Despite opposition from more than 70% of the American public, some conservative members of Congress are still advocating for shutting down the federal government over a partisan dispute concerning federal funding of Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides access to healthcare services such as abortion, HIV counseling, birth control, and breast cancer screenings. The dispute involves abortion services, which Planned Parenthood says constitute only three percent of the services it provides to more than 5 million people each year, roughly one-third of whom are people of color.
The fight over Planned Parenthood funding serves as a reminder of who actually makes up and controls Congress and why we need strong political reforms.
The Reflective Democracy Campaign reports that 72% of members of Congress are men, despite the fact that women make up over half of the U.S. population. The pattern is the same at the state level, where men make up 78% of state legislators. The breakdown on race is even more lopsided. The study found that while 63% of Americans are white, 90% of the country’s elected officials are white. Of the 11% of elected officials who are people of color, only 4% are women.
Women and people of color also remain significantly underrepresented among major donors to political campaigns and political groups. In the 2012 election, men made up over 60% of all donors giving more than $200, according to a recent report by the National Council for Research on Women. Male dominance increased in the 2014 election, with men making up 70.3% of all donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The data also shows that male major donors (those who give $2,600 or more) outnumber women by more than 2-1. Research from Demos also shows that the donor class is also largely white, with more than 90% of $200+ contributions in the 2012 election coming from majority white neighborhoods.
All these numbers add up to a powerful case for comprehensive reforms to make our democracy more reflective of the people it’s supposed to represent. Big money in politics is a barrier to everyday Americans who want to serve their community, but don’t have the insider connections to raise big money for a political campaign. We need changes that would limit the power of big donors by overturning the Supreme Court decision in Citizens Untied, empower small donors through a system that matches small donations from individuals with public funds, and expand voting access so every American has an equal say and equal representation in our democracy.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Money in Politics