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Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp—on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics Hardcover – June 3, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Review

James Kwak, New York Times Book Review
“What Vogel gives us is a detailed look at this new political landscape, where voracious money-sucking beasts mingle with megadonors hungry for behind-the-scenes access…Whether we are witnessing is a tectonic shift or a gradual evolution, ‘Big Money’ amply and colorfully makes the case that our elected leaders are increasingly dependent on a small number of seven-digit checks written by a few dozen members of the 0.01 percent, and therefore politics are becoming a type of thoroughbred horse racing.”

Barton Swaim, Wall Street Journal
“With ‘Big Money’—-which takes up the Kochs and other rich political contributors, including Sheldon Adelson, Rob McKay and liberal Texas lawyers Steve and Amber Mostyn—-Mr. Vogel has succeeded in doing what I, for one, didn't think possible. He has made the subject of money in politics entertaining—indeed, gripping. He does this by a combination of factual analysis, eyebrow-raising scoops and zany stories.”

Michael Levin, Huffington Post
“Vogel is a master of Politico's deliciously snarky political style and offers us glimpses of our elders and betters at their least dignified. …Vogel's Big Money is a must-read if you are concerned about politics and the future of this country.”

Bethany McLean, Washington Post
“[Vogel] knows the characters and gets the game. Want to understand Mitt Romney’s fundraising operation, how Jim Messina mobilized big donors for Obama’s 2012 campaign or the war chest that is already growing underneath Hillary Clinton? Vogel tells the stories. He also offers lots of detail on one of the most fascinating frenmities in modern right-wing politics: Karl Rove and the Koch brothers. And he offers great facts to bolster his overall claim...To his great credit, Vogel is also pretty even-handed...This is a book by an insider, for insiders.”

Daniel Ben-Ami, Financial Times
“Kenneth Vogel, chief investigative reporter for Politico, the news organisation, does an excellent job in untangling this story. Much of the book consists of reportage, with him trying to attend secretive meetings between ultra-wealthy donors and electoral candidates seeking funding. Often he was barred from entering or ejected after being identified as a journalist….He is commendably non-partisan in his reporting. Vogel sketches the shadowy fundraising worlds of both of the main parties. He also reports on the intense factional rivalry that sometimes exists within their respective camps.”

Walter Shapiro, Brennan Center for Justice
“Vogel's paparazzi tactics -- coupled with relentless traditional reporting -- have made Big Money the smartest and most revealing book chronicling the Super PAC era. Instead of predictable legal analysis and a mind-numbing march of statistics, Vogel tries to grasp what motivates the wealthy to invest so heavily in Super PACs. And his answers do not fit into the neat ideological cubbyholes of either campaign reformers or believers in the nonsensical, but powerful, doctrine that money equals free speech.”

Chris Moody, Yahoo! News
“Pull[s] back the curtain on some of the most important players... Through impressive sourcing, Vogel’s work...offers a peek into the secretive universe of megadonors in the post-Citizens United era.”

The Economist's Democracy in America blog
“A highly entertaining account of the adventures of billionaires in politics.”

Joel Connelly, SeattlePI.com
“Vogel manages to entertain while reporting on the politics of excess, even when things turn sinister… The most fascinating aspect of Vogel’s book is what manner of candidate big money culture produces, with a look back to 2012 and ahead at 2016... Buy Hillary’s book for your coffee table, but take 'Big Money' on vacation.”

Jim Newell, Bookforum
“Vogel’s decision to adopt a gonzo-style approach allows us to check out our new oligarchic digs as the contractors near completion. Throughout the book, Vogel shares versions of the same first-person story that never seems to lose its alternatingly comedic and terrifying edges: Here’s a closed-door donor conference I snuck into, and here’s what happened when they found me out.”

Truthdig
“Excellent and revealing.”

Politix
Big Money is a fascinating, yet often depressing, tale about what—and who—really matter in American elections…Most books about campaign finance are dry tomes detailing the technicalities of political action committees (PACs), hard vs. soft money, and the like. It's enough to make a reader's eyes glaze over after the first chart or regression analysis. Big Money is instead an incisive, at-time hilarious, look at the very rich human beings who now dominate big-time political fundraising…To learn about who is likely to give and why, Kenneth P. Vogel's Big Money is a must-read.”

