Mother Jones, the liberal magazine famous for breaking the Mitt Romney "47 percent" recordings in 2012, has already found itself on the receiving end of such an effort.
Today, Mother Jones dropped a bombshell investigative report. Reporter Shane Bauer, whom you might remember as one of the Americans imprisoned in Iran for over 400 days, spent four months as a guard inside a prison run by the private, for-profit Corrections Corporation of America.
It’s a jaw-dropping, brutal story about one of the worst parts of America’s broken criminal justice system. If you have the time, you should read it.
In an editor’s note published alongside the piece, Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffrey talked a bit about how and why the magazine did the story.
In it, she also revealed that the CCA reached out to try and kill the article through legal means, and that they were repped by the same firm used by someone — conservative megadonor and Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot — who had previously tried (and failed) to sue MoJo over stories he didn’t like. It’s a strategy that sounds awfully similar to what Thiel is doing to kill Gawker:
When CCA (which runs 61 prisons, jails, and detention centers on behalf of U.S. taxpayers) learned about our investigation, it sent us a four-page letter warning that Shane had "knowingly and deliberately breached his duty to CCA by violating its policies," and that there could be all manner of legal consequences. The letter came not from CCA's in-house counsel, but from the same law firm that had represented a billionaire megadonor in his three-year quest to punish us for reporting on his anti-LGBT activities. When he lost, he pledged $1 million to support others who might want to sue us, and, though we won the case, were it not for the support of our readers the out-of-pocket costs would have hobbled us.
In America, strong First Amendment protections have traditionally made it difficult for people like Thiel and VanderSloot to bankrupt journalists for printing things they don’t want published.
Perhaps that’s changing.
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.