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The Big Answer


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Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy

a book by Sheldon Whitehouse

(our site's book review)

What Corporate Influence Looks Like Today from the Senate Floor

A U.S. senator, leading the fight against money in politics, chronicles the long shadow corporate power has cast over our democracy In Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy, U.S. Senator and former federal prosecutor Sheldon Whitehouse offers an eye-opening take on what corporate influence looks like today from the Senate Floor, adding a first-hand perspective to Jane Mayer’s Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

Citizens have been virtually shut out of the election process, since money talks and all else—like the public good—walks
Citizens have been virtually shut out of the election process, since money talks and all else—like the public good—walks

Americans know something is wrong in their government. Senator Whitehouse combines history, legal scholarship, and personal experiences to provide the first hands-on, comprehensive explanation of what's gone wrong, exposing multiple avenues through which our government has been infiltrated and disabled by corporate powers. Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy reveals an original oversight by the Founders, and shows how and why corporate power has exploited that vulnerability: to strike fear in elected representatives who don’t “get right” by threatening million-dollar "dark money" election attacks (a threat more effective and less expensive than the actual attack); to stack the judiciary—even the Supreme Court—in "business-friendly" ways; to "capture” the administrative agencies meant to regulate corporate behavior; to undermine the civil jury, the Constitution's last bastion for ordinary citizens; and to create a corporate "alternate reality" on public health and safety issues like climate change.

Message to Supreme Court of the U.S. in 2010—Thanks a lot for your idiotic Citizens United decision! Before Citizens United even a very big polluter was very limited in what they could do to influence politics. But ever since the Citizens United sell-out, polluters were able to put an entire armory of new political artillery out, much of it firing from the shadows, dark money that you can’t identify the source of readily, and that changed the game a lot in Washington.

Here are the bozos that traitorously sold out the U.S. citizens and killed our last dying pretense of democracy in the Citizens United fiasco
Here are the bozos that traitorously sold out the U.S. citizens and killed our last dying pretense of democracy in the Citizens United fiasco


Corporate power has exploited our news media creating a corporate 'alternate reality' on public health and safety issues like climate change
Corporate power has exploited our news media creating a corporate 'alternate reality' on public health and safety issues like climate change

What Others Say About Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy

" . . . corporations of vast wealth and remorseless staying power have moved into our politics to seize for themselves advantages that can be seized only by control over government. The book illustrates what he calls, the immense pressure deployed by the corporate sector in our government. We must rebalance our democracy by changing the rules to limit the power of money over government and empower people to engage politically as a countervailing force. . . . President Theodore Roosevelt was responsible for the first federal ban on corporate political contributions" in the very early 1900s. (Source: Corporate Capture Threatens Democratic Government, Liz Kennedy, Center for American Progress)

Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy shows that in this centuries-long struggle between corporate power and individual liberty, we can and must take our American government back into our own hands. Right now the corporatocracy is laughing all the way to their money bins.

Right now the corporatocracy is laughing all the way to their money bins
Right now the corporatocracy is laughing all the way to their money bins

"Sheldon Whitehouse is one of the most respected and thoughtful progressives in the Senate. His energy and enthusiasm make him a powerful voice in defending our American democracy against the relentless, pervasive—and often hidden—power of corporate special interests."—Senator Elizabeth Warren

“An extraordinarily intelligent and wide-ranging critique of the current state of our political and economic affairs. This book reminds me distinctly of the great muckraking texts of the progressive era—texts that really shook up the status quo in the American polity and economy. And I truly believe that this book has the potential to be one of those much needed historic calls-to-action. Bravo!”—William Novak, Charles F. and Edith J. Clyne Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School

Could this book be one of those much needed historic calls-to-action?
Could this book be one of those much needed historic calls-to-action?

There is an ongoing corporate attack on our civil jury system. This book lays out in frightening clarity how this great institution is being forcibly eliminated.

