Columns » Hightower

Dark-money donors unmasked




Some people have a recurring nightmare of rising to give a speech, but realizing they know nothing about the topic — and then realizing they're naked.

It turns out that corporations also have such nightmares. OK, corporations aren't people, no matter what the Supreme Court fabulists claim, so they can't dream. But their top executives can, and several recently suffered the same chilling dream — only it was real.

These are chieftains of brand-name corporate giants who have secretly funneled millions of their shareholders' dollars into the "dark money" vault of the Republican Governors Association. In turn, the RGA channels the political cash into the campaigns of assorted right-wing governors.

This underground pipeline has been a dream come true for corporations, for it lets them elect anti-consumer, anti-worker, anti-environment governors without having to let their customers know they're doing it.

But — oops! — in September, the RGA made a coding error in its database of dark-money donors, exposing the names of a mess of the GOP's secret-money corporations.

Suddenly, the chieftains were buck-naked in front of customers, employees, stockholders and others who were startled and angered to learn that the companies they supported were working against their interests. Here are some of the corporate dreamers that were pulling the wool over our eyes: Aetna, Aflac, Blue Cross, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Exxon Mobil, Hewlett-Packard, Koch Industries, Microsoft, Novartis, Pfizer, Shell Oil, United Health, Verizon, Walgreens and Walmart.

Fred Wertheimer, a lifelong champion of political-money reform, noted that the RGA's boo-boo offers "a classic example of how corporations are trying to use secret money hidden from the American people, to buy influence, and how the Governors Association is selling it."

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit

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