I read yesterday’s NYT review of Jane Mayer’s new book, “Dark Money,” by David Nasaw, and my much-stated fear of the Koch Brothers and their Neu Wannsee Conference was confirmed. And ratcheted up.
Below the link I’ve pulled excerpts from the review, with the naked intention of scaring you as much as I’m scared. (Hey, you–unlike me–actually go to horror movies for entertainment; why should you be fazed by a mere book review?)
In “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,” Ms. Mayer reports on David and Charles Koch’s empire and political influence.
“Dark Money,” the result of Ms. Mayer’s research, is a persuasive, timely and necessary story of the Koch brothers’ empire. It may read overly long and include some familiar material, but only the most thoroughly documented, compendious account could do justice to the Kochs’ bizarre and Byzantine family history and the scale and scope of their influence.
Largely because of his experience in the Soviet Union, [father] Fred Koch became a staunch anti-Communist and, in 1958, one of the 11 founding members of the John Birch Society. His son Charles did not fully commit himself to his father’s political project until the mid-1970s, when, Ms. Mayer writes, Charles Koch “began planning a movement that could sweep the country.” His declared goal? Nothing less than destroying what he referred to as “the prevalent statist paradigm.”
“…prevalent statist paradigm”? What does that mean? It means our constitutional democracy, couched in the utterly disingenuous gobbledegook produced by those “libertarians.”
The review handily details what “libertarians” want to destroy:
The 1980 platform of the Libertarian Party, to which the Koch brothers provided financial support and on which David Koch ran for vice president, offered a preview of their anti-government zealotry. The Libertarians opposed federal income and capital gains taxes. They called for the repeal of campaign finance laws; they favored the abolition of Medicaid and Medicare and advocated the abolition of Social Security and the elimination of the Federal Election Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “The platform was, in short,” Ms. Mayer concludes, “an effort to repeal virtually every major political reform passed during the 20th century.” [My bolding, as if these sentences weren’t bold enough.]
As you may have noticed, the Koch Party didn’t win the election. So what did the Kochs do? Did they take their billions and go off into the sunset and sulk? Oh no.
When the Supreme Court in the 2010 Citizens United case permitted nonprofits to spend money on political campaigning, the Koch brothers funded their own political machine, which, in size, dollars and sophistication, rivaled that of the two major parties. Their success in the 2010 midterm election was remarkable, and, Ms. Mayer says, took the Democrats by surprise. Republicans picked up seats in the House and the Senate and 675 in state legislatures. “As a consequence of their gains, Republicans now had four times as many districts to gerrymander as the Democrats” and the legislative power to pass a series of laws suppressing the vote of those who might not support their agenda.
The Kochs, Ms. Mayer is careful to remind us, are only one of several fabulously wealthy families that have tried to move America to the right…For more than a decade, they have organized donor summits [a/k/a Neu Wannsee Conferences] to which they have invited like-minded billionaires, political consultants, media celebrities and elected officials. At these meetings, plans are made, issues chosen, money raised, donations pooled, spending coordinated for the next election cycles.
The Koch brothers and their allies insist, and no doubt believe, that their war on big government has been motivated by their commitment to the individual freedoms that government interferes with. Still, “it was impossible not to notice,” Ms. Mayer writes, “that the political policies they embraced benefited their own bottom lines first and foremost. Lowering taxes and rolling back regulations, slashing the welfare state and obliterating the limits on campaign spending might or might not have helped others, but they most certainly strengthened the hand of extreme donors with extreme wealth.”
One of the more startling revelations in Ms. Mayer’s book concerns the number of billionaires in the Koch network who have had “serious past or ongoing legal problems” and whose companies have been fined for violations of the Clean Air and the Clean Water Acts. Koch Industries, she reports, has been perhaps the most flagrant and willful polluter and scofflaw. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s database, it was the No. 1 producer of toxic waste in the country in 2012.
To protect their investments in coal and oil pipelines and refineries (somewhat pared down in the last decade), the Koch brothers have, Ms. Mayer points out, funded think tanks committed to raising doubt about climate change. They have also spent tens of millions of dollars to roll back environmental regulations and defund or abolish the federal agencies that write and enforce them.
I’m still finding it hard to believe that such sophisticated monsters are flourishing in this country.
And I am wondering how New York big-money society, a lot of it Jewish, will react to this book. Will they continue to pal around with David Koch, who calculated correctly that if he gave $100 million to Lincoln Center, his name would go up on New York’s premiere dance stage, the State Theater, and he would be embraced by other philanthropists who donate large sums to Lincoln Center?
I trust some journalist will be asking those questions of the Soros family, Mike Bloomberg, David Geffen, et many, many al.