Putting money in the political process destroys democracy

The political divide within America has long been symbolized by the colors red and blue, for Republicans and Democrats, respectively. The association is so strong that each color has become almost synonymous with the side of the aisle it represents. When you say Utah is red, no one is going to think you are referring to the red rocks of Moab or St. George. However, a new color is becoming much more important in the fresco of American politics: the color green. Sadly, I’m not talking about the Green Party. I’m talking about money and its ever-increasing and corrupting influence on our political system.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the final cost of this mid-term election cycle will be about $3.6 billion. That’s more than double what it was 16 years ago, and that is still nothing compared to what is spent in a year featuring a presidential election.

One of the problems with having so much money involved in our elections is the fact that the candidate who spends the most money wins most of the time. In 2010, 85 percent of races for the Untied States House of Representatives were won by the candidate who raised more money, which was actually a drop from 2008, when big spenders won 93 percent of their elections. Candidates and campaign advisors are well-aware of this fact, which is why politicians are non-stop fundraising machines. Freshmen Democrat members of Congress are reportedly encouraged to spend 4-6 hours every day fundraising. They do it because they know if they don’t, they likely won’t win their next election. With so much time spent schmoozing corporate donors each day, it’s no wonder our Congress is historically horrendous at getting anything done.

The biggest problem with money in politics, though, comes from the aftermath of the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In that case, it was decided that corporations are, for legal purposes, people, and that their right to donate unlimited money to campaigns is protected free speech. The result is politicians get most of their money from corporations, often intermediated by mysterious Political Action Committees. So when your Congressman is sitting in his or her office, making calls to ask for donations, they’re not calling “Joe Six-Pack” asking for his ten bucks in exchange for working on issues that concern Joe. No, they’re calling the millionaires and billionaires of America, asking for ten thousand bucks in exchange for working on issues that concern them.

As money has become so crucial to political success, a Congressman’s most important constituents are no longer those who vote for him, but those who finance him. Defining campaign contributions as free speech gives more voice to the rich and silences the poor. It’s turning our elections into an auction where candidates peddle themselves for the highest price they can get. In other words, it’s destroying our democracy.

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