Dark Money: Jane Mayer on How the Koch Bros. & Billionaire Allies Funded the Rise of the Far Right | Democracy Now!
Democrats and Republicans are expected to spend about $1 billion getting their 2016 nominee elected. There’s a third group that will spend almost as much. It’s not a political party, and it doesn’t have any candidates. It’s the right-wing political network backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch, expected to spend nearly $900 million in 2016. The Kochs’ 2016 plans come as part of an effort to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative candidates and causes over the last four decades. The story of the Koch brothers and an allied group of billionaire donors is told in a new book by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.” Mayer traces how the Kochs and other billionaires have leveraged their business empires to shape the political system in the mold of their right-wing agenda.
But then you also say that that very month there was a secret meeting that was convened by the Kochs of billionaires and multimillionaires with a completely different agenda. If you could talk about that?
JANE MAYER: Yeah, well, I’m glad you ask, because the book is not just about the Kochs. And the Kochs, on their own, probably would not be able to have the kind of influence they have. But what they’ve done is kind of a magic trick. They’ve attracted around them—they’ve purposefully built what they call an unprecedented network—it’s a pipeline, they talk about it, too—where they’ve gathered about 400 other extraordinarily wealthy conservatives with them to create a kind of a billionaire caucus almost. And that’s the group that met, just as Obama was being inaugurated. Soon after that, they met to figure out: How can we obstruct this? They regarded it as a catastrophe that Obama had been elected, and they wanted to see if they could stop change from taking place in the country and keep the order the way it had been for them during the Bush years, and maybe even push it further to the right.
So this is not—it’s an organization that I think people need to understand is not just about elections. They’ve been playing a long game that started 40 years ago, when Charles Koch really got involved in politics in the beginning. And they wanted to change not just who rules the country, but how the country thinks. They’re very antigovernment. They are—and they have pushed this kind of antigovernment line for 40 years through many different channels. And it’s kind of a war of ideas as much as anything else.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, you also talk about the secrecy with which they operate. You quote Fred Koch, the family patriarch, as saying, “The whale that spouts is the one that gets harpooned.”
JANE MAYER: Yes. And so—and I’ve talked to—many operatives who have worked for the Kochs are interviewed in this book. And one of them told me, they’re not just under the radar, they are underground. And they, for many years, just were almost invisible. They used to—the Kochs, themselves, used to call Koch Industries the biggest company that you’ve never heard of. It’s the second-largest private company in America. It has $115 billion of business a year. And most people didn’t know what it was. Many Americans use their products, they don’t realize—Dixie cups, Stainmaster carpet, Lycra, Georgia-Pacific lumber, there’s Quilted Northern toilet paper. There are so many products that they’ve flooded the American market with, yet most people don’t realize that that is coming from these two brothers who own most of the company and are pouring the money into far-right-wing politics.