Democracy for hire
Views 105 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 4 - 11 - 2017 | By: Grant Gardner
The 2016 election cycle became an onslaught of flashy headlines and dirty politics. This allowed the not-so-glamorous topic of campaign spending to slide by unnoticed. Between the Clinton and Trump campaigns, spending reached almost $2 billion, with overall expenditures exceeding $6.5 billion. Super PACs continue to exert heavy influence in the nation’s elections, contributing billions of dollars in support of their candidates. This is a concerning trend that should alarm freedom-loving Americans.
As anyone who has taken a Westmont economics course knows, nothing is ever free, especially money. With elections becoming more dependent on donations and ad buys, candidates have become reliant on winning the fundraising battle. In order to win over the wealthy donors, there has to be some level of give and take. Whether through political appointments, regulatory changes, or unofficial influence, pay-to-play politics is fully ingrained in the American system.
To minimize outsider influence on politicians and elections, campaign spending needs to be limited. By reducing how much campaigns are allowed to spend, whether on their own or through super PACs, there will not be as much opportunity for wealthy special interests to take advantage. This has been a hot button issue lately, within both the Trump administration and the Clinton campaign. For Trump, it came in the form of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. His short-lived White House career came to a stunning end with the revelation that he had accepted money from Russian interests and failed to disclose it during his confirmation process. This has led to a Congressional investigation into his actions.
On the other side, the Clinton Foundation proved to contribute to the downfall of Hillary Clinton during the election. Accusations of her foundation being a front for politically motivated donations ran rampant. Leaked emails also corroborated these claims, as they showed the foundation received millions of dollars in donations from foreign governments in exchange for face time with the Clintons.
These instances highlight the impact that money has on the American political system. Billions of dollars depend on who is in power and enacting laws, so special interests will continue to exert whatever influence possible. This is why it is imperative to reduce political reliance on donations from major organizations. If each candidate was only able to spend a limited amount on their campaign, the emphasis would go from maximizing overall donations to strategically utilizing every dollar up until the spending cap and not becoming a puppet for special interest groups.
The issue with proposing campaign limits is it would be dead on arrival in Congress. The politicians responsible for writing and passing laws have no interest in restricting their campaign’s flexibility. Most would likely argue they are already too restricted. The idea of a spending cap does not just defy party lines, but the survivability of politicians themselves
If legislation like this were actually sponsored, the only chance it would have of success is if enough politicians broke away from what politics has become and voted in favor of the impartiality the Founders originally intended.