Menu Bar

Home           Calendar           Topics          Just Charlestown          About Us

Thursday, February 18, 2016

I love secret memos: Dark money propaganda war

Secret memos have been unearthed that show the inner workings of a propaganda campaign being waged in order to keep the multi-million dollar influence of dark money groups funded by people like the Koch Brothers a secret.

In the documents obtained by the non-profit investigative news site ProPublica, instructions have been disseminated by the State Policy Network to tell right-wing politicians how to fight against campaign finance laws, and how to push back on laws that fight other political corruption.

The State Policy Network, which on its website calls pro-regulation activists “enemies of debate,” distributed its documents at a conference held last fall in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

The material includes a map of cities and states considering measures to “force disclosure of charitable giving” and a set of “questions that help people see the consequences of public disclosure.” 

Among them: “Do you think the government should be able to take down names and addresses of Americans and who they donate to? Do you think people should be targeted for expressing their opinions?”

The organization also urges its supporters to choose the right phrases to color the debate, shunning terms such as “activist,” “anonymous” or “dark money” in favor of “private giving,” “censor” and “silencing dissent.” Under the header “Framing the Issue,” a man is pictured with tape over his mouth.

In a perversion of the phrase “free speech,” the memos argue that bills dealing with corruption or ethics should be examined in order to campaign against them with the claim that they are censoring free speech.

The goal here is to keep in place a world where right-wing billionaires like the Koch Brothers, who bankroll organizations like the State Policy Network along with other conservative sugar daddies, set the policy and the direction of America.

The continued use of “dark money” to influence local and national elections without identifying the people behind it is a long-term aim of the right. By contrast, progressive activists have argued that if someone is putting millions or billions of dollars into political campaigns, often with the hopes that the politicians they’ve helped to elect will return the favor with laws tilted in favor of the super-rich, we should know who they are.

Author Oliver Willis was one of the first political bloggers in the world (since 2000), and was among the first bloggers to interview President Obama at the White House. I am on Twitter @owillis and write at