The Mother Jones 400 (1996)
An interactive database of the top campaign contributors
For years Americans have wondered whether a secret elite really runs the country. The Illuminati? The Establishment? The Mob? The answer is less glamorous and more troubling. In the 1990s, influence is available to anyone who can spare, say, a hundred grand to underwrite a few political campaigns.
In the Mother Jones 400, we identify the nation’s largest political contributors. You can check out this list of the fattest of the Fat Cats in its entirety. Or do some investigative work of your own and dig around using our interactive, searchable database of the top 400’s itemized contributions.
Most of these Cats see their donations as sound investments; in return, they ask for – and receive – generous tax breaks or legislation favorable to their businesses. Read about the Top Five donors and get a sense of what influence the bigwigs wield. You can view other members of the 400 that the MoJo crew investigated a little further in our Snapshots section.
The influence of the 400 is fundamentally at odds with the American ideal of popular government and sparked demands for reform. Reform initiatives have had success at the state level, but the Congress has done next to nothing when it comes to campaign reform. We here at the MoJo Wire hope that this feature will fuel the fire of those who want their votes to count as much as that of a New York investment banker. Or a camera-shy Cleveland billionaire…