The Dark Money Machine That Beat Eric Cantor

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past twenty-four hours, you know by now that Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, lost his primary election last night to a little-known college professor named David Brat. This was a shocking upset, one that no one saw coming. So ever since news broke about Cantor’s defeat at roughly around 8 P.M. last night, the Beltway media has been trying to get to the bottom of just why exactly someone like him, someone so well-connected and established, lost to someone like David Brat, who spent less on his campaign than Cantor spent on steaks.

The official narrative is that Cantor lost because he was too “moderate” (from a Republican point of view, at least) on immigration, that he didn’t spend enough time in his district, and that the conservative base was sick and tired of someone it saw as a sellout. And while there is a lot of truth to that narrative - just check out any right wing blog and you’ll see what I mean - it misses the bigger picture of what’s really going on here.

One of the reasons - if not the biggest reason - Eric Cantor lost was that he totally underestimated the dark money machine that was the real force behind David Brat campaign. The media is making it seem like Brat was some sort of underdog, but in reality, he’s strapped to the hilt with billionaire support and billionaire money.

In fact, you could argue that he pretty much owes his job to people like the Koch brothers and their cronies. John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T bank and the current head of the Koch-founded Cato Institute, gave Brat's college a $500,000 fellowship back in 2010 so he could teach Ayn Rand and libertarianism at Randolph Macon University.

Like hundreds of other college professors across the country these days, David Brat is really just a bought-and-paid-for shill of Charles and David Koch and their buddies. But the connections between Brat and the dark money machine don’t stop there. He was also the hand-picked candidate of the Koch-backed world of right-wing media.

Over the past few months, right-wing talkers like Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin have been pushing Brat and attacking Cantor non-stop on their radio shows. Ingraham even went so far as to say that she wished that President Obama traded Eric Cantor to the Taliban in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl.

Laura and Mark are both on the populist end of the Republican Party, so it’s not all that surprising that they would want to see Brat take down Cantor. But since both of them have taken a lot of money from conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity over the past few years, there’s good reason to be suspicious of why they’ve been pushing so hard specifically for Brat.

As Politico reported a few months ago in what should have been a blockbuster story but was ignored by the mainstream media,

“[F]ilings with the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission, as well as interviews and reviews of radio shows, found that conservative groups spent nearly $22 million to broker and pay for involved advertising relationships known as sponsorships with a handful of influential talkers including Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh ... Since then, the sponsorship deals have grown more lucrative and tea party-oriented...”

Levin alone apparently took about $757,000 from the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity over the 2012 election cycle, and if Politico’s report is accurate, he’s still taking money from them. And while we don’t really know specifics about just how much money Ingraham is taking from conservative groups, we do know that she is or at least was taking money from them, which could go a long way towards explaining why she was so enthusiastic to back David Brat over Eric Cantor.

Once you’ve realized that David Brat wasn’t just some random college professor but was actually the hand-picked candidate of the libertarian billionaire class and its army of talk radio hosts, it’s easy to see another one of the major reasons Eric Cantor lost. We’re living in a brave new world of dark money politics, and in this day and age, doing what Eric Cantor did - hanging out with the Chamber of Commerce, K Street, and Wall Street - only gets you so far. If you want to win these days, you need to win the support of the Kochs, their libertarian billionaire friends, and their allies in the talk radio world.

Sure, working the Kochs doesn’t always work out - Matt Bevin failed miserably in Kentucky - but when the situation is right and you have a weak, really unpopular candidate like Cantor to run against, it works like a charm.

Don’t kid yourselves. David Brat’s victory wasn’t a fluke; it was a test run. The Kochs and their cronies now have a blueprint for how to beat establishment Republicans all across the country. For them, the revolution has just begun.

Ultimately, the only way to stop this dark money revolution is to get money out of politics and pass a constitutional amendment that says that corporations aren’t people and that money isn’t speech. But in the meantime, progressive billionaires and foundations might want to talk a note from what conservatives are doing and start putting money into progressive television like Free Speech TV and progressive talk radio.

