In 1994, Richard Mellon Scaife, a billionaire heir to the Pittsburgh Mellon fortune, embarked on a new $2.4 million effort to hobble the new liberal president called "The Arkansas Project" with fake news, eventually funding the Paula Jones' lawsuit as well that led to Clinton's impeachment, along with a couple "exposé" books on him.
Scaife did not just embark on his endeavour unwittingly - his ex-OSS (pre-CIA) father had bought a news outlet to disseminate anti-Communist and pro-conservative propaganda worldwide, but had to shut it down once made public.
Scaife's giving of $620 million by 1999 - worth billions in today's dollars - had from the 70's already created The Heritage Foundation and helped sustain such right-wing mainstays as the Hoover Institute, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), later on NewsMax, FreedomWorks and ALEC. The term "Think Tank" does little credit to the destructively active role these orgs have played in American political life, and Scaife's focused conservative "philanthropy" was unusual for its time, helping to launch the Gingrich "revolution" in 1994 and propped up the new neocon movement post-2000.
The "Arkansas Project" as well-chronicled in "The Hunting of the President", provided $2.4 million over 5 years to The Spectator - a non-profit conservative partisan magazine. The Arkansas Project's job was to dig up and create false news on the new President's time in Arkansas, including supposed murder, drug running from Central America, fathering a black child, having troopers procure girls for him, and the bizarre money-losing land investment "scandal" over "Whitewater Development", no doubt helped by its verbal similarity to "Watergate". [Yes, it still remains bizarre that one of the proofs of so much "influence peddling" was a million dollar loss for a not particularly wealthy governor.]
Complicit in the American Spectator's work-cum-hatchet-job were the now recalcitrant David Brock of Media Matters, along with professional conservative victim Robert Bork of Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre and failed Supreme Court fame, Christopher Ruddy (later founded NewsMax & WorldNetDaily via Western Journalism Center) and the neocon Ted Olson, friend of "independent" prosecutor Ken Starr. Besides successfully representing the Republicans in Bush vs. Gore (2000), Olson was married to long-time Clinton hater Barbara Olson, a heavy on both Travelgate & 1996 Clinton finance investigations, who somehow managed to make 10 mysterious phone calls from one of the 9/11 airliners before crashing (yes, I have trouble making calls from the metro, and cell towers point flat or down, not up), and published not just one, but 2 anti-Hillary screeds (the last one posthumously).
Yes, Hillary was dragged in deep by the Arkansas Project, from the Rose Law Firm records to Vince Foster's supposed murder and to other erupting scandals (dildos on a Christmas Tree? drinking her own urine?). Not surprisingly, Hillary's claim of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" in the face of $600 million pumped into propaganda has been easily twisted into a paranoid squeal of a guilty conscience, rather than an accurate well-documented and independently verified description of just one piece of Scaife and others' successful attempt to buy an impeachment, a new presidency, a Mideast war, and much of US domestic and foreign policy over 4 decades.
Not so surprisingly, Hillary was the target of the famous Citizens United ruling that asked for free rein to pummel the candidate with negative attack ads from supposedly small independent interest groups or concerned individuals. Of course Citizens United was anything but - founded in 1992 by Floyd Brown - mastermind of the "Willie Horton" attacks and backed by the Koch Brothers throughout the years, he published "Slick Willy" which purported to show Bill "dodging the draft, raising taxes, coddling blacks, chasing women, corrupting state agencies, flip-flopping on abortion, awarding special privileges to gays, promoting secularism (and witchcraft!), wrecking the school system, flirting with socialism, and, in its stirring final chapter, blaspheming the Lord..." (But the court case was brought by new CEO David Bossie, now a central figure in Trump's campaign and transition. Lucky coincidence?)
As the Daily Beast notes Hillary was dragged into that 1992 smear campaign as well, with the NY Times counting over 20 references of "Lady Macbeth", and Emmett Tyrell (also of the Arkansas Project) continues to produce a number of excoriating pieces on her ("glared at me like a viper about to strike a rodent", "Madame Hillary The Dark Road to the White House") along with his numerous hit jobs in books & articles on Bill.
