By Susan Grigsby Sunday Feb 07, 2016
Indian Wells is a posh desert town in the Coachella Valley, neighbor to Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, and known as much for its tennis stadium and golf courses as for its multimillion dollar homes. As Jane Mayer tells us in the introduction to her masterful and disturbing new book, Dark Money, it was the perfect place for the Koch brothers’ secretive semi-annual meeting of wealthy conservative donors in January 2009. Among the millionaire attendees there were also 18 billionaires whose combined fortunes in 2015,exceeded $214 billion. And while they may have had some differences:
The glue that bound them together, however, was antipathy toward government regulation and taxation, particularly as it impinged on their own accumulation of wealth.
They knew that with a Democrat in the White House, in the House speaker’s chair, and as the Senate’s majority leader, they had some work to do in order to rebuild the Republican Party. Mayer gives us a fly-on-the-wall view of the debate that was staged as part of the seminar between Sens. Jim DeMint and John Cornyn over the best way to move forward. According to Cornyn, the second-most conservative member of the Senate, the party needed to reach out and attract more members (even moderates) to become a big tent party if necessary. DeMint, on the other hand, argued that rather than expanding, the party needed to purify itself and become more committed to conservative principles. DeMint insisted that they must resist every policy that the new president proposed, to obstruct, in every way possible, the programs of the man that the people had just elected. Cornyn lost the debate.
By Jane Mayer Published by Doubleday January 19, 2016 Hardcover, 464 pages
The Kochs were unusually single-minded, but they were not alone. They were among a small, rarefied group of hugely wealthy, archconservative families that for decades poured money, often with little public disclosure, into influencing how Americans thought and voted. Their efforts began in earnest during the second half of the twentieth century. In addition to the Kochs, this group included Richard Mellon Scaife, an heir to the Mellon banking and Gulf Oil fortunes; Harry and Lynde Bradley, midwesterners enriched by defense contracts; John M. Olin, a chemical and munitions company titan; the Coors brewing family of Colorado; and the DeVos family of Michigan, founders of the Amway marketing empire. Each was different, but together they formed a new generation of philanthropist, bent on using billions of dollars from their private foundations to alter the direction of American politics.