Dark Money is taking over our country

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, 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 Citizen 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, 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 Koch’s, 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. (Steve Bannon was on the board of CA before working on the Trump campaign; he’s now back helming Breitbart after leaving the Trump administration in August).

The Koch’s ideal almost completely dismantles our democratic republic to reshape it into a Free Market economy with no regulations to inhibit the growth of their wealth (to date, approximately $94.4 BILLION).

Two primary sources of their riches come from the petroleum and paper industries. Petroleum is used in products we all use every day: plastic bags and bottles, Lycra in our clothes, and Stainmaster on our carpets. Koch Industries also produces asphalt, diesel, gasoline, several toilet paper brands, as well as chemicals used in fracking. The Koch’s 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.

Many Virginia legislators are complicit in using dark money for their campaigns. Recent flyers for Manoli Loupassi and Kirk Cox, for example, clearly bear the Americans For Prosperity logo. Ed Gillespie, Jill Vogel, and Dave Brat all spoke at AFP’s recent Defending the American Dream summit. Many Koch affiliated appointees populate the Trump administration, including Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos, Ryan Zinke, Mike Pence, and Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch. Dark money has infiltrated all three branches of our government.

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.

Kate Flinn

Editors Note: This is a preview of a letter submitted to the Chesterfield Observer, for their November 1st edition, and has been reposted with the author’s permission, and for now is only available online here.

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