The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, 1947-2000

The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, 1947-2000

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by Sally Denton, Roger Morris

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Award-winning reporter Sally Denton bestselling presidential biographer Roger Morris here give us an eye-opening portrait of Las Vegas–a city that has become emblematic of America’s future.

Exposing the city’s surprising links to Mormon bankers, the CIA, and several presidents, they reveal a dangerous relationship between politics, business,…  See more details below


Award-winning reporter Sally Denton bestselling presidential biographer Roger Morris here give us an eye-opening portrait of Las Vegas–a city that has become emblematic of America’s future.

Exposing the city’s surprising links to Mormon bankers, the CIA, and several presidents, they reveal a dangerous relationship between politics, business, and crime. And through this gripping indictment of Las Vegas, they uncover a national ethic of exploitation, violence, and greed, and provide a provocative reinterpretation of twentieth-century American history.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This ambitious, jolting investigative history simultaneously explores the "secret history" of Las Vegas malfeasance and the expansion of the city's ethos of greed and artifice into a wholesale American model. Married co-authors Denton (The Bluegrass Conspiracy) and Morris (Partners in Power) offer an expansive, finely detailed, slightly convoluted cultural narrative, beginning with concise biographies of key figures (mobsters Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, news tycoon Hank Greenspun, anti-crime-crusading Senator Estes Kefauver). Failed 1950s reform movements allowed for the ascendance of organized crime, fortified by huge "skim" profits from casinos. Operation Underworld, a WWII collaboration between government and "Syndicate" forces, forged extensive relationships between federal agencies, corrupted police and gangsters that proved central to Las Vegas's economic boom. The profits radiated corruption outward, evinced in such "blowback" as repeated CIA-Mob assassination attempts on Castro. Formidable researchers, Denton and Morris train gimlet eyes on compromised officials like J. Edgar Hoover, gambling tycoons like Benny Binion and killers-cum-businessmen like Sam Giancana. They look into the growth of more malignant, polyethnic (and, they claim) CIA-supported organized crime facilitated by stereotyping of the Italian Mafia. Although their conflation of glitzy Vegas profligacy with corporate politics and consumerism may seem unwieldy, the book is undeniably disturbing and engrossing. It concludes with the 1999 mayoral election of Oscar Goodman, notorious Syndicate attorney, which was an augury of business as usual in what the authors portray as democracy's spiritual capital. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Mar. 26) Forecast: With the authors' good reputations, the first printing of 75,000 copies, the nine-city tour (including a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette author luncheon), the unending fascination with Las Vegas-style debauchery and the Mafia, and certain media interest, this book can expect a big audience. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
According to Denton (The Blue Grass Conspiracy) and her husband, noted author Morris (Partners in Power), modern Las Vegas enjoys a thriving economy dependent on gambling, greed, political corruption, and drugs that mirrors what is practiced throughout America. The authors present many fascinating profiles of the men with the "juice," including founding father Meyer Lansky, leader of the Jewish mob that originally controlled postwar Las Vegas; Benny Binion, gambler, murderer, and one of the city's most feared casino owners; Hank Greenspun, editor of the Las Vegas Sun, who attacked corruption when it suited his purposes; and former governor and senator Paul Laxalt, who was elected with casino money and became gambling's national champion. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton also fed at the trough of Las Vegas contributions, while, the authors speculate, President Kennedy and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy may have been murdered because they launched criminal investigations of the Mob. Sadly, much of the income from gambling continues to be skimmed off and ends up in the pockets of crooks and politicians while ordinary Las Vegans endure poorly funded public schools, mediocre universities, and ill-equipped hospitals. This lucid historical account calls out for campaign finance reform. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/00.] Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Township Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Husband-and-wife investigative reporters view Las Vegas as our shadow capital, a sordid symbol of the greed, corruption, and falseness that permeate the country. Like confident boxers, Denton and Morris begin from the opening bell to eschew the jab in favor of the haymaker. "Drug money founded modern Las Vegas," they announce, and throughout this tough, troubling volume they are rarely so timid. After an alarming prologue, they deliver dark portraits of players from Vegas' founding years-Meyer Lansky, Benny Binion, Pat McCarran, "Bugsy" Siegel, Hank Greenspun-and then conclude this rogues' gallery with an assessment of Estes Kefauver, whose congressional hearings on organized crime fizzled in the 1950s. "He was," they declare, "tragically shallow, even naïve, about what he would be confronting, and what it would cost." Denton and Morris then proceed chronologically to outline the history of the city and its criminal creators. Among their most useful observations is that the popular term "Mafia" (and its Italian "family" connotations) obscures the far more insidious combinations of people involved in the gambling, skimming, and drug trafficking that are the foundation of Las Vegas. They believe these illegal activities exist because of a vast but loose criminal conspiracy among casino owners, politicians, law enforcement personnel, journalists, labor leaders, religious leaders (they explore, for example, the heavy Mormon investment in Vegas), and government agencies. They tar virtually every US president since Truman with the black brush of Vegas (including an amusing account of a young Ronald Reagan's disastrous attempt in 1953 to become a Vegas entertainer), and theirprodigiousresearch leads them to see Vegas' tentacles extending everywhere-even to Bob Dole and Bill Clinton, both of whom accepted contributions from casino king Steve Wynn. Sometimes the guilt-by-association arguments collide with a sense of fairness, and the authors seem never to have met a conspiracy theory they do not embrace. Despite their always sensational (and sometimes florid) style, the authors manage to land some jarring punches in some very sensitive places. (16 pages b&w photos) First printing of 75,000

