The Mother Jones 400 (1996)

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The Mother Jones 400 (1996)

An interactive database of the top campaign contributors

For years Americans have wondered whether a secret elite really runs the country. The Illuminati? The Establishment? The Mob? The answer is less glamorous and more troubling. In the 1990s, influence is available to anyone who can spare, say, a hundred grand to underwrite a few political campaigns.

In the Mother Jones 400, we identify the nation’s largest political contributors. You can check out this list of the fattest of the Fat Cats in its entirety. Or do some investigative work of your own and dig around using our interactive, searchable database of the top 400’s itemized contributions.

Most of these Cats see their donations as sound investments; in return, they ask for – and receive – generous tax breaks or legislation favorable to their businesses. Read about the Top Five donors and get a sense of what influence the bigwigs wield. You can view other members of the 400 that the MoJo crew investigated a little further in our Snapshots section.

The influence of the 400 is fundamentally at odds with the American ideal of popular government and sparked demands for reform. Reform initiatives have had success at the state level, but the Congress has done next to nothing when it comes to campaign reform. We here at the MoJo Wire hope that this feature will fuel the fire of those who want their votes to count as much as that of a New York investment banker. Or a camera-shy Cleveland billionaire

Acknowledgements | MoJo 400 Overview

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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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