Phil’s Alibi

When we revealed his soft spot for middle-class drug dealers, Gramm went looking for an excuse.

Image: Richard Thompson

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


A month after we broke the news that the GOP’s premier parole-basher had lobbied to get three felons out of jail early (“Phil’s Felon,” July/August), presidential candidate Sen. Phil Gramm showed up at a Young Republican convention to tout his newest anti-crime proposal: If you’re victimized by a twice-convicted felon who’s been put back on the street, you should be allowed to sue Uncle Sam.

If Gramm manages to pass such a bill, he’d better open his own wallet: He might be sued by parents in California whose kids, as we reported, were victimized by Bill Doyle, the twice-convicted drug dealer Gramm helped get out of prison in 1980.

Our story prompted follow-up articles by media such as the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, and the Associated Press. Later, tipped off by our disclosure of Gramm’s secret archives at Texas A&M University, the Dallas Morning-News and the Houston Chronicle unearthed additional embarrassing documents, including letters to the Air Force requesting that John Weaver be released early from active duty to work on Gramm’s 1984 Senate campaign. (Weaver is now Gramm’s deputy political director.)

When Mother Jones first broke the story, Gramm told reporters he had never intervened in a parole case. When we released signed letters from his office, his staff tracked down Mary Fae Kamm, a 60-year-old former aide, and extracted a statement in which she claimed to have forged his name without his knowledge in the case of one of the three felons. Gramm’s spokesman has tried to pin blame for the other two on her, but she has yet to accept it.

Startled at Gramm’s complete refusal to accept any responsibility, we asked his office to clarify numerous inconsistencies in his statements. Instead, Gramm’s press secretary issued a written statement addressed to “Mrs. Jones,” which read: “I am at a loss to remedy your newest difficulties. (I imagine that your difficulties have been many since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and I regret to add to them.)” Then Gramm stood up at a press conference and falsely accused the Democratic National Committee of having given us the story.

No word yet from Gramm on whether the Jews or the Queen of England were involved.

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