The left's only chance to stop the Koch revolution, at least over the short term, might be to try and beat them at their own game.


Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 50 weeks ago
Quote Hartmann:The media is making it seem like Brat was some sort of underdog, but in reality, he’s strapped to the hilt with billionaire support and billionaire money.
You mean like Obama was "strapped to the hilt with billionaire support and billionaire money"? Obama was voted in because he was believed to be more left of center but he turned out to be right of center. So, I guess this just shows that the politicians are being kept in line by the ruling elite by fooling the voters with lies.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 50 weeks ago
Quote Hartmann:Ultimately, the only way to stop this dark money revolution is to get money out of politics and pass a constitutional amendment that says that corporations aren’t people and that money isn’t speech.

So, since both Democrat and Republicans are owned by the ruling elite, how are you going to accomplish that? I believe that even if we had 100% of both houses filled with Democrats...nothing would change. There would always be a snafu gotcha excuse for why things didn't go our way for a change.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 50 weeks ago

Maybe we can use the "dark internet" to subvert the "dark money revolution".

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 50 weeks ago

Palin -- So every time you say the dems are the same as the repugs, am I supposed to repeat the evidence that you are mistaken?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 50 weeks ago

My question for Thom is what is the evidence that dark money was used to help Brat? Thom states evidence that it was available, but not evidence that it was used. Doesn't anyone count signs in yards, number of ads on TV, the number flyers etc. Was the only use of the dark money to buy off commentators on faux news?

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 50 weeks ago

chuckle8: You got part of that right! But, hey, it's a "free country". You can say whatever you want...unless it's considered, by the NDAA, to be aiding and abetting terrorism...however loosely that can be defined. ;-}

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 50 weeks ago

Pal -- Since I agree with you that most of things the dems do have a part that helps the ruling elite, the only part I disagree with is that dems are even remotely like the repugs. All your arguments seem to be how the things the dems do, are not anywhere near as good as they should be. That argument is what I call the perfect beating up on the good. In that vein, you forgot one important example. Medicare was a sell out to the AMA. Part D the pharma support change to medicare is an example why I say the dems are very different than the repugs. In your world view I think you would say the dems were a big sellout to pharma. In reality the dems tried to impose a tax on those making more than a million to support it. Since it was in 2006(?), they did not stand a chance.

The one really big difference and why I will be voting democratic at every turn is the vote on the Employee Free Choice Act. I think having unions fighting the ruling elite is our best hope.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 50 weeks ago

The unions fighting the ruling elite is our best hope? You're joking, right?

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 50 weeks ago
Quote Hartmann:One of the reasons - if not the biggest reason - Eric Cantor lost was that he totally underestimated the dark money machine that was the real force behind David Brat campaign. The media is making it seem like Brat was some sort of underdog, but in reality, he’s strapped to the hilt with billionaire support and billionaire money.

But didn't you just get through saying:

Quote hartmann: [Cantor], "someone so well-connected and established, lost to someone like David Brat,who spent less on his campaign than Cantor spent on steaks.

Sounds like a contradiction to me. The problem with using the term "dark money" is that anyone can claim that's what happened without any substance to back it up.

Quote huffington post:Cantor raised about $5.4 million, compared with Brat's $200,000

I'm kind of glad, even though he was a Republican, that the voters voted for someone who didn't spend a lot of money on his campaign. That's one way to take the money out of politics! They did the same thing in California. Jerry Brown won despite his opponent, Meg Whitman, outspending Brown by $140 million.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 50 weeks ago

In every instance unions have been the best hope. Under the New Deal unions representation increased to 37% of the working people. The economy was the best the world has ever seen. Raygun came into office and started destroying unions. Without unions tariffs went from 30% to 2%. Waivers were granted to Buy American Act of 1936 like never before. The sherman anti-trust act was ignored. Unions are strong all over Europe, but especially in Germany. Why in the world would you think I was joking?

