Trump Touts Plan to Allow Russian Money in US Elections

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Sorry about the clickbait headline. Here’s what Trump actually said:

Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us. That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.

That doesn’t seem so bad. Trump just wants ministers to be able to speak up and support Godly candidates if they want to. What’s the problem with that?

Maybe nothing. Except that repealing the Johnson Amendment would also allow churches to contribute to campaigns. And churches aren’t required to disclose their donors. And setting up a church isn’t really very hard. Mark Kleiman explains:

The Russian, Chinese, Saudi, and Iranian governments would all, predictably, either find congregations already recognized by the IRS to use as front groups or incorporate new ones. Of course a group organized as a mosque might not be able to wield much influence without stirring up opposition, but nothing bars the Saudis or the Iranians from paying some stooges to set up a fake Baptist church.

….So, like most of Trump’s ideas, this one reduces mostly to corruption and the sacrifice of American sovereignty to foreign — especially Russian — influence. And of course that won’t keep the tame preachers of the Christian Right from backing him all the way.

So maybe my headline wasn’t really so clickbaity after all? It all depends on the fine print, I guess.

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

We Recommend

Latest