Money in politics: How Super PACs alter the nature of our democracy

By Cole Wyman, Assistant Sports Editor

Money can’t buy everything, but it sure can buy a lot, from that extra scoop of ice-cream to influence on a crucial vote in the senate to confirm a potentially unqualified nominee. Campaigns are expensive, and candidates running for senate and house seats receive the majority of their spending money from the parties themselves as well as political action committees known as PACs or Super-PACs.

These organizations are comprised mainly of wealthy individuals with a common agenda on a controversial issue, usually impacting their everyday lives even if these views are not supported by a majority of the country. They support candidates running for office, who once having won, are financially bound to vote aligned with their supporter. Congressmen will often times vote on the side of people who aided their campaign because they might feel that they owe the members of the given PAC a favor, or they anticipate that they will need to continue to receive money from them for upcoming elections. Senators’ votes can not often directly pinned to money because the funds can be influential, but the decision is still up to the politician.

Super-PACs and other forms of large collective donations give those with money more power in government.

As a result of the Citizens United court ruling Super-PACs can donate unlimited sums of money to campaigns. As a result, Less than 1% of the population make up 68% of money spent in campaigns. The rest is from the government as well small donations from people. This means that 1% of the people have specific names with ideas attached to the money whereas small donations through the campaign website and government funding do not have specific demands. Senators and representatives, as a result, have less power than it might seem. Those who plan to run for reelection cannot act against those paying for their campaign because of how essential money is to a campaign.

In the 2012 House cycle, candidates that outspent their opponents won 95% of the elections. Thus, money given by the rich is paramount in these campaigns and that the legitimacy of the candidate can be less important for those with more money.  Regarding a recent bill promoting stricter gun laws, $210,000 was donated to supporting congressmen while $5,600,000 was given to those who opposed these regulations. These regulations continue to fail despite public opinion leaning in favor of stricter policies.

When congressional leaders are so heavily swayed by the lobbying of those few people who can pay them enough to be heard, their representation of the population is distorted. CNN has reported many millionaires’ multi-million donations to Super-PACs to donate to areas which support the cause that the billionaire wants.

I have been inside the senate building twice to lobby to the New York Senators through a religious institution based in Washington D.C. regarding various issues. On both of these occasions, not one person out of 500 kids had the chance to lobby directly to the senator and instead spoke to the senator’s aides. This shows that money has more power in government because without large amounts of grouped money, personal ideas can not be expressed to senators.

Although money can play a large factor in election results and can restrict senators from individual thought, campaigns need money to inform the public of what the candidate wants to achieve. Money given by outside organizations is helpful to congressmen because it can be used to fund the actions of various committees which senators and representatives sit on. Many conservatives believe that the donation of money is an expression protected by the first amendment, the recent Citizens United court case ruled in favor of this notion that donations are an example of free speech. This idea is the most likely the reason why the supreme court ruled in favor of keeping money in politics.