Ou812's picture
Ou812 8 years 50 weeks ago

Chuck, here is a chart of Union Membership in Europe. Germany is 18% less than the US. France is 8%. Unions are too corrupt to be trusted.


Proportion of employees in union (%)











































Czech Republic*
















EU average


Average including Norway


Sources: In many cases (marked with *) the source is the ICTWSS: Database on Institutional Characteristics of Trade Unions, Wage Setting, State Intervention and Social Pacts in 34 countries between 1960 and 2012 compiled by Jelle Visser, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS), Version 4, April 2013 University of Amsterdam (see ) . For other countries the sources are as follows:

Cyprus: Department of Labour Relations;

Croatia: Industrijski odnosi u Hrvatskoj: društvena integracija ili tržišni sukob (Industrial relations in Croatia: social integration or market conflict) by Dragan Bagić, 2010;

Denmark: Udviklingen i den faglige organisering: årsager og konsekvenser for den danske model, by Jesper Due and Jørgen Steen Madsen. 2010, LO-dokumentation 1/2010;

Estonia: Statistics Estonia database Table WQU96;

Finland: Three decades of working conditions: Findings of Finnish Quality of Work Life Surveys 1977-2008, by Anna-Maija Lehto and Hanna Sutela, 2009;

France: Le paradoxe du syndicalisme français: un faible nombre d’adhérents, mais des syndicats bien implantés, DARES, 2008

Hungary: Szakszervezeti stratégia és megújulás (Trade union strategy and renewal) by Ágnes Szabó-Morvai, November 2010;

Ireland: Quarterly National Household Survey, Union Membership, Quarter 2 2012, CSO, Ireland, March 2013;

Latvia: LBAS;

Lithuania: Statistics Lithuania, Table M319020;

Luxembourg : Regards sur la syndicalisation au Luxembourg, by Jean Ries Statec, 12

Malta: Calculated from the Report by the Registrar of Trade Unions 2011-12, Malta;

Netherlands: Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek ;

Norway: Organisasjonsgrader og tariffavtaledekning i norsk arbeidsliv 2008, by Kristine Nergaard, and Torgeir Aarvaag Stokke, Fafo, 2010, updated by Fafo 2012;

Poland: Związki zawodowe i prawa pracownicze, BS/52/2102, Centrum Badania Opinii Społecznej (CBOS), 2012;

Slovakia: Calculated from Statistical Yearbook of the Slovak Republic: 2011

Slovenia: Trades Union in Slovenia: historical development and the current situation by Miroslav Stanojević and Živa Broder, 2012;

Spain: Encuesta de la Calidad de Vida en el Trabajo (ECV) (2010);

Sweden: Avtalsrörelsen och lönebildningen 2012 Medlingsinstitutets årsrapport, Medlingsinstitutet, 2013;

United Kingdom: Trade Union Membership 2012: Statistical Bulletin, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2013.

The figures for the EU and EU plus Norway are calculated using Eurostat figures on employees in employment.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 50 weeks ago

Because our unions have all been wrecked by the capitalist pigs...ever since Ray-gun.

I agree that we have all benefited greatly from the Unions in our history. If it were not for unions, we all would be working 18 hour shifts, with no breaks, no benefits, no vacations.

But they are not as strong as they used to be. However, I did find that it was a real pain having to deal with union workers, as a non-union person. I couldn't do my job when I went into a union shop without all kinds of rules and restrictions. It made doing my job take a lot longer, having to wait on the union workers to show up, so that I could beg them to show them how to do things. It was a waste of time and was awkward as hell.

And OU812 is correct in that there has been a lot of corruption in unions. But there is a lot of corruption in politics as well.

Vegasman56 8 years 50 weeks ago

Look here Thom The threat of exposure could be used to stop greed. You might find it interesting, the best one is at the bottom

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 8 years 50 weeks ago

The Kochs and their out of control counterparts/media, have opened the gates of hell. Bundy and the Miller's offer us only a slight glimpse at what's coming.

