Finished Dark Money

Just finished Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money. I highly recommend reading the reviews on Goodreads as many folks have written spectacular insights into the book.

In the book, Mayer illuminates the rise in political power of a handful of ultra conservative self-interested billionaires in the US over the last 40 years or so. She uses quotations from them to tell their stories and present their views. They have used insane amounts of their inherited money to influence public policy and discourse. She juxtaposes when W. C. Stone gave $2 million ($11 million in today’s dollars) to Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 campaign. That donation “caused public outrage and contributed to a movement that produced the post-Watergate reforms in campaign financing” with the 2016 election, where the Kochs and their small circle of friends provided $889 million to defeat democrats, “completely dwarfing the scale of money that was considered deeply corrupt during the Watergate days.”

Using the same publicists as the tobacco companies had used years before to obfuscate the true dangers of tobacco, these individuals have formed think tanks, backed political candidates, and influenced the curricula in 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 and have legitimized points of view that were considered beyond the fringe in the 1970’s.

They are using billions of dollars from their private foundations and funnelling it through their tax exempt institutions to alter not only the direction of American politics but even the conversations about what is appropriate in American democracy and normalizing ideas that were considered marginal just 40 years ago.

Like many others reviewing the book, I am afraid I have become a real bore as I constantly sway conversations to Mayers work in “Dark Money”, along with other books that describe other aspects of the same people such as Mclean’s work in “Democracy in Chains”, and Levitsky and Ziblatt’s “How Democracies Die”.

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