The Influence Machine

Alyssa Katz Spiegel & Grau, 336 pages, $28

In American politics, the influence of companies and business interests weighs heavily. That's a problem. An even bigger problem is that certain players in these arenas exert an outsized role in influencing elections and laws, using the cover of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In her recent book, "The Influence Machine: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Corporate Capture of American Life," author Alyssa Katz breaks down how some companies dominate an organization that ostensibly represents all businesses in the United States. The longtime journalist wrote the book without any cooperation from the chamber.

"The Influence Machine" contains dozens of examples of the chamber engaging in shady practices to advance its often-misguided agendas, such as the deregulation of consumer protections, actions that have cost lives.

The writing shines most when Katz uses stories of real people to illustrate her points. She does a great job presenting the evidence. Her examples are meticulously researched, but some passages are so dense with names and details that they sound like a textbook.

Don't attempt to digest "The Influence Machine" quickly or expect to be entertained throughout. The book is nonetheless compelling for shedding light on the messy and disturbing ways that business and politics intersect.

SEATTLE TIMES