Being the extreme Teabagger she is, I've asked my sister the same questions Jared Miller was asked, her answers are identical to his. Her and her husband are obsessed with Fox News, Beck, Alex Jones, etc. They're gun crazy, they constantly harp about government spending being out of control, but have voted happily for the Republicans responsible for the spending and much of what they say is wrong with the government . As a Halliburton contractor in Iraq, her ex marine husband made over $100,000 per year, tax free, yet they see no connection between the military budget and the out of control spending they profess to worry about. I can go on and on, but the point I'm making is simple. They're disconnected from reality directly as a result of billionaire sponsored propaganda.

They, like the Miller's, the Bundy Ranch gang, and countless more Teabaggers, are hoping to plunge this country into a confused and violent mess. This is the face of the current Republican/Tea Party, and billionaires like the Kochs have full ownership of this seemingly inevitable chaos.

There is no way to convince these Teabaggers that they're simply unknowingly supporting a small group of tyrannical billionaire Fascists. They can kiss their, "don't tread on me," and "taxed enough already," goodbye.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 50 weeks ago

When I first learned of Brat defeating Cantor, my comment: "From bad to worse! Whoopie." That said, I shed no tears over Cantor.

- Aliceinwonderland

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 50 weeks ago
Quote 2950-10K:Being the extreme Teabagger she is, I've asked my sister the same questions Jared Miller was asked, her answers are identical to his.

2950-10K ~ Don't feel bad. I have bunch of stalwart Conservative Republicans in my family. Fortunately they live faaaar away. Their attitude is "Just leave well enough alone." I'd trade them in a heartbeat for a bunch of Teabaggers. At least Teabaggers know something is wrong and needs to be fixed. They don't have a clue as to what that is; but, at least it's a start in the right direction.

Keep up the good work. The truth will make itself known eventually. At least with your sister there is some hope. If worst comes to worse, do what I did and move faaaar away.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 50 weeks ago

I hear ya 10-K, Marc... I think families are WAY over-rated. - AIW

Frunobulax718's picture
Frunobulax718 8 years 50 weeks ago

Given the statistics that emerged from this primary, it seems as if a paltry fraction of voters from previous polls went to vote this time:

From the link:

<<<On one level, it is a glaring example — and condemnation — of the staggering levels of voter apathy that exist the further an election race is from presidential politics. Only about 65,000 people voted in the Republican primary in Virginia’s Seventh District on Tuesday. This is in a district of nearly 760,000 people, and in which Mitt Romney bested President Obama in 2012 by 15 percentage points.

In case you’re struggling with the math here, Ezra Klein of Vox broke it down this way: in 2012, 381,000 residents of the Seventh District “voted in the congressional election. Two hundred twenty-three thousand of them for Eric Cantor.” He continued:

“Cantor’s loss last night came at the hands of about 5 percent of his constituents. It came at the hands of about 9 percent of the total number of people who voted in the district’s 2012 congressional election. It came at the hands of about 16 percent of the people who voted for Cantor in that election. And though Cantor’s defeat is national in its effects, less than three-hundredths of 1 percent of the people who voted in the 2012 House elections voted against Eric Cantor last night.”>>>

In a state where crossover voting is allowed for primaries, perhaps all it means is that a staggering number of Democrats voted against Cantor. His supporters must have assumed it was in the bag and stayed home.

If Ingraham and company are being paid staggering sums of money to deliver 35,000 votes, then its not only an effective use of money, but one that is surprising accurate in the delivery of its payload.

But more than likely, its the crossover voting that is to blame.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 50 weeks ago

OU -- Thanks for the info. 8% in France? That is worth investigating.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 50 weeks ago

Thom on the 2nd hour of his June 11 (my best guess) stated some numbers from a Washington Post article. Those numbers seem to show that it is almost inconceivable that a dem crossover vote had anything to do with it. Having national TV and radio on your side seems unbeatable to me. Kochs spent their money well.