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Product Details

Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.54(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.52(d)

Read an Excerpt

Las Vegas–the name evokes images of divorce and dice, prostitutes and payoffs, gangsters and glitz. But beneath it all is a sordid history that is much more insidious and far-reaching than ever imagined. Now, at the dawn of the new century, this neon maelstrom of ruthlessness and greed stands to not as an aberrant “sin city,” but as a natural outgrowth of the corruption and worship of money that have come to permeate American life.

The Money and the Power is the most comprehensive look yet at Las Vegas and its breadth of influence. Based on five years of intensive research and interviewing, Sally Denton and Roger Morris reveal the city’s historic network of links to Wall Street, international drug traffickers, and the CIA. In doing so, they expose the disturbing connections amongst politicians, businessmen, and the criminals that harness these illegal activities. Through this lucid and gripping indictment of Las Vegas, Morris and Denton uncover a national ethic of exploitation, violence, and greed, and provide a provocative reinterpretation of twentieth-century American history.

Meet the Author

Sally Denton, an award-winning investigative reporter in both print and television, has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. She is the author of The Bluegrass Conspiracy: An Inside Story of Power, Greed, Drugs, and Murder. She lives in the Southwest with her husband, who is her coauthor, and her three sons. Roger Morris served on the senior staff of the National Security Council under Presidents Johnson and Nixon, until he resigned over the invasion of Cambodia. He has won several national journalism prizes, including the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for the finest investigative journalism in all media nationwide. He is the author of several books on history and politics, including Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician, which was short-listed for both a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle award.

