I just finished a great book called Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer who is a staff writer for The New Yorker.
If you’ve ever wondered why Americans in the United States can have such far right wing political opinions and views, then this is the book for you. Jane Mayer makes an interesting case for why there has been a marked shift to the right in American political thinking: it’s ‘dark money’—campaign financing that’s hidden from view.
She outlines how the radical right wing with financial support from a few multimillionaires have taken over the political scene in the United States. The billionaires are lead by the Koch brothers, Charles and David. They are really libertarians who believe in small government or no government. They think government should only exist to protect private property rights (their property of course) and has no business in regulating private business or in funding the public good, ie, welfare, healthcare, environmental protection.
It comes down to money—their money and their ability to make more. That means busting unions (ironically by government regulation), and opposing restrictions on capital (again, by changing government legislation—or governments).
So how do they do it? Well, in a nutshell the multi-billionaires donate large amounts of money to foundations that they control. That includes foundations that fund the Tea Party. Of course it's a tax write off and they can direct the money to be spent on implementing their ultra-right wing political agenda.
The US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United (2009) opened the flood gates for dark money. The Court said that restricting donations from ‘third parties’ (corporations and unions) was a restriction on free speech. Both the Democrats and Republicans then courted big donors for their Super PACs (Political Action Committees).
There are rules around how Super Pacs relate to the candidate. But those rules are given lips service, as Rep Gov Walker in Wisconsin has demonstrated.
Never too concerned with rules, the Koch brothers and their friends have used their money to infiltrate the media, universities and even the judiciary. But the real prize is the Republican Party. Moderate Republicans have all but disappeared having been replaced by their well-financed far right wing candidates who have the billionaires’ support. Once elected, she shows (and other research confirms) these politicians influence government policy in ways that benefit their financers.
Throughout her book Ms. Mayer follows the money to proves her point time and again. She has hit the nail on the head and it must have been a direct strike, judging by how hard the Kochs and their ilk have tried to discredit her—something she documents in the book. The book is well written and well-documented. It's all scary stuff. The very essence of democracy is at stake.
I highly recommend Dark Money. I would suggest that it’s required reading if you want to understand American politics and what to look out for in Canadian politics. It's available at the Owen Sound and Union Public library, call number 320.520973 MAY.
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