A couple of things happened today and I’ve decided they should be mentioned. First, I read an article in which Mike Duncan, chairman of the conservative PAC American Crossroads, claimed that there isn’t too much money in politics. This caught my eye because I personally believe there is far too much money in politics. What was even more interesting was his argument. He basically said that liberal groups were going to raise more money than conservative groups in this election. I think that’s a perfectly reasonable claim considering that Obama will be on the ballot, and Republican initiatives in places like Wisconsin have riled up the unions. However, that’s not an argument that there isn’t too much money in politics. It’s further proof that there obviously is. Just because the other side might win isn’t a defense of much larger issue.
The problem is that such huge amounts of money can only be raised from a of sources, corporations, union groups, or the extremely wealthy. As Salon reported about a year ago, the election was just starting to heat up and American Crossroads had raised about $4.4 million up to that point. Nearly all of it came from 4 people. Individual billionaires had put millions of dollars in Karl Rove’s hands to promote conservative candidates. How can you say there isn’t too much money in the system when all the power gets put into the hands of a few donors. Amusingly, American Crossroads called itself a “grassroots” organization.
We see this same problem with the Tea Party. Tea Party rallies are sponsored by groups like Americans For Prosperity. Sure lots of people show up but the “grassroots” movement is funded by special interests. Anti-government sentiment is being propped up by groups that want reduced government for their own gain, not for the gain of public. This trend is taking the power of elections out of the hands of the people.
The President is trying to run a different campaign, apparently. I got an e-mail today from the Obama campaign. It was just asking me to donate money. The email said that the President is trying to run a “grassroots” (funny how that word keeps showing up) campaign. Instead of having a goal of dollars raised they wanted a certain number of people who have donated. Their goal is to have 450,000 individual donors by the next filing deadline. It also claims they are refusing money from Washington lobbyists and PACs. I applaud the President for this. His actions don’t carry quite the weight they could, however. First of all, we’ll have to wait until after the filing deadline to know if it’s true, and to see how much special interest money Republicans are raising. Second, I’m not as worried about the donations to presidential candidates. Those are public and regulated. A person or group can only donate so much money to a presidential campaign. That’s not where the money goes. The money goes to parties and PACs who run advertising outside of the campaign. You can bet that the Democrat and Republican parties are taking special interest money. Democrats have also begun to jump on the Citizens United bus. Former Obama aide Bill Burton has formed Priorities USA, a group much like Rove’s American Crossroads, so this election should see even more misleading attack ads from both sides
Until all the money in politics comes from individuals and not special interests these elections will never truly be in the hands of the public. As long as billionaires can fund tons of attack ads without limitation the power will never rest with the people.