Let's Get D To D.C.
Our system of government is built on the principle that the authority to rule rests on the consent of the governed. To ensure this would be so, the U.S. Founding Fathers painstakingly devised a set of processes to create and maintain a governmental system where every eligible voter would have equal say in the election of government officials, both at the State and Federal levels.
Today, that system has become so severely compromised that, for many, it seems nothing more than a lofty ideal. Yet when the Founders drafted those provisions of the Federal Constitution intended to preserve in the People the power to elect their own leaders, they also expected that those leaders would consequently represent the interests of those whose votes they relied upon to obtain their political office.
As a matter of fact, the system did a marvelous job at producing the desired result. Down to this very day, elected officials are very keenly sensitive to the needs of those to whom they owe their coveted positions.
The Founders would be quite astounded, however, if they were somehow able to peak into the future and see just who these constituents should happen to be. After all, they did not live in a time when corporations were legally considered to be “people,” with many of the Constitutional protections afforded to flesh and blood Citizens.
Nor could they have foreseen what a great opportunity for corruption they had left open for this new class of “people” to exploit.
It is these two grave deficiencies that, more than any other, have worked hand-in-hand to undermine the power of the individual voting Citizen to elect leaders — especially in the Senate — who they can fully trust to have their best interests at heart.
As your Senator, my mission will be to tackle both of these deficiencies and to set them right. Below I detail the exact strategy I intend to use to accomplish this objective. But first, a closer look at each of the major problems is in order.
No one alive today can remember a time when big money and U.S. political elections were separate and distinct from one another. Indeed, there has always been overlap, and powerful business and financial interests have played a considerable part in shaping our political history even since the days of the American Revolution. Yet never in history has there been a time when the monied interests have held such overwhelming sway as they do today.
Beginning in the mid-19th century, with Marshall v. Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company, 57 U.S. 314 (1853), the U.S. Supreme Court officially ruled for the first time that corporations are “people” for purposes of litigation, and that they were to be legally treated as citizens of the States in which they were domiciled.
This decision began a trend that culminated on January 21, 2010, with the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), that political spending is a type of speech, and is therefore protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This means that “people” — including for-profit and non-profit corporations and political action committees — have the same rights as private individuals to use their personal finances in support of a political candidate or issue.
The result is that corporations, nonprofits, PACs, and myriad other associations can now contribute unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns, as long as the contributions are not given directly to a political party or individual candidate.
Following immediately on the heels of Citizens United, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia handed down its decision in SpeechNOW v. Federal Election Commission, 599 F.3d 686 (D.C. Cir. 2010), ruling it unconstitutional to place limits on the amount of money private individuals can contribute to a political organization.
The Supreme Court has silently validated the SpeechNOW decision by refusing in November 2010 to accept a writ of certiorari on behalf of the FEC.
Since that time, there has been a virtual explosion of so-called “Super PACS,” political action committees that only support individual candidates, and can spend as much money on them as they desire so long as the candidate or her affiliated party don’t receive the money directly or act as an agent to the PAC.
If Every Dollar Were A Vote
We’ve all heard the saying, “voting with one’s pocketbook.” Imagine for a moment that this phrase is to be taken literally. Then ask yourself what it would mean to your vote. If every dollar contributed to a candidate’s campaign could be converted into a single vote, how would the average citizen, or even large group of them, having made no financial contributions whatsoever to the candidate, fair against an organization that gave millions of dollars if their interests clash on an issue before Congress once the candidate is in office? Whose side would their Representative and Senators take and which way would they vote?
While there isn't a 1:1 ratio, there's definitely a correlation between spending money and winning.
For instance, if I spend $10 million helping you get elected while the 35,000 people who actually vote you into office collectively spend only a couple thousand, to whom will you lend your ear? The ones who voted for you or the ones who bought those voters for you with their massive donations to your campaign?
In reality, there is of course no one to one ratio between dollars spent and votes acquired, but considering that dollars spent on political campaigns are intended to win voters for the favored candidate, perhaps we ought to take the notion that the two are mutually convertible a bit more literally after all.