4 Stars By College Stealth on 2016-01-19
This book is a hard read; not because of Lexile score interest, but because it raises a huge warning flag with regards to some of the funding that has been going into the recent elections. I got the Kindle edition of this book at 11 C.S.T. and stayed up all night reading it, it took about seven hours. I’ve made it a point for the last eight months to pick a book off of the new releases and just read it; it’s been my own personal challenge to read whatever, regardless of the topic or the political bent. This one was very fascinating and interesting with providing insight into how much money has been circulating in politics and for how long.
I sense that this book will be a contentious one for many who read it, or even look at the title, but hear me out, I’m just a middle or the road person reading it for the sake of reading it. It’s certainly told with a liberal bias, but before it is declared unpalatable because of that, or all lies, there are some really worthwhile components to consider. The book is not anti-republican, rather it highlights the funding of anti-government movements and intentional divisions within the republican party as a result of libertarian ideas held by the Koch brothers. It moves past the republican party and focuses on the ultra-conservative anti-establishment ideas of a few of the 1% in creating a scenario that is wholly advantageous to them. It also highlights some who stood up against the Koch’s in regards to some ideologies, such as John Kaisch, who ceased to be invited to the larger mover and shaker events hosted by the Koch brothers.
Throughout the book, every time a major economic player is introduced, Mayer underscores that introduction with a reference to a specific court battle or lawsuit due to fraud that that particular individual is facing. I understand that it is used to underscore why specific persons being referenced may have a disdain against the government, but in some situations, knowing the pending lawsuits for fraud are not advantageous to moving the story forward. This would be my one major criticism with the work. There is also some Koch family background that serves to paint a high level of dysfunction within the Koch family; as brothers apparently bickered even over their mother’s will that requested that they not sue one another, upon which they promptly sued. Yet, the family background does serve well to highlight where the wealth of the Koch brothers originated from and ideologies of anti-government that came from their father who was also a member of ultra conservative groups while alive.
What the book does well is outline initial stamina in the 1970’s and continues to the present day of the sheer amount of money that has been funneled into elections as a result of the Koch brothers and a few other billionaires into elections. The money is so vast that it can invest in its own equipment and maintain itself as its own political machine. The money is often couched in donations to non-profits, which Mayer does an excellent job of outing their purpose and efficiency. It chronicles the efforts of some to whittle away at local and national elections through seemingly unrelated think-tanks and book publications that seek to radicalize the right as much as possible. The mention of “dark money” is money that is untracked or goes into a donors’ black hole, which later is utilized in whatever way the organization sees as useful.
Having read some of the more recent political dialogue books lately, such as Glen Beck and Dick Cheney; I’d say that Mayer does a much stronger job of identifying the origin of some of the comments and narrative in the book. However, she does note that she is unable to credit all of her sources and there are a few citations that simply cross reference to political blogs.
Overall, it’s an excellent read, albeit doing little to couch the authors bias and has a bit of a magazine sensationalist piece that is drawn out. It’s a book that makes me feel physically ill; which, if emotion is the goal of the writer, it’s been done. It is a vital, well cross-referenced read, that chronicles the long growing investment of big business into politics, which has reached the plateau of influence in the election game. Koch brother money, along with other billionaire investors, are certainly something all citizens should be aware of; and fearful of at the same time.
5 Stars By Mal Warwick on 2016-02-02
Many surprises in this superb expose
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.
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.
5 Stars By Connor Gibson on 2016-01-19
Jane Mayer nails it again, we'll see how Koch responds this time...
This book is rapidly making waves, after the New York Times and Washington Post worked with author Jane Mayer to reveal Koch Industries' history building a major refinery for none other than Adoph Hitler, just after he became Chancellor of Germany.
But the sensational Nazi connection was just the easy part, and Koch is among several old-money fortunes that were pivotal in establishing today's complicated web of innocuous-sounding corporate front groups. Such journalism is imperative at a time when Americans are constantly being duped by advertising and public relations executives, selling political ideas that are not actually designed to benefit the audience listening.
