DISCUSSION, DARK MONEY:
The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,
6:30 PM, Tuesday, May 23, Paul Sawyier Public Library, Frankfort, KY
Together Frankfort invited the community to a discussion of the book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, by Jane Mayer. The discussion, held on on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at Paul Sawyier Public Library, was moderated by Frankfort's Richard Taylor, a professor of English who currently serves as Kenan Visiting Writer at Transylvania University.
A former Kentucky poet laureate, Taylor is the author of six collections of poetry, two novels, and several books of non-fiction, mostly relating to Kentucky history. A attorney and former dean and teacher in the Governor’s Scholars Program, Taylor was selected as Distinguished Professor at Kentucky State University in 1992. His broad based knowledge of Kentucky's history and politics brought much depth and awareness to those attending
Together Frankfort recommended that interested readers check out or purchase the book. Participants were encouraged to obtain a copy at the Paul Sawyier Library, available in hard copy, electronic, or audio. Alternatively, participants could shop Downtown Frankfort Poor Richard’s Bookstore, mention the Together Frankfort Book Study, and receive their generous 15% discount. A large portion of those attending the book discussion had plowed their way through the tome, itself replete with dark recounting of methods used by billionaires to control America's election process.
"Dark money" is a term to describe campaign funds hidden from public scrutiny. Politically active nonprofits have become a major force in federal elections through the use of billions in undisclosed funds.
The term "dark money" is often applied to this category of political spender because these groups do NOT have to disclose the sources of their funding. These organizations can receive unlimited corporate, individual, or union contributions that they do not have to make public, and though their political activity is supposed to be limited, the IRS – which has jurisdiction over these groups – by and large has done little to enforce those limits. Partly as a result, spending by organizations that do not disclose their donors has increased from less than $5.2 million in 2006 to well over $300 million in the 2012 presidential cycle and more than $174 million in the 2014 midterms.
Over 50 participants attended the May meeting to discuss the publication, Dark Money. Many asked questions, particularly around the methods to address the problem. Though most organizations propose a menu of options, almost all those who have studied the issues indicate that an amendment to the United States Constitution would be necessary. Together Frankfort organized its June and August meetings to discuss the types of constitutional amendments proposed and the organizations supporting the various proposals.
Additional Resources for Understanding Campaign Finance & Dark Money
This chronological list of Congressional proposals to address money in politics includes the Yarmuth-Jones bill, H.J. Res. 97, with a link to the text. The League of Women Voters maintains a "Campaign Finance Task Force."
Click on the link for their "Review of Constitutional Amendments Proposed in Response to Citizens United." Click here to download the file as a pdf. The summary, published in 2012, does not include some of the more recent proposals, but provides a great overview of the complexity of resolving this national dilemma.
Frankfort's Richard Taylor, professor of English & Kenan Visiting Writer at Transylvania University, moderated a discussion on the book, Dark Money.