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

Author: Jane Mayer
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Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right


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by manisnotabird   2019-01-13

Everyone should read New Yorker writer Jane Mayer's book about the Kochs and (to a lesser extent) other far-right billionaires, Dark Money .

by arcangleous   2019-01-13

The same Eisenhower who extremely critical of wealthy industrialist taking control of the national and attempting to exploit the poor to their benefit? I'm not saying everything he did was good, but he was aware that a certain, powerful segment of the population was more interested in ranking up a high score in their bank accounts than helping people.

> Neoliberalism, love it or hate it, saved the economy in the 80s and 90s.

That's a massive over-simplification, and mostly inaccurate. While several important metrics from measuring the economy did improve during that period, "real wages" (wages adjusted for inflation) didn't grow significantly between 1981 and 2011. A lot of the economy growth came from women entering the work force in larger numbers & obtaining wages comparable to men, from computers & automation massive boosting the productive per worker, and a massive increase in the access to credit (debt). Of the three, Neoliberalism/Laissez-Faire economy only really affected the third, with probably overall negative consequences. At the heart of the Great Recession was the house market collapse: Because of the lack of real wage growth, people couldn't afford to buy houses except through increasing ridiculous mortgages, which they were able to obtain since the investment class demands growth. This debt bubble was leveraged to create even more (imaginary) wealth, which showed up in most of the economy metrics (especially the stock market). It just disappeared when reality set in and real wages couldn't support incurred debt, crashing the economy.

> Nixon brought in the Environmental protection agency.

I put Nixon on the list for breaking the law to maintain political power. Without Watergate, he would not have made the list.

> Political parties respond to the ~~needs and~~ wants of the electorate.

The reason I mentioned think tanks is that they are one of the tools used by conservative to re-frame and shape the wants of the electorate. Most traditional think tanks collect facts and do analysis to build policy recommendations, but many conservative ones (especially ones funded by the Kochs) begin with the ideology and cherry-pick the data to support the policies they have already written. It's both intellectual dishonest and much easier to build a convincing narrative with. I suggest reading Dark Money and Democracy in Chains if you want to examine the interplay between conservative think tanks, public opinion and money.

> People are the ones who vote after all.

Which is why voter suppression and gerrymandering play such an important role is US elections. Given the ugly history of disenfranchisement in that country, it's much easier to build support for preventing "the wrong people" from voting that it is to actually convince other people to support your policies. It's disguising and disgraceful. Thankfully, the Supreme Court up here has been consistent on supporting everyone's right to vote.

by singleoiddiatribe   2018-11-10

Unfortunately, this isn't illegal at all. I'd encourage every person here to read "Dark Money ", it gives a shocking history of the origins of this practice.

If Trump supporters could read something even half as heavy as this book, they wouldn't be Trump supporters. They can't comprehend anything more complex than a McDonald's menu.

I don't think his foundation is going to bring him down. Not if he's not going to be held accountable for more blatant corruption.

by SomethingInThatVein   2018-11-10

>Heritage Foundation

>The 1%

One in the same, but Washington insiders aren't just rich, they are in the club. The Heritage foundation, i.e. the Koch Brothers, Coors Family, and other major corporate conservatives are not in the club, just like Donny. And the Foundation, since Obama's election in 08, has done an excellent Rockefeller impersonation by utilizing billions to overtake prestigious universities and politicians. The schools they use to give scholarships and opportunities to students who agree with their worldview, and with those opportunities will grow up to become important people. Politicians they buy for today, universities for tomorrow. Read bestseller Dark Money for more info on that. Not to be confused with the netflix special of the same name.

They are outsiders, the Heritage Foundation, but the lines are becoming blurred. Trump does what the Kochs, Coors, and the rest of the Heritage Foundation tell him to do.

by ljw1001   2018-11-10
The single biggest "success" of the whole leaks thing has been to help put Trump in office, which shows three things.

First, it's ridiculously easy for powerful and dubious players (example here Russian intelligence, not Trump) to twist this well-meaning idea into a horrible parody of itself.

Second, the most vulnerable to manipulation from this technique are democracies (and to a much lesser extent) public corporations, who I would argue, are less of a problem than either autocracies or super-rich individuals. You can't embarrass Putin out of office no matter what gets leaked. Anyone who tries to use it against him will fall out of a window and it will be forgotten. Nor can you easily make the Koch brothers behave, even if an award winning journalist writes a best-selling and award winning book about their shenanigans https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Money-History-Billionaires-Radic...). You'd pretty much have to leak photos of them holding severed heads to get the US government to move against them effectively.

Third. Often, it's politically dangerous for a leader to do the 'right thing'. This technique is just as useful to prevent someone from doing the right thing as it is to prevent them from doing the wrong thing. The difference is how controversial the action is, not whether it is right or wrong.

