Now is the time to encourage changes in the election laws that have put a strangle hold on the election process in this country.
If you remember, just prior to the last presidential election, the super PACs (Political Action Committees) had been created from a series of federal court rulings, including the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case in 2010 that removed restrictions on corporate and union spending in elections. The groups were prohibited from coordinating directly with individual campaigns but many of them were staffed by longtime supporters of the candidates in a thinly veiled attempt to appear non-partisan. The super PACs were not subject to the $2,500 cap on donations to a candidate’s campaign, and a number of the super PACs had individual contributions of more than $1 million.
Super PACs served the purpose of bringing out the worst in American politics not by lifting up candidates but by tearing them down. The changes also had the effect of shielding donors until a time when many candidates affected by their assaults had dropped out of the race and provided cover to other candidates while the super PACs went on “seek and destroy” missions to neutralize competing candidates while avoiding fair handed election transparency.
The financial results from the 2012 federal election proved to be the most expensive election in U.S. history. More than $6 billion was spent by federal campaigns, not only by the super PACs but by the political nonprofits and the party committees.
Here is the split out of how the money was spent according to the Center for Responsive Politics:
• Presidential candidates.... $1,377,000,000
• House candidates............. $1,010,000,000
• Senate candidates............ $720,000,000
• Party committees...............$1,800,000,000
• Outside groups...................$1,210,000,000
Unless action is taken very soon to correct this trend we will see our country and those who seek to control her manipulating our elections once again by pitting us against each other and attempting to destroy all but their chosen bought and paid for candidates.
Last week, U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) introduced a billed in the House titled Government by the People Act, HR 20, in an effort to raise up the voices of everyday people in the political process. So far more than 130 Democratic House members have signed on as original co-sponsors. While the bill is a step in the right direction it needs to go further to restrict the super PACs influence on the presidential campaign. Additionally, Republicans need to have their voices heard in this process. The bill seeks to control the undue influences of special interests by providing everyday Americans with a $25 refundable tax credit to help spur small-dollar contributions to candidates for Congressional office.
The bill establishes a Freedom from Influence Fund to multiply the impact of small-dollar donations ($150 or less). Everyday Americans will have their small-dollar contributions matched if they give to a Congressional candidate who foregoes traditional PAC money and focuses on earning broad-based support from small-dollar donors. That turns a $50 contribution into a $350 contribution – matched at a rate of $6 to $1. For those candidates who agree to take only small-dollar donations, the $50 contribution can become a $500 contribution – matched at a rate of $9 to $1. Citizen-funded candidates who are able to raise at least $50,000 in additional small-dollar donations within the 60-day “home stretch” of the general election would be eligible for additional resources to help combat PAC efforts.
It’s time for all Americans to be heard on this all important issue. Until the voting public controls the funding of these elections our elected officials will continue to heed the call of the special interest money that commands their attention.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.