If you are a registered voter, you have most likely been bombarded with mailers from your party that describe the political candidates and their platform. Who pays for for all of those mailers, television commercials and radio spots — and why? After all, it costs a ton of money to kill that many trees and clutter up our mailboxes.
Individual donors make up a significant portion of all campaign contributions but that tide turned long ago in favour of corporations. According to Robert Longley, from Your Guide to U.S. Government, individual contribution limits for all federal offices are:
- $2,500 per Election to a Federal candidate — Each primary, runoff, and general election counts as a separate election.
- $30,800 per calendar year to a national party committee — applies separately to a party’s national committee, and House and Senate campaign committee.
- $10,000 per calendar year to state, district & local party committees
- $5,000 per calendar year to state, district & local party committee
Aggregate Total — $117,000 per two-year election cycle as follows:
- $46,200 per two-year cycle to candidates
- $70,800 per two-year cycle to all national party committees and PACs
But here is where it becomes interesting:
- Corporations and Labor Unions — are also prohibited form contributing. This law applies to all incorporated organizations, profit or non-profit. Business owners are not allowed to make contributions from their business accounts. Although corporations and labor organizations may not make contributions or expenditures in connection with federal elections, they may establish PACs.
While you and I are allowed to contribute up to the limits mentioned above, a Political Action Committee (PAC) or, better yet, the presence of one of those secretive ‘Super PACs’, has pretty much established that the sky is the limit. The Super PACs, courtesy of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates to unlimited amounts of cash, have set a new standard in terms of money raised, money spent and even the campaigns’ level of negativity. By effectively declaring that corporations are ‘citizens’ the smaller voices — those of individual citizens — are being drowned out more than ever by corporate voices with their big-money agendas. It takes a great deal of money to influence tax policy, determine who gets government subsidies and how our environment is impacted.
Most of the money for political campaigns comes from uber wealthy donors who want access to the candidates. After all, they want their agendas front and centre on the winner’s desk. There’s no doubt that corporate interests have far too much influence in setting the tone of political campaigns. But how much? Thanks to Citizens United, we can expect much more of this in the future; it’s a full-fledged assault on the democratic process.
The undisputed master of Super PAC money is Mitt Romney. In the primary season alone, Romney’s rich friends invested $52 million in his Super PAC, Restore Our Future – a number that’s expected to more than double in the coming months. This unprecedented infusion of money from America’s monied elites underscores the radical transformation of the Republican Party, which has made defending the interests of 0.0001 percent the basis of its entire platform. “Money buys power,” the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman observed recently, “and the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties.” In short, the political polarization and gridlock in Washington are a direct result of the GOP’s capitulation to Big Money.
Voting still matters as does bringing together like-minded people with a cause. That’s where grassroots organising and fund-raising efforts come into play: they help give a voice to those who typically do not have access to the power brokers in this country. It’s still one person, one vote in this country so every citizen must do his/her part by registering and, of course, casting a vote for the candidate who will move the country firmly towards a more prosperous and equitable future for the nation as a whole – not just a select few.
What’s the answer to building that ‘more perfect union‘? Make sure that the candidate in place is one who supports repealing Citizens United, and then put measures in place to alter the way campaigns are financed so that we really can be a one person, one vote country.
I’m a citizen — and I believe that a corporation’s vote should never count more than mine.
The Brooklyn Dame is that snarky Brooklyn chick from the UK who founded Borderless News and Views. She enjoys left-side politics, economics, finance and great seafood chased with a glass of Muscato. When she’s not plotting her escape from her corporate overlords, she’s writing ‘fight the wrongs on the Right’ articles. You can follow her on Twitter and read more of her posts on the BNV site or on BNV’s Facebook page.