Money and Politics
Politics is big business and nations have changed from the previously known “people republics” to large business corporations and labor unions. Long are the days when men of integrity, with high level of education, and vision for the country got elected to position of influence to steer the country forward. The political process gradually changed and the concept and influence of money has slowly changed the political landscape of the country. The initial mantra of “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people” has taken a new twist with the political arena controlled by the wealthy and special interest groups steering away from Lincoln’s vision for a democratic country. Even though money cannot buy elections, the impact on the political arena is manifold and transcends to the very core basics of democratic ideals. The common belief that the political campaign funding arrangement is corrupt and wealthy business men take advantage to spearhead their interest has dealt a blow to the democratic ideals of the country with many people losing faith in political parties and the democratic process of governance. For example, Abraham Lincoln gave out jobs with the sole aim of raising millions from businessmen, which in turn were to contribute to his campaigns. Russell, ex- senator did note, “The distinction between a large campaign contribution and a bribe is almost a hairlines’ difference” (Kuhner, 13). The problem of big spending in political campaigns may not fade away very soon and democracy as a system of governance is gradually slipping into the hands of individuals with the means to buy leadership positions.
Even though cash cannot buy elections, the resulting effect and ripple of money in and during elections often lock out legitimate leaders and or opponents through the flooding of money in the political scene. Monetary advantage has full effect of affecting chances of winning a given election and potential candidates losing to wealthy opponents. The incapacity to raise large amounts of cash for campaigns, often lead to candidates losing party selection or dropping out of the race altogether. Bowler et al, (272) argues that it is like the call for raising money for political campaigns often filters out and eliminates potential leaders who may have policies common with the ordinary citizens. The problem thus stems from wealthy individuals, labor unions, and corporations dominating the political process, driving their agenda, buying policies, manipulating national issues to their advantage, and driving a wage between the haves and have not’s in the governance structure. Power et al, (278) argues that often and most times, the wealthy easily influence political appointments in order to drive their interests without much consideration of the plight of the citizens. The challenge is further expounded with the fact that people are easily influenced by political leaders who are wealthy and of great means without considering if the policies of the leaders are in line with their common interests. It therefore remains a big challenge to drive a wedge between politics and money with the aim of restoring democracy. Krumholz (1119) maintains that the only possible solutions to the problem involves amending the constitution to control the exaggerated political spending, provide shareholders with the power to control political spending, and tighten regulations and inform voters of political leaders intending to buy elections. Additionally, stop big spending by political parties. The essay looks at the impact of money in the political scene that remains as a distraction that is bent to eradicate the gains of democratic principles laid down from many years of governance in addition to causing distraction, polarization, distortion, and against democratic principles of governance.
A simple interpretation to the Citizens United Supreme Court resolution, essentially gave the wealthy people the opportunity to buy the U.S government, in addition to the Governors positions, legislatures, Senate, and Judicial Units. According to the notions upheld in Citizens United, money is in corporations and labor unions which involve the people; therefore, giving large sums of money to aspiring political leaders may not amount to corruption, but a way of involving the people in governance (Kuhner, 17). In addition to the Super PACs, the Citizen United allows and gives room for wealthy individuals and labor unions to inject large amounts of money into the political process a situation that puts the PACs at a position of influence over political competition than the candidates gunning for the positions. According to Krumholz (1121), the resolution allows and opens room for corruption, buying one’s way to political office, taking advantage of the candidates unable to fund their campaigns and hood-winking the populace through political slogans that do not represent the wills of the people. For instance, the Koch Brothers, the second wealthiest family in the United States spent approximately $750 million for the recently concluded elections (Kuhner, 28). The amount is far more than what the Republican and Democratic Party spent. The trend means that the political system of the country will be in the hands of a few minority wealthy individuals who will decide on who gets elected. This is a phenomenon that is not anchored on democratic ideals set forth by Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people and for the people”. The system does not allow for equal representation and does not reach the minority groups in addition to the poor, marginalized, and disadvantaged groups (Bowler et al, 274). As put forth by Jimmy Carter about excess money in political agendas’ “money violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. The same thing applies to Senators, Governors, and congress members”. Carter’s position exposed the reality that the political system of the country is a payoff to big contributors who will demand for favors later after elections are completed. It is thus a real challenge to the common citizen to get genuine leaders with their interest at heart that may not be on the bankroll of big contributors or wealthy citizens. Krumholz (1121) contends that democratic ideals are not anchored on big spending, it is not about the rich or wealthy, it is not about buying positions in the government; it is not about who has more wealth and who can dictate Wall Street. Democratic ideals are anchored on policies that directly affect the concerns of the people, governance rooted on the affairs and concerns of the people, the freedom and ability to chose whomever is suitable for the position, to root for people who have best policies for the country and to stand by what the forefathers of the nation advocated for on servant leadership. The democratic vision of a country need to be a country whereby, in spite of the income of the people, anyone is warranted to run for a political office and can do so without relying on financial support or donations from the powerful and rich. The vision of the country should rest on the ideology