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Dark Money

Cover of Dark Money

Dark Money

The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
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NATIONAL BESTSELLER
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Who are the immensely wealthy right-wing ideologues shaping the fate of America today? From the bestselling author of The Dark Side, an electrifying work of investigative journalism that uncovers the agenda of this powerful group.
In her new preface, Jane Mayer discusses the results of the most recent election and Donald Trump's victory, and how, despite much discussion to the contrary, this was a huge victory for the billionaires who have been pouring money in the American political system.
Why is America living in an age of profound and widening economic inequality? Why have even modest attempts to address climate change been defeated again and again? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers? In a riveting and indelible feat of reporting, Jane Mayer illuminates the history of an elite cadre of plutocrats—headed by the Kochs, the Scaifes, the Olins, and the Bradleys—who have bankrolled a systematic plan to fundamentally alter the American political system. Mayer traces a byzantine trail of billions of dollars spent by the network, revealing a staggering conglomeration of think tanks, academic institutions, media groups, courthouses, and government allies that have fallen under their sphere of influence. Drawing from hundreds of exclusive interviews, as well as extensive scrutiny of public records, private papers, and court proceedings, Mayer provides vivid portraits of the secretive figures behind the new American oligarchy and a searing look at the carefully concealed agendas steering the nation. Dark Money is an essential book for anyone who cares about the future of American democracy.
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
LA Times
Book Prize Finalist
PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Finalist
Shortlisted for the Lukas Prize
NATIONAL BESTSELLER
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Who are the immensely wealthy right-wing ideologues shaping the fate of America today? From the bestselling author of The Dark Side, an electrifying work of investigative journalism that uncovers the agenda of this powerful group.
In her new preface, Jane Mayer discusses the results of the most recent election and Donald Trump's victory, and how, despite much discussion to the contrary, this was a huge victory for the billionaires who have been pouring money in the American political system.
Why is America living in an age of profound and widening economic inequality? Why have even modest attempts to address climate change been defeated again and again? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers? In a riveting and indelible feat of reporting, Jane Mayer illuminates the history of an elite cadre of plutocrats—headed by the Kochs, the Scaifes, the Olins, and the Bradleys—who have bankrolled a systematic plan to fundamentally alter the American political system. Mayer traces a byzantine trail of billions of dollars spent by the network, revealing a staggering conglomeration of think tanks, academic institutions, media groups, courthouses, and government allies that have fallen under their sphere of influence. Drawing from hundreds of exclusive interviews, as well as extensive scrutiny of public records, private papers, and court proceedings, Mayer provides vivid portraits of the secretive figures behind the new American oligarchy and a searing look at the carefully concealed agendas steering the nation. Dark Money is an essential book for anyone who cares about the future of American democracy.
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
LA Times
Book Prize Finalist
PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Finalist
Shortlisted for the Lukas Prize
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  • From the book CHAPTER ONE

    Radicals: A Koch Family History

    Oddly enough, the fiercely libertarian Koch family owed part of its fortune to two of history's most infamous dictators, Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. The family patriarch, Fred Chase Koch, founder of the family oil business, developed lucrative business relationships with both of their regimes in the 1930s.

    According to family lore, Fred Koch was the son of a Dutch printer and publisher who settled in the small town of Quanah, Texas, just south of the Oklahoma border, where he owned a weekly newspaper and print shop. Quanah, which was named for the last American Comanche chief, Quanah Parker, still retained its frontier aura when Fred was born there in 1900. Bright and eager to get out from under his overbearing old-world father, Fred once ran away to live with the Comanches as a boy. Later, he crossed the country for college, transferring from Rice in Texas to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There, he earned a degree in chemical engineering and joined the boxing team. Early photographs show him as a tall, formally dressed young man with glasses, a tuft of unruly curls, and a self-confident, defiant expression.

