Dark money has infiltrated U.S. politics and institutions on a staggering level. It’s a term used to describe money funneled to groups such as Americans for Prosperity, the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the State Policy Network, and the Federalist Society, among many others, while its donors remain hidden in the shadows thanks to loopholes in disclosure laws. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010 opened the door for dark money to flood in with its core statement “corporations are people too.”
In addition to local, state, and national politics, the money reaches into universities, think tanks, and “outreach” programs that target specific groups such as Latinos, women, prison fellowships, and veterans. It’s used to buy and operate media outlets and data mining companies that actively perpetrate agenda-driven campaigns of misinformation, untruths, and lies such as “climate change is a hoax.”
There are a few select super rich people and families who are behind much of this dark money. Two of these families, the Kochs (Charles and David) and Robert and Rebekah Mercer, are billionaires with narrow, laser-focused ideas of what they think America should look like.
The Mercers funded much of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and own Breitbart, a far-right “news” outlet that publishes extremist, fringe articles fomenting anti-immigration, racist, and xenophobic points of view. Robert Mercer is part-owner of Cambridge Analytica, a company that mines and analyzes social media data from user profiles specifically to manipulate electoral outcomes. The company made headlines last month when Wikileaks founder Julian Assange confirmed Cambridge Analytica’s chief executive had approached Wikileaks about the possibility of releasing Hilary Clinton’s emails. (Steve Bannon was on the board of Cambridge Analytics before working on the Trump campaign; he’s now back helming Breitbart after leaving the Trump administration in August ).
The Kochs’ ideal almost completely dismantles our democratic republic to reshape it into a “Free Market” economy – one with no regulations to inhibit the growth of their wealth (to date, approximately $94.4 BILLION).
Two primary sources of the Kochs’ riches come from the petroleum and paper industries. Koch Industries owns Georgia Pacific, Guardian Industries, INVISTA, and Molex, as well as several Koch-named chemical and petroleum companies. It produces an enormous number of products that are used both commercially and on a daily consumer basis: plastic bags and bottles, Lycra in our clothes, Stainmaster in our carpets, asphalt, diesel, gasoline, toilet paper, printing paper, connectors used in telecommunication and data transmission equipment, and chemicals used for fracking. The Kochs’ bottom line GREATLY benefits from a lack of environmental regulations, and they spend enormous amounts of money trying to persuade members of Congress to vote against environmental regulations and oversight.
Here in Virginia, recent campaign flyers for Manoli Loupassi (House of Delegates District 68) and Kirk Cox (House District 66), for example, clearly bear the Americans For Prosperity logo. Ed Gillespie, Jill Vogel, John Adams, and Loupassi – Republican candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and House of Delegates, respectively – have all received funding in the past few months from Koch Industries, according to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP). In addition, Rep. Dave Brat spoke at AFP’s recent Defending the American Dream summit in Richmond, Va.
Many Koch-affiliated appointees populate high levels in the Trump administration, including Scott Pruitt, Mike Pence, Ajit Pai, Betsy DeVos, Ryan Zinke, and Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Vice President Mike Pence has a long history with the Kochs, and was keynote speaker at a Koch donor summit last month. With the formation in May of his Great America Committee leadership PAC – which has received donations from dozens of corporate PACS -Pence is clearly positioning himself for a presidential run funded by people who will benefit enormously from a Commander in Chief who is a vital organ of the dark money monster.
The terrible reality is these very few individuals alone are strategically gaming the US democratic system to favor the .01% of the population–themselves. We MUST be aware of their plan and take action before it’s too late.
In Virginia, we have the chance to elect candidates who are NOT part of the dark money network. This is how we, the REAL people, will be able to fight the Koch’s and the Mercers, Pence and Bannon–with our votes. November 7th is D-Day for Virginia, and the bellwether for which way the Democracy pendulum will swing. If you are in Virginia, please PLEASE vote Nov 7th!