With election year upon us and election day looming just months away, it is becoming exceedingly difficult to avoid the numerous campaigns which consume the mainstream media.
It feels as if you can’t turn on the TV, check your twitter feed, listen to the radio or even go outside without being subjected to the ramblings of Hillary, Bernie or Trump. But where do these candidates get the money to put their face, voice and name in every corner of the United States? The answer: big corporations who donate large sums of money as a means to gain lobbying leverage with a candidate. These major companies will often contribute to a PAC or Super PAC as a legal means of supplying candidates with millions of dollars.
Take, for example, Hillary Clinton who has come under fire recently for accepting millions of dollars in campaign contributions from Wall Street corporations including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. Not only is it unusual for a democratic candidate to accept big money from Wall Street, Clinton was thanking Goldman Sachs out of one side of her mouth while the other side was telling the American people that she is going to “reign in Wall Street” and allocate more resources towards the prosecution of white-collar criminals.
If Hillary wants to reign in Wall Street yet Wall Street companies are contributing millions of dollars to her campaign, there can only be on explanation for their generosity: leverage over Clinton if she makes it into office. It is likely that companies like Goldman Sachs are funding Clinton’s campaign with hope that, in return for their generous investment, she will not crack down on Wall Street as hard as she says she will. By accepting these donations she is giving companies (and the general public) the inclination that she is going to do just that.
Therein lies the problem. With an utter lack of restriction on campaign contributions, modern-day campaigns have turned into a bidding war to see who can offer the most money to a candidate. Most candidates are being purchased by big corporations who in turn have the power to work them like puppets if they make it into office. With 30 percent of Clintons campaign revenue coming from corporate sponsors it is safe to say that she is being bought, but she is not the only one.
Although corporate lobbying has become more prominent in the mainstream media of late, there are reports of corporate funding for presidential elections which trace back to the Gilded Age. Ulysses S. Grant, who was president from 1869-1877, was under the influence of very powerful corporate lobbyists calling for railroad subsides and increased taxes on wool.
Some may argue that individuals and corporations have every right to finance campaigns in any way they please, based on the ruling of Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee in 2010, the Supreme Court feels the same way. They ruled in favor of Citizens United on the basis of the first amendment. I, on the other hand, argue that the more money a corporation spends on a candidate, the cheaper that candidate becomes.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge proponent of capitalism and the free market; however, the buying of a candidate turns a free market into a monopoly or oligopoly in which the buyer(s) have control over the candidate. That doesn’t sound like capitalism to me. I firmly believe that campaign finance in the country needs to be reformed. There need to be limits on how much a corporation can donate to a Super PAC and the campaign trail needs to be dominated by politically educated citizens and take less influence from corporate lobbyists. Donations towards candidates should come from the people who want to be well-governed, not corporations who want to work the president like a puppet. It is evident that presidential candidates on the whole are not ethical enough to say no to big business and count on their corporate supporters to help finance their campaign. If the candidates won’t make a change (and they won’t), the law needs to.
The American Civil Liberties Union is an activist group who supports the grass-roots movement and opposes the influence of corporate lobbing on the president and on other political figures. It may sound like the ACLU wants to infringe upon the first amendment by restricting the rights of individuals and business to contribute to political campaigns yet that is not the case. The ACLU believes that the answer to concerns over the escalating cost of political campaigns is to expand, not limit, the resources available for political advocacy. They realize that in order to become president a candidate must raise and spend billions of dollars throughout their campaign. They do not wish to reduce campaign donations, they strive to reduce the influence corporations have on politics and eliminate the oligopolistic power of the few, replacing it with the free market power of many. I stand behind the American Civil Liberties Union and feel that it is imperative to limit the campaign donation of major corporations.