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In October, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ernest M. Hiroshige dismissed Republican media consultant Donald Sipple’s $12.6 million libel suit against Mother Jones and contributing writer Richard Blow, ruling that the suit was not a legitimate grievance but a SLAPP (a strategic lawsuit against public participation).

SLAPPs are frivolous suits aimed at suppressing free speech—usually by tying up defendants in legal red tape for years—rather than seeking compensation for damages. Sipple, who has crafted ad campaigns for such GOP heavyweights as Bob Dole and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, had filed the suit in response to Blow’s article “The True Character of a Spin Doctor?” (September/ October 1997). The article detailed allegations that Sipple beat his two ex-wives.

Following the story’s release, Sipple resigned from Republican Vito Fossella’s congressional campaign in New York under pressure from the Democratic candidate (Fossella won the race in November); his longtime client Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said he would not hire Sipple for his 1998 re-election campaign; and many of Sipple’s clients, including Gov. Bush, said they would reconsider keeping him as an adviser.

Gary Bostwick, Sipple’s attorney, was quoted in the Washington Post saying he was “very disappointed and a little surprised” by the judge’s decision—which also required that Sipple pay a portion of Mother Jones‘ legal bills.

“This case was a continuation of the kind of abuse [Sipple] has dished out to his wives over the years. This is how bullies should be handled,” says Mother Jones lawyer Ed Davis of the decision. At press time, Sipple had not filed an appeal, but Bostwick has said that he intends to.

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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