Mother Jones is raising $500,000 to go after the Trump-Russia story

Mother Jones on Friday announced a half-million dollar crowdfunding campaign to investigate any connections between the Trump administration and Russia, asking for reader support to "make sure truth prevails over power."

To raise money for the project, which Mother Jones is calling "Trumpocracy: The Russia Connection," the bimonthly magazine is trying to sign up at least 1,000 new sustaining donors at $15 per month. They've already lined up a $200,000 grant from The Glaser Progress Foundation, and the foundation is set to kick in an additional $50,000 once they reach their goal.

Mother Jones will use the money to hire fact-checkers, editors, researchers and staffers who will conduct legal reviews, said Monika Bauerlein, Mother Jones' CEO. They've already lined up one investigative reporting heavy hitter for the team: Bill Buzenberg, the former executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, who will be writing a weekly newsletter on the story.

Mother Jones has been on this story since before the election. In October, Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief David Corn reported that a veteran spy had given the FBI information alleging a Russian operation to compromise Donald Trump. That story has since been matched by CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other outlets, Bauerlein said, and ballooned into a storyline that touches nearly every corner of D.C. politics.

"It's about the story on Capitol Hill," Bauerlein said. "It's the story at the White House. It's the story on media. It's a national security story. It's a story that has implications for technology and cyber security."

Mother Jones has had success with crowdfunding before, but this is the first time the San Francisco-based magazine has launched a reader appeal to fund a special project. The magazine previously used reporter Shane Bauer's prize-winning opus on for-profit prisons to rack up sustaining contributions.

If Mother Jones reports out the connections between Trump associates and Russia and finds nothing, that will be "great for democracy and a great journalistic success," Bauerlein said. But she framed the importance of digging into the story by putting it in the historical context of major scandals like Watergate, Teapot Dome and the Lewinsky affair.

"We've been able to ultimately get to the truth about all of the scandals of the past – whether it was the Lewinsky scandal in a Democratic administration or Iran-Contra or Watergate or Teapot Dome going all the way back," she said. "We've always been able to get to the bottom of it eventually. And this story is ultimately about that — whether we can get to the truth about what our leaders are doing."

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.

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