Author: Benjamin DeLuca
It takes a village to win an election–a really, really expensive village. According to the Washington Post’s data, President Obama, Mitt Romney and their various super PACs are on track to spend more than $2 billion in this election combined. The amount of money that goes into the campaign is overwhelming, and investigating the sources of this money reveals sinister truths about American free speech.
The Obama and Romney campaigns raise stupendous amounts of money for advertising and publicity. The Romney 2012 campaign has spent just under $250 million on advertising, yet still trails the Obama campaign in that department by $40 million. It is also worth noting that pro-Romney super PACs have out-spent pro-Obama super PACs $145 million to $44 million. Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam alone have donated $40 million to support Romney, one of the biggest recent examples of colossal spending by individual donors.
Absent remarks on corporate influence at the Democratic National Convention illustrate that campaign finance is not just a partisan issue. Obama needs wealthy donors just as much as Romney does, both having refused public financing for the election because doing so would have limited how much they could spend. But just because both sides take advantage of wealthy donors doesn’t make spending big money a tolerable issue.
The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling opened the door to unlimited corporate donations by declaring that money equals speech in the electoral process. The problem with this is that it disenfranchises people who can not match their vote with a donation. The people who donate disproportionate amounts of money gain disproportionate amounts of influence once their candidates are elected, and when a tiny fraction of individuals and corporate entities provide the greatest chunk of campaign donations, it distorts the political process.
The first solution, then, should be to overturn Citizens United. Perhaps we may also need to shorten the election season, or establish a free political television advertising system. Candidates should be forced to accept public financing and all of the attached regulations, and political groups should provide full disclosure of their donations. Politicians must break free of the vicious cycle whereby money pays for their (re)election and therefore they become beholden to their donors.
Ben DeLuca is a junior ECLS major and the Weekly’s 2012 election columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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