BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company, the corrupting influence of money in politics.

ANDY KROLL: This is the era of the empowered one percenter. They're taking action. And they are becoming the new headline players in this political system.

KIM BARKER: People want influence. It's a question of whether we're going to allow it to happen, especially if we're going to allow it to happen and nobody even knows who the influencers are.

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BILL MOYERS: Welcome. It’s barely spring and already the spending for this year's midterm elections is three times higher than it was on the very day the Supreme Court issued the Citizens United decision back in 2010. That one fired the starting gun that set off the mad dash for campaign cash.

Look at this headline: "Billionaires use super PACs to advance pet causes."

And this: “Federal super PACs spend big on local elections.”

Right. Unlimited and secret cash is no longer just for the White House or Congressional races – it’s even being thrown at state and municipal races – right down to County Sheriff and school board.

I could go on, but don’t take my word for it. Listen instead to two of the best journalists covering the world of money and politics. Kim Barker reports for the independent, non-profit news organization ProPublica. She specializes in “dark money” from those so-called “social welfare” groups that keep the identity of their donors secret.

ANDY KROLL: works in the Washington bureau of “Mother Jones” magazine. He’s a muckraking journalist whose exposés have opened eyes to campaign finance corruption as well as malfeasance in Congress and in the banking business. Welcome to both of you.

KIM BARKER: Thanks for having us.

ANDY KROLL: It’s great to be here.

BILL MOYERS: Both of you have talked about-- covered and talked about dark money. Exactly, for the benefit of my viewers, what is dark money?

KIM BARKER: Dark money-- these are organizations that can take unlimited amounts of money from billionaires or corporations or unions or anybody. And then turned around and spend money on political ads without saying who their donors are. They don't have to tell who the money came from. They do have to say what it's being spent on. And where it's going. But they don't have to say who the donors are.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, where does all this money go? I mean, it seems to me to be frank, it sometimes sounds like a racket, you know? Lots of money raised. It goes to the campaign managers. It goes to the strategist. It goes to the television stations. And you really wonder if so much of it isn't taken off along the way. Profit margins and all of that.

ANDY KROLL: It's absolutely a self-enrichment process for the consultants and the ad makers, you know? The “mad men” of American politics. And all the different players, the political professionals in this process. I mean, one aspect of all of this dark money sloshing around in our politics, as Kim and I have written about a lot is that, you know, these folks on the left and the right pass money around between different organizations, you know? Americans for a Better Tomorrow passes it to Americans for Better Leadership passes it to Americans for a Better Leadership and a Better Tomorrow.

And all along the way, someone is taking a cut. A consultant has to be attached to these organizations as this dark money moves around. And people are getting rich off of that.

BILL MOYERS: What's all this money doing to us?

KIM BARKER: I would argue that if you're wondering why your government is so broke and you can't really get anything passed through Congress, campaign finance has a lot to do with that.

I think it means that a candidate for office has to wake up in the morning and not just worry about what his or her opponent is doing. They have to worry about what his or her opponent's outside money group is doing and what their own outside money group is doing. So you have this sense that as soon as you get into office, you have to start raising money for the next election. It means you can't take a stand on an issue that might prove unpopular. It means that you have to go hand in hand with what your party thinks. It just sort of means that we're going to get more of the same, more of this gridlock, which benefits a lot of these same billionaires that are putting money into the system in the first place.

ANDY KROLL: Political science has shown us that members of Congress are already far more receptive to the interests and the ideas and the whims of the very wealthy in this country, sort of the middle class, and basically could not care less about what poor and working people think or want in terms of policymaking. Add super PACs into the mix, add dark money groups into the mix, when really it's just one donor in your district who can make or break you.

BILL MOYERS: Is that why you've been spending a lot of time at the local and state level, covering big money?

ANDY KROLL: Absolutely. I think it's-- I mean, I love covering at the local and state level, because it's like taking a magnifying glass to these issues. What happens at the state level when you have empowered millionaires and billionaires? And how that influence is even stronger now and the money goes a lot farther at the state level than it does in Congress.

BILL MOYERS: You did that story on the DeVos family in Michigan. In a capsule, can you tell us what that was about?

ANDY KROLL: I'm from Michigan. The DeVos family, cofounders of Amway, the multilevel marketing company. Big time Republicans, long-time members of the Koch network, the donor network. So in 2012, Michigan does the unthinkable and passes a right-to-work law. The cradle of organized labor is now a right-to-work state.

BILL MOYERS: But they didn't call it that. They called it "freedom to work" right?

ANDY KROLL: That was the spin, exactly. Dick DeVos, the heir to the Amway fortune had a role in this. I figured out that this had been a multi-year effort. There was fundraising. There was electing Republican candidates, essentially, helping to engineer a complete Republican takeover in Michigan in 2010.

The state House, the state Senate, and the Governor's Mansion all were occupied by Republicans. And then a lot of, in this case, dark money, through a group, you know, another, the Michigan Freedom Fund, essentially, in a lame duck session in 2012, after the elections, put a blitz on. And blanketed the airways—

VOICEOVER in Michigan Freedom Fund Ad: There’s a plan to protect our freedom in Michigan. It’s called Freedom to Work, because joining a union or not should be your choice, and choosing not to join shouldn’t cost you your job. Freedom to Work will mean more jobs.

ANDY KROLL: --lobbied lawmakers really hard, you know, twisted arms if they needed to, broke a few as well, and just applied a massive amount of influence and did the unthinkable. And it still boggles my mind to think about it. But it was an incredible illustration of what one or two really motivated wealthy donors can do.

BILL MOYERS: “ProPublica” just published your latest big story on the Koch brothers. What's new there?

