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In the past year, only one U.S. House proposal took on the tobacco industry–and it lost. Last July, the House defeated a proposed $23 million cut in subsidies to tobacco farmers. Opponents claimed Washington gives crucial help to the farmers.

Of course, tobacco also provides crucial help to Washington politicians. Greg Boller, a political marketing professor at the University of Memphis, and his students, analyzed donations from the five top tobacco PACs (R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris, Brown & Williamson, U.S. Tobacco, the Tobacco Institute) during the 31 months before the vote. The PACs gave an average of $6,138 to opponents of the measure, but only $1,645 to supporters.

They identified a “trigger point”–where the money seemed to sway legislators against the tobacco measure–of $3,430. Following their formula, donations needed to exceed $14,000 for the odds of winning a legislator’s favor to reach 90 percent.

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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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