Corporations and Elections: a Questionable Democracy

Money and politics. They are like rats and the NYC subway- nobody wants to see them together but history shows that they are inseparable. And with presidential race in full swing, more politicians are proving that money is far more valuable than a clear vision on current problems.

There is nothing wrong with supporting your favorite candidate by donating to his/her fund or a Political Action Committee (PAC). Democracy suffers, however, when powerful and wealthy players become donors as they overshadow everyone else.1280px-American_corporate_flag

Corporations, based on Supreme Court decision in Citizens United (2010), are people and, therefore, may exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech; many corporations decide to support certain political candidates by donating money.

The problem is corporations are not like people when it comes to incomes. A corporation is a lifeless, emotionless “machine” that has only one purpose– to make money. As the result, donations that many corporations are capable of far exceed the ones of an average citizen. According to 24/7 Wall Street, since 2012 a financial firm, the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. donated $4,769,994 to various political campaigns. Similarly, a casino and resort operator Las Vegas Sands Corp., donated $11,738,600. It’s certainly not what the average citizen can afford.

So how do these huge amounts of money hurt America? First, huge donations help donors get better treatment than everyone else. A politician feels the need to help generous donors after a couple of millions are thrown his or her way. This means signing exclusive deals with that corporation, “closing their eyes” to corporation’s misconduct, passing or vetoing a new law. For example, a controversial Keystone pipeline bill that’s been repeatedly vetoed by Obama was passed in Congress with 270 members voting for it. According to Think Progress report, all 270 congressmen received generous donation from big oil company totaling about $31 million.

Does this sound as a democracy?

The second problem is that no politician can advance without big donations. Even the ones with strong moral values fall to the temptation of having better resources. Money enables candidates to run campaigns and bombard voters with ads and commercials. This is evident in current presidential elections; Austin Barbour, a Mississippi-based operative interviewed by USA Today, said that, “anybody who is thinking about running for president has got to have a group of donors out there aggressively backing them.” Running for president costs a lot–some experts say that Obama spent $1 billion on 2012 presidential elections.

The GOP candidates have started fundraising early. According to The Washington Post, $4 out of every $5 raised so far on behalf of GOP White House candidates has gone to independent groups rather than the official campaigns. These independent groups are not supposed to be controlled by the candidate but often are. Independent groups also do have the same restrictions on the amount of money that can be raised that campaigns do; donors donate how much they please and don’t even have to disclose their identity. Do you see the problem with that? Politicians might get millions of dollars from wealthy people whose name is not disclosed to the general public. When we vote, we are clueless about who candidates are working with behind the closed doors.

The Democratic candidates, unlike many believe, catch up with the Republicans on fundraising as they accept money from powerful people. Hillary Clinton, for example, is the first Democrat ever to publicly embrace her Super PAC which is expected to raise $200 million to $300 million. Super PACs are similar to independent groups as there is no limit on donations and donors’ name can be concealed.

Experts say that the current presidential race will be the most expensive one yet. This seems likely. But, as more candidates accept money from profit-thirsty corporations, American democracy breaks apart.

About Anastasia Krasilnikova