KIM BARKER: We basically took a look at the network of 12 groups that we could identify from the Koch brothers network in 2012 that were active in trying to push conservative causes and spent more than $383 million that particular year.

And we tried to show what was going on with these LLCs that we figured out were involved with these 12 nonprofits.

BILL MOYERS: LLC? What is that?

KIM BARKER: Limited liability company. So we just wrote about how these had been playing behind the scenes in the Koch brothers’ network. But I think what you're going to see much more this year is, you know, person X is going to go to Delaware. They're going to have a lawyer form an LLC. And it doesn't have to say who's actually behind it. It just has to be LLC-- let's call it Sunny Day LLC. And then you're going to have this LLC start spending money on politics. They're going to tell the FEC--

BILL MOYERS: Federal Election Commission.

KIM BARKER: "Well, politics isn't our main thing that we're doing. We do all these other things. We make money. We do all these other things." So they won't have to report their donors. And they won't have to deal with the I.R.S. saying, "You're not a social welfare nonprofit." The only thing that they'll have to worry about is they'll have to actually pay some taxes that they don't have to pay right now with a social welfare nonprofit. But you know, you have this system that’s so complicated and really the only explanation that people could come up with is that it’s about control. It’s about having this set of LLCs, that you’ve got some unknown hands behind the scenes able to control what the groups are doing and make sure the groups stay in lockstep. That they never, you know, color outside the lines.

BILL MOYERS: So who is in control?

KIM BARKER: We don't know. We know someone is. We know that it could be different folks for every single organization. But I can't tell you for certain who's in control.

ANDY KROLL: And there's been a lot of great work. “ProPublica,” “Open Secrets,” “The Washington Post” about trying to visualize, you know, following the money. But it basically looks like someone put a big bowl of spaghetti in front of you and is like, “Follow the lines throughout the entire process.” And you're like, "I can't do that."

BILL MOYERS: Why do they go to such lengths to keep secret where the money's coming from, where it's going, what's it doing? Why not just say, "This is what we're doing”?

ANDY KROLL:: Bad publicity.

KIM BARKER: Look what happened to Target, you know?

ANDY KROLL: Target is a great example. That was actually sort of the shot heard round corporate America. Target gave money to an organization in Minnesota that ended up advocating against marriage equality and then the--

KIM BARKER: Or a candidate.

ANDY KROLL: Right, against this issue. And you had the LGBT community, marriage equality advocates go ballistic, especially because Target had always portrayed itself as a sort of forward thinking, hip, progressive even organization. And yet, their money ended up supporting someone who was against gay marriage. And that scared a lot of people.

KIM BARKER: That was the canary in the coalmine. They don't-- nobody wants that to happen again.

BILL MOYERS: So are you suggesting-- is it feasible that the Koch brothers or anybody is putting all this money into this labyrinth because they would be ashamed or hurt publicly if people knew what that money was doing?

ANDY KROLL: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think in a few rare cases, we have seen I.R.S. forms sort of accidentally released that include a list of donors. And it's been sort of a who’s who of--

KIM BARKER: Fortune 500--

ANDY KROLL: Fortune 500 corporations. I mean, there was a tax filing from the early 2000s for the group Americans for Prosperity. Which is founded and funded by Charles and David Koch. And it had a whole roster of major corporations, name brand corporations. And they give to these organizations specifically so that they don't have their name out in the public. And they can sort of quietly push, you know, this issue or that issue, but not have their brand out there. And they want to have their cake and eat it too.

BILL MOYERS: So that would explain why when the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United said transparency, disclosure will be the cleansing agent here, Mitch McConnell and others in Congress made sure the disclosure bill that would implement that transparency didn't pass. The Disclose Act.

KIM BARKER: Yeah, yeah, and you really-- so I think that the-- either the Supreme Court was naive about how campaign finance really works. Or maybe just prescient. Maybe they knew what was going to happen. But their whole idea of using disclosure as some sort of cleansing mechanism and the internet as a way for people to figure out what was actually going, naive, you know?

You look at some of these groups, Americans for America, ad paid for by Americans for America, and you say, "I'm an American. I can get behind that idea. I can get behind America." You know? And you really have no idea, though, where the money is coming from. And you have to do the level of research-- I mean, I think Andy and I can spend months on a story. And you still get to the end of it. And I can say, "I know someone's controlling this network from behind the scenes. But I can't tell you who it is."

BILL MOYERS: President Obama seemed horrified at the Citizens United decision, disgusted by it, repelled by it, and then he's done nothing to counter them. The Democrats are embracing Citizens United, right?

KIM BARKER: Yeah, I mean, so far. It's like, yeah, I mean, so far. I think in the very beginning, they said it was very distasteful. But they've joined, you know, they've said, "Okay," after 2010, when they really didn't take advantage of Citizens United and the conservatives very much did. They said, "Fine, we're going to play this game now."

So I think aside from a few people that are saying, "Look, money in politics is completely out of control. You've got Harry Reid, all these people that used to criticize Citizens United and have pretty much said, "If you can't beat them at this, let's just join them."

ANDY KROLL: And I would say the Democrats, and especially President Obama and the folks in his universe got a taste of the forbidden fruit in 2012. And they really liked it. And I'm talking about a super PAC that specifically backed Obama. It's called Priorities USA Action. You know, in a year when the story about super PACs was how little effect they seem to have, Priorities USA actually had a noticeable effect, you know, it picked a single message. Attacked Mitt Romney as essentially a coldhearted, soulless, you know, venture capital plutocrat. And it ran those ads, you know, using folks who had been laid off because Bain Capital, Mitt Romney's former company had come in and taken over and then fired everybody.

WOMAN in Priorities USA Action Ad: I was suddenly 60 years old. I had no healthcare.