Ou812's picture
Ou812 8 years 50 weeks ago


France is ahead of the curve in diminishing union membership worldwide. Forward thinking companies involve employes in management. Employee committees determine everything from new products, to benefits. Onsite daycare, education, gyms, etc. are offered as well. Unions are viewed by many ( me included) as corrupt, self serving, greedy entities. Unions once served a purpose, that day has passed. The more unions try to force membership through ploys like "card check" the less popular they'll become.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 50 weeks ago

Employee committees, "OU"? Sounds fine. But this isn't France. How are we gonna persuade U.S. companies to set up anything like that? I don't personally care whether it's unions or workers' committees or whatever, long as the people who are doing the work have a say in how the company is run. Were I to take a closer look at unions and worker committees side-by-side in how they are structured and run in detail, I might prefer one option over the other. But basically what concerns me is this lack of democracy in the America workplace. Those people doing the actual work should always have a say in the terms and conditions of their employment. That's the bottom line. Without unions in this country, they've got nothing.

I'm well aware that unions, like virtually any organization involving more than one person, are gonna have issues. I'm sure that unions are no exception. And I've no doubt some of them have had incidents of corruption. However I tend to be very skeptical of anyone who harps on this without also acknowledging the many benefits to have come from unionization. Like Thom keeps pointing out, without unions we'd still have child laber. We'd have people of all ages working fourteen-hour shifts, six or seven days a week; we'd still have no weekends, no holidays; in some cases no lunch breaks. I've read and heard of cases where even bathroom breaks have been frowned upon, given consequences or outright denied. Without strong unions today in this country, we've got a situation where workers are offered no sick leave, no maternity leave, no benefits, often forced to work overtime without compensation (It's called wage theft!) and of course, poverty wages even with fulltime employment. This has become the new norm. And this is what we have when unions are not a strong presence in the workforce.

It is not okay.

We are light years from France, in many respects. French people have a much stronger safety net, including universal single-payer healthcare for everyone. It's not awfully surprising that their labor policies would be kinder, more just, more generous... So what?

Frankly "OU", I am turned off by your characterization of Card Check as a "ploy". I am more inclined to view any opposition to it, or any attempt to sway public opinion against it, as a ploy, to keep workers down and without a voice. If I'm wrong, then please explain why you think Card Check is a bad thing for workers. Isn't Card Check all about workers deciding whether or not to unionize? So why is that not okay? Would you rather the owners, CEOs and "bosses" call all the shots? Because when you dismiss Card Check as a "ploy", this is what I hear. - Aliceinwonderland

Ou812's picture
Ou812 8 years 50 weeks ago

Texas Instruments, Google, Apple, Microsoft, McCormick Spices. These are some examples of non unionized American companies who use employee committees to make decisions. No argument from me that unions brought about the changes you mentioned, they did. You won't find a modern company who has 14 hour shifts, child labor, 7 day work weeks etc. the fact that unions still promote this as a reason to join is why they are so out of touch. Employees what to feel worth while, that their opinions count, their ideas are heard. Smart companies have mechanisms in place to allow the employee to be heard, no union necessary. I won't get into single payer healthcare here as I said before I'm against monolopies. I want options.

It is my understanding if a companies employees are represented by a Union, "Card Check" would require union dues be deducted from the pay check of every employee whether or not they were in the Union. In other words, if you want to work for unionized company X, you have to pay to keep your job. People today are not going to accept that. If you want me to join a Union, give me a better deal than I can get on my own. Don't put a gun to my head, I and most others will rebel.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 50 weeks ago

They pay because they're getting something. Representation. Many companies don't have employee committees. Walmart sure as hell doesn't. I think I've heard they are the biggest employer in the U.S., or one of the biggest. Obviously employee committees are not helping enough people. Not knowing enough about them, I'm still skeptical.

