Regular readers here will know about ‘dark money’ and the insidious influence it has over our democratic processes here in Britain. This was demonstrated no greater than in the June 2016 EU referendum and the subsequent scandals that have emerged and been reported on ad-nauseam ever since.
Leaving aside that one event, just how much ‘dark money’ is really flowing into Britain to influence voters is a question that is almost impossible to answer. By the nature of being ‘dark’ – the money in question is not registered or declared and even if was a requirement, the EU referendum demonstrated that pre-digital electoral law was inadequate and its response was even weaker when crimes were revealed.
After following this story for nearly three years, there is no doubt in my mind that the majority of dark money being thrown at manipulating Britain’s economic and political future is from the United States. Far from being a ‘trusted ally’ and having a ‘special relationship’, the state of America (as in its corporate-funded administration, not its people) presents itself as a huge threat to our way of life, as it does to many others around the world.
Last October, A Forbes article focused on American dark money that had funded the rise of Germany’s far-right and the Brexit campaign. The warning provided was by no means the first and was uncompromising in tone:
“we are in a warzone under attack by hostile actors, a war in 21st-century guise, not with the aircraft carriers and ballistic missiles we have grown to expect but by stealth through disinformation, division and clandestine funding.”
Armoured divisions and aircraft carriers are quite obviously redundant if a rival can secure direct influence at the level of political leadership. In the last few years, there has been an acceleration of intensity at influencing major liberal democracies in both Britain and Europe and transition states to respond to illiberal free-market ideologies. That route is through far-right political movements.
Foreign state powers, transnational corporations and individual billionaires do not want to be exposed in political meddling so they effectively provide money that ends up in political money laundering operations. This cash is often ‘treated’ via off-shore centres and then weaponized to fund all manner of institutions in a game of national deception.
Think tanks, NGO’s, front charities, the rise of new movements, clubs and parallel campaign funding that evades regulation are just part of the mobilisation of $billions designated to subvert the most basic of democratic principles. American style Super PACs are on their way to Britain, as are political attack dog operations. The list of these organisations who see Britain as an easy meal is truly scary.
It’s bad enough that Britain (like most countries) is already spending billions defending itself from the hostilities of cyber-warfare and technology-driven extremism from its enemies – it’s worse when those attacks come from so-called allies.
Some of the actors involved in these heinous breaches of trust causing democracy to fail include American billionaires such as the Koch brothers. Between them, they own a vast private conglomerate of oil pipelines and refineries, chemicals, timber and paper companies, commodity trading firms and cattle ranches. If their two fortunes were rolled into one they would be worth $120bn. They are known to have set up think tanks so big that they rival the American Republican party in terms of size, staffing and organisational capacity. They funded the ultra-far-right illiberal Tea-Party of America. These people already have a significant interest in swaying Britain’s economic and political traditions and throwing money at it for their own gain. From what we can tell, there are something like 450 think tanks and charity style organisations in America funding various operations to deregulate Britain.
One recent investigation demonstrated ‘shocking’ flows of cash crossing the Atlantic to push ultra-conservative agendas, linked yet again to Trump, Bannon, the think tanks and PACs.‘ They have funded armies’ of ultra-conservative lawyers and political activists, as well as deploying ‘family values’ campaigns against LGBT rights, sex education and abortion – and a number appear to have increasing links with Europe’s far right. The openDemocracy report has one line that says it all:
“They are spending money on a scale “not previously imagined”, according to lawmakers and human rights advocates, who have called the findings “shocking”.
This May’s European Parliamentary elections will be hit with $millions in dark money funding and Britain will not be excluded. The false message they bring to the people is always that of ‘traditional values.’ These values have their fundamentalism rooted in nationalism (not patriotism), Islamaphobia/immigration, homophobia and the like. False, because that’s the message they use to galvanise the disaffected, the angry and left-behinds – not what they will actually bring to them.
For instance, the (what many regard as a bogus) front charity, the Institute of Economic Affairs, stands accused of offering US donors direct access to government ministers. Here we see evidence of the UK’s most influential right-wing think tanks discussing strategy at regular monthly meetings attended by Conservative MPs. It’s American money that funds the meetings, which ultimately goes to the very heart of Britain’s democracy.
