Dark Money Is Eating Democracy

Book Review

Billionaires Are Pulling America’s Strings

Mayer, Jane: Dark Money. The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. Doubleday, New York, 2016.

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There’s a great quote at the beginning of this best-selling book:

“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

This wonderful book solves a number of contemporary mysteries:

  • If Americans are better educated and better informed than ever, why have our political ideas lurched toward ignorance?
  • If we understand economics better than ever, why is wealth disparity so awful?
  • How can our commentators and professors afford to say patently ridiculous things without losing their livelihood?
  • If we all have to live on this planet, why are we polluting so much?

The answer is dark money. A carefully crafted network of billionaires has bought off politicians, economists, professors, and commentators and turned them into ventriloquists’ dummies who repeat and repeat and repeat the things that billionaires want said. They have gone beyond buying a few columnists and professors. They own think tanks, newspapers, information networks, Radio & TV networks, professors and entire faculties, individual politicians and entire state legislatures. Their effect on the federal government is substantial.

Their contributions to this underhanded scheme are more or less legal and even tax deductible!

The main architect of this secret and underhanded network is named Charles Koch. Many years ago, he took up his father’s interest in right wing organizations such as the John Birch Society. As the years passed, Koch and his billionaire co-conspirators became better and better at influencing legislation and public opinion. It’s all detailed in Jane Mayer’s book.

Although most of their maneuvers result directly in more money for themselves, the perpetrators generally claim to be ideologically motivated. The book’s author, in my opinion, gives them too much credit in this direction. She usually refers to them as “arch conservatives” or “libertarians.”

I wouldn’t characterize them so generously. If Benito Mussolini was correct when he defined “fascism” as simply “corporatism,” then “fascists” is the more accurate description of Koch and his cronies. Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels would be proud of them!

In that regard, they are not completely in step with the entire ruling class of America, which has so far not elected to rule through fascism. They still rely on the Republican and Democratic parties to keep our limited democracy working for them. The Koch network operates primarily through the Republican Party, but not completely. They maintain their independence and their “corporatism” fascist goals. It would be interesting to see if they completely try to take over the Republican Party, as seems to be their goal, or if they try to establish a formidable fascist party.

Whichever way they go, a united and well informed progressive movement is the solution to the threat they raise. This book goes a long way toward that solution.

–Gene Lantz

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