BIG MONEY IN ELECTIONS IS CORRUPTING OUR DEMOCRACY

ABSTRACT: The 2016 elections, for President, Congress, and in the states, will be the most expensive elections ever by far. All the national and gubernatorial candidates (with perhaps a couple of exceptions) will be dependent on wealthy donors and will repay them with access and favors. The policies of the winning candidates will, therefore, reflect the interests of these wealthy donors.

The big money of these wealthy donors is corrupting our elections and our democracy. We won’t get an economy that works for all of us when policy decisions are bent to favor the wealthy and powerful. In the last presidential election, 40% of campaign contributions came from 16,000 households whose average wealth was $110 million. The money of these few people drowned out the voices of the other 300,000,000 of us.

There are 3 things that we need to do to address this problem: 1) Require full and timely disclosure of the original source of all election spending, 2) Establish programs to match the campaign contributions of small donors with public funds, and 3) amend the US Constitution to reverse the Supreme Court’s decisions that have equated spending money with freedom of speech and given corporations and other organizations rights (such as freedom of speech) meant for human beings.

Our system of funding elections is broken and is undermining our democracy. A functioning democracy is essential if we are going to have an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy.

FULL POST: The 2016 elections, for President, Congress, and in the states, will be the most expensive elections ever by far. All the national and gubernatorial candidates (with perhaps a couple of exceptions) will be dependent on wealthy donors and will repay them with access and favors. The policies of the winning candidates will, therefore, reflect the interests of these wealthy donors, if for no other reason that their views will be the ones the elected officials hear most frequently and forcefully.

The big money of these wealthy donors is corrupting our elections and our democracy. We won’t get an economy that works for all of us when policy decisions are bent to favor the wealthy and powerful.

In the last presidential election, 40% of campaign contributions came from 16,000 households whose average wealth was $110 million. The money of these few people drowned out the voices of the other 300,000,000 of us. The views and interests of these 1 out of every 10,000 Americans holds sway with most of Congress, and with much of the agendas of the President and the Governors of our states.

There are 3 things that we need to do to address this problem; the first could be done quickly, the second in the medium-term, and the third is a long-term solution.

  1. Require full and timely disclosure of the original source of all election spending. Congress and state legislatures need to pass laws requiring this disclosure. The President should issue an Executive Order requiring all federal contractors to disclose their political spending. The Federal Elections Commission should issue strong regulations requiring disclosure of political spending. The Internal Revenue Service should require all not-for-profit, tax exempt entities to disclose their political spending. And the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) should require all publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending. Furthermore, the SEC should require shareholder approval of all corporate political spending. (Please sign my petition through Sum of Us here calling on the SEC to take these steps.) Voters have a right to know who is trying to influence their votes and their elected officials. This disclosure would allow voters to hold elected officials accountable for acting in their interests and not in the interests of their big campaign donors. (See my post The Rise of Dark Money in Campaigns for more information.)
  2. Federal, state, and local governments should establish programs to match the campaign contributions of small donors. This has been done in New York City, Maine, and Arizona, among other places. This matching of small donations with public funds amplifies the voices of average citizens and through contribution limits caps the spending of the wealthy (limiting their ability to drown out others’ voices). This makes elections fairer, encourages the engagement of more voters, and is a key step to recapturing government of, by, and for the people. (See my post Democratizing Campaign Financing for more detail.)
  3. Ultimately, we need to amend the US Constitution to reverse the Supreme Court’s decisions (Citizens United, McCutcheon, and others) that gave corporations and other organizations rights (such as freedom of speech) meant for human beings and equated spending money with speech, and, therefore, with freedom of speech protections. (See my post Corporations Are Not People and Money Is Not Speech for more detail.)

Our system of elections is broken and is undermining our democracy. A functioning democracy is essential if we are going to have an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy. We need to stop the big money from corrupting our elections and our government. Wealthy special interests cannot be allowed to drown out the voices of the average voter and citizen if we want to have a democracy of, by, and for the people. (See my posts under the category Campaigns: Financing & Voting for more information on the topic of money in our elections.)

Getting big money out of politics is the twelfth and last (they decided that 10 ideas wasn’t quite enough) of Ten Ideas to Save the Economy: The Big Picture presented by Robert Reich and MoveOn.org. (You can watch the 3 minute video at: https://www.facebook.com/moveon/videos/vb.7292655492/10152835663535493/?type=2&theater.) None of the other 11 big ideas to save our economy that this series has presented are likely to come to fruition unless we get the big money out of our election campaigns.

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