Sunday, July 21, 2024

Monday Night Book Club Reviews: Dark Money by Jane Mayer

Elaine Burns

Jane Meredith Mayer (born 1955) is an American investigative reporter who has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1995. In recent years, she has written for that publication on money in politics, government prosecution of whistle-blowers, and the United States Predator drone program (Wikipedia).

Mayer’s articles, books, and essays have won a large number of prizes, plus acclaim from her fellow journalists and political commentators.

She has co-authored three books: Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas, Landslide: The Unmaking of the President (about Reagan’s second term), and The Darkside: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals. Dark Money is her first solo book.

After an article in the New York Times in 2010 on the Koch brothers, she was investigated as a plagiarist. These allegations were dismissed when the writers she was accused of plagiarizing stated she had not, and they were very complimentary about her work. In investigations by Mayer herself, it was found that those responsible for the smear campaign against her had direct ties to the Kochs. It is with this exposure that she wrote Dark Money.

The book looks at the push from the far right to overhaul the Republican party in the U.S. This push to the right includes the wish to severely limit government from enacting regulatory programs. This would include the abolishment of the EPA, the Worker’s Health and Safety programs, trade deals, and the limitation or elimination of taxes for income and businesses.

While dealing mainly with the rise of the Koch brothers as leaders of this movement from their father’s time in the 1930s to today. This book also talks about many business people and elected officials who are part of this movement, and how those deemed appropriate by the Kochs receive large sums of money for campaigns.

I will be honest, many of the names cited and the sources cited by her were and remain unknown to me. I am fairly ignorant of the U.S. political structure. Many writers have written accolades for her research and the quotes she was able to obtain. Therefore I finished the book believing what she had written but thinking that (a) it had no relevance to Canada, (b) there was probably a similar group funding and trying to have influence over the Democratic party as well, and (c) there may even be a similar movement in Canada.

And then I watched the second Trump-Clinton debate. I listened to Trump roll off the plans to strip the ERA for the benefit of the energy sector, lower taxes on companies so that they can use the extras in creating jobs, returning overseas operations, lower income taxes particularly for the top one percent to stimulate the economy, and doing away with trade deals. What grabbed me was the close connection to his words and the Koch brothers’ messages. I must admit I found that a little scary.

As a book, we felt that it was written in too academic a style. By the time you read through all the citations, and the experience of those quoted you had lost some of the enthusiasm for the paragraph. We felt the style was not one condusive to helping the ordinary citizen understand what is happening.

One of our members found online the ‘Cole’s Notes’ of the book, available from Amazon.

One can understand why Mayer wanted to be so precise in her statements. Having been harassed without cause in the past I am sure caused her to over-cite.

I think it is worth a read, at least the Cole’s Notes version, as we sometimes take messages at face value and this will help you sort those messages through the lens of special interests.

We were all glad we read it.

November’s book is:

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

FOML Update.

The net shed is closed for the season. It has been another great year.

Look for us next May holiday weekend and please remember we are unable to take book donations until then.

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