Money in Politics
Big money has long dominated our elections, and the problem has worsened since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling in 2010, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on our elections. In campaign 2012, “independent” groups spent about $1 billion, much of it from anonymous individuals and corporations. Candidates backed by big money donors lost some high-profile elections, but nevertheless the next Congress will be more beholden than the current crop of lawmakers to special interests.
The problem with money in politics is not so much the amount that is spent on campaigns as it is who pays for them, what they get in return, and how that affects public policy and spending priorities. Common Cause is working diligently to expose the role of special interests and promote reforms that put democracy back in the hands of "we the people."
American Legislative Exchange Council
Some of the nation's largest and richest companies, including ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and AT&T, have joined forces to invest millions of dollars each year to promote the careers of thousands of state legislators and secure passage of legislation that puts corporate interests ahead of the interests of ordinary Americans.
The 2012 campaign was the first in which corporations could tap their treasuries to support or oppose candidates. Most reacted cautiously, likely channeling their funds through groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which are not required to disclose their donors. This is money that belongs to shareholders but is routinely spent without their input, much less their approval. Citizens can stop this power grab; we must use our shares to demand that corporate officers and directors keep corporate money out of our elections.
Only People Are People
Creating a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United
Common Cause is leading a national campaign for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and permit Congress and state legislatures to impose reasonable limits on political spending. In 2012, voters in Montana and Colorado, and in cities including Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston approved ballot measures instructing their members of Congress to work for passage of an amendment. Additional ballot campaigns are planned for 2014 and lawmakers are being lobbied to follow the voters' instructions by acting on an amendment.
Ending Secret Spending in Elections
The DISCLOSE (Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections) Act would be an important step on behalf of transparency in politics because it would ensure that voters understand who is paying for the ads they see and hear.
The Way Forward
They should be focusing on jobs and the economy, health care, the mortgage crisis and upheaval in the Middle East, but too many of our elected officials in Washington are busy soliciting campaign money from the lobbyists and industries they’re supposed to oversee. It’s time to get our elected officials out of the fundraising game and let them do the job we elected them to do.
In a citizen-funded "Fair Elections" system, qualified candidates who take no contributions larger than $100 can run for Congress on a blend of small donations and public funds.