Commentary by James Turnage
The victory for Citizens United in January 2010 was a loss for the American people and our voting system. The Supreme Court approved unlimited donations to candidate’s campaigns. In other words; they made it legal to purchase elections for any individual or political party which supports certain legislation, or favorable positions on the issues. Thanks to an extremely controversial decision by the SCOTUS, money buys more elections than ever before in our nation’s history.
The Koch brothers are a perfect example of how outside groups who have no direct affiliation with a political candidate can donate unlimited amounts of money, and greatly increase the percentages of winning an election. Any company; any association or labor union; no longer has restrictions limiting the amount of money they can contribute to election campaigns.
The research group, Center for Responsive Politics, reported that money spent by outside groups increased from $220 million to $486 between 2010 and 2014. In addition, so called ‘dark money,’ money donated by groups not forced to disclose themselves, reached a figure of $226 million during the most recent election cycle.
In the 2014 midterms more outside money was spent on Senatorial campaigns in highly contested states, than was spent by candidates themselves.
The recently proposed spending bill, known as the ‘Omnibus Bill,’ was negotiated by both parties. An added provision in the bill allows the wealthy to donate even more money to political parties. This provision permits the construction of three separate funds within both the Democratic and Republican Parties. Each of these funds could accept $97,200 from a single individual; that means each person could give $291,600 a year, or $583,200 in a two-year election cycle to the party of their choice.
Citizens United destroyed nearly all of the provisions of the McCain-Feingold bill which limited campaign spending; if the Omnibus is signed, it will destroy what is left. At present the maximum amount of money an individual can donate to the national committee of his party is $32,400. And additional $32,400 could be donated in the case of a runoff election.
Congress attempted to hide this provision in the lengthy legislation by entering the additional campaign donation amounts on page 1,599.
Americans are fed up with campaign spending. However, the members of Congress have no concern for the wishes of the American people; they are concerned about reelection.
Politicians claim that there has been no discernable effect from the Citizens United decision. The facts speak for themselves.
What makes this dangerous for the future of America and the right of citizens to vote, is in the reasons why voters choose a Democratic or Republican candidate. Most votes are directly related to television ads. Although there is seldom a thread of truth in numerous attacks aimed at the opponent of a candidate, the American public tends to believe what they see and hear on television. (Point of fact; viewers believe that reality shows are spontaneous and real.) The more money a candidate has to spend on a campaign, the more television ad time he or she can purchase.
The second fact, and equally as sad and dangerous, is that millions of votes are cast each election year for a party rather than an individual. Instead of voting for the most qualified candidate, ballots are marked next to a name which has either an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ next to it. Ill-informed voters have damaged our government, and it is doubtful that it can be repaired.
By James Turnage