Your “Representatives” in Congress

Photo by flickr user landahlauts used under a Creative Commons license.Photo by flickr user landahlauts used under a Creative Commons license.Ever wondered why our country’s laws so often favor the rich over middle and working-class people? Consider this: Last week, the Center for Responsive Politics released its latest survey of congressional financial disclosure forms. Of the 535 voting members of Congress, over 44 percent of—237 to be exact—are millionaires. Fifty members have net worths of at least $10 million, and seven are worth more than $100 million. (I profiled Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican who is now the richest member of Congress, in the September/October issue of Mother Jones.)

By comparison, around one percent of Americans are millionaires. There is no other minority group that is as overrepresented in Congress as millionaires are. For black people to be similarly overrepresented compared to their percentage of the population, the entire Congress would have to be black. (Actually, even that wouldn’t be enough.) If Mormons were similarly overrepresented, there would be 75 of them in Congress (there are 16 right now).

So next time that the Congress does something that seems outrageously biased in favor of rich people—say, slashing top income tax rates or spending $440 billion over 10 years to cut estate taxes on one quarter of one percent of Americans—remember who members of Congress are really helping: themselves.

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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