Coming from the UK, I found the party campaign spending over the top and fruitless. In the 2010 General Election, individual candidates and national parties spent a whopping £45.5m, included in this figure were the unlimited (but public) donations which totaled £65,654,486 in 2014. According to the NY Times, In the current Presidential Election campaign $568.2 million has been raised so far. That is an astronomical sum in comparison to the UK. I want to show how detrimental this cash campaigning is to democracy in the US and how we can change things.
“Whilst working people across the US are huddled in blankets because they can’t afford to pay the gas bill…rich bankers, oligarchs and neurosurgeon’s are running for office under millions of dollars.”
I’m tired of voting for parties who are puppets to corporate interests, and I’m sure US citizens are too. People have the right to vote for a politician, not an oil company or a bank or Rupert Murdoch. Whilst working people across the US are huddled in blankets because they can’t afford to pay the gas bill, whilst children are becoming increasingly overweight because it’s cheaper for their parents to feed them McDonalds than a fresh green salad, and whilst people are stripped of their citizen (and human) rights because they can’t afford to take the time off work to vote for change, whilst this is happening across America, rich bankers, oligarchs and neurosurgeon’s are running for office under millions and millions of dollars.
By assessing campaign funding and donations, I’m going to review how campaign donors directly influence presidential policy to suit the needs of the one per cent, as seen from the most recent Obama administration. I will then examine how democracy in the US is being questioned by the minority of elite individuals and/or corporations that fund the elected government. With this knowledge, I want to urge people on why we need to create a greater transparency within Super PAC’s and persuade you to use non-violent direct action to implement regulations on external campaign funding.
“There are two things that are important in politics. The first thing is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.”
The 19th Century Republican Senator, Mark Hanna, summed up the system perfectly when he said in 1895, yes that’s 120 years ago, that: “There are two things that are important in politics. The first thing is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.”
In 2010 the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Citizens United was a decision that opened the floodgates for unlimited donations to political fundraising organizations known as super PACs.
The 2010 case of SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission was the seed of the Citizens United case which basically meant that the FEC could no longer enforce the contribution limits to independent groups. This opened the door to unlimited election spending by corporations, unions and wealthy individuals.
According to Melissa M Smith’s book, Dark Money, Super PACs, and the 2012 Election: ”Super PACs are independent political committees that support a candidate with unlimited, often anonymous, donations from companies, unions, or individuals.”
“…they’re called campaign contributions…but they’re really investments.”
Economist Joseph Stiglitz said in an interview with Bill Maher on Real Time, in regards to corporate funding in elections: “…they’re called campaign contributions…but they’re really investments.” Stiglitz also labelled this ‘Cognitive Capture’. I strongly advise you, however, not to watch anything with Bill Maher in…
Now, by looking at that one per cent of individuals and/or corporations that have generously emptied their pockets for these elections, we will see where the real loyalty lies. It was recently revealed in the NY Times that just 158 families contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign. This is what it looks like in lego terms:
There are a number of worrying financiers that come into the equation, perhaps with the most questionable being Newscorp and Comcast. In 2012, News Corp donated $504,162 to individuals, Super PACs and candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’s OpenSecrets Web site. Meanwhile, Comcast have been labelled as ‘Obama lovers’ by http://www.newsbusters.org/ following their funding of his previous campaign, as well as their supposedly biased reporting on NBC news.
Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia is a big supporter of President Obama. He is also a large shareholder in Newscorp and the freedom of speech favourite, Twitter.
Regular government donors, as well as the bailed-out banks, include the defense manufacturing company Lockheed Martin. Since 1996, Lockheed Martin has funded at least $1 million into government campaigns each year. According to talkbusiness.net, Lockheed Martin received a $227 million contract from the US army this year. This brings into question whether military action truly represents us.
This explosion of external funding in presidential election campaigns is a clear example of the US government suiting the needs of the one percent over us, the 99 per cent.
On September 17, 2011, the Occupy Wall Street protest movement against social and economic inequality began in Manhattan’s Financial District. Noam Chomsky’s book Occupy! details the movement.
Whist this gained mass involvement from the 99 per cent, as you can see from this chart, merely a year later $985.7 million was spent on a President who implemented the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act which made it easier for the government to criminalize protest.
We still have a glimpse of a change, however. On September 28, 2015 Democrat leader hopeful, Bernie Sanders, tweeted: “Unlike virtually every other campaign, we don’t have a super PAC which collects money from billionaires and corporations.”
Donald Trump also spoke out against Super PAC’s in anger against his so-called ‘self-financed’ campaign according to The Huffington Post. This is less of an incentive to stop independent funding of campaigns, but rather to increase transparency in funding.
The Occupy movement was just the beginning of this national disenfranchisement with the system, but we need to continue it. This can be through student activism, speaking to your local counsellors and voting for Bernie Sanders.
We can now see how detrimental external campaign funding is to democracy in the US and what we need to do to change things. The direct influence of campaign donors on presidential policy to suit the needs of the one per cent is undemocratic and must be prevented. The fact that a minority of elite individuals and/or corporations fund the elected government is questioning democracy in the US and non-violent direct action is integral in implementing regulations on external campaign funding and for creating greater transparency within Super PAC’s.