Putting my opinions aside, here's why the book stands out:
1: THE ACCESS. Through interviews with current and ex-Koch Industries staff & executives, and members of Koch's sprawling "nonprofit" political network, Ms. Mayer has reminded the political community of her talent as an investigator. Her ability to find both new and historic details that are previously unreported--and immediately relevant--are what set this author apart from the day's other pre-eminent experts on plutocrats & oligarchs (such as Kim Phillips-Fein, Lee Fang, Lewis Lapham, Lisa Graves, Ken Vogel, Mark Ames, and Greg Palast, to name a few).
2. THE NARRATIVE. With secretive people like Charles Koch and the late Richard Mellon Scaife as an author's subject, the sheer lack of honest information can make it hard to write anything other than a political white paper. But Ms. Mayer's experience and reputation as a reporter at the New Yorker have opened many doors that were previously closed, painting a more crisp, rich portrait of this private history.
3. THE CONTEXT. Reading Dark Money reminds me of the pains that author & lawyer Vincent Bugliosi took to convince jurors of Charles Manson's motives in directing his cult's seemingly-senseless murders. No, I'm not comparing Koch with Manson. Koch's history is a black box in many ways, making it difficult even for seasoned investigators to discover truths buried in the Koch history book. Years of reporting also indicate that Koch's own narrative should never be taken for granted, in terms of how they frame issues, what they talk most prominently about, and which details they seem to forget. But Mayer hit the jackpot on such details, and contextualizes the information in ways that offer newer, clearer perspectives on why and how America's most notorious billionaires go about their business.
For the political news nerd to the primetime political strategist, this book represents the most contemporary look at the billionaires whose political investments are now usurping entire parties (a la Koch and the Republicans). Beyond informing politicos, it is genuinely fascinating to learn how people like Charles Koch have smashed down the walls between business, politics and culture, integrating each of these realms into a single stage where we are watching a massive privatized experiment taking place.
Back to my own opinion. It's imperative for voters to monitor the billionaires' political experiment. The preferences of private families like Koch, Scaife, Bradley and Olin do not necessarily reflect the needs of American voters. Anyone who feels that the 'system is rigged against us' ought read this book and find out exactly how, for that is the only way to counter such discouraging unfolding history.
5 Stars By Dan on 2016-01-19
A Zapruder film of the assassination of American democracy
This is the most exhaustive, best researched, best-written history of the monied families that have built the Radical Right into a juggernaut that has turned back the clock on social progress in this country. The Koch brothers are not only the heart of that enterprise, their efforts dwarf those of everyone else, and for that reason they are at the center of Mayer's exceptional investigative report. From the Koch family's early roots as industrial supporters of fascism prior to World War II, to their influence in killing progress on climate change, in helping warp the election system via the Citizen's United decision, and through their influence on virtually every important social and political struggle of the last forty years via a network of front groups and an underground river of cash, Mayer provides a frame-by-frame analysis, a kind of Zapruder film, showing exactly how the brothers Koch have all but succeeded in assassinating a once great democracy and enshrining an ideology that puts profit ahead of human lives and the future of the planet.
All that - AND it's a great read.
5 Stars By Panda31 on 2016-01-19
Fascinating and Informative. A Must Read.
An enthralling and comprehensive story of the Koch dynasty, those that came before it, and those that fall in line with the anarchist agenda of Charles Koch. The account of the far right network is extremely informative and also a bit mind-blowing. Also, being a native of Pittsburgh, I couldn't put down the chapter on the Mellon Scaife story. Not only can this book serve as a road map for getting out of the political muck we are in as a nation, its a telling account of anti-social and narcissistic behavior that ties many of these billionaires together. Charles Koch and cohorts seem to feel they are above the law, and will undermine or change the law to maintain their position. Of course, I am not sure what kind of person I'd be if a Nazi nanny changed my diapers....you gotta read this.