Whitehouse, like Bernie Sanders before the last primary campaign, was a little-known Democratic senator from a small northeastern state sounding the alarm about the pervasive and corrupting influence of corporate dollars on American politics. The book says the right things, but it is not very readable—it's too dry and lifeless. Whitehouse shows how the insidious influence of money extends from PACs to lobbyists to the Supreme Court and how Republicans in particular have succumbed to the lure of corrupting corporate cash. Since the book was well into the publication cycle before the surprising triumph of Donald Trump, skeptics might wonder how Trump prevailed over the likes of Jeb Bush (who benefitted heavily from corporate backing and PAC support) and then Hillary Clinton (who did as well). The author mentions that the Right pursues eliminating the estate tax, which only about 0.2 percent of the very wealthiest Americans (those whose estates are worth more than $5.45 million dollars) will ever have to pay. He explains how corporation funding has fought tobacco warnings and climate change alike with pseudo-science and public relations lies and how corporate money is the elephant in the room in Congress. (Source: Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy, Kirkus Review)


After the Supreme Court’s Decision in the Citizens United Case, Momentum on Climate Change Ceased

"But the momentum on the [climate change] issue stopped suddenly in 2010, [Whitehouse] said, with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case. As Whitehouse sees it, the Supreme Court ruling in that and other related cases freed corporate interests, especially oil-and-gas companies, to browbeat Republican legislators into withdrawing support for any climate-change legislation. . . . [The think tank Americans for Prosperity] took credit for the political peril that they had created in stopping any Republican from going the green-energy route. . . . the idea that this crowd of crooked fossil-fuel types is able to take over and run our democracy like we are a banana republic—I find that repellent." (Source: What Makes Sheldon Whitehouse Angry?, Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker)

Whitehouse: the idea that this crowd of crooked fossil-fuel types is able to take over and run our democracy like we are a banana republic—I find that repellent
Whitehouse: the idea that this crowd of crooked fossil-fuel types is able to take over and run our democracy like we are a banana republic—I find that repellent

The fossil fuel sell-outs have a corporate agenda which is an infrastructure that can be deployed on behalf of participating industries to offset or delay regulation and to impede legislation. The fossil fuel sell-outs have a strategy: Deny the science. Question the motives, and exaggerate the costs. They have the nerve to say "until the science is settled, let's not rush into things," knowing full well the science is quite settled. They lie. They know it. But money just talks too damn loudly.

President Trump hired Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of America's largest fossil fuel company Exxon, as United States Secretary of State. Anyone can see what that means for the prospects of dealing with climate disruption by this administration, since Exxon was behind so much climate denial fake news and fake science about climate.

Trump: Let's see, I need to dump 50 years of progress just so a few rich S.O.B.s like me and Koch get a little bit richer and the 'little guy' I swore I'd help can just go sit in the corner and pound sand up his ass, right? Okay—let's get to it!
Trump: Let's see, I need to dump 50 years of progress just so a few rich S.O.B.s like me and Koch get a little bit richer and the 'little guy' I swore I'd help can just go sit in the corner and pound sand up his ass, right? Okay—let's get to it!


In terms of greed and evil, the billionaires like Koch—the big money behind climate denial—make Trump look like a passing fart in the wind
In terms of greed and evil, the billionaires like Koch—the big money behind climate denial—make Trump look like a passing fart in the wind

Discussions about the climate change issue are crippled by interference from think tanks and PACs and corporatocracy greed and misinformation from phony "experts" and Big Oil and political sell-outs. These entities create polarization everywhere so that solutions will always be impossible and corporatocracy profits will never falter. Let's look at two of the think tanks that champions climate science denial: Kochs' Americans for Prosperity and The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

Big Oil muddles and bamboozles the climate change issue, feeding fake news and misinformation to the media and talk shows
Big Oil muddles and bamboozles the climate change issue, feeding fake news and misinformation to the media and talk shows

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is an influential right-wing think tank that advocates for lower taxes, fewer protections for consumers and the environment, and cuts to the social safety net. AEI is the dominant conservative think tank—it's a breeding ground for neocons that are happy to have OTHER PEOPLE dying for their empire building wet dreams. AEI was noted for providing the George W. Bush administration with the neocon-minded hawkish officials and advisers who promoted the administration’s phony "war on terror" policies, including John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and John Yoo. It is deeply connected to the infamous Koch brothers, to American empire building ideas, the tobacco industry's misinformation war, the climate change deniers and it actively promotes ugly Middle Eastern military entanglements for both the US and its allies. (Source: American Enterprise Institute)

A much better way to learn what this book says and more besides is to read Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. Another good source is Nation on the Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It.