Citizens United Will Destroy This Country

citizensunitedThere aren’t many things Democrats and Republicans agree on.  And by that I mean the citizens who align with these parties, not the politicians.

But one thing we should both agree on (well, at least 98% of us anyway) is that money in politics is what’s ruining this country.  Rulings like that of Citizens United are only going to expedite the process.

Big corporations aren’t going to funnel in millions to campaigns without expecting something in return.  Lobbyist groups spend millions to buy politicians so that their legislative agenda gets support in Washington.  Wealthy Americans don’t spend millions during election seasons because they’re patriots.  All this money has a purpose, and that purpose is ensuring those who’ve promised to do them favors if elected—get elected.

Now by this I don’t mean “both parties are the same.”  When people say that to me it’s the lowest common denominator of political discourse.  The nature of politics for both parties might be the same—money matters, public relations matters and how you run your campaign matters.  But both parties are very different.  When someone says both parties are the same all they’re really doing is saying “I don’t know anything about politics except what someone has told me to say.”

But it’s undeniable that money plays a huge part in who wins elections.  It’s proven time and time again, the candidate who gets the most money often wins.  These people and corporations do their own polls to determine which candidate that represents their side has the best chance of winning.

How do you think Mitt Romney ended up as the GOP candidate?  He was the only candidate who ran that polled even somewhat respectable against President Obama.  But trust me, no one wanted Romney to be President—not even Republicans.  They just wanted anyone but Obama, and Romney was the best chance they had.

But while Democrats argue of the value of government as it pertains to certain areas of our lives, and Republicans argue against big government intrusion—the bottom line is the money behind a big government or a small government isn’t going to change.

If you don’t want laws which restrict the amount of money funneled into politics, then it’s basically a choice between two situations.  Either you want:

  • A larger government corrupted by money in politics with politicians who will shape legislation based on their big money donors
  • A smaller government corrupted by money in politics with politicians who will shape legislation based on their big money donors

Because I hate to break it to you, but whether it’s a larger or smaller government you support, if you don’t limit the money going into politics it’s still going to corrupt the decisions made in Washington.

Now I can hear the arguments on the right already, “But a small corrupt government means more freedom and less influence over our personal lives.”  Well, no–it doesn’t.

I’ll give you an example.  Say we wave a magic wand and drastically remove many of the regulations we have over big corporations.  These corporations are still going to funnel money to the government we do have and continue to push for more deregulation and legislation that favors them.

Say for instance Walmart successfully gets the regulation against monopolies repealed.  They then slash their prices to levels which makes it impossible for smaller businesses to compete.  Then they work out deals with distributors to pay them top dollar over what smaller businesses can so that these smaller businesses can’t supply their stores.  Then they negotiate exclusive deals with many top products so that the only place you can find them is at Walmart.  So you have a business with lower prices than anyone, products you can no longer find anywhere else and competition that can’t afford to supply their stores, or they offer products people can’t afford anyway.  Once they waited out the death of all their competition, then they’re free to do whatever they want.

Who’s going to stop them?  Consumers?  If they became our only choice for services, what choice do we have?   They would have fattened the pockets of our smaller federal government to deregulate the areas they needed to do this, and once the damage was done it’s a lot harder to undo.  After all, if there aren’t laws preventing this, how can you take them to court for it?

And that doesn’t even cover the EPA, FDA and working standards which Walmart would love to do away with as well.  You don’t think Walmart, who already pays many of its employees such a lousy wage they have to rely on government assistance even when working full-time, wouldn’t love to pay them even less?

Now I know what some will say, “I want a smaller federal government and more responsibilities on the state and local governments.”  Okay, so you’d rather have state politicians getting the fatter paydays than national?  It doesn’t matter to these wealthy individuals or big corporations who they buy off, as long as they just know who to buy.

And that’s where the problem lies.  Money in politics.  I’ve proposed a solution before, simple one-time contribution limits.

I’ve said limit campaign contributions to $5,000 per individual, per politician, per election.  You can donate $5,000 to every single Republican or Democrat candidate in 2014, but just one single $5,000 donation per candidate per election.

No corporate donations.  Corporations aren’t people, I don’t give a crap what anyone says.  Do corporations have Social Security numbers?  Do corporations have a gender?  Do they breathe oxygen?  No—they don’t.  So they’re not American citizens.

I also say we end “donations of services.”  No more fundraiser dinners.  No more “donating” anything.  Every part of the candidate’s election must be tracked, and paid for, by the money they’ve received from the American people.

No more political ads that aren’t directly affiliated with the candidates.  If the campaign of the politician didn’t directly pay for the ad, it’s not allowed to run.  This would eliminate these “swift boat” ads that have become more prevalent than actual ads from the candidates.  You know the ads paid for by Super PAC’s that can basically say whatever outlandish thing they want and politicians can disavow any link to them because they had “no connection” to the group who ran the ad.

Now I know this plan is overly simplified, but I feel it’s a basis for which a plan should be built to eliminate huge sums of money from polluting our government.  Because even for the richest of Americans, $5,000 doesn’t buy you a whole lot of influence—especially if you remove the back-end perks that many often give during elections.

Because like I said, we have two choices if we continue to let money rule our politics:

  • A larger government where big corporations and wealthy individuals buy politicians
  • A smaller government where big corporations and wealthy individuals buy politicans

Big or small, if billions continue to get funneled into our elections, the legislation coming from our national and local governments will always benefit those who gave the most.

And leave the other 98% without representation.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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  • Lynn

    I think a $5 limit per candidate would be better. That way most of the other 98% could afford to contribute to their candidate of choice also.

  • Prion

    $5000 per candidate per election is WAY TO HIGH a limit. Since ALL citizens are part of this so-called democracy this influence-purchasing playing field should be level for ALL citizens. The new limit for individual campaign spending should be based on an annual salary at minimum wage (2000 hours/year) and set at 10% of that income (e.g. a “tithe” should the person choose). So, at the current $7.25/hour, the individual campaign spending limit for EVERYTHING (all elections, all candidates combined) would be $1,450 per year.
    This prevents anyone from having any perverse influence over politicians. It would actually encourage low-wage/poor workers to contribute since they know their few dollars are now relatively significant. It might also encourage an increase in the minimum wage!

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