5 Stars By R. L. Chacona on 2016-01-19
This excellent book investigates the perfidy that challenges democracy in America ...
This excellent book investigates the perfidy that challenges democracy in America today. Mayer backs up all her statements with fully verifiable facts, as she exposes exactly how the Kochs' world view challenges America's one-man, one-vote ideal. While some partisanship may be implied, protecting American democracy from its present dangers is Meyer's central focus. Regardless of a political persuasion, this book is a must-read for all concerned citizens!
5 Stars By Carbonlord on 2016-01-19
Eye Opening Koch Family Glimpse! Must Read! Extremely Powerful! AAA+++
Starting back in 2010, Jane Mayer had published an article about the Koch brothers in The New Yorker. Since then, she has investigated a lengthy trail of so called “Dark Money”, completely tax deductible, in which the Koch brothers have secretly donated to political causes.
In her tellings, she recounts the story of the empire built by the Koch brothers, beginning with Fred Koch. She details the twisting and secretive empire all the way down to the current generation of the Koch family. She touches on the Libertarian Party, the opposition of federal income and capital gains taxes, the abolition of Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, the Federal Election Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The Koch brothers have organized donor campaigns with elected officials, billionaires, political consultants and celebrities. It's here at these summits, that they choose issues, raise money and make plans for the upcoming elections. She shows the Kochs, as a part of several wealthy families, with right wing extremism view of our country. A consortium of powerful families with billions of dollars, on tap, trying to influence our society with their enormous wealth. Having substantial investments in oil and coal, they consistently fund "Think Tanks" trying to adversely influence opinions on climate change. Continually trying to hinder environmental regulations and their accompanying federal agencies, to further protect their investments.
I have to rate this novel as one of the most intriguing of this year, everyone should read this, it’s a WINNER! Hope it helps:)
5 Stars By P1967 on 2016-08-09
A Book Any True Patriot Must Read
If you want to understand one of the primary causes of the destruction of the Republican Party, this is a must-read. Jane Meyer is a scrupulous reporter and her research is amply demonstrated in Dark Money. The key finding: millions upon millions of dollars is being spent by billionaire right wing conservatives to gain control of our political system at the local, state and federal levels. It is being done under the auspices of the infamous Citizens United decision of 2011, which gave a green light to anonymous cash flows to candidates and causes that favor largely libertarian policies: no regulations, no taxes, etc. This cash funnel has almost all gone to compliant Republican office holders and candidates who, in turn, reflect the views of their benefactors.
A must read, especially now. Why? Well, to mention just one tiny example, Donald Trump recently released the names of various people (all white men) who he said he would call upon to assist with economic policy in a Trump Administration. One of the names is Harold Hamm, a fabulously wealthy oil wildcatter and political fruitcake who has, according to Mayer, channeled millions of dollars into efforts to promote fossil fuels while denying climate change . . . and worse.
I read the book, and when I finished, my reaction was an out loud "YIKES!!"
5 Stars By JamesBey on 2016-02-01
Damning indictment of Citizens United
This is an important and timely book which should be read by every citizen concerned about the future of our country. The political influence of the Koch brothers is very bit as toxic as the hazardous waste their companies amorally dump into the eco-system. This book should convince any reasonable person of the calamitous effects of Citizens United and should galvanize a movement to pass a constitutional amendment to control the money spent on seemingly endless political campaigns.
5 Stars By William R. Gerding on 2017-03-04
Buy it now!
Want to read about the takeover of statehouses and the House of Representatives and the Senate in our country? Get this book now and learn about the pervasive takeover of dark money groups in influencing our elections and legislation. Learn about the biggest contributors in shady and secret backroom deals and how they keep their contributions largely secret through a series of money laundering operations that would make Tony Soprano look like an amateur.