A United States senator argues that “there is virtually no element of the political landscape into which corporate influence has not intruded.”
Whitehouse is in a similar position to Bernie Sanders before the last primary campaign: a little-known Democratic senator from a small northeastern state (in this case, Rhode Island) sounding the alarm about the pervasive influence of corporate dollars on American politics. Since his co-author, Stinnett, is also more of a policy specialist than a writer who can humanize these issues, the book reads more like a legal brief or a series of position papers. Yet they are persuasive, particularly for Democrats of a populist bent. Whitehouse continually stresses that corporate money “is usually the strongest political force arrayed in any part of [the political] landscape.” He 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 filthy corporate lucre. 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 twists himself into a pretzel as he attempts to show how the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Affordable Care Act actually advanced a corporate conservative agenda. Yet it’s hard to dispute so many of these assertions—e.g., how “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—will ever have to pay”; how corporation funding has fought tobacco warnings and climate change alike with pseudo-science and public relations lies; or that “corporate money is calling the tune in Congress.”
The book reads more like a Democrat’s attack on Republicans, but many of the ills it illuminates are bipartisan.