Money Corrupts Local and National Politics


Public Library of Bookline

Wolf PAC aims to limit money in politics and create a 28th amendment.

Marc Ramson, Staff Reporter

In 2010, the Citizens United Supreme Court Case made it legal for businesses and unions to donate unlimited amounts of money to influence campaigns via advertisements and other political activities. The case viewed certain regulations on campaign finance to be unconstitutional as they restrict one’s rights of freedom of speech.

How can limiting corporations ability to influence elections be unconstitutional? There are laws made against spending money on other things like illegal drugs and firearms, but the courts don’t claim these restrictions to be unconstitutional.

Based on a 2014 Princeton study, the United States government functions more as an oligarchy than a Constitutional Republic. The study concludes that those with money influence, things like businesses, economic elites, and independent groups, have a substantially greater impact on policy than an average citizen.

From an analysis of polling, there is a direct correlation of how much money one makes and how likely their views are to be represented in government. For instance, while 94 percent of Americans support universal background checks for purchasing firearms, the regulation is not in place due to the financial backing of the large gun lobby in congress .

“The one issue that you’re passionate about could get looped in with their overall policy agenda,” social studies teacher Ms. Erin Laney said. “But in reality, they could be getting funding from a group that is completely opposed to the issue that you care about or the direction that you want that politician to take.”

When talking about the money in politics, it’s hard not to point out the controversy surrounding the Koch brothers. These two brothers, who have a net worth around $40 billion, own seven parent companies largely involved in industry and fossil fuel operations. According to the IRS, they have contributed over $100 million to state and local campaigns, and over $400 million federally in the 2018 midterms.

They are not donating money to candidates out of the goodness of their hearts; there are clear financial benefits to this, keeping those who oppose their lucrative ideology of environmental deregulation out of office. Though politicians who receive money from Super PACs or political action committees are at a clear advantage economically than those who do not, it does not come without a cost.

In return for this money a politician has to “sell” their votes, not literally of course, but if a legislator wishes to expect the same type of financial backing next time they run for re-election, they better vote in line with their big-donor’s ideology. In the US House, in over 90 percent of elections, the candidate who raised more money ended up on top. This is why most elections are seen as the lesser of two evils, because the candidates have a clear incentive for working in favor of the corporations and elite class, not the average worker. It’s no surprise that Congress usually hovers around a 20 percent approval rating

Getting money out of politics is a bipartisan issue, meaning both Republicans and Democrats all across the country are generally in favor of it. Take Pennsylvania for example. We have two elected senators: one happens to be Republican, the other a Democrat. Neither is without their share of money influence.

In 2016, a bill was introduced to the Senate that would allow for the United States to lower drug prices by negotiating prices with Canada. According to his website, Senator Bob Casey (D) wishes to diminish the burden of overwhelming drug costs to his older constituents, yet he voted against the bill even after saying good things about the idea. This may have something to do with the over $800 thousand he received from the health and pharmaceutical industry that year, that would benefit from continuing the monopoly they have in United States drug industry.

In July 2017, Pat Toomey (R) voted for a bill that would lower the threshold to receive medicaid funding, a program that provides impoverished families with subsidised health insurance. It wouldn’t be illogical to think the $974 thousand he received from private health insurance companies for this years midterms made an influence in that decision. These are only a few of the countless examples of elected officials voting for political favors.

Many Americans today are discouraged and feel hopeless when it comes to being involved in our political system. It has been ten years since the voting rate was above 50 percent on a national level. Thoughtful discourse on ideology has been drowned out by the everlasting flow of money being poured into Washington. Debate on policy positions have been put to rest by corporate greed and lobbyists, and our democracy is in distress from the control that wealth has in the American political system.

Though this type of corruption may seem disheartening, there is hope. Several advocate groups work to make significant change to the way campaign finance affects legislation. Justice Democrats, for example, is a grassroots political action committee that helps subsidize politicians who don’t accept big money contributions and hope to reform corruption within the Democratic party. Each Justice Democrat is required to pledge not to accept corporate PAC money and follow certain criteria of a more progressive, populist agenda. Currently 26 Justice Democrats hold office, including new New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

Wolf PAC is a bipartisan movement attempting to revolutionize the way campaign finance is organized. They are calling for a 28th amendment to the Constitution, one that would overrule Citizens United, increase transparency, and limit the effect money has in elections. Their initiative to amend the Constitution requires signing on three fourths of states to call for a constitutional convention and avoiding Congress all together, a strategy that has never been used. They currently have five of the 38 states they need, including California, New Jersey, Vermont, Illinois, and most recently, Rhode Island.

Creating an environment of more informed, educated citizens is the most effective way to make change. If everyone understood how campaigns are run and operated, it would greatly change the state of politics in America; more and more people each year are turning their backs on traditionally-run campaigns.

“The lawmaking process really is stomach churning, if we were to know the backroom deals, and the special interest influence, and the campaign finance influence,” civics and government teacher Mr. Brian Dow said. “If the general public got to peel back the curtain and see how these laws are made and the different groups that influence the process, there would be a change.”

Americans historically are disgusted when faced with elements that affect the legitimacy of democracy. Now more than ever is a time to revolutionize monetary impact on sovereignty in the United States of America.