Money in elections has long dominated American politics, but the scale of the problem has gotten much worse since the Supreme Court made its infamous 2010 ruling that has become popularly known as simply: Citizens United. This ruling, over the objections of the minority liberal Justices allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections. Campaign contributions buy influence from elected officials as corporations, labor unions, and other organizations spend billions of dollars each year to lobby Congress and federal agencies. Also visit our election reform section.
money in elections: an american story
According to election reform advocacy group Common Cause, billions of dollars have been spent on buying American elections since that ruling and much of it has come from completely anonymous organizations. At least six billion dollars amount spent on the 2012 election according to an estimate by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. Candidates backed by huge one-time donations from the wealthy are inevitably more beholden to special interests. Money is exchanged directly for political favors, such as generous campaign donations for a lucrative government contract.
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, spending priorities, and even war. Thanks to decades of rulings by Justices and politicians who molded the law to favor elite interests, corporations today are granted so-called “rights” that empower them to deny citizens the right to full democracy.
transparency for money in elections
It is important to remember that transparent governments allow the public to review government practices as completely as possible. Increasing standards of transparency and accountability for decisions while adding controls for self-interested abuse of the democratic system. The federal law requiring partial or full disclosure of previously unreleased documents controlled by the government, the Freedom of Information Act, is not effective having been degraded by President George W. Bush’s OPEN Government Act (Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government) and President Barack Obama’s Executive Order 13526.
state and local money in elections
Just how much cash is being spent independently on elections for state office or in the 39 states that elect their lower court judges? The answer is unknown in most states, according to the latest National Institute on Money in State Politics analysis of disclosure requirements for independent spending. They found that only fifteen states ‘require full disclosure of both forms of independent spending: express advocacy and electioneering communications’. Amazingly, twenty-six states fail to provide clear disclosure of election spending making state politics a perfect arena for corruption without any transparency.