Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp—on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics

Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp—on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics

Kenneth P. Vogel

Language: English

Pages: 335

ISBN: 2:00239803

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A Supreme Court decision, combined with regulatory gridlock and legal tricks, have fundamentally changed the role of money in politics in recent years, upending traditional bases of political power. Campaign decisions once made by party officials are now in the hands of super-rich benefactors and the consultants competing for their attention—and for increasingly lucrative commissions and fees. It’s as if, instead of a football coach on the sidelines calling the plays, every player and his agent decided what was best.

This, not surprisingly, has led to chaos on the playing field. In Big Money, POLITICO reporter Ken Vogel will combine a big picture explanation of the evolution of campaign financing over the past decade—filled with colorful anecdotes about the folks behind the changes—with reporting and analysis of how this new style of politics, triggered by the Supreme Court's Citizen's United ruling in January 2010, is likely to impact the 2014 and 2016 elections and all those into the foreseeable future. It will examine the motivation, loyalties and modus operandi of some of the wealthiest donors in American politics, as well as those of the operatives who have used the new cash flow to get rich, while also forever changing the way political campaigns are waged in this country.

Vogel has been able to get inside the back rooms where the real action occurs in Big Money American politics—and not only figuratively. He sneaked into secretive donor summits held by the conservative Koch brothers and a liberal club affiliated with billionaire financier George Soros (though he was removed from both under threat of arrest). Using his expertise in Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service records, Vogel has traced the cash flow from donor checkbooks to political campaigns and committees, to the consultants who themselves are becoming fabulously wealthy from the new Big Money politics, and finally to the television stations, phone banks and glossy mail pieces that bombard voters with increasingly negative messages about political rivals. Big Money is a chilling work of investigative journalism, showing how cash has corrupted American democracy.

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centrists: “The more Haley Barbour and Karl Rove attack the work of the Club for Growth PAC, the more it energizes and grows our membership.” I wanted to determine whether the Crossroads donors at the Four Seasons were ready for the battle ahead. So, rising from the armchair where I had been monitoring the registration desk, I rode the elevator down to the ballroom where the actual Crossroads reception was being held. I realized instantly that the jig was up when I was spotted by a handful of

overlapped with my reporting for Politico, so if you recognize a few quotes or anecdotes, that’s why. But the organization also supported me as I stepped back from the frenetic pace of the political news cycle it has come to dominate, in order to delve more deeply into the subject and craft this book out of what I learned. I wouldn’t have been able to make sense of the way big money was reshaping politics without the insight of my sources. I won’t name them here, both because the list is long

equity, including $10 million from Mitt Romney himself, who advised the fund. Zwick, who by this point had young children, upgraded from his $1.5 million Boston condo, moving into a $2.7 million five-bedroom house in the affluent Boston suburb of Wellesley. Within two years, Solamere had accumulated $244 million from sixty-four investors. Zwick and his partners were in position to reap at least $16.8 million in fees over the first six years of the fund, according to a Securities and Exchange

Democratic big-money effort. Alone in his office overlooking Chicago’s Millennium Park one night during the final stages of the GOP primary, Messina began jotting on a giant wall-mounted whiteboard how much each of the major players was projected to spend, relying mostly on public news reports. When he added up all the groups on the other side—the Crossroads groups, Americans for Prosperity, the Romney campaign, the RNC, the Chamber of Commerce, and more—the total reached more than $1 billion.

meetings at nearby hotels between prostitutes and johns. He resigned from the force, pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting prostitution, was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation, and eventually transitioned to a career in private security. It was telling, I thought, that it took a roughneck ex-cop to boldly enforce the secrecy of a Democratic big-money fund-raiser.* Beyond the tone, it was telling that big-money Democratic outside groups like the governors association and

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