There’s a New Kind of Corruption In Town

Mother Jones illustration; Nikodash/Getty

Corruption is nothing new. You’ll find it in big government, big religion, big business, big unions, and big military. Anytime you get more than two human beings together, you run the risk of corruption.

But things feel different today, don’t they? There’s a certain level of crude corruption that we thought we were mostly past in America, but it’s turned out we weren’t. Our president baldly refuses to answer any congressional subpoenas at all, something we thought had been settled during Watergate. Our military blandly lies about civilian casualties, something we thought had been settled after Vietnam. Big banks wreck the economy and big businesses pay their CEOs hundreds of times what their workers make, something we thought had been settled by the New Deal. Conservative politicians pursue every avenue they can to suppress the black vote, something we thought had been settled by the Voting Rights Act.

But none of that was settled at all. And we can add to that some brand new types of corruption, like social media companies selling your personal information to the highest bidder and fossil fuel companies pretending that global warming doesn’t exist.

There’s a single wrapper that ties all of this together: a growing dismissal of the media that once exposed My Lai, the Rambler, Bull Connor, and Watergate. The White House doesn’t even bother holding press conferences anymore. Apple Computer routinely refuses to talk to reporters. Science is going through a replication crisis that sometimes smells like outright fraud, helped out by journal editors who’d rather just look away. Local politicians act with impunity because local reporting is all but gone. The national press still keeps a close eye on the president, but hardly any other person or institution gets the same kind of treatment these days. There’s just no money for it. The eyeballs that once paid for it have moved to Facebook and Netflix and Google, none of which have any interest in using it to pay for reporting at all, let alone deep-dive investigative reporting.

Obviously Mother Jones can’t fix this all by ourselves. But recently we decided to start making a bigger difference on this front by creating the Corruption Project, a million-dollar investment in reporting on the kinds of corruption that more and more seem to define us—both the illegal kind and the legal kind.

Monika and Clara have more about the Corruption Project here, and it’s worth a read. It will all come together in the summer of 2020, in time to make an impact on next year’s election.

Oh, and did I mention that it will cost a million dollars—actually $1.2 million if you want an exact number? I did? Well, let me mention another thing: This project will have its own dedicated staff and we need to crowdfund $500,000 to finish putting it in place by July. This is the biggest single project we’ve ever mounted, and we’ll need a lot of contributions to pull it off.

I hope you can help out. It’s time to fund a little more sunshine on the folks who pull the strings behind the scenes.

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.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

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.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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