The importance of Dark Money does not flow from any explosive new revelation, but from its scope and perspective ... It is not easy to uncover the inner workings of an essentially secretive political establishment. Mayer has come as close to doing it as anyone is likely to come anytime soon.
Mayer’s book is so deeply researched and studded with detail that it seems destined to rattle the Koch executive offices in Wichita as other investigations have not. It could inspire a more intense discussion about the impact of this wealthy conservative cadre on the Republican Party and the recent course of American politics.
“Dark Money 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.
Though Mayer’s story is broadly familiar, she adds countless new details and important context along the way. And by synthesizing so much in a single volume, she’s written one of the essential books about our political system’s unparalleled capacity for perpetuating income inequality.
Jane Mayer’s remarkable new book makes it abundantly clear that the Kochs, and the closely connected group of billionaires they’ve helped assemble, have spent thousands of times that much over the past few decades, and that in the process they’ve distorted American politics in devastating ways, impairing the chances that we’ll effectively respond to climate change, reducing voting rights in many states, paralyzing Congress, and radically ratcheting up inequality.
The Koch family portrait aside, Dark Money piles up facts and anecdotes to support its central thesis: the evasion by the very rich of any obligation to rise above self-interest and serve the public interest. But selfishness usually wants an alibi, and Mayer might have paused somewhere to try and explain the attraction of the free-market ideology...The billionaires do all the mischief they can, and Jane Mayer, in this brave and resourceful book, has numbered their abuses with admirable pertinacity, but they are only one of the forces 'behind the rise of the radical right.'
Ms. Mayer’s writes well, as befits any member of the team that produces the New Yorker’s highly readable prose. Her explorations of the family histories of the Kochs and their philosophical allies in the Scaife-Mellon clan are detailed and satisfying to the human thirst for juicy tidbits. We learn in intimate detail, complete with psychological analysis, of the family feud that split the Koch brothers into two warring camps, with Charles and David on one side and Bill and Freddie on the other. But some readers might grow weary of Ms. Mayer’s breathless style, which suggests that every paragraph unmasks some secret of the giant right-wing conspiracy...Ms. Mayer might herself benefit from an economics course.
Mayer unmasks this generation's big-league political funders, who operate with little or no public scrutiny. She expands her earlier reporting for The New Yorker. In addition to several hundred author interviews, the book's nearly 1,000 end notes mostly acknowledge secondary sources — books and articles by other trackers of big money in politics. She presents her case soberly and comprehensively. But her matter-of-fact style may not suffice as big money in politics moves into the spotlight...Certainly, material can be found on the money-in-politics beat for similarly great story-telling. But Mayer isn't there yet.
Jane Mayer's Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right is almost too good for its own good. On the one hand, this tale of how the Koch brothers persuaded 'hundreds of the other richest conservatives in the country to give them control over their millions of dollars in contributions' compels us to read on. On the other, the story is so outrageous it should make any citizen want to go out and do something about it.
Like many a political pundit, Mayer says that the libertarian Republicans elected to the U.S. House have made governing tough — and even, as the shutdown of October 2013 showed — impossible...It’s all here, from the Tea Party upswing to the fossil fuel industry’s expressions of doubt about global warming. For some readers staggering under the load of Mayer’s listings of names, dates, places and obscure foundations, the message may seem unworthy of the effort required to read it.