MAN 1 in Priorities USA Action Ad: Mainly what I was thinking about was my family. How am I going to take care of my family?

MAN 2 in Priorities USA Action Ad: He promised us the same things he’s promising the United States. And he’ll give you the same thing he gave us.

ANDY KROLL: And they use these ads really effectively, especially appealing to working class white people in Ohio, in North Carolina, and Florida. And, you know, I covered this, at the time, and you could really see Priorities USA making an impact for the president. And I think Democrats came out of that, in fact I know that they, you know, the week after the election, Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Hollywood movie mogul, who was really the sort of father of Priorities USA Action super PAC said, "Wow, that really worked. We should keep this thing around."

BILL MOYERS: Isn't that the one that's now getting ready to sail with Hillary Clinton?

ANDY KROLL: It absolutely is.

BILL MOYERS: For 2016?

KIM BARKER: Yep, yep.

BILL MOYERS: Given the fact that their opponents have so much money, how should Obama and the Democrats play the game?

ANDY KROLL: Well, they could start by at least trying to implement some kind of reform. I mean, it's not necessarily playing the same game as the other side, but it is, at least, acknowledging that this game is being played. I mean, I talk to Democrats who are in the business of winning elections, not in the business of passing reform, and they intend to use every tool at their disposal.

BILL MOYERS: And if you and I had that kind of money, wouldn't we be tempted to do it? If it has that kind of impact and that kind of effect, wouldn't we be tempted to do that?

KIM BARKER: Sure. Yes. Absolutely. You know? But people without money don't have that same opportunity. And I think-- I don't know, a big issue that we try to cover is disclosure.

ANDY KROLL: This is the era of the empowered one percenter. And they absolutely are tempted. They're taking action. And they are becoming the new, you know, headline players in this political system.

BILL MOYERS: Do you differentiate in any way between the Koch brothers, the Koch empire, and the billionaire like Tom Steyer who wants to educate the public on climate change and defeat climate deniers, and Bloomberg who wants to take on the gun culture?

ANDY KROLL: I think you have to. I mean, I think you have to in one sense, judge them on the merits of the issue that they are putting their money behind. On the other side, you seem to have a lot of conservatives who they're very passionate about this issue or that. But those issues also happen to align with the bottom line of their companies. However, the spending-- the raising and spending of that money on both sides has an effect on our democracy.

It's a scary time to be writing about politics, to just be a participant in politics today, because you do see unelected individuals having as great a power as they've ever had at least since the post-Watergate reforms, maybe ever to--

KIM BARKER: Well, but we don't really know that. I would disagree with you on that. I think that billionaires have always tried to influence politics. You can go back to the Copper King scandal of--


KIM BARKER: Yeah, the reason they had the tightest sort of rules on campaign contributions of any state. The reason that they were the state challenge to Citizens United in applying that to states. You know, you have always had this sense that I think people with a lot of money want politicians to do what they want them to do. And this is just the latest sort of form of that. I guess I wouldn't say that you have to ask Americans if this is a system they want.

ANDY KROLL: I think you're seeing a system, you're seeing the center of gravity in the political system move away from the actual political parties and go toward the Tom Steyers and the Charles and David Kochs, the Mayor Bloombergs.

And these people have the means, they have the wealth, and now they have, you know, the means, the vehicles in this political system to essentially bankroll a candidate. They could-- there could be the, you know, this donor club has their candidate. And this individual has his or her candidate. Maybe you could go back to the Gilded Age, the original Gilded Age and see a similar kind of situation. But--

BILL MOYERS: Or back to the Italian city-states. Every billionaire his own--

KIM BARKER: I mean, I think it is typical. People want influence. It's a question of whether we're going to allow it to happen, especially if we're going to allow it to happen and nobody even knows who the influencers are. You know, this idea of the anonymous money and the anonymous hundreds of millions of dollars going into our political system.

BILL MOYERS: In your reporting have you found overall that Republicans and conservatives are spending more money this way than the Democrats and the liberals? Or does finally it all balance out?

KIM BARKER: You mean on the dark money side?

BILL MOYERS: Yes, on the dark money side.

KIM BARKER: In 2012, I think the ratio was 85 percent of the money spent was by conservative groups and 15 percent was by liberal groups.

BILL MOYERS: In dark-- of dark--

KIM BARKER: Of dark money.

BILL MOYERS: Dark money?

KIM BARKER: Specifically dark money.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, it's a cat and mouse game. So how do you stay on top of it, when their lawyers are constantly closing one loophole and opening another?

ANDY KROLL: Well, you have to be just completely tireless and willing to bang your head against the wall every single day and know that for every 20 or 30 phone calls or emails that you send, maybe one will be returned?

KIM BARKER: Yeah, nobody returns your phone calls. You send emails out to, "We'd like your 990. What's your street address?" Nothing. Because they're all out of PO boxes. So you can't even go by to ask them for their tax returns. Andy and I are talking about forming a support group actually, you know? Dealing with our rejection from people.

BILL MOYERS: If we keep talking about money in politics. If we keep showing people how much money is having so much impact, they just despair. They just tune out.

ANDY KROLL: I definitely hear fatigue, big number fatigue. How many times can you tell me that this super PAC spent $100 million or the Koch network spent $383 million on elections. I do get number fatigue. But I-- you know, the outrage, at least from my own reporting, is not going away. In fact, people, I mean, I'm still meeting people who are just figuring out who Charles and David Koch are and still getting a sense of who the big players are in this climate right now, in this political system.

And the outrage isn't going anywhere. And also I think it's important to temper, you know, the bad news, if you will, with the good news when it comes along. I mean, for instance, the New York City political system has this matching public financing program, helped Mayor De Blasio. New York State is trying to implement a similar system.

