Bad Billionaires

7 11 2011

Some time ago, I read an article that mentioned in passing there are a dozen or so billionaires who wield greatly disproportionate influence in America. My immediate question was, who are they?

I haven’t been able to find a definitive list of the bad billionaires, so I’m trying to piece it together myself. Here are some initial findings, based largely on this site and this article. More updates will come as I stumble across them. Any helpful hints are much appreciated.

For the record, I believe that rich people are entitled to their views just as much as anyone. They are also entitled to express their views. They are not entitled to drown out the voices that disagree with them, and they are certainly not entitled to force others to comply with their views by making end runs around democracy.

1. Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch’s media empire (most egregiously, Fox News) has done more than any other institution to bring about the current media climate of misinformation and viciousness, enabling corruption and blocking reform.

2. The Koch Brothers. Charles and David fund a host of think tanks including The Cato Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and Americans for Prosperity. They like to dress up support for unfettered pollution and unrestricted money in politics as Tea Party populism. As hosts of a semiannual summit of around 200 rich, conservative activists, they play a large part in driving the right to ever greater extremism.

3. The Walton family. The owners of Wal-Mart are collectively worth $90-100 billion. Wal-Mart is bad for communities, bad for its employees, bad for our economy, and bad for workers and economies around the world, but it sure is good for making the Waltons rich. They use their fortune to keep banks powerful and politicians compliant. More on the Waltons here.

4. Pete Peterson. Ex CEO of Lehman Brothers, founder of the Blackstone Group, funder of endless think tanks and advocacy groups. Peterson plays a large role in skewing the current economic debate away from job creation and toward counterproductive austerity measures.

5. Philip Anschutz. Funds anti-gay initiatives, anti-science disinformation, and quashes pollution controls.

6. Stephen Bechtel Jr. Remember how we rushed to a war in Iraq, that seemed to serve no real purpose? That was thanks to the likes of Bechtel, who worked hard to get Iraq bombed so he could reap huge profits in reconstruction.

7. Joseph Craft. A large part of why anyone believes there’s such a thing as “clean coal.”

8. Stanley Hubbard. If not for him, most of us would never have heard of Michelle Bachmann. He’s also a Murdoch-esque media monopolist.

9. Kenneth Langone. A key figure in stripping the 2000 presidential election of its legitimacy.

10. Stephen Schwartzman. Another former Lehman Brothers CEO and current CEO of Peterson’s Blackstone Group; another architect of the crashed economy and advocate for solutions that help the rich and hurt everyone else.

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