that people running for political office need not be wealthy or bank-rolled by the wealthy (Kuhner, 43). The Supreme Court resolution needs to be amended to accommodate and restrict large funding to political parties by corporations, labor unions, and rich individuals. By overturning the Supreme Court resolution, money used in campaigns will be regulated, and corruption in politics will be a thing of the past. The resolution to overturn the Supreme Court judgment will also open up transparency on any type of funding a political party gets by disclosing outside spending through laws acted upon by the relevant authorities such as the Federal Election Commission, The Securities and Exchange Commission, in addition to having an executive order to contractors for full disclosure of any political spending. Additionally, the scrapping of the Supreme Court ruling will entail the elimination of the super PACs in addition to any other eternal spending abuses by a political party of organization. In addition to the above measures, fair, transparent, and small donations in line with the Fair Elections Now Act to be passed to regulate the money donated to political parties which will also work along the campaign finance regulations (Krumholz, 1124). Other court ruling and regulations that may need amendments include; “The Buckley v. Valeo case”, “the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002”, and the “Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commision” (Kuhner, 44). Power et al, (260) argues that the amendment will give financially challenged candidates a fair ground to competitively compete with the wealthy and those who may have donations from donors as the amount of money involved will be controlled by the rules and regulations outlined in the Elections Act. Poor individuals with clear cut ideas and policies will have an equal opportunity to compete for nominations which will open the democratic rights of individuals to participate actively in nominations and elections for political parties (Bowler, et al, 278). Additionally, the corporations and wealthy individuals will have no major influence in political appointments together with pushing for their self interests as the political positions will be equally distributed to all including the minority representation and marginalized groups. This will greatly reduce their influence on political appointment and drafting policies. It will thus be “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people” as equal representation will be achieved through and by involvement of all citizens. On the other hand, governance will not be controlled by a section or group of people, but will be spread to cover all citizens in addition to their interests. However, opening up democratic space to involve all in scrambling for positions of power may put the country at risk of electing mediocre leaders with no political ideology or stand. The fact that many will have the opportunity to stand for nominations may dilute the significance of the exercise and put the country at risk of electing individuals with no interest of the country at heart. On the other hand, big corporations, labor unions, and wealthy individuals who actively participate in bank rolling political parties may be discouraged and pull out from engaging in democratic exercises. By pulling out of the democratic exercises, the country and democratic ideals of the country may not have full support of the country or of citizens (Krumholz, 1126). For example, key legislations may derail in congress as a result of poor support from interest groups who may conspire to derail any progress on legislations that do not support their political positions or goals. In the recently concluded elections, Republicans have continued to delay confirmation of President Obama’s nomination of the Supreme Court judge, a well calculated move in which the Republican Party looked forward to pushing through their own candidate. This is an example in which a section of Congressmen may conspire to derail any legislation, process, action of a national interest. President Obama, in his last year in office has vigorously campaigned to have Judge Merrick Garland confirmed as the Supreme Court Judge, but his efforts as President has come under opposition by the Republicans who have adamantly refused to yield to his Executive Authority. To make the above recommendations work, the President and Congress have to admit to the effect of money on political processes and more so, on nominations, and national elections.
Removing money from political processes is a tall order as it enjoys protection from the constitution. It thus means that the price for political offices will rise with time. Given that politics is about power and money always buys power, money has to be gotten from some place to bank roll political events. However, without legislation on the involvement of money in political processes, the country’s much acclaimed democratic stability may not stand the test of time (Krumholz, 1123). The second solution is to have the president initiate a strong movement backed by the people and Congress to pass clear cut legislations to help curb excessive spending on campaigns and the involvement of big corporations on donations to Political Parties. The President has to show by striking a cord with Congress on the need to return the management of political processes to the people in order to give them power to decide on the choice of their leaders. The President has to have a backing of at least two-thirds of the House of Representatives and Senate and three-quarters of States. Even though the amendments may face stiff opposition due to ideologies difference many in Congress may not welcome such a move, it will call upon the government to rally a movement for such a course (Bowler et al, 279). Social bipartisan movements that will positively help restore the country’s democratic ideals through vigorous agitation for change. Additionally, an awareness campaign on the same will also be initiated to highlight to the people on the need of such a course to help return power to the citizens, curb corruption in politics, and formulate policies that will focus on action, accountability, and solutions to political processes in the country. Such a solution would work because of involvement of the people. In politics, number have positive ripple effects and a heightened movement by the people with full backing of the President have a high chance of succeeding as compared to a lone ranger with such an initiative. The President as Commander in Chief, a representation of the people, and a symbol of national unity has all it takes to move the people to a national course with high chances of change towards a political process aimed at restoring the nation’s democratic principles. A people backed movement will come with the advantage that the whole country united for a common course and it will go in the history of the country as a positive move to reclaim the lost image of the country’s journey towards liberation and mature democracy. It has the positive effect of