January 26, 2018

I’m considering not ordering a textbook the next time I teach Introduction to Government and Politics of the United States, and just teaching the class with headlines instead. I could teach most of what students really need to know in two headlines.

The first headline is from a story about the Koch Brothers profiting (at last!) from passage of the Republican tax bill:

And the second headline just goes to show that Charles Koch knows how to show gratitude when someone does something nice for him:

There you have it, American politics explained in two headlines. Both are from IBTimes.com, a small but ferocious news team that does some of the best work on money in national politics. That is good because the giant media outlets barely touch the real story.

It was IBTimes, back in 2016, that broke the story of wealthy investors using Question 2 as a work around in order to curry favor with the governor, in Wall Street Firms Make Money from Teachers Pensions—And Fund Charter Schools Fight. IBTimes found that financial industry giants doing business with the state pension system had funneled over $778,000 to pro-charter ballot committees, but that was before the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance forced now-Banned-in Boston Families for Excellent Schools and Strong Economy for Growth to disclose their real donors. My updated research shows that the dark money invested by plutocrats panting after millions in state commissions exceeded $5.25 million.

Just as the national media dismisses the depth of democratic degradation disclosed by IBTimes, we get little reporting from major state media focusing on the crisis in Massachusetts. Garden variety quid pro quo exchanges like those involved in the Brian Joyce or Garrett Bradley matters get plenty of ink, but the more complex story of the structural threat dark money portends for Massachusetts democracy is mostly ignored.  One might suppose, given that OCPF’s recent decisions show that three out of four 2016 ballot campaigns were conducted in spectacular, flagrant and gigantic illegality, that the scandal would grip the attention of the state. But no.

So I won’t be able to teach my next course in Massachusetts Politics using headlines. I’ll have to use OCPF press releases instead. 

President Jimmy Carter, on the Citizens United decision: “It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members.”

[Full disclosure: as an educator in the UMass system, I am a union member. I write about dark money (and other things). I don't write about education policy.]

Koch Brothers, money in politics, dark money, Paul Ryan, Office of Campaign and Political Finance

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