Then and Now: Big Money’s Power Keeps Growing
American politics are at a tipping point. Pushed to the edge by government inaction and the obstructive effects of big money, citizens across 20 states have succeeded in encouraging their legislatures to formally call for the 28th Amendment. Minnesota could be the next state added to the list.
Jim Bowyer, an American Promise volunteer from North Oaks, Minnesota, is making his voice heard by writing letters to the editor in local papers. Read below to hear why Jim encourages others in the North Star State to join our mission to refocus democracy on the people rather than wealthy corporations or special interests.
Fifteen years ago an op-ed titled “We Need a New Way to Select Our Leaders” appeared in the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press. The piece was written by Shoreview Mayor Sandy Martin, who referenced what had just been, in 2004, the most expensive national election in history and noted that if we are to attract the best and brightest to leadership positions, a better way to select them was needed. She referred to the perversion of money in politics, smear campaigns on the part of both sides, relentless expensive marketing of candidates, and campaign messaging that distorts candidate’s positions.
Nothing has changed since that time—nothing, that is, except that the amount of money spent in the most recent national election was double what it was in 2004, and that the vast majority of funding was provided by a tiny fraction of campaign donors. The problem stems from the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision.
Spending by candidates and outside groups topped $57 million in Minnesota’s 2018 election cycle.
Another legislative session has ended without any action to address campaign finance reform. Minnesotans deserve better.
The recent midterm elections set another record for campaign spending. Spending on campaigns for national office has roughly quadrupled since 2000, to an estimated $5.7 billion in 2018. A similar trend can be seen in Minnesota elections.
Twenty states have passed resolutions in support of reining in campaign contributions and spending. Minnesota’s Legislature has yet to take action. Citizens can help by contacting their elected representatives at all levels of government, asking for passage of resolutions in support of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that unambiguously establishes the right of Congress and the states to set campaign contribution limits and spending.
The past decade has seen the emergence of Super PACs and hundreds of millions in untraceable campaign contributions, as well as massive spending by groups outside legislative districts to influence local election results. Because candidates on whose behalf the most money is spent win over 90% of the time, outcomes of local elections are increasingly influenced by those other than whom elected officials are supposed to represent. Worse, newly elected candidates spend much of their time seeking money for the next campaign rather than working on issues of interest to those who elected them. And much of the money raised comes from those with special agendas.
In a very real sense, our democracy is being quietly undermined. Realizing the danger to our representative government, people all over the country are organizing to re-establish reasonable and enforceable limits to contributions and campaign spending. The clear trend away from democracy and toward oligarchy can be reversed, but only if more of us take seriously the need to act.