 2019

In the top 3 most important books I have read this decade. I already knew some of these facts, namely that the Koch brothers are greedy SOBs. But this book goes beyond what I knew. It establishes that they and others like them have formed a billionaire's club that has a truly extremist goal: they want to eliminate all taxes on themselves and their businesses and shrink government beyond all reason, no matter what damage it does to our country. And they are well on their way to accomplishing this by buying elections. This is oligarchy, not democracy. Things need to change. It is clear the means they have to do this, such as the Citizen's United ruling among many others, must be overturned in order to save our country.

Nov 18, 2018

Jane Mayer presents an insightful and disturbing look at the corruption of the far right billionaires that makes the Mafia look like minor league crooks. Her narrative is compelling and demonstrates the breadth of influence exercised by a select few - proof that America has its share of oligarchs.

Aug 24, 2018

This book is an informed commentary on the strangulation of our political system by the "billionaires" and corporate-interest monies that are hastily corrupting our democracy and freedoms. This is must read by anyone desiring to understand the oligarchic control over our future by the moneyed class!

Aug 03, 2018

Citizens’ must read. Though bits and pieces from media outlets can inform ones who tend to pick and choose, a nonpartisan reader can appreciate details well structured and elucidated in such a book.
I’m coming to elevate Obama higher, but going no further down to condemn the ultra right without giving them credit. Regardless of author’s clear view on democracy and wealth, I’m not siding with her. Ideology, which is not the focus here, interests me more than Politics.

Jun 28, 2018

With the all the " shenanigans" going on in the Trump White House this book is more relevant today than it was when first written. It`s easy to understand why most American politicians shun the idea of a universal health care system, tax reform that favours the wealthy , heavy military spending and restricted immigration policies. Most American politicians are " bought and paid for " and this book shows how it was done. A must read if you follow American politics.

Mar 14, 2018

This book proves that good journalism is a requirement in a democracy. Mayer documents the corruption in US politics, which has devolved into a pay-to-play oligarchical system, directed by a tiny fraction of the U.S.'s wealthiest citizens. Anyone who wants the background to the rise of the radical right wing that controls the U.S. Senate, Congress, State Governments, Supreme Court and Presidency needs to read this book.

The book is clear, accessible, entertaining, informative and fun to read.

My only complaint is that Mayer is too soft on the Democrats. Many of the Democrats' biggest funders -- e.g. Wall Street and Bill Gates -- also fund the radical right's lobbying groups. Mayer documents this but does not highlight it, nor does she arrive at the obvious political conclusions from the fact, i.e. that it is a single party that runs the U.S., the party of capital. There are exceptions -- Bernie Saunders and his supporters -- but the Democrats have largely gone along with the rightward shift in U.S. politics.

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