The Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics

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Does money buy political influence?

Kenneth Vogel gives a tour of a new political world dramatically reordered by ever-larger flows of cash. Vogel talks about the secret gatherings of big-spending Republicans and Democrats alike—from California poolsides to DC hotel bars—to expose the way the mega-money men (and a few women) are dominating the new political landscape. His book Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp—on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politicsis about the multimillionaires and billionaires getting involved in politics, including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, nouveau cowboy Foster Friess, Texas trial lawyer couple Amber and Steve Mostyn, Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg.

After the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, very wealthy donors “suddenly become the new kings of politics. And they are courted, heavily.”


On how major political donors are like sports team owners:

“These are folks who have been wildly successful in their chosen field…if you’re a sports junkie, maybe you plunk down a couple hundred million dollars for the LA Clippers. If you’re a  political junkie, maybe you try to get Rick Santorum elected President ‘cause he’s your buddy.”


On what all that money buys these mega donors:

“You have some of these big donors who are meddling in a very real way that they wouldn’t have been able to before – shaping ads, shaping strategy. Oftentimes, again, totally divorced from what works, what the voters want to hear, or what the political operatives would prefer to do with their money.”


On the Koch Brothers:

“Their real power comes from the ability to mobilize and channel massive donations from a vast network of other wealthy donors.” Vogel says that their organization Americans for Prosperity is poised to spend $125 million in this year’s midterm elections.


On George Soros:

“He tried this before the rules were sort of laid out in such a way that made it not necessarily easy to do, but facilitated it. He was the sort of original mega-donor back in 2004.”