Getting Money Out of Politics
With the elections just around the corner, it’s hard not to see just how powerful a role that money plays in politics. Fortunately there are organizations and others working to tackle this important issue and a light at the end of the tunnel.
Too often federal elections end up as fundraising contests, instead of a conversation about the issues our country faces. 9 out of 10 campaigns are won by the candidate who spends the most, which drives candidates to focus more on fundraising and large donors than on mobilizing voters around ideas and issues.
Under one half of 1% (0.36%) of the American population currently donates over $200 to political campaigns. This small, wealthy minority provides around 90% of the money that funds political campaigns. This extreme imbalance of influence inhibits the idea of government as being accessible to all people.
At times it feels like the money-fueled system is impossible to change, especially with the effects of Citizen United and the Super PACs that were born of it blaring from all directions. Fortunately, several states and local communities have discovered a solution by reforming campaign finance with the Fair Elections model. In 2008, Connecticut became the first state to have Fair Elections public financing passed by the legislature. Within just a couple years, 81 percent of the Connecticut legislature was made up of politicians who used the system. Current Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, sought and won Arizona’s governorship twice using a Fair Elections– style public finance system.
Voters like public funding because it makes elected officials more accountable to them, reduces conflicts of interest and gives them more choice at the polls. Though a small step, this is one solution to a problem that the American people are increasingly getting fed up with. It’s time to get money out of politics, and get back to focusing on people and the fundamentals of good governance.
Read more about the problem and solutions here in Common Cause’s essay from Dream of a Nation, “Getting Money Out of Politics: Putting the Public First.”