KIM BARKER: You have a lot of states trying to take on dark money groups and trying to say, "You can't just funnel anonymous money into the state elections."

BILL MOYERS: This very week, the dictionary, Merriam-Webster formally, legitimately brought the noun "super PAC" into its dictionary, its online dictionaries, online unabridged dictionary. Have we made our peace with them culturally and politically?

KIM BARKER: I mean, the super PACs are here to stay. They just are. And I think that Citizens United pretty much set that up. There are super PACs. We have to know how we're going to deal with them. And we also have to say, "Are we going to allow anonymous money coming into those super PACs? Are we going--" I think dark money is one area where you can get change and regulation. But if you're going to have all this money going into politics and into elections, at the very least, you can have disclosure.

ANDY KROLL: One thing I would say from being on this beat and sort of studying the history of it, you often see a sort of swing between scandal and response. You see the system sort of grow, grow, grow, grow, grow and get stuffed with money for so long, until finally it pops.

Being in the middle of this every day, I at least have the feeling that if we're not at one of those moments, man, are we sure getting there. One of those, you know, one of those tipping points, if you will. Just the amount of money coming in, how anonymous it is, showing no sign of slowing down, just rising and rising. You know, it's-- you can't help but feel like, you know, this can't go on forever.

KIM BARKER: And you talk to any sort of campaign finance watchdog who's been doing it for a while and you say, "What's going to stop this?" And the answer is always scandal. It's going to have to be a big scandal. So you're going to have to see a situation where all that money from one particular corporation or individual bought influence with a politician. And that translated into something bad.

BILL MOYERS: Seventy-five years ago here in New York City at Madison Square Garden, Franklin Roosevelt, President Roosevelt said, quote “We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob." Have you seen this money corrupting our politics?

ANDY KROLL:: I think it absolutely is, in terms of the effect that it has on our elected officials and whose interests they're responding to on a daily basis, and how they're spending their time raising money and worrying about money being raised against them instead of thinking about solutions to the many problems in this country. And I don't and I think that there is a legal debate about whether what I've just described is corruption, as the Supreme Courts would define it. But I think any average person on the street would say, "Yeah, my elected officials, my Congress is bought and sold. And they only care about what the people who fund their campaigns and their super PACs and their nonprofits think and not what I think.

KIM BARKER: Because it gets really strange when you compare the amount of money you can donate to a candidate and the limits on that. And you can compare the sort of money that you can donate to a super PAC or a dark money group. On one side, you've got very strict small limits. And on the other, it's whatever you want to give, whatever you can afford.

BILL MOYERS: Kim Barker and ANDY KROLL:, thank you very much for being with me here today, and thank you very much for what you do.

KIM BARKER: Thanks very much for having us.

ANDY KROLL: Great to be here.

BILL MOYERS: At our website,, you’ll find continuing coverage of the corrupting influence of money in politics, and analysis of the Supreme Court’s next big decision on campaign spending, McCutcheon v. the FEC.

That’s all at I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time.

Who’s Buying our Midterm Elections?

March 21, 2014

In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court is expected to issue another big decision on campaign finance, one that could further open the floodgates to unfettered and anonymous contributions, just as the Citizens United case did four years ago.

This week Bill speaks with investigative journalists Kim Barker and Andy Kroll about the role of dark money — and the wealthy donors behind it — in this year’s midterm elections.

Already, three times as much money has been raised for this year’s elections as four years ago, when the Citizens United decision was announced. “This is the era of the empowered ‘one percenter’. They’re taking action and they’re becoming the new, headline players in this political system,” Kroll tells Moyers. Kim Barker adds, “People want influence. It’s a question of whether we’re going to allow it to happen, especially if we’re going to allow it to happen and nobody even knows who the influencers are.”

Barker is an investigative reporter with the independent, non-profit news organization ProPublica and Andy Kroll is a journalist in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones magazine.

Bill Moyers is president of Schumann Media Center which supports independent journalism, including Andy Kroll’s work at Mother Jones.

Producer: Gina Kim. Segment Producer: Lena Shemel. Editor: Sikay Tang.

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  • Anonymous

    The linchpin in all of this is that enough Americans are stupid enough to take at face value what talking heads feed them on TV. If enough of us were instead smart enough to question things and put at least a minimal effort in finding our own answers, shadow donors could sink every last penny they have into elections and it wouldn’t matter. Until then, we get what we deserve.

  • bdop4

    Amen (ain’t it the truth!).

  • bad


  • julogue

    ProPublica is doing a great job. Baker and Kroll and others in this organization are true soldiers. This is hard gut-wrenching work. Hurray for these and others with Propulica. Never before have we so desperately needed people willing to do the grunt work consistently, day-after- day to dig, dig, dig for the facts. Bravo!

  • Anonymous

    There are as you say a lot of unsung heros in the trenches trying to inform the masses , of what is going on behind the scenes. I’m amazed how hoodwinked the vast majority of americans swallow the drivel these super pacs feed them. Its real a crime, the fore fathers would turn in the graves to know what our democracy devolved into. Its really a pathetic country compared of where it came from and what is was capable of. I see no hope for the future. The billionaire .0001% won, the 99% lost, and there appears no way short of total collapse to turn it around.

  • Anonymous

    George Soros is a saint, next to the evil the Koch brothers promote. Outside of contributing to PBS, which is noble, the Koch brothers are pure evil in all their other dealings.

  • Sherwood VA

    Soros is in favor of raising taxes on the 1% while the Koch brothers are fighting it. Soros isn’t polluting our country like the Koch brothers. Do your research.

