Underbelly of politics
by Jim Dickeson
We Americans celebrated our Declaration of Independence on July 4th again this year. We celebrated our freedoms and our democracy.
I sometimes wish our forefathers could be here to see where we are and what has become of the democratic government they fostered.
I’m sure they would be amazed at the changes.
I don’t think we’ve done everything badly, but there are a few things I’m sure our forefathers never imagined.
One is the amount of money spent on political campaigns — especially the campaign for president.
Back in January, the conservative magazine, The Hill, was calling it a $5 billion election.
Candidates and the Super PACS supporting them have already raised more than $1.4 billion. At the beginning, there were 22 total presidential candidates. Now, the total is down to just three.
All candidates had to file reports with the Federal Election Commission on June 20. Among the active candidates, Hilary Clinton had the lead in total money raised at $334.9 million. Bernie Sanders was second at 229 million (with no money from Super PACs), and Donald Trump was a distant third at $67.1 million.
It is interesting that four of the unsuccessful Republican candidates, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, all had raised more campaign money than Donald Trump, and they’ve been out of the race for several months now.
Nearly all of the unsuccessful candidates have money left over. Some have many millions left, but only two, Trump and Clinton, will have to spend money on the upcoming general election.
Interestingly enough, Donald Trump is no longer self-financing his campaign. Even he can’t keep up.
Early in 2015, The New York Times reported that the billionaire Koch Brothers, Charles G. and David H., planned to spend $900 million themselves on the 2016 election. They were holding seminars and recruiting like-minded conservatives to join their coalition, operating with a budget roughly equivalent to each of the two major political parties.
The barn door on campaign financing was “kicked open” by a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down limits on campaign donations. The court ruled that corporations and unions have the same constitutional standing as individuals when it comes to participation in the political process. Therefore, there are no limits.
That ruling has escalated the situation to the point where the influence of money has surpassed the importance of the individual in elections.
The people are being drowned out by political money, and the people are the only ones who can rise up and change that.