And now, yet another undercover investigation reveals ‘explosive’ evidence of ‘extraordinary coordination’ between controversial far-right groups, American donors and the impending European elections. Their report says the same thing but on a bigger scale than we thought.
“Our findings have caused alarm among lawmakers who fear that Trump-linked conservatives are working with European allies to import a controversial US-style ‘Super PAC’ model of political campaigning to Europe – opening the door to large amounts of ‘dark money’ flowing unchecked into elections and referenda.”
The entire report lays bare nothing more than American style attack-dog political operations and fund-raising campaigns that are opening in Britain and Europe, again bringing the same ‘traditional’ messages – with multiple petitions against same-sex marriage, sex education and abortion, immigration and LGBT rights.
Just how bad is it? Former US Democratic Senator Russ said: “Europe has an opportunity to get ahead of this and not make the same mistakes that were made here in the United States.” Feingold worked alongside Republican Senator John McCain for reform of electoral finance in the US – and failed.
Another American outfit, Turning Point UK is contaminating university campuses already and aims to shift student politics to the right. Its tactics in the USA have included intimidating academics and covertly funnelling thousands of dollars into student political campaigns. TP-USA is connected to American free-market crusaders – itself funded by the Koch brothers. It has been accused of the harbouring of “racists and Nazi sympathizers,” engaging in racist practices, as well as illegal involvement in the 2016 presidential election. And yet, TP-UK received the blessing of various leading pro-Brexit politicians, including Conservative MPs Priti Patel, Steve Baker and Jacob Rees-Mogg, as well as former UKIP leader, now Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.
TP-UK like its American counterpart TP-USA gets its funding from the fossil fuel industry and climate denial business. A leading figure for the UK group, Darren Grimes, who is embroiled in a scandal over spending on the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum is also involved with all of the grubby nasty baggage that brings with it.
The chairman of Turning Point UK, former Oxford student and Bullingdon Club member George Farmer, is the son of former city financier and Conservative party treasurer Lord Farmer – now Tory peer, himself involved in the cash-for-access scandal with all its allegations of public policy being influenced by dark money.
These sleazy connections go on to Rees-Mogg’s hard Bright band of Brexiteers within the ERG who, with something like 80 Tory MPs have had enormous political sway in fully destabilising the political establishment in Britain for their own gain. Many are directors of the boards of organisations that would make unimaginable gains if, just as in one example, the NHS was privatised or ended up being an insurance backed health system as suggested HERE. There are many household named Tory politicians with dirty hands in this – funded with a common denominator – US dollars.
There’s a trajectory going on both in America and Britain with Europe following on behind. Right-wing fundamentalism is funded by the mega-wealthy. And for them, the transnational corporations and Atlanticists, globalisation was not enough; nothing is ever enough except for more deregulation. Why was anyone surprised when Facebook was unearthed as a major player in the Cambridge Analytica scandal – the vast majority of which, was funded and managed by Americans and their corporations. If Facebook had been a Russian entity, all hell would have been let loose. All the players in that scam have a global interest in deregulation. Dark money is the trojan horse, it is the basis of the far-right movements not the massive deception of the traditional values that they espouse.
Their actual agenda is nothing more than the desire to reduce government to a single function – the protection and promotion of business interests. It is the dismantling of workers rights and employment protections, unions, minimum wage laws, and environmental regulations that they are spending their money on, not ‘traditional values’.
Without enormous legislative changes and protections, which will not happen with the corrupt political class of today, democracy as we understood it is dying right before our eyes. It is almost game over for social democracy as the left does not have the financial firepower or organisational skills of the right. In Britain, a new era of corporate corruption in already on our shores and manipulating our future – what comes next is not going to end well, especially for those useful idiots and their fellow travellers.
Graham Vanbergen is the contributing editor of TruePublica, a columnist for the European Financial review and author of Brexit – A Corporate Coup D’etat.
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