  • Anonymous

    An example: Here in Nevada we suffered great home equity loss in housing as the “bubble imploded.” (As did FL and AZ.)
    Our State Senate leader Barbara Buckley shepherded the Nevada Foreclosure Mediation Program into being in 2009. 2010, she was primaried.
    In the Legislature, Markus Conklin helped AB 273 through the process into law to assist homeowners. He was primaried in 2012. The State Supreme Court Chief Justice Hardesty said in the Leyva v. Wells Fargo case, that bank employees were paid to certify reviewing original documentation, when in fact they had not.
    Gov. Sandoval, a republican, signed into law SB 300, making it not necessary for banks to prove they were not “straw men.”

  • Obie Hanson

    man… spending that kind of money… how much tax are they avoiding? scary to think about

  • Obie Hanson

    Yes… well, if they are spending that kind of money … how much in taxes are they avoiding..?? None … because they make the rules. Love ya Bill!

  • TTigerLily

    I dont think nobility has anything to do with their contributions, rather that they will use their money to influence or silence one of the last truth tellers to the the American public.

  • John Clark

    BAD, I agree!

    Sherwood, Soros
    is not a saint; he is only the lesser of 2 evils. Do your research, or did you
    forget that he supports a candidate that has done absolutely nothing for the
    middle class, unless you call not closing gitmo, keeping the money in politics
    by not addressing campaign reform, signing the NDAA, extending the unpatriotic
    act, drone strikes thru assignation without any such fair trial by peers what
    so ever, not addressing the unfair trade imbalance, not addressing the foreign currency
    manipulation, not auditing the Fed, signing a Monsanto protection act into law,
    extending the bush and cheney farce disguised as foreign aid, ‘ when in fact is
    only money to corrupt a foreign political regime that will protect this
    countries outs sourced human capital in favor of the corporate elite’s bottom
    line philosophy’ of which directly contributes to the race to the bottom for
    every American and future generations to
    come, increasing the mass surveillance complex by attacking and prosecuting whistle blowers instead of
    listening to them ’kill the messenger’ that really helps us all, no public
    option because we have more lobbyist now than ever representing big pharma
    bribing politicians left and right, an increase in the revolving door policy
    that our candidate promised he would end once in office, need I go on about
    this classless empty suit who thinks it’s cool to take a selfie photo at Nelson
    Mandela’s funeral, just what planet are you on, it’s rather obvious to me you don’t
    follow PBS, or understand what the word research means.

  • Anonymous

    There is some truth in what you say. The problem is there are so many talking heads on every subject, much of the public doesn’t know what to really think and so they go with what “feels” right to them. Unfortunately, the right wing, in particular, has mastered the art of rhetorical “feeling” issues that get people incensed rather than informed. Then they channel that energy toward elections. The left seems either unable and unwilling to do that, possibly because it simply isn’t honest.

  • Anonymous

    It will take time and effort, but I don’t think the situation is as bleak as that. We must begin at the local level to elect people who will make it a political mission to get any private money out of politics altogether. We need enough states to bypass Congress and pass a Constitutional Amendment that bans all but the most meager personal donations, all corporate and union donations and publicly fund all elections. Each candidate gets a set amount of money, a limited campaign schedule and may the best person win. This would turn volunteerism into political capital and engage more of the electorate. There is a solution, just not an easy one.

