OUR ELECTIONS ARE ALL ABOUT THE MONEY

ABSTRACT: Although the next presidential election is over 20 months away, there is already media attention focused on who can and who is raising the most money. The top lobbyists / bundlers raise over $1 million for candidates’ campaigns. If this isn’t a blatant way of buying influence, I don’t know what is. A Washington, D.C., lawyer and political activist formed a super PAC that raised $145 million for Romney’s campaign in 2012. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush is holding $100,000 per person fundraisers. He plans to hold 60 fundraisers before April 1, an average of nearly one per day.

The money race is the real race; the actual courting of voters and voting is secondary. The savvy, hard-working, profit-driven individuals making large campaign contributions are looking for a return on their investment. And they get it through government actions that benefit their interests. This, in a nutshell, is the legalized corruption of the political system of our supposed democracy.

We must reform our system of financing election campaigns. Two essential elements are:

  • Reversing the Supreme Court’s Citizens United and related decisions, and
  • Establishing campaign financing systems where small contributions to viable candidates are matched by public funds so candidates can be competitive based on support from every day citizens and voters instead of being dependent on wealthy individuals and interest groups.

 

FULL POST: Although the next presidential election is over 20 months away, it is already getting quite a bit of media attention. Little of that attention is focused on the policies that the possible candidates support. Much of the attention is focused on who can and who is raising the most money.

On the Republican side, Romney’s decision not to run has set off a scramble among other possible candidates to win over his financial backers. Romney’s top five lobbyists / bundlers each raised over $1 million for his campaign. These lobbyists for powerful corporate interests solicited campaign contributions from multiple individuals and political action committees (PACs) and presented them in aggregate (i.e., a bundle) to Romney’s campaign. If this isn’t a blatant way of buying influence, I don’t know what is. The top lobbyist / bundler was Bill Graves, president of the American Truckers Association and former Governor of Kansas.

Announced presidential candidate Jeb Bush has been aggressively wooing the Romney fundraisers and others. He began active fundraising last November, two years before the election. In a recent week, he held a $100,000 per person fundraiser in New York, two fundraisers in Washington, D.C., and two in Chicago. He told his audience of lobbyists, CEOs, and corporate industry group representatives that he plans to hold 60 fundraisers before April 1, an average of nearly one per day. Charlie Spies, a Washington, D.C., lawyer and political activist, who formed a super PAC that raised $145 million for Romney’s campaign is now working with a newly formed super PAC supporting Bush. [1]

The money race is the real race; the actual courting of voters and voting is secondary. Is this really the way we want to be selecting candidates for President (or any office) in a democracy? Is this really how we want our candidates to be spending their time? Is this really what we want the media to be reporting about the candidates – how many fundraisers they are having, how much money they are raising, and who is providing them with huge amounts of money? Do we really want our candidates courting and being indebted to these wealthy individuals and interest groups?

The savvy, hard-working, profit-driven individuals making large campaign contributions are looking for a return on their investment. And they get it through government actions that benefit their interests. As one example of such a return, the Koch brothers spent in excess of $100 million in the 2014 federal election, primarily, if not exclusively, in support of Republican candidates. The new Republican-controlled Congress just happened to fast-track a vote on a bill mandating the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Koch brothers and their corporations lease oil rights on more than a million acres of land in the Alberta tar sands region from which the pipeline would transport oil. The construction of the pipeline would increase the value of their leases by an estimated $100 million! [2] This is just one example of the kind of payback wealthy campaign donors get. And the Koch brothers have just announced their intention to spend close to a billion dollars in the 2016 elections.

This, in a nutshell, is the legalized corruption of the political system of our supposed democracy. We are well down the road to a plutocracy (where the wealth elites rule) or a corporatocracy (where the corporations rule). I’m not sure there’s much difference, actually. (See my post on 7/21/14 for more detail.)

We must reform our system of financing election campaigns or we will lose our democracy – government of, by, and for the people. Reforming campaign financing will not be easy or quick. Two essential elements are:

  • Reversing the Supreme Court’s Citizens United and related decisions that equate money with speech and give corporations the free speech rights of the Bill of Rights (see my post on 1/11/15 for more detail), and
  • Establishing campaign financing systems, such as those in Arizona, Maine, and New York City, where small contributions to viable candidates are matched by public funds so candidates can be competitive based on support from every day citizens and voters instead of being dependent on wealthy individuals and interest groups (see my post on 7/25/14 for more detail).

[1]       Viser, M, 2/14/15, “Bush pressing to lock in Romney’s donors,” The Boston Globe

[2]       Hightower, J., 12/14, “Koch Kongress: The best money can buy,” The Hightower Lowdown (http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/)

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