Dark Money

  • by Jane Mayer
  • Narrated by Kirsten Potter
  • 16 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers?
The conventional answer is that a popular uprising against "big government" led to the rise of a broad-based conservative movement. But as Jane Mayer shows in this powerful, meticulously reported history, a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views also played a key role by bankrolling a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system.
The network has brought together some of the richest people on the planet, foremost among them Charles and David Koch. Their core beliefs - that taxes are a form of tyranny; that government oversight of business is an assault on freedom - are sincerely held. But these beliefs also advance their personal and corporate interests: Many of their companies have run afoul of federal pollution, worker safety, securities, and tax laws.
When libertarian ideas proved decidedly unpopular with voters, the Koch brothers and their allies decided on another path. If they pooled their vast resources, they could fund an interlocking array of organizations that could work in tandem to influence and ultimately control academic institutions, think tanks, the courts, statehouses, Congress, and, they hoped, the presidency.
The political operatives the network employs are disciplined, smart, and at times ruthless. And their efforts have been remarkably successful. Libertarian views on taxes and regulation, once far outside the mainstream and still rejected by most Americans, are ascendant in the majority of state governments, the Supreme Court, and Congress. Meaningful environmental, labor, finance, and tax reform have been stymied.
Jane Mayer spent five years conducting hundreds of interviews - including with several sources within the network - and scoured public records, private papers, and court proceedings in reporting this book. In a taut and utterly convincing narrative, she traces the byzantine trail of the billions of dollars spent by the network and provides vivid portraits of the colorful figures behind the new American oligarchy.
Dark Money is a book that must be listened to by anyone who cares about the future of American democracy.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Fact attack

This clever and revealing book exposes the extent to which a few mega-rich families in the United States cynically manipulate and control the political machinery in order to increase their profits. Their overriding goal is to minimise the role of government. This involves reducing taxes and encouraging free, unregulated trade. In their ideal world, social welfare programmes would be eradicated or stripped to the bare minimum, and there would be no environmental regulations placing restrictions on polluting industries. For example, they invest a lot of money in spreading seeds of doubt about global warming being caused by carbon dioxide emissions.

What’s good about this book is that it succeeds in presenting mountains of evidence of this manipulative activity, which has gone on for decades and is continually increasing in intensity. Huge sums of money are spent in subtle and strategic Machiavellian ploys to achieve these goals. It will leave you in no doubt that America is controlled, or at least heavily influenced by, unscrupulous, greedy, selfish elites who care only about money, power and perpetuating their dynasties.

What’s bad about this book, aside from the fact that it is depressing and leaves you feeling powerless, is that it is just a succession of facts, one after the other. It’s really hard to maintain concentration because it is like listening to a shopping list of 247 items. They may be accurate, they may be damning, they may represent extensive investigation and research by the author, but these things alone do not an entertaining listen make – and this is nothing to do with the inadequacies of the narrator – she is very good.

I stuck with it out of a sense of the worthiness of the material – the world does need to know that this is happening – but it was hard work and my concentration strayed frequently. I feel bad saying this because it’s an important work and I don’t want to discourage people from listening, but it isn’t a lot of fun.
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- Mark

"I just want my fair share--which is all of it."

"I just want my fair share--which is all of it."
- Charles Koch, quoted in Jane Mayer, Dark Money

I'm not sure reading this right after Trump got elected was the right decision. As I write this Betsy DeVos (sister of Eric Prince, daughter of billionaire Edgar Prince, daughter-in-law to Amway founder Richard DeVos) just got picked to be Trump's Secretary of Education. Let it sink in for a minute. We just had a billionaire nominate another billionaire for a seat at the political table.

It is really starting to feel a bit like we are living in a Plutocracy. Jane Mayer's brilliantly researched book into the Koch political machine (and other closely related political organizations) has only exacerbated this feeling.

The sad part is how many people I personally know that are somehow connected to this Dark Money web. I have friends that have worked for various Koch groups, other friends who have taught "leadership" courses in Koch-funded university courses. I have old professors who now do research at the Mercatus Center at George Mason, etc.. Hell, I have more than a dozen friends in common with Sean Noble, the AZ political operator largely created with initially setting up much of the Koch network. In some ways, this book almost reads as much a biography of Noble's rise and fall as it does the Koch brother's rise.

I give the book five stars, but almost want to remove a star because it just makes me mad and sad. I'm sad that so many people I like seem to operate as mercenaries for the Koch brothers interests and their extreme vision of our future. I'm sad because with the election of Donald Trump (even though Trump at one level isn't a part of the Koch network, he might further enable it since he shares many of the same interests as his fellow GOP billionaires) I see this extreme plutocracy getting worse not better.

I remember reading a couple years ago about how our country was evolving into a plutocracy. I felt at the time, that might be a bit extreme. After the last couple elections and after reading this book, I feel a bit naïve. We are living in a nation that is designed to largely serve the interests of its richest 1%. It isn't evolving. The kleptocracy egg has hatched.
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- Darwin8u

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-19-2016
  • Publisher: Random House Audio