Dark Money

Jane Mayer

Posted on December 17, 2018 at 18:19

Every paragraph in this book sends chills down my spine. To think that a single person (granted with a lot of financial and business leverage) is capable of being so selfish and putting money ahead of everything - family, ethics, country - is just amazing. This book’s focus is on the Koch family but it gives you a glimpse into the lives and philosophies of other elite liberals that basically shaped American “Democracy” to their liking.

Introduction

The Koch brothers have been hosting an ultra-elite (top 0.01% of American wealth) group of individuals who don’t want the government interfering with their money. These people come from so many industries - energy, govt. contracting, games, and entertainment - and are the best in their field. Their companies literally make the bulk of what we consume. Just this fact alone really set a pessimistic view to the rest of my week :). No wonder the anti-climate change lobby is so strong, there’s so much at stake…

The Koch’s event wasn’t initially successful, but once Obama was elected, people decided to start funneling money against him. Unfortunately, Obama didn’t know what he was up against.

Part 1

Richard Scaife and John Olin: These two were I guess the first to distort academic philanthropy into a political and financial tool. So much for making what is considered morally good (charity) as something so vile and twisted. While I understand that most grants are meant to support scholars in aiding the grant-giver’s goals and visions (i.e. NDSEG), these people choose to take advantage of loopholes in American law and use non-profit organizations and academic foundations as a means of indoctrinating aspiring students and support professors who agree with their philosophies to research and support it. It is in their doctrine that in order to achieve their philosophies, they need to do so by putting up a veil of lies regarding the goal of these foundations, appearing non-partisan and seeking to support the regular working class citizen.

These foundations are called beachfronts and the best beachfront is the one that is established at an Ivy League (of course). Stanford has the Hoover inst., Brown has one, and Olin has a library named after him in Cornell thanks to his magnanimous financial contributions (to support his philosophies of course). While these were financially accomplished people, they were morally corrupt, suffering many legal and ethical corporate scandals, and their personal lives were fraught with conflict and alcoholism.

Koch followed in the footsteps of these people, but literally went all out. He put on so many fronts that the amalgamation of his political, social, and economic advocacy groups were called the Kochtopus. His reach was so powerful, that he could send a money or sharp letter to a senator and turn the tide in the vote on a certain issue. His groups would bring down anyone who goes against them, looking for dirt by planting bugs and rummaging through their trash, seeking ways to discredit them. They drew no lines; whether you were a senator, lawyer, citizen, executive, FBI agent, if you went against Koch, you’ll face the Kohctopus.

Part 2

The Kochtopus was hidden behind an array of 501(c)3’s and 4’s - non-profit social welfare groups that legally cannot participate in political endeavors. Despite their nonpartisan standing, these organizations, think tanks, and “grassroot” citizen organizations influenced the political battleground and undermined Pres. Obama’s endeavors and ambitions. These fake grassroot organizations were known as astroturfs.They were financed as tax deductible donations by the Koch network and various other companies. I really like the paradox of influencing the government while paying minimal/no taxes.

The problem with the whole libertarian movement is that it’s been all chiefs and no Indians. There weren’t any actual people… – Bruce Bartlett

Naive Obama was bombarded by ads and media attacks from a new Tea Party group seeking to drop taxes. So many industry/business names fought for avoiding any taxes that were meant to support the American economy after the 2008 crash. No one wanted to pay for their mistakes and the rich just wanted to accumulate their wealth undettered.

The Tea Party movement was a mass rebellion…funded by corporate billionaires, like the Koch brothers, led by over-the-hill former GOP kingpins.., – Theda Skocpol

Americans for Prosperity, Citizens United, and the Cato Institute all supported other networks of astroturf groups, academics, and even blogs and websites to endorse libertarian principles and to make them a reality within the American govt. 99% of the funding for these organizations came through 3 undisclosed donors and more were hidden through DonorsTrust. In 2010 though, the supreme court’s ruling on Citizens United case for no limits on political donations opened the floodgates for an unlimited stream of cash for the Kochtopus and basically privatized the US govt. - mainly the RNC though.

Part 3

Koch and his network remained hidden behind their 501(c)’s, but that changed quickly.

The whale that spouts is the one that gets harpooned. – Fred Koch

The power of the Koch network was so immense that there was no way it wasn’t felt by the public. His annual seminars were no longer private and the location of their gatherings were filled with protesters waving signs like “Koch Kills!” and “Uncloak the Kochs!” Protestered were arrested by private security guards wearing gold colored K s. Now ain’t that fancy? The Koch network now included the DeVos family (the guys behind Amway), the Mercers (Mellenium), and Ken Langone of Home Depot.

Now that the Koch had the Senate and the House, their next step was the presidency. First, the Kochs began ‘buying’ senators to push their agenda, which included limited government taxing and intervention and private businesses. But the libertarian agenda wasn’t the only thing they wanted to push. They wanted to limit the power of the EPA so that Koch industries could spew all the chemicals they want with no accountability. As if stealing from the current generation wasn’t enough, they had to steal from future generations as well.

The Kochs began looking for presidential candidates to fund like Paul Ryan. This was Koch’s plan towards waging the “mother of all wars.” They created new astroturf groups that sought to garner public support for his cutthroat budget policies. Moreover, they began creating “cookie-cutter” policies for politicians to use to make it easier to enact their policies. One of these included cutting the top 1% tax bracket rate by a third and the top 0.01% by a half.

Our goal is not to reallocate the burden of the government; our goal is to roll back the government…Morally, lowering taxes is simply defending property rights. – Charles Koch (1978)

Its interesting at this time Donald Trump was bullying Republicans sucking up to the Kochs for donation money via Twitter. Nevertheless, candidates like Chris Christie sought the Koch blessing. AFP began running ads against current democratic nominees and Obama’s campaign. Eventually Mitt Romney was chosen but him being so out of touch with regular Americans made him lose the majority of voters. His most infamous statement was him making fun of the lower 47% of americans being lazy loafers. $2.5 billion was poured into his campaign, but in the end he lost. Commentators drew the conclusion that money has little influence on politics but that was far from the truth - it was just a bad employee. Moreover, the public campaign process was privatized and so was the agenda of the RNC.

The most important thing out of this was REDMAP: The Koch’s plan to redistribute the segmentation of representative’s districts to favor republican candidates. This was one of the key ways they were able to win the house and senate for the next 10 years.