streamlining the country’s leadership direction in addition to restoring the passion of servant leadership as outlined in Abraham Lincolns and the fore fathers of the country towards political liberation and power to the people. On the other hand, a people led initiative has the positive effect of putting back the country as the number one father of democracy, an ideology that the country has preached to the whole world. To stand up against its own political challenges and power would be a great show of might to upholding its political principles (Kuhner, 28). However, the above solutions may not go well with the majority of labor unions and corporations. It may lead to many wealthy corporations and individuals abandoning political activities in addition to seeing the government to be inclined towards the masses only. Although such a feeling is mean and self centered, it is will be an ordinary response to a system that will not give the wealthy big opportunities to push for their interests. The government may also feel the heat and rebellion of the corporations in cases whereby it requires private funding and support. According to Power et al (261), political parties may also not receive much funding from large and wealthy corporation with the simple fact of non influence and lack of full involvement in political activities to help push for their self interests. Political parties will be left with the only option of self support amongst the legislatures which may weaken their stands and grassroots support. However, on the other hand, independent candidates will have a better chance for participating in political process and may get good and strong backing from the people. This may move the notion of the country’s political system controlled and dominated by Republican and the Democratic Party. Bowler et al, (280) maintains that it will thus open up the door for many to participate in political activities thus influence the political destiny of the country. The second solution would work best if initiated from the President’s office with full backing of the government. In this case, the President working with the government major departments need to initiate a mass education on the need for such an action to bring back and involve more people in the democratic processes of the country. The president and government, will additionally show and lead by example on this course of action to counter any opposition from Congress and big corporations which may derail the movement. In order not appear as working against their interest, the president will also need to seek for support from these big corporations and the wealthy, to create a favorable political temperature for such a move. Created on such a large platform of involvement by the government, Congress, the people, and wealthy corporations the initiative will face little resistance as it will be anchored on and as a people initiative for change and progress on the political system of the country (Kuhner, 34).
The marriage of politics and money has never brought the best for democratic principles in any country. From the early years of industrialization and development of major inventions, money has slowly become a major factor in political systems. With the improvement of communications, transportation, social, and economic changes, politics has made a drastic change to the involvement of large groupings with political leaders seeking for support through caucuses, rallies, and conventions an ideology or system that has brought the money factor into the political scene. Previously even in European nations, campaigns for offices were never pegged on money or large contributions. Majority of those seeking for political office used friendly media houses for little fee, small-sized newspaper ads, pamphlets with the use of songs, floats, slogans, and coonskins used in meetings to seek for the attention of voters. The enactment of Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act and the assassination of Garfield (1881) brought a major shift to competition for public office. The world of politics gradually changed and money became a strong factor in getting nominations from political parties. Although the introduction of primaries to involve the people in election processes was a noble course, it stretched the electioneering cycle hence increasing the involvement of money in an election period. However, the impact of money on the democratic process of the country has left the need to relook at the prospect of money on the political process of the country. With the enactment and operation of Political Action Committees, many wealthy individuals, labor unions, and corporations have devised ways to inject millions of dollars to candidates and political parties of which some of these organizations are banned from contribution to political initiatives. Through such unauthorized and unlawful means of dolling money to political parties and in the political system, the country’s political maturity and democratic principles are gradually being washed down the drain with no significant attempt by the people, civil society, or leaders to roll back and restore the dignity that leadership and democracy required. The two solutions discussed above can be the simple ways of undoing the damage money has done on the country’s political system, with the aim of restoring the lost glory based on the principles of the forefathers who endeavored to create governance based on the wills and needs of the people. The two solutions are the only ways that the country can adapt to a common approach to solving its problem created by the greed, selfishness, and self patronage of the wealthy, big corporation, and trade unions. The need to instill discipline and streamline the political parties urge for funding has never been great. It therefore calls upon the citizens and the government, in addition to the elected members of congress to do the noble thing and force an enactment to repeal the legislations acting as stumbling blocks towards realization of a more inclusive political system. The need of the people have never been this great, and corporations, trade unions, and wealthy individuals need to rally on the call to re-establish the country’s political system aligned to clear-cut democratic principles anchored on the needs of the masses. On the other hand, the civil societies need to take a central role towards such an initiative to help realize quick gains on the political arena towards an inclusive political system.
Bowler, Shaun, and Todd Donovan. “Campaign Money, Congress, and Perceptions of Corruption.” American Politics Research 44.2 (2016): 272-295.
Krumholz, Sheila. “Campaign Cash and Corruption: money in politics, post-Citizens United.” Social Research: An International Quarterly 80.4 (2013): 1119-1134.
Kuhner, Timothy K. “The Democracy to Which We Are Entitled: Human Rights and the Problem of Money in Politics.” Harvard Human Rights Journal 26.1 (2013).
Power, Sam. “Timothy K Kuhner (ed), Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution, reviewed by Sam Power.” Party Politics 22.6 (2016): 852-853.