Republican Alfredo Alves of Fall River, Mass., who is gay, contributed $250 to Rep. Barney Frank’s 1996 campaign, because the Massachusetts Democrat is an “excellent politician” and an outspoken supporter of gay rights. Alves was unhappy, though, when he learned from Mother Jones that Frank gave $7,250 of his campaign money to eight other Democrats — all of whom supported the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of gay marriage.

Frank says party leaders urged Democrats to share their campaign money with struggling candidates when it looked like the Democrats could regain a House majority. “When the question of control of the House was not an issue,” Frank says, “I used a finer screening process.”

That’s not good enough for Alves. “It’s not fair for a candidate to take money from citizens and give it to other candidates with different views,” he says. “It’s violating the intent of my contribution.”

Single-issue contributors, beware: In the world of campaign finance, candidates share the kitty with other candidates. Last year, $3.7 million passed between congressional candidates. Democrats gave $1.8 million and Republicans $1.9 million — all to members of their own party, but often to members with very different opinions:

Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), who introduced a “human life amendment” to ban abortions except to save the mother’s life, took $1,500 from the National Right to Life Committee but gave $7,000 to seven Democrats who opposed the late-term abortion ban (which Clinton vetoed).

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who vociferously opposed the minimum wage hike, received $4,000 from the like-minded National Federation of Independent Business, but gave $5,000 to two Republicans who supported the increase.

Recently retired Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), a welfare supporter who told the New York Times in 1995 that Congress was “celebrat[ing] Christmas by trashing poor people,” used $6,500 of his leftover campaign money to support six Democrats, all of whom backed the controversial welfare reform bill. The biggest chunk — $2,000 — went to Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, who succeeded Simon as senator.

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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