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Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America, 1947-2000 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've lived in Vegas my whole adult life and this book nails it. Corruption is not a good enough word to describe what goes on in Las Vegas. A new word must be used that is more fitting. This book explains how the new corporate Las Vegas is worse towards the consumers, the employees, the city and the state, than the so called "criminals" that built this city ever were! Great ballsy writing......I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read a lot of books about the founding of Las Vegas, but none as detailed as this book. I very much enjoyed the glimpses into the politics of Vegas as well as the country throughout the course of the book. This book isnt just a glossed over "mobster culture" point of view, but a complete analisis of the people who made vegas what it is today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Have practiced law in Nevada for ten years, and found much to be confused about, for instance, the connections between Mormonism and Nevada; and why casino investments (and investments in some other local Nevada companies) went so bad. This book answers these and other questions and, of course, raises others. The book contains a fabulous bibligraphy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great book, along the lines of Chomsky. Anyone that refuses the American Public Image created on the TV will enjoy this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Sixty years ago, Las Vegas was a gritty, wind-whipped crossroads of faded [houses of ill-repute] . . . and honky-tonks with stuttering neon.' 'It is a city in the middle of nowhere that is the world's most popular destination.' The city is all about 'diversion, entertainment, money, sex, escape, deliverance, another chance, a last chance, and another life for a few hours, days, forever.' From these threads, the authors portray Las Vegas as the archetype of what America is becoming. Whoever has the money calls the tune, whether it be crooks, hustlers, businessmen or politicians. The person who controls the action 'has the juice' and everyone dances to that person's tune. The basic story line is that Las Vegas has never seen money or people it didn't like. From Las Vegas, the authors tie the corruption centered there to the United States government, many foreign governments, Nevada government, and to many other institutions and facets of American life. Although the book covers the last half century of Las Vegas, the book also deals with the roots of the town earlier. The real focus, however, is on the most wide-open gangster years in Las Vegas from the 1940s through the early 1960s. You will learn a lot about Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Benny Binion, Senator Pat McCarran, and Hank Greenspun who were the major figures involved in the early development of Las Vegas. What may be news to you is how many 'above-board' people were involved with gangsters. Most of them will be names you recognize, and some will be attached to people you admire (possibly like the Kennedys, Richard Nixon, or Lyndon Johnson). I suspect that one of the reasons that the book focuses more on the early years is that it takes a while for investigative reporters to locate all of the crooked deals that have gone down. By now, everything up the the Kennedy assassination is probably pretty well exposed. While not so much is said about the 1990s, you are left wondering if perhaps the gangster infuence may not be as great now, or just isn't exposed as much. As someone who follows public companies that do business in Las Vegas, I have certainly noticed that profits from the casinos are more measly than make sense now. Is someone else getting the rest? In the old days in the cash room, it was 'three for us, one for the government, and two for Meyer [Lansky].' The book details the role of Las Vegas in laundering crooked money, skimming off profits for mobsters, and suppressing competition for gambling revenues. The mobsters appear to have been buying politicians (on both side of the fence) all along, and gotten their money's worth. As described, this may sound shocking to you. On the other hand, I noticed that there was little in the book that had not already been reported many times before. The book's genius is its ability to connect the dots so that you see the pattern of corruption behind glittering lights on the Strip and in Glitter Gulch. The authors also detail some of the social problems in Las Vegas, including the history of racism, high rate of suicide, rough treatment of workers by casinos, prostitution, drugs, and lack of cultural activities for a city of its size. Interestingly, Las Vegas has been the nation's fastest growing metropolitan area for a long time. It does make you wonder about what may be coming if other areas follow this example. The book's main strength is the writing style of the co-authors. They make old news fresh and interesting. The sentences and their images are vivid and clear, as the quotes in the beginning should show. The book has three main weaknesses. First, the case isn't really made that this pattern of corruption is developing in the same way elsewhere. Perhaps it is, and perhaps it isn't. But having raised the point, I would have liked to know more. Second, there is some unnecessary repetition in the book. Juicy stories seem to be retold just to get the reader excited, rather than to add new informati
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book that every thinking American should read and re-read. With a cast of unforgettable and colorful characters and the drama and sweep of a literary saga, the authors are in complete command of the material. They take us through the fantastic rise of Las Vegas as a world capital of money and power, and along the way they give us a whole new view of recent American history that you'll never find in history books. Can't recommend it too highly to anyone who wants to know what has really happened to America and where we're going.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Las Vegas....corrupt??? How else did the authors think LV kept the lights going 24/7? Lake Mead? Nothing new here...except a few names from the past, but nothing history hasn't already shown, although a little more detailed. I found it curious the authors were scathing about those already dead, yet obliquely pointed at others that might still be with us ' attorney said...' or ' journalist reported...'. Style of writing was also too elaborate. One sentence contained sixty words about Joe Kennedy being corrupt (JOE Kennedy?) and could've said it in twenty-five. Waited months for this book and was very disappointed.