    In 1927, Fred, who was an inveterate tinkerer, invented an improved process for extracting gasoline from crude oil. But as he would later tell his sons bitterly and often, America's major oil companies regarded him as a business threat and shut him out of the industry, suing him and his customers in 1929 for patent infringement. Koch regarded the monopolistic patents invoked by the major oil companies as anticompetitive and unfair. The fight appears to be an early version of the Kochs' later opposition to "corporate cronyism" in which they contend that the government and big business collaborate unfairly. In Fred Koch's eye, he was an outsider fighting a corrupt system.

    Koch fought back in the courts for more than fifteen years, finally winning a $1.5 million settlement. He correctly suspected that his opponents bribed at least one presiding judge, an incompetent lush who left the case in the hands of a crooked clerk. "The fact that the judge was bribed completely altered their view of justice," one longtime family employee suggests. "They believe justice can be bought, and the rules are for chumps." Meanwhile, crippled by lawsuits in America during this period, Koch took his innovative refining method abroad.

    He had already helped build a refinery in Great Britain after World War I with Charles de Ganahl, a mentor. At the time, the Russians supplied England with fuel, which led to the Russians seeking his expertise as they set up their own oil refineries after the Bolshevik Revolution.

    At first, according to family lore, Koch tore up the telegram from the Soviet Union asking for his help. He said he didn't want to work for Communists and didn't trust them to pay him. But after securing an agreement to get paid in advance, he overcame his philosophical reservations. In 1930, his company, then called Winkler-Koch, began training Russian engineers and helping Stalin's regime set up fifteen modern oil refineries under the first of Stalin's five-year plans. The program was a success, forming the backbone of the future Russian petroleum industry. The oil trade brought crucial hard currency into the Soviet Union, enabling it to modernize other industries. Koch was reportedly paid $500,000, a princely sum during America's Great Depression. But by 1932, facing growing domestic demand, Soviet officials decided it would be more advantageous to copy the technology and build future refineries themselves. Fred Koch continued to provide technical assistance to the Soviets...
About the Author-
  • 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 War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, for which she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, was named one of The New York Times's Top 10 Books of the Year and won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the Goldsmith Book Prize, the Edward Weintal Prize, the Ridenhour Prize, the New York Public Library's Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. It was also a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. For her reporting at The New Yorker, Mayer has been awarded the John Chancellor Award, the George Polk Award, the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting, and the I. F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence presented by the Nieman Foundation at Harvard. Mayer lives in Washington, D.C.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 30, 2016
    This sprawling narrative from New Yorker staff writer Mayer traces the origins of a well-funded libertarian brand of conservatism led by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch and their network of deep-pocketed, like-minded allies. Voice actress Potter resists the temptation to present the provocative portions of Mayer’s extensive research with broad-brush caricatures. Rather, she lets Mayer’s complex historical and biographical story threads take shape gradually, allowing actual character development. The Koch brothers come alive, complete with their many eccentricities and rivalries. Other figures who—thanks to the compelling blend of Mayer’s prose and Potter’s narration—leave an especially memorable imprint include Art Pope, a North Carolina discount store magnate; and Richard Mellon Scaife, the late heir to banking and oil fortunes. Granted, the quotations from Pope—whose hundreds of stores are staffed by, and patronized by, low-wage workers—about poverty being mostly a matter of individual choice will inflame progressive readers, but Mayer and Potter work to develop a broader perspective beyond easy sound bites. A Doubleday hardcover.

  • The New York Times "Revelatory. . . . Persuasive, timely and necessary."
  • Washington Post "Deeply researched and studded with detail . . . Seems destined to rattle the Koch executive offices in Wichita as other investigations have not."
  • Chicago Tribune "With such turmoil on the right wing of American politics, reading Dark Money is like reading the first chapter of what may be a great political page-turner."
  • Esquire "Jane Mayer . . . is, quite simply, one of the very few utterly invaluable journalists this country has."
  • Los Angeles Review of Books "Dark Money is almost too good for its own good."
  • Salon
    "[A] comprehensive history. . . . Stunning."
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The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
Jane Mayer
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