Ensuring Privilege

Ensuring Privilege

Written by Erika Guynn

We often talk about big money influencing elections. It never hurts to remind ourselves how it actually happens.

According to a recent report from the Sunlight Foundation, in 2012 approximately 25 million Americans, or 1% of the U.S. population, contributed to election campaigns, which raised a record-breaking 6 billion dollars. Out of these 25 million people, a mere 1% of them, equaling a little over 31,000 people, donated almost a third of all the money contributed, a total of 1.7 billion dollars. And even more importantly, every U.S. House or Senate candidate that won received contributions from this elite 0.01%. Although smaller donors gave money to winning candidates, their contributions were significantly less than the total that each candidate received from the wealthy, elite 0.01% (about 31,000 people). Due in part to record-breaking money raised in the 2012 elections, candidates are feeling increased pressure to raise more funds to win. This leads us to an obvious question: might candidates be prioritizing the interests of their highest donors, or this elite 0.01%, in order to guarantee needed financial support for the next election?

How does that influence bear out? It would mean the interests of Americans in top corporate jobs have more influence on the legislative agenda. Out of this group of 31,000 elite, their professions include the following: retirees, presidents, attorneys, CEO’s, homemakers, chairmen, executives, investors, and owners of businesses. Corporate America has an unequal piece of the influence pie.

Let’s focus on Colorado. Based on the same report by the Sunlight Foundation, within our population of about 5 million, 633 people were part of this elite 0.01% who had a larger impact on the 2012 federal elections. Of these 633 people, a majority of them reside in places like Aspen, Boulder, the wealthiest neighborhoods in Denver, and Greenwood Village. With their powerful grasp on our elections, it can be honestly argued these wealthy elites are working toward a guarantee their privileged interests are maintained in the halls of Congress.

The Political 1% of the 1%