A Brief History of Sleaze

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Bonner and Associates claims to be shocked that a wayward temp in their offices sent letters purporting to be from African American and Hispanic groups to lawmakers, asking them to vote against cap and trade. This is odd, because creating the illusion of popular support for or opposition to a bill is what Bonner and Associates does. Below the jump, a few of their greatest hits:


2001: Pfizer hires Bonner to muster up some grassroots opposition to legislation in Minnesota that would make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors. A state representative finds out about the scheme after receiving a call that purported to be from the 60 Plus Association but which turned out to be from a phone bank organized by Bonner—the representative heard the caller being coached in the background. (Incidentally, 60 Plus has long been known as a go-to group for conservative causes—Jack Abramoff once instructed an Indian tribe to donate to the organization, saying that it would help garner support for their legislative causes with the House GOP leadership.)

2002: The Maryland legislature considers a bill to cap prescription drug prices. According to the Center for Public Integrity, a Bonner-created group called the Consumer Alliance faxes letters to church leaders and community groups like Associated Black Charities in Baltimore, warning that “the poor and disabled were in danger of losing access to affordable prescription drugs.” Bonner had been hired by the pharmaceutical industry to orchestrate the campaign, and was targeted with an ethics complaint until it agreed to register as a lobbyist in the state. When challenged on the tactic, company founder Jack Bonner called it a “great lesson in the First Amendment.”  

2003: Anita de Palma of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) makes a trip to DC to lobby against a Medicare funding cut for cancer patients. She cries at a press conference while recalling her own father’s death from cancer, and even gets a giant hug from Sen. Bill Nelson. De Palma said it was only later that she discovered that US Oncology, the group that paid her travel expenses, was not a patient advocacy organization but a front for drug companies that would lose millions if the cut went ahead. The “grassroots” campaign had been organized by Bonner. Explaining the strategy to Politico, Jack Bonner said:”Emotion moves politics. Cancer’s a great example of this.”


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

payment methods

We Recommend