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Dark Money

The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

By Jane Mayer
15-minute read
Audio available
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer

Dark Money (2016) is a chilling look behind the scenes of American politics, outlining how a small handful of the country’s richest people have been influencing the country’s political landscape since the 1970s. Far from a conspiracy theory, these are the cold hard facts of the powerful and immensely wealthy individuals behind the rise of today’s radical right-wing conservative movement.

  • Students of political science and economics
  • Political junkies and newshounds
  • Readers struggling to grasp the layers and complexities of US politics

Jane Mayer is an investigative journalist and staff writer for the New Yorker and recipient of the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism in 2008. She is also the author of The Dark Side: the Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.

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Dark Money

The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

By Jane Mayer
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer
Synopsis

Dark Money (2016) is a chilling look behind the scenes of American politics, outlining how a small handful of the country’s richest people have been influencing the country’s political landscape since the 1970s. Far from a conspiracy theory, these are the cold hard facts of the powerful and immensely wealthy individuals behind the rise of today’s radical right-wing conservative movement.

Key idea 1 of 9

The Koch brothers head a network funded by billionaires who are determined to control US politics.

When it comes to US billionaires, you probably think of Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. But there are others who wield even more power, yet remain in the shadows.

The billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch run Koch Industries, the nation’s second-largest private company, which was founded by their father, Fred Koch, in 1940.

Fred Koch started amassing his fortune by building oil refineries for the Soviet Union and Josef Stalin, which led to Koch’s company being commissioned to construct a massive oil refinery for Nazi Germany in 1934.

Fred was indeed a Nazi sympathizer at the time. He even hired a nanny who was a Nazi sympathizer to look after his children. In fact, the nanny was such a passionate Nazi supporter that she moved back to Germany after Hitler’s invasion of France in 1940, when Charles was just five years old and David was a newborn baby.

Eventually, Charles and David would grow up to become business partners, and since the 1970s they’ve been building an elaborate network of political donors and fundraising institutions. This network has so many arms, and reaches so deep into the heart of American politics, that it’s known as the Kochtopus.

Ultimately, the goal has been to spread their message of libertarian values. These values focus on supporting a free market and small government devoid of regulations, taxes or anything else that might get in the way of profits.

In 1980, this crusade led David Koch to make a brief run for office as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate. That year, the Libertarian Party only managed to capture around one percent of the national vote.

But the experience informed the brothers’ future political strategy. They realized that a politician is merely a public voice – real power is creating and shaping the messages that those voices project.

So, the Koch brothers decided to remain behind the scenes from that point onward, and began focusing their energy on an ambitious long-term strategy.

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