Follow The Money

[This is the second of a series of blog reposts from my campaign website. This post first appeared on June 20, 2012]

In All The President’s Men, the insider source named “Deep Throat” tells reporter Bob Woodward to “follow the money” in order to get to the bottom of the Watergate corruption scandal. That good advice applies to most situations involving corruption.

This year may mark the first time that a challenger raises more money than an incumbent during a presidential campaign. It is the direct result of our Supreme Court eliminating the barrier to unlimited campaign contributions by corporations and wealthy people.

Four years ago, Obama raised a record amount of money for his campaign by targeting huge numbers of individual small donors. That strategy seems woefully inadequate when there are billionaires who are willing to spend unlimited amounts of money to defeat Obama this time around, and under our current laws, they can.

Whether or not so much money from so few people proves crucial to the outcome of the 2012 presidential race, it will surely have enormous impact in the future.  We may see a time in the not so distant future when a billionaire may in effect choose the candidate for a party’s ticket through the overwhelming influence they have wielded through the use of expensive television ads and ubiquitous exposure to the voters.

As more politicians are elected with the help of an abundance of cash, it seems likely that our government will be controlled by the privileged few and big corporations.  We, as individuals with the power to vote, must ensure that our votes are not for sale. When our votes are not for sale, then our elections will not be hijacked by the interests of the few. In today’s world of pervasive media, we must resist the temptation to accept the opinions expressed in commercials and by pundits who have their own agenda.

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  • Jim Wheeler  On January 12, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Things might not be as bleak as they seem, John. There was an interesting NYT column on the subject wherein one expert said,

    “Money is a necessary condition for electoral success,” said Bob Biersack, a senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending. “But it’s not sufficient, and it’s never been.”

    Frankly, I see the biggest danger from the Citizens United decision being not so much the money itself as that the sources of campaign financing can be secret. If that were fixed I think the danger of buying elections would be minimized.

    • jwhester  On January 13, 2013 at 1:56 am

      I realize that I am idealistic about this topic, but it distresses me that it is considered conventional wisdom that “money is a necessary condition for electoral success.” If candidates believe that, then they will believe that they owe their election to those who gave them money rather than those who gave them votes. That is a formula that guarantees that politicians will care more about special interest groups than the people they represent.

      • Jim Wheeler  On January 13, 2013 at 2:03 am

        You are indeed an idealist, John. I recognized that some time ago and I must say, the world need idealists. However, please do not underestimate political candidates. Only realists have any chance of political success these days. – Jim

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