Hilbert Morales / EL OBSERVADOR

Author Jane Mayer’s book “DARK MONEY, The Hidden Story of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” took five years of investigative journalism. Anyone who wants to know how a small group of billionaires whose ideology calls for “lower taxes, a free market economy, less monitoring and regulation by a small government whose purpose is to provide safety and security and establish property ownership rights.” This group began meeting during the 1970’s at the invitation of the Koch brothers. Their first assembly attracted only 15 participants; their most recent assembly was attended by more than 400 ultra-wealthy individuals. Their focus is on retaining their power and influence by using their resources, especially money, to get what they want.

The “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision established the right of corporations to exercise their free speech using money. This case was financed by wealthy donors (including Charles Koch) who had funded the “Institute for Justice”. Recent 2016 reports establish that $866 million was raised from a small group of billionaires whose goal is to ensure that their special interests continue to be influential and profitable.

“A small number of people with massive resources (money) have orchestrated, manipulated, and exploited the 2008 economic recession for their own purposes.”

“Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the need to address climate change, have modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protection for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle class workers? Jane Mayer, in ‘Dark Money’, meticulously records the history about a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extremely libertarian views, who bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally change the American political system. This network has brought together some of the wealthiest people on the planet. Their core beliefs are in a ‘free market system’’’; that taxes are a form of tyranny; and that government oversight of business is an assault on freedom. These beliefs are sincerely held, but these same beliefs also advance their personal and corporate special interests and profits.

Many of their companies have run afoul of EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), worker safety, securities and tax laws.

The chief figures in this network are Charles and David Koch, whose father made his fortune in part by building oil refineries in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The Koch patriarch was later a founder of the John Birch Society, whose beliefs were so radical, it believed that Dwight Eisenhower was a communist. The two brothers were schooled in a political philosophy that the only role of government is to provide security and to enforce property rights.

When these libertarian ideas proved to be unpopular with American voters, the Koch brothers and their allies chose another path. If they pooled their vast resources, they could fund an interlocking array of organizations (many of which are ‘non-profits’) that could work in tandem to influence the U.S. Congress; ultimately control academic institutions; think tanks; the courts; state legislatures; and the U.S. Presidency. Richard Mellon Scaife, a banking and oil fortune heir, had the brilliant insight that most of their programs and political activities could be written off as “Tax-deductible philanthropy.” These organizations were often given innocuous names such as ‘Americans for Prosperity’. Their funding sources were hidden whenever possible. This process reached its peak with the allegedly populist Tea Party movement; mightily assisted by the Citizens United (Supreme Court) decision. This case was conceived of by legal advocates (Institute for Justice) funded by the network. The political operatives and network employs are disciplined, smart, and at times ruthless.

Jane Mayer has documented instances in which people affiliated with these groups hired private detectives to impugn whistle-blowers, journalists, and even government investigators. And their efforts have been remarkably successful. Libertarian views on taxes and regulations, once far outside the mainstream and still rejected by most Americans, are making gains in the majority of state governments, the Supreme Court and Congress. Meaningful environmental, labor, financial and tax reform have been stymied.

In a tight and utterly convincing narrative Mayer traces the byzantine trail of the billions of dollars spent. She provides (us) with vivid portraits of the colorful figures behind (this) new American oligarchy. “DARK MONEY” is a book that must be read by anyone who cares about the future of American Democracy.”

“DARK MONEY” presents high quality historic factual information which tells us how ultra conservatives think and influence outcomes. All Americans, especially ethnic peoples of color, need to understand that these network individuals want to have things their way.

The only way to ‘push back’ is for all citizens to register to vote; understand what is at stake; and then vote in your own best interests. This is especially true for Latino voters. If we want equity in the near future, Latino votes must count. Influence and power are not given up without public demands.