What is a summary of Dark Money by Jane Mayer?

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In Dark Money, investigative journalist Jane Mayer digs deep into the story of campaign finance in America. Her 2016 exposé works to undermine the popular belief that increasingly powerful conservative forces in the United States have their origins in a broad-based grassroots rejection of an oversized, intrusive federal government. Instead, she argues, the rise of the “radical right” has at its heart a network of billionaire donors whose libertarian values guide their donations—and protect their bottom lines. In particular, Mayer throws a spotlight on the political contributions of Charles and David Koch, whose collection of charitable foundations, think tanks, and conservative advocacy groups (which together Mayer terms the “Kochtopus”) gives them almost unprecedented control over the Republican Party. Their system works to change public policy on multiple levels: candidates choose their positions carefully to curry favor with the Koch brothers, research institutes disseminate studies that support Koch-friendly conclusions, and youth initiatives help create what Mayer calls conservative and libertarian “beachheads” at educational institutions. Because campaign finance laws permit corporate donations that lack transparency (a right protected by the Citizens United ruling), the exact influence the Koch brothers and billionaires like them have on policy in the United States is difficult to calculate. Dark Money works to parse the complicated financial ties and interests that Mayer argues threaten the very foundation of democracy in America.

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