Harold Simmons

The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy By Kay Lehman Schlozman, Sidney Verba, and Henry E. Brady (Princeton University Press, 693 pp., $35) Oligarchy By Jeffrey A. Winters (Cambridge University Press, 323 pp., $29.99) The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy By David Karpf (Oxford University Press, 237 pp., $27.95)   THIS IS A SEASON of political anxiety, and the source of that unease is not only the election and looming economic uncertainties.

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Playtime’s over. This week’s roundup of new Congressional and Senate super PACs includes big spenders and big names, like former Newt Gingrich benefactor Sheldon Adelson; Harold Simmons, one of this election cycle’s top donors; a key financier of Jon Huntsman’s presidential super PAC; and Citizens United lawyer James Bopp. Freedom PAC Supports Rep. Connie Mack (R), Florida U.S. Senate candidate Freedom PAC hadn’t even existed for two weeks before it dumped a moderate $50,000 into ads for Florida Senate hopeful Connie Mack. And there’s plenty more where that came from.

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The release of The Dark Knight Rises, and the return to the screen of Bruce Wayne, has reminded us that fictional rich men love playing politics just as much as real ones. Wayne and his moneyed pals, after all, helped fill the reelection coffers of hope-and-change district attorney Harvey Dent like it was a party at George Clooney’s house.

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The Operator

Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year. Enjoy. In early 2010, Karl Rove convened a group of businessmen for lunch at a private club in Dallas. The guests included some of the richest and most influential people in Texas. T. Boone Pickens, the corporate raider from Amarillo, was there, as was Harlan Crow, the prodigal son of Trammell Crow, the most prominent real estate developer in the country in his day.

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In 2009, Ralph Nader published a fantasia titled Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, in which he imagined a group of maverick billionaires banding together to defeat corporate power in America. Declaring themselves “the Meliorists,” these enlightened oligarchs force Walmart to unionize, elect Warren Beatty governor of California, establish single-payer health insurance, raise the minimum wage to a livable salary, and in general breathe life back into liberalism. In 2012, something like Nader’s utopian scenario has begun to take shape, but with a radically different ideology.

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