  • Arty Kraft

    Americans find themselves in a fascinating whirlwind, not quite sure of what to make of the new corporatist environment and all the newfangled ramifactions regarding Citizens United. On the one hand, career opportunities have radically dwindled, which makes some hesitant to bite the hands that feed them and so they call labor exploiters “job creators.” On the other hand, few have faith either in the system or politicians, realizing like viewers watching film noir that the fix is in and regular folk ain’t gonna get a break. It’s a paradoxical mix, a dialectical potpourri, a perplexing mess. You wanna believe but you can’t. And so the name of the game is, Who or What to blame?
    Is it Big Money, Dark Money? Is it an oligrachy, plutocracy, an admixture of the two, or just plain anarchy whereby laws are written with the provision that the crafty can avoid them? Does it actually come down to Koch vs. Soros, Fox vs. MSNBC, Capitalism vs. What? Socialism? – nope – Liberalism? – not really – then What? Observers claim it’s racism, ALEC, classicism, unmitigated greed, the unmotivated masses, Orwellian hypnosis, corruption, the takers, the 1%, the 47%, unions, and so on. Yes, in part, it’s many factors minimizing the great potentiality that could be. But I submit it’s mainly one thing, which is related to all these things: an intellectually disengaged citizenry.
    How did this happen? Quite simply since the 60s, when it appeared a New Dawn was coming, a formidable opponent was gathering strength. For the sake of avoiding tired classifications, let’s forget Capital, the Rich, Wall Street, and, for the sake of argument call this new rising entity, Vested Interests, which consisted of Capital, the Rich, Wall Street, and, common investors. As time went on, as pension funds and retirement accounts were created, investment became more common so that eventually the fate of Capital, the Rich, and Wall Street was inextricably linked, albeit disproportionately, with the fate of mid-level managers, secretaries, and janitors. Before the great masses attained an explicit grasp of their socio-economic profiles they were playing high stakes Capitalism, which, for many, paid off quite well.
    During the 50s, when high stakes Capitalism still existed in the shadow of Eisenhower’s stiff 91% tax bracket, the movers and shakers kept their noses to the grindstones. But, like a kettle ready to blow, the pressure to unfetter the fettered led to improved conditions, and, ironically, it was the Democrat JFK who lowered rates considerably. From that moment on the wealthy could see the light at the end of the tunnel and the pot of gold that would result from steady, progressive legislative favortism. In retrospect, you didn’t have to have a degree in rocket science to sense that the train of history was shifting to the right and a whole bunch of decent, humane, otherwise liberally inclined individuals hopped on board. It was called the Great American Dream. And not even Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, or Lenny Bruce could stop it.
    Although the stops weren’t all predetermined, it now seems inevitable that K Street would rise, that ARMs, derivatives, swaps, SIVs, junk bonds, deregulatory policies, hedge funds, monetarism, S&L debacles, credit card loan sharking, meta data mining, Federal housing departments supporting bubbles, a Fed Discount Rate of 0, widespread application of Ayn Rand’s peculiar Uberman ideology, and, last but not least, a Citizens United decision by a Court who swore up and down in confirmation hearings they would never legislate from the bench and then methodically legislated from the bench would occur. Goodbye Glass-Steagall, hello to the much weaker Dodd/Frank. Goodbye to single payer plans and hello to increased numbers of insurance company customers. Goodbye to the admonition about the Military Industrial Complex and hello to security guards buying Halliburton stock. Goodbye to prudent intrusion, hello NSA. And where were the muck rakers, the name takers, the white papers that judiciously informed the masses? Oh they were there, but you really had to look for them.
    But there was little difficulty finding out who the Beatles were dating, what Liz Taylor was wearing, how Motown Records operated, where Jack Nicholson ate, who killed JR, and who made the dress for the Flavor of the Month. There was no problem finding out how many women Wilt slept with, how many cars Leno owned, or when What’s His Name went to that famous dry-out ranch before shooting his next picture. In the meantime, what was Phil Gramm up to? What were the consequences of Welfare Reform, NAFTA, and, as Clinton put it, Gingrich’s Contract on America? What were the Neocons and the Project for the New American Century up to? Why wasn’t McCain/Feingold treated with respect? The reason these more profound, relevant questions weren’t successfully explored is, it appears, quite simple: intellectual disengagement.
    Probably the saddest thing about the Dark Money report isn’t that it’s happening, or that the Democrats have pursued Priorities USA. In the arena of loopholes, and clever dodges, coteries of lawyers, accountants, and specialists were bound to steer the action just as they have with the tax code and virtually every piece of legislation ever written. The sad thing is that those manipulating the system, who are obliged to surrender a share of their precious booty, are betting on the fact that with a campaign of clever focus groups, frequently aired :60 spots, and a few well placed ads, the widely distracted, intellectually impaired, philosophically inept masses will be viscerally swayed to vote against their own best interests, just as voters in CA voted against GMO labeling. Let’s be fair, Would a widely attentive, intellectually engaged, philosophically adept electorate vote against GMO labeling, or a plethora of other initiatives pushed by the Koch brothers? If you want to innoculate the masses against corprate America, if you want an antidote to Citizens United, then somehow, miraculously inculcate them with the capacity for critical thinking so they have the capacity to think wisely about these matters. Until then, good luck.

  • sevenbowie

    You apparently missed the part where they said EIGHTY FIVE percent of Repub/conservative money is ‘dark money’ whereas only FIFTEEN percent of Dem/liberal money was ‘dark money’.

    Maybe that’s why Soros wasn’t mentioned – because HE isn’t the problem.

  • Anonymous

    George Soros a saint??? He attacked the British pound & Thailand’s currency, the Bok, & cause financial chaos in both countries.. He has now shorted the US market.. He billions are involved in the gaint Tide Foundation with all its branches as well as media matters.. I’d not call him a saint.. Brutelly greedy & power hungry yes. The Koch have done allot of charitable things like building hospital wings etc.

  • cgmcle

    They did mention Priorities USA Action (starting around 13:40), a pro-Obama SuperPAC in the 2012 election, and also Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, both billionaires on the liberal side. (Two out of three, not too bad.) By the way, I was expecting to hear about Soros as well.

  • Anonymous

    ProPublica did an investigation on the IRS & its Ohio office but it appears they run into a brick wall like the House Oversight Committee encountered. One needs to give them credit for trying. We probably will never know the story about this bunch in the IRS.. Maybe after they mismanage the ACA requirements will someone clean this bureauacy up. If they are typical given all this power they will abuse it & the folks will demand corrective action In the mean time Lois Lerner is a free citizen with fat govt retirement.

  • Tom Welsh

    Great program as always. I do have to say though, and I know this is way off-point: that woman’s eyes creep me out.

  • NotARedneck

    Not true. The extreme right makes the “rules” so that it is easy for them to evade their taxes. Of course, they also load the burden on those with no clout in Congress and add lots of ear marks for them to cash in on.

  • Anonymous

    If the IRS would simply follow there own rules these groups would not be around.

  • Anonymous

    Soros is NOT generally advocating laws that would enrich himself. The Koch brothers are, on the other hand trying to screw the public in order to enrich themselves- There is a BIG difference!

  • Anonymous

    While you make some good points, it shows more “right wing” contributions because that is who gets more money from corporate powers, I’m sorry if the facts have a “liberal bias”. And Dan Rather did NOT lie, he told the truth, and the reason we don’t have more like Walter Cronkite today is because if he were alive and working today and exposing the shit that needs exposing, then you would probably call him a “liberal” too.

  • Anonymous

    I couldn’t agree more. It is apathy and ignorance that is allowing the Vested Interests to do as they will.

  • Anonymous

    My Uncle Zachary
    recently got a 9 month old Mercedes-Benz CL-Class CL63 AMG only from working
    off a home pc… go now F­i­s­c­a­l­P­o­s­t­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Anonymous

    Haven’t you noticed – this show leans left?
    On the whole its programs are usually fairer and less agenda-driven than, say, NPR or PBS NewsHour. They subtly but definitely are down with Obama-Rama. Al Jazeera America is the best, most objective network I have found.

  • Anonymous

    Greed is the way of life for just about everyone in this country – from toddlers to Great-Granny. Consumerism is one cause of our obesity. Consuming has become genetic. It stands to reason that the people who run our country are the biggest money-grubbers of all. Vote them out. Allow them to go on to an ever better-paying lobbying job or as a consultant for a defense contractor.

  • Anonymous

    I have studied both of these families, and I have concluded they are equally guilty. No one would say Soros is a saint to the side of anyone. Take off your partisan blinders and get informed. And to note, it’s really not about the people offering the money. The really bad actors are the ones accepting it – those we elected and are paying to look out for our interests.

  • Anonymous

    PP is quite impressive. The first time I became aware of their reporting expertise was about five years ago. At that time they were about the only ones to suspect that Gen. David Petraeus was not all that and was “fixing” numbers of Taliban killed for media consumption (claiming more than the actual). It took awhile for the rest of the world to understand the extent of his opportunistic behavior.

  • Anonymous

    Reality is painful. None of our elected officials in either party have our interests at heart. They don’t even hate us. They are simply indifferent to us. That’s worse.

  • Anonymous

    “…[T]he Koch brothers are pure evil in all their other dealings.”

    You mean like when they donated $100mill to NY Presbyterian Hospital? Donated money to Wichita State University (from their hometown, a donation that has come to light because of the hoops team’s performance? Refurbished the NY State Theater at Lincoln Center, practically next door to the PBS outlet in NY?

    You may wish to apply some CO2 to the seat of your trousers. Somehow I figure you won’t, as you would think that it might contribute to that hoary myth, “global warming,” or whatever it’s being called by the Soros-funded charlatans this month.

  • stacey

    Sad but very true

  • stacey

    How about crowd source funding for independent candidates? We will never beat them at their game. We need to create a new one they don’t know how to play!

  • stacey

    We need to change the game to one they don’t know how to play!

  • Anonymous

    Using modern,distorted buzzwords like “Greed,Diversity,Selfish,and fairness are just a tool for intellectual dishonesty and excuse for intellectual laziness.Everyone is selfish by nature and they Only get “Greedy” when were stupid enough to create an elitist tribe whose job is to run our life,then allow that tribe unlimited growth. What else could we expect?!?

  • Anonymous

    Corporations give to both parties.. they hedge their bets. i.e in 2008 65% of Wall St money went to Obama. Bill Gates & Buffet were for Obama.. Hollywood gave heavily as well the countries lawyers.. Your facts are different mine.. George Soros has given millions to the liberal cause. As for Dan Rather, he reported falsely on national news about Bush’s military reserve service.. There was a forged letter involved. Do you think he & his female supervisor got fired for no apparent reason. Most Americans can live with the facts of govt no matter who is reporting them… they are troubled with all the false statement coming at them..i.e the ACA bill. Tim Russet was a Democrat but he was a journalist first & foremost & had my respect.

  • Barbara Kochan

    I think what ‘everyone’ is is not greedy, but rather, in order to survive as an organism, we are self-interested. Greed is a behavior that is developed (learned) in a society that does not understand how to meet basic human needs such as contribution, community, nurturing, … so we try to ‘feed’ ourselves with what money can buy, which, of course, will never take the place of basic human needs

  • Anonymous

    Lobbying and campaign financing need to be Eliminated,and (constitutionally)replaced with equally represented,public(tax) financing…like Costa Ricas system.To most outside observers,our system is nothing more than legal bribery. The corrupt cowards in congress need to investigate the supreme court decisions that stated “money equals free speech”(a bastardization of democratic principals),and that you can make a coercive action “legal” by calling it a “Tax”.If that’s not a slippery-slope for financing forced government programs,I don’t know what is(besides SSecurity and Medicare).Allowing FDIC taxpayer protection of investment banking is the scheme of the century.Who in their GD right mind would think using tax-payer money to protect risky investment gambling…is a just or legal procedure? Our Federal Government…that’s who. You know,the same Federal Reserve that in collusion with our banking system(i.e. wall street),creates money out of thin air to finance its own run away growth. Is ANYONE Surprised at the blatant corruption that this elitist tribe we created has generated? Quit taking political sides and understand that infighting like Dems vs Reps. is just another tool of distraction for them.Big elitist government in general…IS the problem. Its Individualism v.s. Centralism…Wake up!

  • heinleiners

    Obamacare costs the Koch Brothers and the rest of the plutocrats billions of dollars. The Medicare tax on investment income of 3.8% and the Medicare Part A tax increase of .9% hits them with new taxes they cannot avoid ,so no wonder they are ready to do anything to kill the ACA including shutting down our government or whatever. When you are worth billions, investing 100s of millions in ads and politicians to save maybe billions is just business.

  • Henry Hertz Hobbit

    I don’t think there is a way out of it. You would need people in Congress to pass an amendment for the President of the US to be elected by popular vote which neither the Republicans nor Democrats want. The reason why is that it would fracture both parties to create smaller parties where there is no majority and all the various parties would finally see it is to their benefit to have serious campaign finance reform and many other things. that make sense.

    But there is another seriously failing of the American people and that is a loss of spirituality. You can be quite religious and still be spiritually almost dead.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve lived long enough to have witnessed elected officials who kept their promises and actually tried to help the people they served. I don’t see this kind of motivation now. I am seriously looking at primary candidates who are not well-known politically but who can serve with fresh ideas. Electing new people who have strong qualifications as leaders is the only way to break the cycle we now see in D.C., as well as in our state governments.

