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Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  23,514 ratings  ·  3,231 reviews
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 uprisi
ebook, 464 pages
Published January 19th 2016 by Doubleday
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Sundra I am still in the middle of the book - pouring over every word - so know that. But what Mayer is helping me understand (or reminding me) is that all p…moreI am still in the middle of the book - pouring over every word - so know that. But what Mayer is helping me understand (or reminding me) is that all politics is local. I'm based in Oklahoma, and my side of the political spectrum blames ALEC, or political leaders, or others for our horrendous situation with privatizing and all "gah'ment" being evil or ineffective. This book is helping me sooo much better understand why our state's poor and marginalized vote against their self-interests and trust the rich to take care of them. It's very empowering to understand how and why ALEC is just a tool, and so many of our politicians (not all!) are just tools. My saving grace is our organizing work in Oklahoma City - and getting to know there are some conservative reps who hate every ALEC bill, etc. etc. Being a responsible citizen is more that voting every four years, which is what way too many people do, and then rest, satisfied (or not!). Being a citizen requires fighting the disempowerment that some nurture, and staying on top of local and state elections. Know the candidates. Organize yourself and your neighbors to identify your interests and insist that candidates, representatives, and other leaders know your wishes and are accountable to their voters. Amazingly, politicians and representatives will listen when you show them the numbers of voters you turn out. They know local elections can flip on a few thousand votes and still, at bottom, they have to be elected. Organized people can fight organized money - and this book is helping with understanding the context and being able to follow the money. Our current state of affairs can be changed, but it will take every bit as much work to do so that it has taken to get us here. It's worth it every minute.(less)
Bronwyn This book is depressing, but if you want to understand what is busy happening you need to read this. Understanding what is going on will help you to k…moreThis book is depressing, but if you want to understand what is busy happening you need to read this. Understanding what is going on will help you to know how to respond to this. Now more than ever, every American should read this book.(less)

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Start your review of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
Will Byrnes
We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. - Louis D. Brandeis
It has been a consistent element of modern life in the USA that the public polls as more progressive than our elected officials. Given that in a democracy one would expect representatives to more or less reflect the views of the people who make up the population, and not speak in opposition to them, this seems surprising at first blush. Yes, we have o
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
"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
Mario the lone bookwolf (is on a longer vacation)
Oligarchies aren´t just a thing in dictatorships or fringe puppet democracies, but the real deal in the US and most of Europe too.

One of the best meta analysis of how neofeudalism, neocolonialism, and the notorious neoliberalism, what a fraud, could become the driving forces of the 20th and 21st century, a stunning big history picture of how just 2 good decades, the 50s and 60s, were given to the people before greed, personified as the almighty mister mammon, destroyed everything. Again, as so
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not American, but my reaction to Dark Money is that everyone in the US -- and elsewhere for that matter -- who has any interest in politics must read it. For reasons related to my busy life and not the quality of the book, I listened to the audio of Dark Money sporadically over several weeks. But each time I picked it up I was mesmerized. And I suspect that Dark Money has made me a conversational bore because in so many conversations over the past few weeks, I have found a way to relate the ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
We're all fucked. Everything is fucked. Mitch McConnell, I hope you and the rest of you soul-selling goons really do believe in hell, because I'm sadistically delighted by the idea of you guys having to drink yourselves to sleep every night expecting that you're going to burn there for allll eternity. No worries, though, eventually the whole planet will be a ball of fire thanks to your collective flipflopping on global warming for Kochtopus money, so it looks like we'll all be burning with you i ...more
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am utterly astounded.

Not surprised, mind you. But I am utterly astounded. It feels like there are no books written any more that rely on real investigative journalism.

But this is one, and it has meticulous, astounding scope.

It's one thing to point out the flaws in your opposition. Those kinds of books are commonplace and are always designed to sway you persuasively. And then there are books that give you a very, very big picture that shows you something so scary, so pervasive, that it boggle
It will not be surprise to anyone who has been paying attention that for the past twenty years our political system has been awash in special interest money. Mayer tells us it is forty years. What Mayer does in this detailed accounting is to elucidate the sources of that money and the routes it takes to influence votes. What may be more surprising to readers is how often that money has failed in its mission.

Probably the best reason for reading this book is to see how Jane Mayer allows these ind
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political
Urge you to read this book.

Leave your political beliefs aside and read this book. How commercials, news media reports are influencing us how to vote country, state and every two years. All the dark money behind all those 501 (c)... billionaires and millionaires. We don't have one person one vote anymore, our cabinet members already made of billionaires and millionaires. Even university courses, professors, judges, senators, representatives are elected.
After reading how four Koch brothers were br
Lewis Weinstein
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I haven't finished the book yet, but the thrust is clear. The Koch brothers and their billionaire friends are implementing a plan to take over American government at every level. Their objectives are purely personal greed: no taxes, no regulation (especially environmental), minimal government for all people and programs except defense and whatever benefits the very wealthy.

