By Sal Bommarito
I’m totally disgusted with the election process in America. Some might be resigned to the fact that politics is a dirty business and nothing can be done to change it. But, it’s untrue. America can improve the process so that we all have an equal vote and our best people become leaders.
Several issues greatly contribute to the nasty and unprofessional behavior of our politicians. The greatest problem is unbridled political contributions. Here is a chart that lists contribution limits for the 2015-2016 federal elections. If you read it carefully, you will observe that “unlimited” donations can be made to “independent-expenditure-only political committees” called Super PACs; corporations and labor unions may also donate unlimited funds to Super PACS.
The only important restriction governing Super PACs is that they are not supposed to coordinate directly with political parties or candidates. This is a sham. The rule is so loose that some Super PACs clearly support certain candidates and take direction from their people.
The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling endorsed the existence of Super PACs based upon the constitutional right of free speech. The logic of how free speech applies to this situation escapes me, especially since it tilts our election process making some voters more influential than others.
One of the most vehement opponents to the Citizens United decision is Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT-IND). Sanders claims: “We have a horrendous campaign finance system in which Big Money is able to elect candidates of its choice and defeat those who oppose its agenda.” Essentially Sanders believes the affluent dominate the election process with their money.
Multi-million dollar Super Pacs are prolific purchasers of TV advertisement, arguably the most powerful tool available to candidates. Currently, we are being bombarded with commercials that support a candidate or expose the warts of others. One estimate is that “TV ad spending will top $4.4 billion for federal races this year, up from $3.8 billion in 2012 . . .”
In the 2012 election, there were over one million ads during the presidential campaign between April 10 and October 22; most had a negative tone. In fact, negative ads were 7 times more prevalent than positive ads.
So, unlimited money that is used primarily to fund TV ads is pervasive and negative. Unfortunately, this “right” to contribute to Super PACs is protected by the Constitution. An amendment to the document would be needed to put a halt to large donations. And Super PACs, in particular, are the source of most lies by candidates. The perpetrators of such deception are anonymous, unlike debates where the accused can respond to unfair and untrue allegations.
Amending the Constitution would be a gargantuan undertaking. But, it would be worth all the trouble. If you are disgruntled with negative campaigning that is ultimately financed by the wealthy, you should support an amendment. If you want to have the same impact as a millionaire on an election (one vote, and that’s all), you should support the amendment.
In a world without TV ads, those vying for office would have to convince voters to cast ballots for them the old fashioned way, visit them personally and appear on local TV to sell themselves.
The political world would change on a dime if Americans backed a change to campaign financing rules.