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The Profiteers by Sally Denton

The Profiteers

by Sally Denton

Quick take

You're living in the world they built, a world running on the mechanics of money and politics. It will completely transform how you look at wealth and influence in this country.

Why I love it

Stephen Marche
Esquire Magazine

We live in a time when the intersection of money and power is a fundamental fact of American political life. Backlash against perceived corruptions of the system and the narrowing of the powerbase into fewer and fewer hands has fueled support for insurgent Presidential campaigns of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. That's why Sally Denton's The Profiteers is required reading—it’s a history of one set of those very rich, very powerful hands, the hands belonging to the Bechtel family—and it will completely transform how you look at wealth and influence in this country.

Privately held, the Bechtel company is intensely secretive, necessarily so, since it works in the often shadowy intersection of government, diplomacy and construction. The Bechtels build stuff. They built the Hoover Dam; they built the Big Dig in Boston. They have built even more impressive projects all over the world that you've never heard of. The Bechtels have so much political pull, they create projects where none exist: "If we don't have a client, we find one. If there's no project, we assemble one. If there's no money, we get some."

Often these projects find themselves mired in controversy. The Hoover dam's working conditions were a scandal after many laborers died. The Bechtels seem to have no qualms about working with controversial governments such as Saddam Hussein's Iraq. After Mitt Romney took office in Massachusetts, he was planning on replacing the Bechtel company in the Big Dig. "Following a closed-door meeting with Riley [Bechtel], who flew in on his private jet for a conference with the governor, Romney changed his mind," Denton notes, then archly adds: "A decade later, the Bechtels would be major donors to Romney's presidential campaign." Don't you love it when things work out?

It was Romney, of course, who said that corporations are people too. That's true in two senses for the Bechtels: they are a massive corporation that helps to rule the world, and they are also just a family. But look around – you’re living in the world they built, a world running on the mechanics of money and politics. The Profiteers reveals the workings of the machine – both the company and the family – nimbly. You'll wonder how you'd never heard of them before, but be so grateful that Denton has given you a fascinating peek inside this shadowy and powerful world.

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