This is probably the most important book I’ve read this year. Jane Mayer’s book, "Dark Money," makes the argument that we now have three major political parties: Republican, Democratic and Dark Money.
Jane Mayer is an investigative reporter and staff writer for The New Yorker. She has written three bestselling nonfiction books and has received numerous awards for her political reporting. As described on the book’s cover, "Dark Money" tells the hidden history of the billionaires behind the radical right and how they are shaping our government.
The book begins by introducing the founders of the radical right including the Koch Brothers with their energy companies, Mellon banking heir Richard Mellon Scaife, the Devos’s of Amway marketing, the Coors Brewing family and the Olins, who manufacture chemicals and guns. Many of these families have a history of legal battles with the Environmental Protection Agency and with the IRS.
We know wealthy groups use think tanks and foundations such as the CATO institute and the Heritage Foundation to promote their political agendas. What you might not know is that the Kochs and their allies are carefully hiding their political giving thru nonprofit educational and charitable groups. These groups are then presented as being made up of housewives, farmers and small-businessmen.
Because their energy companies have paid enormous fines for air and water pollution, climate change is a particular target of the Kochs. Their money supports over one-hundred nonprofit groups designed to mislead the public about climate change.
The 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court opened the flood gates of cash into American politics. The 2012 election was a tipping point. According to Mayer, it was the most expensive election in history. And it was the first time outside groups spent more than $1 billion to influence federal elections.
The 2010 elections in North Carolina were a national test case. Using extensive research and money, the Koch machine was able to get their candidates elected. They then redrew election districts, also known as gerrymandering, to make fewer districts democrats could win.
In the election of 2014, the Koch network got their money’s worth. The Republican party gained complete control of both the U.S. House and Senate. Their next goal was the White House. In 2016, they spent almost $1 billion dollars on elections for President, Senate, House and for Governors. Even though they didn’t financially back President Trump, he will have to deal with a Republican Party shaped by the Kochs.
In "Dark Money," Jane Mayer explains how a tiny fraction of the American electorate is shaping our government. The political process we have today has created an oligarchy controlled by a handful of ultra-wealthy people with radical agendas. Mayer’s book is well researched, interesting and very effective in exposing dark money as a serious threat to our democracy. This book should be required reading for anyone concerned about the future of our country.
“Dark Money” by Jane Mayer is published by Doubleday.
Reviewer Max Gill lives in State College. He’s the former director of the State College Borough Water Authority. He’s currently a part of SCORE, a group that mentors people who are starting and growing businesses.