I have to confess, OU, I don't trust where you're coming from. I don't trust anyone who would use a photo of Michelle Bachmann as an avatar; especially one this disgusting. I detest Michelle Bachmann and everything she stands for. That giant-size hot dog she's got sticking out of her mouth is so phallic, I could gag at the sight of it. Just being honest. - AIW

Ou812's picture
Ou812 8 years 50 weeks ago

Alice, I appreciate your honesty. Trust is something that has to be earned. Whether you trust me or not is your option. I didn't join this site looking for friends, or to be liked. My choice of name and avatar is just that my choice. I wanted something that would stir feelings, and it looks like I was successful.

I've never worked for Walmart, so I can't speak to their employee practices. If they are the largest employer in the USA, they must be doing something right. No one is forced to work or shop their, yet millions do. (I'm not a loyal Walmart shopper, though I do occasionally buy there. Interesting, you are against Walmart, a large almost monopolistic company that limits shoppers choices, and are for single payer health care which is a monopoly.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 50 weeks ago

I never assumed you were seeking popularity here, "OU"; this isn't about "stirred feelings" and it's not personal. It's just my own particular biases, which I'm perfectly willing to own. You avatar turns me off, and for me this creates a barrier. Beyond that, certain comments you've made regarding labor issues leave me cold. Such as this last post of yours, where you seem to shrug off Walmart's abusive labor practices. Meanwhile you're praising Walmart for doing something "right", simply by virtue of their size. Never mind how they got that big, exploiting and abusing workers here and abroad. That you find this praisworthy is disturbing to me. I'll just leave it at that. - AIW

Ou812's picture
Ou812 8 years 50 weeks ago

Well Alice I guess I won't be getting a birthday card from you.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 50 weeks ago

OU -- Are your aware of what is happening in the job market?

Quote Ou812: --Google, Apple, Microsoft,

Those are the companies that are colluding to drive down the wages of high tech workers. It seems like that would make even high tech workers want to start a union. Also, I would think the collusion would make high school students thinking about going into the studies involved in STEM have second thoughts.

Currently, those companies are trying to settle out of court for $738 million (my memory is probably wrong about the exact amount). The wronged workers are suing with the help of the NLRB for $2.5 billion. The lawyers for the workers want to settle; that is, they want to take their $200 million and run out the door. The workers do not concur. Of course, the high tech workers have enough money to say no.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 50 weeks ago

AIW -- You forgot to reiterate that unions are the only force we have to bring about reasonable tariffs. That is, not only do workers have to worry about their working conditions, they also have to worry about competition from outside their country.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 50 weeks ago

Gotta hand it to ya "OU', you do have a decent sense of humor. - AIW

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 50 weeks ago

Chuck, my apologies. I'd forgotten that (AHEM) little detail. And thanks for filling us in on what Microsoft and those other high-tech corporations have in store for their employees. It figures. Why am I not surprised?

I'll admit, I was kinda hoping you'd intervene. I think that generally, your knowledge about unions and their various functions is more in-depth than my own. I've never even been a union worker; I've always been self-employed by necessity. But workers having a voice, along with their fair share of clout in the companies where they work, is something I'm passionate about. To me it's the end objective that counts more than the means. If unions do the best job of defending workers' rights to negotiate the best possible deal for themselves, then I'm all for unions. And as Thom has pointed out time & again, it's not just union workers benefitting in the long run. So I'm very skeptical of any argument asserting that (to paraphrase), unions are tyrannical, that workers are forced to join at gunpoint , that unions have had their day, that unions are archaic, that they are passé and so on. These kinds of arguments often come from the same people who shriek about death panels (or "monopolies"?) whenever single-payer is mentioned. I've always taken it with a grain of salt. Even when I'm short on details, my intuition never lets me down. Anyway thanks, Chuck. And please pardon the omission. - Aliceinwonderland

gt6's picture
gt6 8 years 45 weeks ago

While Obama was CALLED an extreme Liberal by the right wing machine, anybody who was paying attention, even before he enterred the presidential race, knew he was a centrist. Depending on how you weight things like ecomonic conservatism (support for establishment banking) vs Social liberalism (LGBT and civil rights) He may be either side of that line. But he was never very far to the left.

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