Follow the money

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"Follow the money" is a catchphrase popularized by the 1976 drama-documentary motion picture All the President's Men, which suggests political corruption can be brought to light by examining money transfers between parties.


For the film, screenwriter William Goldman attributed the phrase to Deep Throat, the informant who took part in revealing the Watergate scandal. However, the phrase is mentioned neither in the non-fiction book that preceded the film, nor in any documentation of the scandal.[1] The book does contain the phrase "The key was the secret campaign cash, and it should all be traced," which Woodward says to Senator Sam Ervin.[2]


The phrase Follow the money was mentioned by Henry E. Peterson at the 1974 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings as Earl J. Silbert was nominated to U.S. Attorney.[3] A 1975 book by Clive Borrell and Brian Cashinella, Crime in Britain Today, also uses the phrase.

Since the 1970s, "follow the money" has been used several times in investigative journalism and political debate. One example is Follow the Money, a series of CBS reports.

Donald Trump[edit]

In September 2016, the Trump campaign used the phrase in criticizing Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.[4]

In February 2017, Carl Bernstein used the phrase to encourage reporters to discover President Trump's potential conflicts of interest.[5]

Popular culture[edit]

  • In the 2002 episode "Game Day" (number 9 of the first season) of The Wire, Detective Lester Freamon uses the phrase when investigating the dealings of a Baltimore criminal gang to explain the political difficulty of investigating organized crime, saying "You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But you start to follow the money, and you don't know where the fuck it's gonna take you".[6]
  • In "Mr. Monk and the Candidate", the series premiere of the television series Monk, Adrian Monk tells Sharona Fleming that their next investigative step is to "follow the money", then shivers with excitement and admits, "I've always wanted to say that!"
  • In the Broadway musical Hamilton, the song "Washington on Your Side" features Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Aaron Burr singing the lines "Let’s follow the money and see where it goes / Because every second the Treasury grows / If we follow the money and see where it leads / Get in the weeds, look for the seeds of Hamilton’s misdeeds".[7] This is in reference to the Hamilton-Reynolds affair, a scandal in which Alexander Hamilton was accused of corruption.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Differences between All the President's Men Book vs Movie Page 1". Retrieved 2018-12-25.
  2. ^ Woodward, Bernstein, All the President's Men, Chapter 12, p. 248
  3. ^ Shapiro, Fred (2011-09-23). "Follow the Money". Freakonomics. Retrieved 2018-12-25.
  4. ^ Schreckinger, Ben; Vogel, Kenneth P. (September 28, 2016). "Trump launches 'follow the money' attack". Politico. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  5. ^ Skoczek, Tim (February 2, 2017). "Carl Bernstein on covering Trump: Follow the money". CNN. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  6. ^ "Det. Lester Freamon (Character)".
  7. ^ Lin-Manuel Miranda (Ft. Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom Jr. & Okieriete Onaodowan) – Washington On Your Side, retrieved 2018-12-28