Government & Law

Money and politics – a venomous blend

December 4, 2017

In a perfect democracy one would expect that each citizen has equal opportunity to express his/her views, have access to unbiased information about each candidate and issue, and to use his/her personal judgement in casting a vote.  Today’s reality is clearly far from this.  Winning contests seem to be correlated with the the amount of money spent in the race leading to the election.  To view some data see the Los Angeles Times article: How much money is your vote worth? Here’s what California House candidates spent in 2016.  Clearly there are other factors such as party dominance of a district, but money dominates the correlation.  The conclusion seems clear: the more money you have the greater your potential influence on the outcome of an election.  It is no longer one person, one vote that was the founding concept of our democracy.

There is further money influence.  Third parties raise money and support issues/positions held by one side or another to influence the outcome.  So the real cost per vote is even higher.  Further large corporations with huge financial assets can contribute unlimited amounts to  influence contests for candidates or issues that impact their business.  Since when is a corporation a citizen?  The most concerning part of this situation is that it trending in the wrong direction.  If it continues we will face a situation where the most wealthy in this country buy candidates and issues contest to benefit themselves at the expense of the vast majority of citizens : government of ALL the people, for ALL the people, by ALL the people?

So what to do.  Clearly remove money from politics.  How is the challenge.  It will not be easy simply because there is so much money that can be spent to thwart attempts at change.  Some things that should be addressed are clear however.  Legislate to nullify the Citizens United decision of the supreme court that allows corporate spending.  Reiinstitute strict campaign spending/contribution limits.  Look at public funding of national elections.  Limit the time duration of campaigns such as is done in Britain.  Establish independent information sources to publish position papers on all sides of a campaign.  Require all campaign contributions to be attributable to the provider of the funding.

Not an easy challenge but we can start by talking about it and sharing ideas.

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