Special interest money - and especially corporate special interest money buys elections. Historically, 9 out of 10 victors in elections have outspent their opponent, whatever their party. Surprised? No one should be. Deep down, I think everyone probably kind of suspects that behind-the-scenes special interest money is funneled into election campaigns. But, the trouble is, no one really understands how pervasive and serious this problem actually is. No one seems to understand the danger this places us all in. The danger to us collectively as a society that is.
Various campaign finance rule changes over the years resulted in a system which allows - even encourages - special interest money to influence and buy elections. Massive amounts of money, millions and millions of dollars, from anonymous donors is utilized for ad campaigns favoring particular candidates or issues. The main culprits are '527 groups' after the section of US law they are permitted by. Much of their money - often called 'soft money' - doesn't even need to be reported to the Federal Election Committee until after the election is over - if then.
In fact, the Federal ElectionCommission (FEC) decided in 2004 that 527's were not even to be regulated under campaign finance rules unless they 'directly advocate' the defeat of a candidate.
'Political Action Committees' (PACs) are more regulated, yet still able to spend vast sums lobbying and donating to other political campaigns. Most federal level politicians now have their own PACs and use their discretion to dispense contributions as they see fit. PACs are the so-called 'non-profit' 501(c) political organizations formed ostensibly to 'educate and inform'.
Those are the rules. Those are the rules put in place by our legislators, elected by us, to serve 'we, the people', who instead are often persuaded to legislate in favor of some special interest or the other, which is often directly AGAINST the interests and welfare of the public. A lot of money is at stake. The people who do this - infuse the special interest money into the campaigns - claim it is their perfect right under the First Amendment - freedom of speech. But, leaving aside the discussion as to whether or not a corporation, business group or PAC can be - as they are today - considered 'persons' (and very special 'persons' at that!) - the net effect drastically loosens the laws and allows massive amounts of cash to be unfairly inserted into campaigns in one form or the other. Those with the gold, rule in other words.
An actual 'person' may not do this - unless it is to finance his or her own campaign. Real people are limited in the amounts they are allowed to contribute - unless of course it is to a 527 group - and there they don't even need to be identified. But any real person making a direct contribution over $100 to a political campaign must be identified by name, address and occupation/employer.
527 groups are allowed to spend unlimited amounts in favor of, or against any candidate or issue they so desire. The only limitation to their spending when they qualify as a 'Trade Association' Business Leagues, Chambers of Commerce, Real Estate Boards, etc., is that intervening in political campaigns is not their 'primary activity'.
How wrong is that? And who decides whether or not political activity is their primary activity? Surprise! That is usually done by people appointed by politicians themselves. On yes, something is definitely rotten in Denmark all right.
You and I as individuals may not contribute unlimited amounts for political advocacy (unless to a 527 group), yet the 527 groups may do so, as much as they wish so long as they claim to be a trade association or like group. How did it ever come to pass that these types of 'persons' have rights superior to actual people? Beats me. Oh yeah, wait a minute. . . . , I guess it's because politicians collectively decided it is advantageous to them personally, either in their own election campaigns, or in the massive amounts of money which will be funneled to them as advocacy for one issue or the other. Public interests be damned.
Do we need election campaign finance reform? You Bet!
How can we do this without inhibiting rights to free speech? There must be some mechanism which will permit real democracy to be maintained without endangering constitutional rights. I believe there is. In fact, it ought to be pretty darned simple if our political leaders actually believe in fairness and democracy. In keeping with a 'one person, one vote' democracy, this is what is needed:
- Each person should be allowed to donate a limited amount to any candidate or issue he or she chooses. No limits to the number of candidates or issues;
- No company, group, organization or entity other than actual persons should be considered as persons, or permitted to contribute to any candidate or issue whatever.
If you have the time, please view the excellent documentary on the new Golden Rule.
"The world is ruled only by the consideration of Advantages"
~ Friedrich von Schiller
~ Friedrich von Schiller