The problem is they're succeeding. They can't win the Presidency yet, but at every other level - Congress, Senate, state le
Mar 01, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Read this book – and not just if you live in the US, where reading this book ought to be compulsory, but wherever you live. This is because the bad stuff that happens in the US today is basically all of our futures. And if this is a book about anything, it is a book about bad stuff.

One of the things you will learn from this book is quite how hopeless the centre left in the US are (I know that is an odd term, but I’m using it to describe the Democrats, which I guess I could justifiably call the
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer is a 2016 Doubleday publication.

I can read supernatural horror novels, the grittiest crime thrillers, true crime and a host of other material that sends shivers down my spine, but nothing paralyzes me with fear more than hidden forces influencing government in barely detectable ways, influencing the quality of life for millions of people in the process.

After this election, it has become clear,
Bam cooks the books ;-)
What an important book! I'm planning to read it slowly and will note some key quotes and information from each section.

"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

"We are on the road not just to a highly unequal society, but to a society of an oligarchy. A society of inherited wealth. When you have a few people who are so wealthy that they can effectively buy the political system,
Clif Hostetler
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-events
This book shines a light on dark money. It’s called dark money because it is of unknown origin (i.e. secret), unlimited in its amount, intended for political purposes, and in the United States it’s legal and often tax deductible. This book based on thorough research turns the darkness into a bit lighter shade of dark.

The conservative shift in American politics, and its continuing movement toward the radical right didn’t just happen. This book makes it clear that it was paid for by wealthy intere
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily by: M M
Our government has been hijacked by billionaires who are only interested in making themselves money. This book should be required reading for anyone living in America today to understand our political climate, and for anyone outside of America who lives in a representative democracy.

Charles and David Koch have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into redefining American politics. The basic amount alone - on whatever side of the aisle - should stagger you. It would stagger any American voter
howl of minerva
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Nothing in America makes sense except in the light of moneyed interests.

Essential reading. If you don't read it, for the love of Christ at least read about it.


Mayer's original New Yorker article from 2010

Donald Owens II
Jun 14, 2016 rated it did not like it
This is a 464 page newspaper article by a liberal with an agenda, who seems to honestly believe only those on the right have agendas or corruption. I would highly recommend this book as a companion text for logic students, showcasing many logical fallacies, particularly ad hominem, attacking the motive, and genetic fallacies, as well as her unabashed propaganda techniques throughout. For instance, she consistently refers to teaching conservative principles as "indoctrination", describes conserva ...more
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Charles and David Koch grew up rich in Wichita Kansas. Their father Fred had built a fortune overseeing oil refinery development for both Stalin and Hitler and establishing a thriving oil refining business in the US. He learned to despise the communists but he admired the German work ethic. He became a strong libertarian supporting the John Birch Society. He was a strict disciplinarian to his four sons not hesitating to beat them. Two sons in particular, Charles and David, reflected their author ...more
There book terrified me. I have had problems sleeping reading this book and my family urged me to quit reading it because it was affecting me so. Yet, this book explains everything that is going on in politics and our country today. I finally understand why things are happening to a degree and what once made no sense now makes sense. What I can't fully comprehend is why so many people still vote republican when it is making government a branch of a few billionaires in the country. People are vot ...more
The depth of the undermining of democracy by a very small number of very wealthy people is astonishing. One can look at the state of Congress and know that this is not hyperbole. Citizens united enabled these wealthy beyond the wildest imagination folks to purchase politicians, particularly the GOP because these donors are Libertarian as in...greedy. Greed in ways that "the common man" cannot understand. These folks seek not just to control the government, but to shape the thoughts of the populo ...more
I'm sorry. I bailed. I simply felt as though I was suffocating under the piles of Dark Money, the angles to obstruct President Obama politically and these greedy billionaires who don't give two hoots about anyone except their fortunes and the relatives who will inherit. The author names names, lists companies, organizations which hide behind fronts as philanthropic efforts but are just tax shelters (oh, trumped?)- and as I was reading, Trump was naming the head of Amway's daughter to his inner s ...more
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who never wants to sleep again
Do you want to lose sleep and get angry or do you want to lose more sleep and get angrier? Either way, the answer is this book. I'm glad to have read it, but I also would like to un-read it.

So five stars for the enlightenment; zero stars for the increase in insomnia and anxiety.

"For when you never want to sleep again"--how I would market this book.