  • Rayn Cumiskey

    The only greedy people I see are the ones who “do” have enough, who “are” thriving and doing more than surviving, they’re stealing from everyone else in the midst of having everything. Greed becomes the by product of needing power to control. A “normal” person who has their basic needs met and have a comfortable live, look outside their lives to see how they can contribute. Narcissistic/psycho/sociopaths only look for more to satisfy their own twisted disorder for control. . . interestingly enough, they’re all in Congress.

  • Anonymous

    The tragic thing that has happened is human needs becoming secondary. We are a society – and I am talking western world – that not just admires wealth but worships it. The pursuit of and yearning for wealth has replaced spirituality and family, in many instances.

  • pointofgrille

    George Soros lets you know where his money is going. The Kochs hide as much as they can get away with- which is a lot! The Koch Brothers are the living remnants of The John Birch Society. George Soros is not. The Kochs are against the working person. George Soros is not! The Kochs are against anything that betters the social welfare. George Soros is not. If that is The Left, I’m proud to be everything the Right Hates.

  • RevPhil Manke

    Missing the point. Big money has no place in democratic politics. Finding a way to provide more money will feed right into their game/war against people. As long as we have a “winner take all” taxation system their will be no equality in politics.

  • David L. Wyatt Jr.

    The reason we have two political parties is hardly the electoral college, it’s because he who gets the most votes wins. As people dislike wasting their vote, our first past the post system ensures that we should have two parties, both centrist, and internally heterogenous. Unfortunately, one party is no longer centrist.

  • stacey

    No actually you are missing the point. As much as I would love to see publicly funded elections, the possibility of that happening while the current money game is being played is next to none.

    Perhaps you are not familiar with the crowd source funding model, where individuals learn about a venture, a charity, an idea that is being put forward and then contribute money to its success.

    In a model for elections, the process could also include a platform for candidates to share their ideas on issues and how they would implement them. (Think Ross Perot candidacy) No sound bites allowed. The platform could use electronically signed petitions to make the excessive requirements for ballot placement of independent candidates accessible without an huge organization. This model could actually bring the balance back to the people until such time that we regain enough control to change campaign finance rules.

    This model addresses the frustration of liberal and conservatives that money controls elections and they are tired of all the attack ads. It will also address the elimination of labels and thus return focus to the issues. It creates a new game that they can’t play. Honesty and openness don’t serve their purposes. It focuses on issues that most agree on without labeling and creates an environment for dialog not loud whining.

    Rather than monetary solicitation it places the voter/citizen in the drivers seat as to whose ideas they find most attractive. The noise of the Oligarch’s will become that much more disgusting and cause people to flee from their grasp. It creates an online Roman Forum of sorts.

    It about way more than raising money.

  • JC

    Right On! James Madison also said (in his memoirs),”one man’s (sic woman’s) freedom ends where the other man’s nose begins.” The 1%ers are now stepping on our toes, our wallets, our families, our way of life, our hard-won freedoms, the substance of the information we are allowed to get, and our ability to function in our daily lives. We still have very powerful weapons we can use to combat those whose greed and lack of humanity has taken over what soul they have left: the VOTE. We, as citizens need to educated ourselves about who is running for office (as well as those currently in office). Their voting record, campaign receipts, etc. are a matter of public record. Since we live in the “information age” (also another powerful tool), it doesn’t take much effort to find this stuff out and then vote with an educated, informed conscience. What kind of future do you and your children want to have? For example, the President’s Commission on Climate Change just came out with a long term report that verifies what most thinking people already know. Global climate change is a fact that is changing how the planet will be impacted (as is being impacted now) in the coming years. If we don’t increase our efforts, globally, in curbing carbon emissions (for example), Alaska could look like the Mohave Desert in 29 years. Fresh water, already a scarce resource in many parts of the world will become even more scarce; thus, moving masses of people into concentrations where the resource is more abundant. Think about that for a moment…..
    The Republican naysayers have already jumped on this report as a political tool the Obama Administration is using to stop the Keystone pipeline. This goes way beyond a pipeline people. The studies of climate change were being done when I was in college in 1964. To politicize such a far reaching life threatening issue is pure folly. I say vote the shortsighted (read: “fill my pockets full of money so I can be re-elected) politicians out of office. I go along with a great visionary of the last century: “It ain’t what ya don’t know that gets ya into trouble….it’s what ya think ya know for sure that just ain’t so.” (Mark Twain aka Samuel Clemens)

  • Anonymous

    I wish some national journalist would explain that slavery and the 3/5 vote for being rich was the result of letting money and corporate greed into elections…. Even today the rich get just one vote. Then, in terms of president and congress, slavers, wealth made possible by loans from Wall Street predecessors . We got the worst money out of politics via constitutional amendment. If it takes another to get corporations out of elections Inam all for the amendment..
    Madison knew full well the 3/5 s provision was gross invasion of election by buying elections.

  • Anonymous


    Oh, come true—quickly, day of light; blot out villains’ bite;
    Let us live by peace’s sway—without duplicity, war or debts; Hasten us from ties of greed; their cackles or jackals’ spite;
    Let them not thru our doors, cords of our walls, nor pockets.

    Let be no barter of our worth we’ve nor uttered or dreamt;
    Let what our mind or hands wholesomely make be our liberty:
    Of our personage owned, to let or sell for our betterment—
    Not avaritia’s escheatment demesne conscripting us to poverty.

    Let thy might blight all lies keeping us blind or in bondage;
    Set free our courage to stand afar from fiendish lust;
    Esteem Honor to mean again what’s just; not a yoke of badinage
    Restore all hearts’ beat to time rightly true; full to trust.

    Let thy rise stand tall; ending all nefarious winds of ill;

    So nary gust shall prevail against Wholesome’s free will. ©Copyright George Thompson, Sr. 2014