The Sweet Smell of Secret Campaign Cash

This is how path dependence happens:

Democratic opposition is growing to a draft proposal under consideration by President Obama to force prospective government contractors to reveal political contributions.

….The draft executive order would require companies bidding for federal contracts to disclose contributions made by directors and officers to federal candidates and parties. It would also require the disclosure of corporate donations to third-party advocacy groups that support or oppose federal candidates with campaign ads.

….“The requirement that businesses disclose political expenditures as part of the offer process creates the appearance that this type of information could become a factor in the award of federal contracts,” [two Democratic] senators wrote.

Up until a few years ago, everyone was in favor of requiring disclosure of political contributions. Then Republicans figured out a shiny new way to conceal big donations and decided they were no longer in favor of transparency. Democrats complained, but then quickly copied Republican fundraising tactics. Now that they’re getting big secret donations too, they’re starting to lose their enthusiasm for transparency the same way Republicans did. In a couple of years, secret donations from giant corporations and the rich will be so entrenched that it will be inconceivable it was ever any other way. Isn’t politics grand?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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