Dark Money by Jane Mayer Review

You probably already think the Koch Brothers are evil. But if you’d like to fill in the unsurprising details of the many-tentacled operation of the “Kochtopus,” as Jane Mayer describes it, I guess this book would make a nice afternoon read.Mayer tells the history of the Koch Empire, led by Charles and David Koch, from their father’s lucrative relationship with supplying fuel for Stalin and Hitler in the 1930s all the way to their support of another autocrat-in-the-making, Donald Trump.Their troubled, competitive, and bourgeoise childhood had all the trappings of a life that would be marked by the insatiable desire for money—riddled with bitter familial disputes over control and share of their company.The book’s primary focus though, as implied by the title, is about Charles and David Koch’s stealth political activism over decades all in service of the goal to, in Charles’ words, to “tear government out at its root.”  They have funded the Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute, and Hoover Institute: shepherded the Tea Party movement in vituperative reaction to Obama’s victory: and given billions of dollars to government officials and organizations to evade taxes and undercut environmental regulation.During this entire time, the Koch’s wealth keeps increasing. Despite believing that Obama’s presidency would be economically catastrophic, both Charles and David tripled their individual fortunes during his presidency, from 14 billion to 41 billion.This book is an excellent work of reporting from Mayer, replete with all the intimate details that help a story flow, but I leave the book saddled with a few questions: how does my view of the Koch Brother as evil obfuscate my understanding of politics and possibly prevent the effectiveness of my own political activism? How do citizens stop the many-tentacled “Kochtopus” from dumping millions of gallons of toxic waste into our ecosystem and undermining their almost unstoppable political fundraising?

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