September 15, 2017

Investigative Journalist Jane Mayer: Conversations from the Sun Valley Writers' Conference

Investigative Journalist Jane Mayer

Host Marcia Franklin talks with investigative journalist Jane Mayer, the author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

The interview was taped at the 2017 Sun Valley Writers' Conference and is part of Dialogue's ongoing series from the renowned event.

Mayer, a staff writer for The New Yorker, worked for more than three years on the book, an expansion of an article she wrote on Charles and David Koch for The New Yorker in 2010. The two brothers, the scions of Koch Industries, have spent decades funding conservative candidates and causes. In her book, Mayer traces the history of the family and its political strategies, and examines the rise of untraceable "dark" money in the political system.

"They've built up something that hasn't really existed before in the country's politics, which is a huge, multi-state, private political machine," says Mayer about the Kochs.

"They operate in 35 states. They have a bigger budget and payroll than the Republican National Committee, yet they're private citizens."

Franklin and Mayer discuss the philosophy of the Kochs, their relationship to the Trump administration, how dark money works, and the potential effects of having so much of it in the system.

"You know, people say, 'Why doesn't the government work? Why doesn't Washington work?' says Mayer. "And the truth is it does work very well for a few people."

The program can be viewed at after it airs. In two "Extras" also available on the same site, Mayer talks about what it was like to be investigated herself by people working for the Koch brothers, and explains why the 2010 statehouse elections were so critical for the success of the Kochs' vision.

All of the Dialogue conversations from the Sun Valley Writers' Conference dating back to 2005 can be streamed at

Mayer is the author or co-author of four books, including Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas and The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals. Both were finalists for the National Book Award.

Mayer, who started her career writing for newspapers in Vermont, was a reporter for the Washington Star and then for the Wall Street Journal for 12 years, where she was that paper's first female White House correspondent. She joined The New Yorker in 1995.

She is the recipient of numerous honors, including the John Chancellor Award, the J. Anthony Lukas Prize, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the Toner Prize for Political Reporting, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence.