OPINION: Keep big money out of politics
Jonathan McCollough | Staff Writer
America’s democracy is quickly turning into an oligarchy.
Our political system is being corrupted more and more by large special interest groups that are spending billions of dollars lobbying politicians, and it is having a big impact on our elections and the way our government functions.
According to a New York Times study, as of October of 2015 just 158 families, as well as companies that they control, have contributed over $176 million to presidential campaigns – nearly half of the money contributed overall. In addition to this, in 2012 MoveOn reported that 40 percent of political contributions came from one-hundredth of one percent of the U.S. population.
This kind of money is not given out of pure generosity: it comes with strings attached.
In return for massive donations, special interests expect things such as tax favors, subsidies, and quite promises to be kept. This leads to politicians acting in favor of the interests of a handful of mega-wealthy people and corporations instead of the interest of the public which elects them.
Not only does this give an unfair amount of influence to a small group of people, but it also can be partially blamed for the gridlock in our Congress and our politics as a whole.
Secret promises made by politicians to special interests groups have limited their ability to compromise and has increased division in government. This can be seen in Congress where Republicans are acting as a wall, blocking any progressive proposals that try to make their way through the floor.
The widespread opposition to the Affordable Care Act is the perfect example of this. It could be true that almost all Republicans simply think that the ACA is bad policy and want it repealed for honest reasons. But this seems unlikely considering that OpenSecrets.org reported that in 2015, the pharmaceutical industry spent a whopping $235,107,261 on lobbying and the insurance industry spent an additional $155,805,113.
This is a broken system that needs fixing.
On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Citizens United, allowing large corporations and super PACs to make unlimited campaign contributions. This ruling held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from limiting political expenditures, essentially saying that corporations are people and money is speech.
This ruling has enabled the wealthiest people and groups in the country to contribute incredible sums of undisclosed money to politicians in exchange for their influence in government, and must be overturned in order to fix the broken campaign finance system with which we are currently dealing.
Massive contributions in return for influence in government is not speech, it’s corruption, and it must be stopped to preserve the exceptional democracy that has always defined America.