Dark Money by Jane Mayer (Doubleday, now on sale) traces the actions of four very rich families, with extreme libertarian views, who are using their money to fundamentally change our country.
These people—the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, the Bradley family, and Peter Mellon Schaife—believe that taxes are tyranny, government regulation stifles freedom, and social programs must end. If you want to understand how these billionaires think, remember these core principles:
Many years ago, they realized that their ideas were not popular with the vast majority of Americans. They decided to create the changes they wanted by building their own networks of foundations, think tanks, and political organizations. These groups have been working together for decades to popularize anti-government and anti-tax ideas.
Mayer says that the Kochs pushed their policies to “protect their businesses and personal fortunes under the guise of promoting the public interest.” It is important to realize that many of Koch Industries’ subsidiaries have been industrial polluters, failed to meet standards for worker safety, and skirted tax laws; facts most Americans do not know.
Americans Fall for Anti-Government Ideas
While people are ignorant about the Koch record, they have become more and more receptive to the anti-government sentiment the Koch machine has been selling. Today a large majority of Americans are convinced that their greatest threat comes from our own government.
“Waste, fraud, and abuse” and “out-of-control spending” are the mantras of the anti-government crowd. No matter that they themselves have been eager recipients of government welfare in terms of tax cuts for the wealthy, tax benefits for their corporations, government contracts pulling in billions for their industries, and a host of other “deals” for them and their corporations.
While the Kochs and their wealthy friends have grown rich beyond measure, most American families have not shared in the largesse. Despite this, the idea that when the government has less, you’ll have more still resonates. More of what? is never answered.
John Birch Society Ties to Kochs and Friends
Dark Money delves into the Koch connection to Nazi Germany where Fred Koch, father to David and Charles, built a huge refinery with the direct support of Adolph Hitler. She also expands on the Koch connection to the John Birch Society, a topic I’ve written about extensively.
The Kochs are a Birch family. Father Fred was a founding member. Charles was a member, too. Their ideas for government come almost directly out of Birch dogma.
The connection to the John Birch Society doesn’t stop there. Two of the other families Mayer investigates also have strong Birch ties: The Bradley and The DeVos families.
Meet the Bradleys: Birchers, Union-Busters, Conspiracy Theory Lovers
Harry Bradley along with his brother, Lynde, made a fortune in the Allen Bradley Company, manufacturer of engine parts. Their company landed a slew of government contracts during World War II. Despite the largesse of the federal government, Bradley fought every “intrusion” into his business including government regulation and safety requirements.
He was furious about “Communists” in the government and found a supportive friend in Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society. Bradley was a founding Birch member and remained in leadership until his death in 1965. Since then, the Harry and Lynde Bradley Foundation has provided millions of dollars to destroy labor unions, fight civil rights, and spread conspiracy theories.
One of the foundation’s most successful forays into politics was as a big contributor to the campaign of Scott Walker in Wisconsin.They poured cash into his successful efforts to smash the unions and pass “right-to-work” legislation, which he signed into law last year.
The DeVos Family: Charter Schools, Baseball, and Amway
Mayer’s book connects the DeVoses to the Koch network. But they also have connections to the John Birch Society through the Council on National Policy, another of those dark money networks composed of libertarian, anti-government types with lots of money to throw around.
Richard DeVos, founder of Amway, despises government interference in or regulation of business. Of course, he has no hesitation in grabbing government handouts for his NBA team, the Orlando Magic.
His son, Dick DeVos—a former candidate for governor of Michigan—focuses on evangelical Christian issues including pushing public funding for private, evangelical Christian schools. Name an evangelical cause and you’ll probably find DeVos money funding it.
He is married to Eric Prince’s sister, Betsy. In case anyone forgot, Prince is the founder of Blackwater, the super-secret military company that pocketed millions from its contracts for services during the War in Iraq. Both Richard and Dick DeVos have donated millions to the Republican party and were prime funders for the campaigns of George W. Bush.
Richard Mellon Scaife: $1 Billion Tax Free to Right-Wing Causes
Last, but certainly not least, is Richard Mellon Scaife, who—like so many of the radical right-wing, anti-government types—inherited his fortune. Scaife is infamous for seeding the Foster conspiracy that dogged the Clintons and investing lots of money in the impeachment effort. Before he died in 2014, he gave over a billion dollars to right-wing causes.
According to Jane Mayer, who accessed Scaife’s unpublished memoirs, he was “driven in part by a tax loophole that granted him his inheritance tax-free though a trust, so long as the trust donated its net income to charity for 20 years. Isn’t it grand how tax law gets written? Scaife reportedly wrote.
Get Rich and Change the Country
These four families amassed their fortunes through inheritance, government contracts, and friendly tax laws—which they lobby for through their own political network. Now they’re spending vast sums of money to radically change the country that helped make them so rich.
Do you wonder how the Republican Party abandoned all moderate ideas and became the radical-right party we see today? Look no further than the Dark Money network these billionaires control.
For more about the Koch Brothers, check out my blog, Tearing Government Out at the Root
For more revelations from Dark Money, check out Father of Koch Brothers Helped Build Nazi Oil Refinery Book Says