Thursday, April 24, 2014

Money Talks

There’s an old saying among the boys that money talks and BS walks. This somewhat crude adage has been given full status as a truism now by the current Supreme Court of the United States.

The Supreme Court seems to continue headlong into trying to make it more and more possible to buy elections rather than win them at the ballot box. Beginning with their decision that corporations are people and denying free speech by not being able to spend money, the SC is now re-enforcing these with the current ruling that state laws limiting amounts people can contribute to campaigns is unconstitutional. Holding that spending money in unlimited sums is constitutional, or that the restriction thereof is a denial of free speech, appears to me to be completely insane. It makes no more sense than declaring that corporations are people.

Having run a few campaigns myself, I can assure you having a right to say whatever you want to say in a campaign is very important, but it makes little difference if you do not have the wherewithal to make that message heard. Many years ago people on the campaign trail would merely announce that all of the candidates would meet, they would back up a pickup truck to use as a stage and have an old-fashioned so-called stump speaking. People would listen to the candidates, make up their minds and vote for the one they thought reflected the best idea, or the one who best favored the voter’s point of view. In today’s world, you cannot put on a viable campaign of any consequence without being able to afford printed  material, yard signs, billboards, television time, radio time, a website, twitter, telephone facilities and a staff to help with your own and the opposition's research. 

Interest groups from liberal Democrats to conservative Tea Partiers should take offense to the recent decisions making money the prime mover in politics. If anyone believes that he or she could be elected, say, to a state representative job without money, while the opponent spends $50,000, they are in a dream world. If anyone believes they would have as much sway with a gubernatorial or presidential candidate as someone who had contributed $1,000,000 taking the opposite view then they, too, are in a dream world.

While the definition of bribery is paying someone in "quid pro quo"fashion--that is, money or favor that alters the other person's behavior in return--there has always been at least a perception by some that political contributions are no more than a thinly veiled bribe. While I concede readily that it is difficult for an officeholder to overlook the fact that one group provided a substantial part of their campaign wherewithal, it is somewhat controlled if the amounts that persons or groups can contribute is limited. Hopefully, the theory holds that if a politician receives numerous, smaller contributions, he would be less inclined to favor one person or group over the other. I also readily concede that campaign contributions can be an expression of support and should not be outlawed. But, what they should only be able to do is buy access to the officeholder and not to unduly influence the officeholder’s opinions or votes. It is a very thin line which can or should be balanced by active voter participation and education. 

Unfortunately, voter participation is on the decline and allowing the money to be of greater influence will only exacerbate this problem. One only has to observe the statistics of the last elections whereby there are fewer and fewer voters participating and more and more money being spent. Only a blind person could not see the relationship between these phenomena.

It is time for the people to rise up–conservatives, liberals, and moderates alike--and demand a constitutional amendment to undo the recent ridiculous findings and holdings of our Supreme Court.

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