* * * * *

It's mid-December, over a month since I read this book, and it still haunts me. It taught me what dark money is and how to spot it, and now
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
As a Brit who had never heard of the Koch brothers – to my knowledge not once have they ever been mentioned on a news or current affairs programme in the UK – this was a startling and terrifying read. Now and again I had the feeling the US might, in the not too distant future, become the dystopian society we often read about in novels and see in films where the many are surfs ruled by an elite few corporations. This will certainly be the case if the individuals this book is about get their way. ...more
Mal Warwick
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
The Koch brothers, Charles and David, get a lot of attention from political observers and, increasingly, from the public. No wonder. The fortune they possess together is greater than those of Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Warren Buffet, and other private individuals who are often characterized as the richest people in the world. But it’s not the brothers’ wealth that attracts the attention. It’s their heavy-handed attempt to dominate American politics. That’s the subject of Jane Mayer’s explosive new ...more
Maru Kun
Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who has read this book and taken a look at the composition of Trump’s cabinet will understand that the Koch brothers and the right wing network that they helped form and continue to support has, broadly speaking, succeeded in its aims.

Let us briefly recap what those aims were. They were the promotion of fossil fuels and the suppression of climate scientists warning against their continued exploitation (Tillerson); tax cuts for the wealthy, paid for by a reduction in social benefits such a
Katia N
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Dark Money

“We have two unelected multibillionaires who want to control the US government and exercise the power to decide what is best for more than 300 million American people, without the voices of those people being heard.”

This is the quote from the book which summarises it pretty well. Jane Mayer has invested a lot of her talent, courage and energy in investigating and telling the story of systematic attempt in privatising the democratic process in the US. The book tells the story how Koch b
Jan Philipzig
Investigative journalism at its best! Jane Mayer's meticulously researched book takes a close look at a crucially important topic that is largely being ignored by the mainstream media: the fact that a few rather secretive (American, not Russian) billionaires are in the process of hijacking American democracy for their own selfish ends. Essential reading for anybody who has been wondering what the FUCK is going on. ...more
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
First, let me begin by stating unequivocally that Jane Mayer is an important journalist whose work should be required reading for everyone – not just people interested in politics, but everyone. She continues to write, daring and dauntless, about the secret workings of very powerful forces, be they governmental forces like the NSA and CIA, in her previous book, The Dark Side, or private, like the Koch Company, whose attempts to silence her have been documented in the NYT along with other news ou ...more
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Yowee. What a damning exposé of the role of money in our political system. Jane Mayer mostly focuses on the Kochs, while also highlighting other oligarchic players like the Devos and their role in buying influence and crafting policy often at the cost of the public interest.

I'm not going to lie. This was rather a frustrating read for me. It's hard not to get upset at the current paradigm and situation of our political system and how badly it has been subverted by powerful moneyed interests. So y
Patrick Brown
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is your summertime, vacation beach read, right here. If you're looking to escape from it all, stop worrying about trivial things like the death of the American experiment, etc., well, then this baby right here is for you.

JK, this is the single most disheartening, depressing book I've ever read (and I have read a lot of downers in my day). To be frank, it sat on my desk for three or four months before I finally picked it up. But once I did, it hooked me in.

Partly, it's that it feels necessa
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A deeply disturbing and profoundly depressing account of how a cadre of extremely wealthy US business people continue to use their wealth to subvert American democracy using a variety of integrated techniques.

Charles and David Koch, the enormously rich proprietors of an oil company based in Kansas, started their programme in the early 1980s and, by the midterm elections of 2010, they'd ushered in the political system that the'd spent years creating. They had financed and organised a network of
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Jane Mayer is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of three bestselling and critically acclaimed narrative nonfiction books. She co-authored Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, 1984–1988, with Doyle McManus, and Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas, with Jill Abramson, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Her book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the

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“Pundits, opponents, and disillusioned supporters would blame Obama for squandering the promise of his administration. Certainly he and his administration made their share of mistakes. But it is hard to think of another president who had to face the kind of guerrilla warfare waged against him almost as soon as he took office. A small number of people with massive resources orchestrated, manipulated, and exploited the economic unrest for their own purposes. They used tax-deductible donations to fund a movement to slash taxes on the rich and cut regulations on their own businesses. While they paid focus groups and seasoned operatives to frame these self-serving policies as matters of dire public interest, they hid their roles behind laws meant to protect the anonymity of philanthropists, leaving more folksy figures like Santelli to carry the message.” 12 likes
“the polluters had triumphed by overturning the campaign-finance laws. “There was a huge change after Citizens United,” he contends. “When anyone could spend any amount of money without revealing who they were, by hiding behind amorphous-named organizations, the floodgates opened. The Supreme Court made a huge mistake. There is no accountability. Zero.” 6 likes
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