Watch out for the flying dark money

I never heard of “dark money” until this election. Maybe the term existed before, but suddenly it’s become commonplace, like “fracking” and “carbon footprint”—just ordinary 21st century parlance.

Dark money must be something like dark energy and dark matter, which together account for 95% of the universe, but about which we know nothing.

Physicists theorize that dark energy and dark matter affect the known universe—that is, us—profoundly, but we don’t know exactly how.

With dark money, even though we don’t know where it comes from, the effect of this huge force on our political universe is easier to gauge. Just look at the U.S. Congress, now dominated by Republicans who have gleefully accepted vast sums of dark money.

How vast? We’re talking big money. Here is what the New York Times had to say in a somber editorial on the topic:

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky

“The $11.4 million spent anonymously for Mr. McConnell…didn’t even make him the biggest beneficiary of secret donations, a phenomenon that grew substantially in this election cycle. In the 2010 midterms, when this practice was just getting started, $161 million was spent by groups that did not disclose donations. In this cycle it was up to at least $216 million, and 69 percent of it was spent on behalf of Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“In Colorado, at least $18 million in dark money was spent on behalf of Cory Gardner, the Republican newly elected to the Senate; $4 million was spent on behalf of Senator Mark Udall, the Democratic incumbent. In North Carolina, $13.7 million in secret donations was spent for Thom Tillis, the new Republican senator; $2.6 million went to Senator Kay Hagan, who was ousted.”

What a mockery this makes of our so-called democracy! Our electoral politics is all about manipulation and spin, attack ads and redistricting, fueling armies of canvassers on the ground. It really is war, and wars have always been won by those with the best weapons, the smartest strategy and the most boots on the ground. That’s what money can buy. The worthiness of the candidate herself is really quite beside the point. She just needs to follow the playbook, stay on message and get out of the way of her handlers.

What kind of despicable political system do we live in? No wonder President Obama is looking so terribly grim lately. He came to office vowing to remain uncontaminated by Beltway corruption, to represent the interests of ordinary people and to repair the terrible damage the Republicans wrought the last time they held power. He knows, as we do, that though he still has his finger in the Republican dyke, the pressure will be tremendous and he may not be able to hold them back for long.

U.S. President Barack Obama hosts a luncheon for bi-partisan Congressional leaders in the Old Family Dining Room at the White House in Washington, November 7, 2014.  REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama hosts a luncheon for bi-partisan Congressional leaders in the Old Family Dining Room at the White House in Washington, November 7, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

What’s on their agenda? Undoing the health care law that has done so much to protect and subsidize health care for low and middle-income Americans. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline and opening up more public lands, including oceans, to fracking, drilling and mining. Keeping the minimum wage as low as they possibly can, closing family planning clinics and continuing a hardline, harsh approach to immigration.

I am not spinning or exaggerating here. This is what we’re going to get in the next two years, and it’s going to take every ounce of strength and determination Barack Obama has to stand firm and pursue the mandate for which he was elected.

I don’t recognize this America. Just as Bill McKibben says we’re now living on Eaarth, the extra “a” signifying the brave new world of climate change that is radically changing our environment, we are also now living in Aamerica—the extra A standing perhaps for addled, alarming, asinine.

There’s not a damned thing ordinary small fry like me can do about it as the political Titans throw their dark money at each other over our heads, except maybe to duck and hope we can avoid being spattered by their sh*t.

Leave a comment


  1. Gerry

     /  November 9, 2014

    We can’t expect Obama to do much to stop the Republicans, for a couple of reasons. One is that even a President’s powers are limited. Second is that he has a history of being too willing to compromise.

    In my opinion, we can’t expect much from the politicians, the media, the majority of institutions (including those on the left), or the rich. If things are to get better, it’s up to the grassroots. Or as some like to say … “If it’s to be, it’s up to me”.

    If you find that strange, consider this cartoon:

    It’s easy to get discouraged and to lose hope at a time like this. But if you look at the history of the United States from the beginning to the present, there have been other bad times where the grassroots said “enough” and turned things around.

    Can I guarantee that things will be turned around this time? No I can’t. But no one can guarantee that they won’t be turned around. And I keep hearing stories about various grassroots efforts that are happening all around the country.

    I have also heard that the best thing to do to avoid depression is to go out and fight for what you believe in. Rarely have I heard of anyone being sorry they joined a political battle, Usually they are glad they did. Including Tim DeChristopher (Bidder 70) who went to jail for 2 years because he disrupted an illegal auction.

    “The people, united, will never be defeated”. I think it’s true. The trick is to be united.

    Best wishes to all.


    P.S. Dark money does not always help the lesser of 2 evils. Sometimes a campaign wins despite being outspent by a factor of 2 or 3 or 4 … . And some rich guys do spend money for good causes.

  2. Protest. In person. We need to gather up in great numbers like the People’s Climate March and shut things down!

  3. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

     /  November 9, 2014

    Thank you for the pep talk, Gerry and Judy! I surely need it today. Yes, we can’t give up, can’t concede defeat. But man, these are dark times we’re living through today.

    • Gerry

       /  November 9, 2014

      Yes, they certainly are dark times. If someone had told me 40 years (when I was 26) how bad it would get, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.

      Actually we could give up, we could concede defeat, but what good would it do us? None. I think the result would be that we would get pretty depressed, or maybe nihilistic, or maybe something else bad. Better to not go there.


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