Monday, April 23, 2012

If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time

Money has always played a significant role in politics. But today, money seems to weld an even greater influence in its ability to influence our political process. As the old song goes, "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time."

During this primary season, we've seen the Republican candidates spend millions of dollars on ad campaigns, much of it negative and funded for the most part by super-PACS. l can't help but think what worthwhile uses this money could have been used for instead.

As a result of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (U.S. 2010), political spending had been found to be a form of speech protected under the First Amendment. As such, the government cannot prevent corporations, unions, or individuals from spending unlimited amounts of money to support or denounce a political candidate through advertising. Let's not be naive, giving money to a campaign means buying influence. Moreover, the donors of this money can remain anonymous. 

The Citizens United case has effectively eviscerated our campaign finance law. The decision has enabled our political system to be corrupted by the influence of BIG money. We are now beginning to see how overturning a century of campaign finance law is distorting the electoral process. Rather than acting truly independent of campaigns, as the majority of Supreme Court Justices envisioned, these entities (super-PACS) act exclusively on behalf of individual candidates - and are typically run by former aides. For example, the super-PAC, Restore Our Future, was founded by Mitt Romney aides in 2010. The group's treasurer is the former general counsel of the Romney 2008 Presidential Campaign. Restore Our Future has reportedly raised over $12 million in the first half of 2011 alone, much of that money going to negative advertising. Does anyone truly believe this is an independent group?

Rather than encouraging the universal right of free speech, the Supreme Court's decision has had the effect of providing a megaphone for the rich and powerful to drown out all other voices. Is this the political process we want for our country?


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