What Abramoff Bought

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It’s hard to improve on this point about the Jack Abramoff scandals by Jeanne of Body and Soul:

Yesterday Amy Goodman interviewed Brian Ross about his 1998 story on Tom Delay’s fight to continue horrible labor conditions and forced abortions on U.S. soil in Saipan. The current news hook, of course, is that Delay got interested in Saipan when Jack Abramoff arranged a nice trip there for him.

I’m glad the corporate media is covering the corruption, but I wish there was more emphasis on what these inducements were in support of. But then that’s why we call it corporate media, isn’t it? A little scandal here and there can be fun to cover, but look into the effect of all this on people’s lives? Not powerful people’s careers and ambitions, but ordinary people’s lives? That Ross covered the story in ’98 proves it can be done. But it’s never part of the big juicy stories.

Right, right. The corruption and the process gets all the coverage, but ultimately the end result matters most. It’s not like DeLay was taking a bit of money to do something that was good for the world—calling attention to the plight of the ongoing mess in the Congo at the behest of Congolese lobbyists, say. (Or whatever; it’s just an example.) He was blocking legislation in Congress that would have prevented corporations from contracting with sweatshops in Saipan. He was trying to preserve what were essentially forced labor camps. All for a few bucks and a nice little trip abroad.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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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.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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