Mrs. Jones Goes to Washington

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Last Dec. 6, exactly one year after Vice President-elect Gore’s ringing vow that the East Liverpool incinerator would never be allowed to run without a thorough investigation, the Government Accountability Project, Greenpeace, and Mother Jones held a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. Neither Gore nor any member of his office attended. The investigation he’d promised was still proceeding with no visible progress and no end in sight.

In the stately hall, a university professor wittily told how a hazardous-waste incinerator was “coming soon to a neighborhood near you”–but only if your neighborhood was poor, populated by racial and ethnic minorities, and desperate for jobs. The GAP and Greenpeace people spoke of the legal issues involved and the appalling scientific hazards. GAP released a study describing the contamination of the national food supply by incinerator dioxin emissions as “catastrophic.” And citizen activists (from places like Jacksonville, Ark., and Rock Hill, S.C., as well as East Liverpool, Ohio) read from prepared texts.

The day before, at the rehearsal for the briefing, they told us how they’d done everything they were brought up to do. They’d noticed something wrong in their neighborhoods. They’d looked into the matter. Some of them had become experts on the subject of hazardous-waste incineration in general and the conditions in their local plants in particular. They’d taken their disturbing findings to the EPA and to their elected representatives. Nothing happened. Like good Americans, they went to the Capitol and politely spoke their minds. Then the citizens went home. And nothing went right on happening.


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.

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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.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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