Author and The New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer hopes that Charles Koch shows up at her book talk next week—here's why.
Award-winning author and journalist Jane Mayer in not afraid of a big story. A pioneer of female White House correspondents, first for The Wall Street Journal in the 1980s, Mayer is the author of four best-selling nonfiction books and has amassed numerous awards, including the George Polk Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Frances Perkins Intelligence and Courage Award.
In her 2016 book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right ($30, Doubleday), she digs deep into Charles and David Koch’s long-standing Libertarian ideals and how they used their wealth to fund America’s far right-wing agenda. The book first took root as Mayer recognized how the Koch brothers spit billions at philanthropic entities, including The Aspen Institute, which bears their name on one of its campus buildings. “It’s called ‘Billionaire Graffiti,’” she says of building naming. “(David Koch) carves his name into the grand buildings as a generous donor to arts and culture, and, at the same time, he does not want to be seen as secretly influencing public politics.”
Dark Money is the first light to shine on the billions of dollars injected into politics every year—in this case, to advance more often Republican politics—from heads of corporations determined to influence policy to benefit their bottom lines. They influence everything from picking candidates and undermining environmental laws to dismantling programs like public education.
Mayer, who first came to Aspen as a 5-year-old for a summer with her father, William, who was a composer working at the Aspen Music Festival and School, realizes that her talk in March at Paepcke Auditorium could attract many of the names she mentions in Dark Money, including Charles, who owns a home in the West End. Should he show up, Mayer is prepared.
“I’d ask him, ‘Show me a place in this world with a weak government where people are thriving and that is not a failed state with tribal rule and oligarchical corruption.’ Our government holds those forces in check. A strong justice department is needed to keep the rule of law. He’s gotten away with pretending that no government would be some kind of nirvana,” she says. “I would press him on what this vision is he is pulling America toward. If we rule in a vacuum and if there is no government who is going to control things, is it you? Do you want our country to be controlled by large corporations and the super-rich? Is that a good thing? I hope he comes. I’d love to have that conversation.” March 12, 6pm, $25, aspenwords.org