So, regardless of whether this can be done securely, it's really important to ask yourself how it is likely to be used, by whom, and to what end. People tend to forget that stuff when they have a cool new technology.

by rafa2000   2018-02-12
I just got Dark Money and reading through it. It is very revealing.


by pm90   2017-08-19
I actually have a couple of sources for this :). Apologies for the late reply, I also have a day job ;)

I would recommend Krugman's Conscience of a Liberal for an entertaining read. He referenced another book, aptly called Inequality[1], which I'm currently going through. Its a little more academic prose so its not something I can finish quickly (in short, its not an entertaining read...not that all books have to be of course).

Both of these books examine historical precedents for income inequality and attempt to analyze the current situation as well. I think they did a fair job, although I am open to change my mind if there is a better explanation. But these and other books, such as Dark Money[2], and just general news about the scummy activities of people like the Koch brothers have made me more convinced of this viewpoint.

Now to address your comment...

> Only a minority of companies in the US even have executives that get the much maligned high pay and bonuses in the last decade or so. What about the massive percentage of wealth that didn't fall into this category? They may have gain significantly from globalism but that was hardly the result of US tax policy alone.

This is most certainly not true [0]. From [0] and from Krugman's book, you can see just how much the changes in tax policy has incentivized ballooning executive pay and created a new class of executives, who may not be as rich as the landed/inherited, but are certainly "rich". And this class has grown and become more enriched due to globalism, the opening of foreign markets and plummeting of labor costs, both due to automation and cheap foreign labor. I almost think of it as a weird form of trickle down effect, where most of the wealth goes to the very rich but a little (relatively insignificant but in absolute terms very much so) trickles down to the executive class.

> Lets not forget that democrats were in power for the last 8yrs and the state has only grown exponentially since the 1990s under both republican and democrat governments. Just because tax rates weren't the extremes of pre-1980/1970s doesn't make them low. They've been relatively consistent while the middle class income dropped.

Yes Democrats were in power for 8 years but how many of their policies could not be enacted due to obstructionism? But lets not get into that area here: 8 years is a relatively small time to create/destroy inequality. And I don't see any Democrats pushing for tax cuts on the rich, especially cutting estate taxes, which affect only the very rich.

> The complexity of the tax code and lack of competitiveness with international countries may have heavily influenced inequality. But it was hardly the result of explicit tax reduction for the rich...

Its not the complexity of the tax code but its very nature. The top tax rate for personal income is around 35% in the US whereas it is much higher in other developed economies. And the sources that I've listed point to historical trends that prove the same point: once you have a class of super wealthy, they will inevitably influence the Government to reduce their tax burden no matter how that is achieved.

> The idea that tax havens are something that were merely a matter of weak policy is naive. Even worse than the drug war hawks.

I don't think that comparison achieves anything but hyperbole so I'm not going to comment on it.

> Just because the middle class didn't keep pace with the wealthy doesn't mean only the wealthy were at fault. The fact the middle class lost wealth is hardly singularly the fault of the wealthy. I know this narrative sells well in politics but it's very short sighted.

I think you're conflating wealth with income. The middle class, by their definition, is not wealthy (at least in the same country; middle class in US is most certainly more wealthy than in India, say). The US middle class hasn't lost wealth, its their incomes that have not been growing as fast as the incomes of the wealthy. Its unfortunately not just politics: investments in people reap great benefits for society. If a country fails to invest in the health and education of its citizenry because its unable to raise the revenue to do so by the wealthy, then its most certainly the fault of the rich.

> Even if the US adjusted tax policy to redistribute a larger chunk of taxes towards the middle class it would hardly make a dent in the new reality in the fact there is hardly a middle class economy like there used to be. So you must either develop a new middle class economy or you get temporary perks of taking it from the wealthy. This is the big whale in the room that the Bernie bro guys are ignoring. The likely scenario is that the wealthy would become continually less competitive over the years, shift way more money over seas, and the middle class would be in the same situation with a little bit more money for a short period.

I don't think that is likely. Sure its a changed reality now, and I certainly don't see what other future markets will open up, but this new reality demands a healthy, educated workforce to operate it. Income redistribution is less about taking from wealthy and giving it to the poor as much as taking from the wealthy and investing in institutions/programs that can assist the most vulnerable in society. More taxation by itself won't make the wealthy less competitive... I mean, how does that even happen? On the contrary: educating a kid from Inner City Detroit might give us the next Steve Jobs.

> Gov spending under any administration that enacts those policies would largely offset most of the gains going directly to the people regardless (which is good if it results in universal health care, but little else if it's not sustainable).

You seem to imply that all Govt. spending is wasteful which is most certainly not true. Surely its not perfect, but that's another problem that needs fixing.

Also, you asked for a source but failed to provide a single one for any of the many many assertions that you have made.

[0]: https://www.amazon.com/Pay-without-Performance-Unfulfilled-C...

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/Inequality-What-Can-Be-Done/dp/067450...

[2]: https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Money-History-Billionaires-Radic...