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Town Hall Seattle: Civics Series

Town Hall’s Civics series highlights everything from local policies to world politics. These events offer perspectives on a range of topics as diverse as Seattle itself—a bustling forum for activism, discovery, and thought-provoking discussion.

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Feb 5, 2020

Can American democracy survive in a system where more money means more power? Award-winning journalist Andrea Bernstein tackled this question with insight from her book American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power. She created a vivid portrait of two emblematic American families, following their rise to power and their journey to the White House. In conversation with Stranger associate editor Eli Sanders, Bernstein presented a story of survival and loss, crime and betrayal which stretches from the Gilded Age through Nazi-occupied Poland to the rising nationalism and inequality of the twenty-first century.

Bernstein drew on hundreds of interviews and thousands of pages of unseen or forgotten documents, revealing how the Trumps and the Kushners grew rich on federal programs that bolstered the middle class, and then sheltered their wealth from tax collectors. She asserted that, wielding half-truths, secrecy, and media manipulation, these families blurred the lines between public and private interests and then leveraged political, prosecutorial, and judicial power to avoid legal consequences. Sit in with Bernstein and Sanders for a sweeping exposition on two American dynasties who encouraged and profited from a system of political dark money that has threatened to upend American democracy.

Andrea Bernstein is an investigative journalist and the Peabody and duPont-Columbia Award-winning cohost of the acclaimed WNYC/ProPublica podcast Trump, Inc. Her writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and New York magazine, and on NPR.

Eli Sanders is the Associate Editor of The Stranger and the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. His book, While the City Slept, was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

Presented by Town Hall Seattle.