Scaife may have died, but his remaining $1.4 billion will live on, funding say the FIRE group's initiative to sue poorly defended universities to accept whatever "citizen" guerrilla tactics they initiate (something like a full-time Peter Thiel effort to sue the opposition into acquiescence). As is typical of rightwing funding, it's a smattering of Koch Brothers here, Scaife there, the Pope Society for more - resulting in a rather hefty $600K+ budget a year as just one of many many side-shows to the Conservative Circus - all part of the right's "Dark Money" as discussed by Jane Mayer. Certainly the Clintons were not the only targets for the right, with Obama's election spurring a legion of Arkansas Project-like efforts, including but not limited to Koch's "Americans for Prosperity" who helped manage the Tea Party pivot letting Republicans twist away from any responsibility for the Bush Years, perversely running as an "anti-establishment" movement funded by the same dark money that had built the current neocon establishment.
Around 2009, James O'Keefe helped Breitbart launch the new-new guerrilla phase of our modern money-backed rat f*cking in politics, doing his supposed underground citizen journalism shtick while actually faking and maliciously re-editing supposed live gotcha moments to discredit CNN, NPR and others. Successfully shutting down ACORN through a fake pimp video, O'Keefe was penalized a $100K fine that was no doubt gleefully picked up at lunch by conservative backers, and from there helped Breitbart launch "Big Government", which ran even into the 2016 campaign season when Trump's supposed "charitable foundation" contributed to his Project Veritas. Veritas purportedly showed how elections are "rigged", claimed Hillary was paying outside agitators and filed an FEC complaint saying the Clinton Campaign was soliciting foreign money - a serious amount of contrived disruptive fodder from just 1 of many lightly subsidized activities over a short amount of time.
But these are pipsqueak actions. Nothing signifies the success of conservative money in politics like getting the New York Times to use its dodgy sourcing to attack the Clinton Foundation for them during the campaign, despite a thinly poorly written and dubiously sourced manuscript posed as a book. A creation of Breitbart's successor Steve Gannon, the "Government Accountability Institute" had already partnered with Newsweek, ABC News and 60 Minutes, amounting to gross professional malfeasance and the most horrendous judgment. Now the Times was to run a front page story based on the perverse machinations of the left's most dangerous and duplicitous enemies - as supposed real news. James Comey wept. And then he and the FBI used the "Clinton Cash" propaganda piece himself as inspiration for another round of investigations.
People act as if the media just suddenly stopped doing its job, rather than being the explicit focus of 40 years of payments, attacks, wrangling and undermining, buying up radio, TV, newsrags and online portals to meld the news into either an explicitly supportive role or a muddied, castrated no-longer-authoritative shadow of its former self. Both poses win for the right - they have bought and paid for the agenda, and while the "truth is still out there somewhere", you have to look for it, and most people will never ever ever rise to that level of effort and engagement. Inertia rules in the universe, and getting inertia on your side is victory, as the right has shown. People expected outrage to guide the election in the final weeks, but instead it was an exercise in voting-as-usual. Money well spent, lads.
Just like the funny "faithless electors" who railed against Trump and then bailed from Hillary, there are people who complain about the huge negative influence of money in politics - and then turn and attack the Clintons for raising money from wealthy and non-wealthy donors for traditional, above-the-board activities. Meanwhile, much of our government from the Supreme Court to the presidency to the Congress and down through the largely Republican state apparati have been bought and paid for by conservative activist billionaires like Scaife, the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, et al. Whether the left's participation in this self-obliterating hara kiri was also bought and paid for or come by naturally, it's certainly been useful to have candidates of the left worry too much about appearing like money-grubbing establishment types, even as their opponents have a thick, well-developed multilayer funding structure and full-time insurrection and attack mode machine going from media to government players, intelligence units, the Republican Party, and a whole web of conservative enablers.
When you hear about some group in Arizona or Florida or Michigan asking the DNC or Hillary for money to get out the vote or provide air time, just remember that the right largely doesn't need to do this - they're there already, are constantly churning out spin and background papers and providing money, election year or not. The Republican pack in the primaries each had a billionaire behind them, with some billionaires supporting more than 1 candidate. (Fiorina a favorite to deflect and use against Hillary for the "women's" issues) - Jeb had $100 million in the bank without even trying. Same with any policy issue - the right has cultivated and backed institutes and leading "experts" on every issue you can think of, providing disinformation and spin whenever needed. Democrats don't do that.
Expect change on global warming, abortion, Mideast (including Israeli) policy, gun control, education, voting rights, police brutality, health care, social security, unions or defense? Not without money you don't. And right now - meaning the last 4 decades - we're losing.