About the Author

Ken Vogel covers the confluence of money, politics, and influence for Politico. He’s won awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He analyzes politics on national television and radio, and lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife, Danielle, and their dog, Ali. Follow him on Twitter @kenvogel.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610393384
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610393386
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By JerseyGirlReader on June 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book is a wake-up call to every American who thinks his/her vote counts. The average U.S. citizen no longer has a say in this country because a small handful of very rich and powerful men are running things. Kenneth Vogel documents this scary truth in his extremely well written, thought-provoking book. I only wish BIG MONEY were fiction. Knowing that these things are really going on is scarier than any seat-of-the-pants thriller I've ever read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Richard H. Immerman on June 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Particularly as the Republican Party pulls out all the stops to gain a majority in the Senate even as it seeks to hold off Tea Party insurgents, Kenneth Vogel's new book could not be more timely--nor more revealing and instructive. His research on not only the money pouring into PACs but also on the motives behind the pourers, his knack for storytelling and elegant prose, and his expertise and insight make this a must read-book for scholars, political junkies, and, most importantly, concerned citizens. This is the kind of journalism which we historians can really respect.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dave Kuhlman on September 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It's ironic that one of the biggest changes in U.S. political system came during the
tenure of the President Obama, who had sworn to defeat and push back against the use and
influence of big money in our political campaigns. For me, that shows the power of the
U.S. Supreme Court to radically change our political system, and to make it responsive to
the rich.

The Citizens United decision and the rise of super PACs has increased the need for more
and bigger checks from donors. And, the need for that huge stream of money goes on
through a long election cycle: through primaries, and through the general election, too.

In some sense, we already knew this. We knew that there were huge amounts of money in our
political system, both in campaign finance and in the lobbying that goes on during
Congress's work to create and vote on legislation. Vogel's value is to give us a readable
and entertaining account of the inside of this process and also, depressingly, to show us
just how huge those sums are and how much influence they enable a small slice of the U.S.
public to have and how corrupt the U.S. political system has become.

It's not a pleasant picture.

This new system and all the money in it has eroded the power of the official political
parties. And, this is one part of "Big money" that I do not understand very well. Vogel
claims that because of the organization of the super PACs, (1) the function of our
political parties has been privatized and (2) that now we have "shadow parties" composed
of organizations of super PACs and the political operatives and consultants that create
and manage them.
Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Miriam V. Gold on June 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Ken Vogel has produced a well written and thought provoking analysis of the consequences of the Supreme Court decision on campaign finance law. The book is full of gritty detail that might come as a surprise to many of us that are not associated with the world he describes. If this were fiction, I would say "great read for the summer." Unfortunately it is not. So I have to add to "great read" that this is also something that everyone engaged in the political system (yes, all of you actual and potential voters out there) must read. It is more than merely entertaining.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Larry Brown on July 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a "Must-Read" for any political junkie -- or anyone who cares where our democracy is headed. Vogel parses out the connections and conniving of the PACs in ways that make you understand, for instance, why the Republican primary of 2012 was so chaotic. (Too many big money egos refusing to dump their candidate to join forces with others in a unified manner.) And thus, why Romney ultimately lost.
Vogel is on the trail, like a Sherlock Holmes, charting the route of our new political process --clue by clue.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By NYC Mom on June 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Riveting, revealing information from this Politico investigative reporter and author. If you read his book, you will understand why Politico has eaten large newspapers for lunch and become the must-read go-to for anyone who watches government, and anyone affected by government--and that means all of us. Required reading before we get into the 2016 presidential election season (which, let's not kid ourselves, is starting now) and before pulling that lever in the polling booth.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By susanne brody on June 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Vogel's book is a wake up call to America. When the wealthiest can determine who moves forward on the political playing field it is time to say America is not for sale. This book is a must read for anyone concerned about the future of true democracy. Thumbs up Mr. Vogel.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on June 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The 2012 election was the first in modern days in which independent groups (largely funded by mega-donors) spent more money ($2.5 billion) than the parties themselves ($1.6 billion). One result is that parties are losing their ability to pick their candidates and set direction for those elected because politicians are now less reliant on their financial backing.

Roughly 8 million small donors gave a total of $500 million in the 2012 election, and that was matched by only 4,600 big donors. The top 0.04% of donors gave about as much s the bottom 68^.

Vogel sees lobbying as motivated by financial gain, big campaign donations more for passion or ego (similar to owning a sports team). He backs the latter conclusion up with Jack Abramoff's experience - being prosecuted by the Bush Justice Dept., despite having given them large amounts of money. (I'm not so sure - I think Sheldon Adelson is dead serious about trying to encourage greater presidential support for Israel.)

The Koch brothers use an array of mysterious non-profit groups to target Democrats and their policies. Their primary vehicle - 'Americans for Prosperity.'

The bulk of Big Money is devoted to providing the details of how big money operated after the Supreme Court decision - both for Democrats and Republicans.

Total 2012 political spending was $7 billion.
The amount paid to the highest-grossing political firms was $1.3 billion.
The number of mega-donors required to raise $470 million was 100 (both sides combined).
The number of small donors required to raise $370 million for Obama + Romney was 5,667,658.

While Republicans have more mega-donors, Vogel sees the Democrats as benefitting from greater unity.
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