The Corporate Shadow: Big money is killing your vote

Illustration by Darian Mathews
Illustration by Darian Mathews

Money makes our world go round and our political system is no exception. Political campaigns without backing money would be a mere ghost to the political system we have today. Money buys ads, it buys public outreach, it buys a strong campaign. Unfortunately, money also buys influence.

In 2010, the Supreme Court Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission found that the government has no power to restrict the spending of corporations, unions, or any other group for the politician of their choice. That means that the amount of money allowed to funnel for a campaign is virtually unlimited. Whatever a corporation or group is willing to give to help someone’s race is completely boundless.

Corporations were given First Amendment rights and given free reign over their political inclinations. This began the rise of Super PACS (Political Action Committees), that act as the vessel between the corporation or donor and the specific politician’s campaign.

Due to this change in the law, any money possible can be funneled into a Super PAC and used for anything the owner of that Super PAC wishes to use it on and it is completely legal, as long as there is no proven coordination by the Super PAC with the candidate they support.

The popular and common understanding of this to those who don’t understand Super PACs is that corporations have every right to support a campaign, like a citizen does. However, there is no cut off limit and with big spenders, there isn’t a limit in sight.  There is an obvious difference between a common citizen with a desk job and a multi-billion dollar corporation. Hint, it’s money.

These corporations are not donating so much money out of their personal political activism. They want influence. They want something in return. They want these politicians in their pocket.

So far in this Presidential race, Jeb Bush has gained the top campaign money. Based on the released Federal Election Commission data, top contributors are Goldman Sachs, Neuberger Berman LLC, and Bank of America. The amount of outside money earned is $103,222,284 and $24,814,730 has been candidate committee money. Outside money is generally referring to Super PAC raising and candidate committee money is the money the specific candidate has fundraised.

Hillary Clinton comes in second. Her biggest contributors from past to present day have been Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Time Warner. Clinton’s outside money is at $20,291,679 and her candidate committee funds are $77,471,60.

Amongst polls that have rated each Democratic candidate after the debates, Bernie Sanders is usually in the lead. In spite of this, CNN reports Clinton winning debate after debate, despite evidence to the otherwise. CNN is owned by Time Warner. Time Warner is in the top donor list for Clinton.

When large corporations and banks are your top advocates, when it comes down to it, they are who you will protect when it comes to policy they would go against their best interests. These donors will always have your ear. Party dichotomy aside, almost all politicians are run by this influence.

The situation has risen to a level where the Super PACs and large amounts of corporate money, which should be independent from the candidates, have more money and more influence over campaigns than the candidates themselves. A lot of the times, the Super PACs are closer to the candidate than disclosed.

Mitt Romney’s Super PAC, “Restore Our Future” was founded by Romney’s lawyer. Newt Gingrich’s SUPER PAC, “Winning Our Future”, was run by a former staff member of his. Rick Perry’s Super PAC, “Make Us Great Again” was started by Mike Toomey who was once his chief of staff and co-owns a resort island with his past chief strategist. The convoluted and obtuse terminology is perfect for the common people. They have no idea what a Super PAC is, how it works and why it’s so important.

Let’s be honest and acknowledge what it is that is at hand. There is a swift development toward a political system where the minority of wealthy people with specific special interests will determine who is more likely to get elected and what that politician will want to do once they are.

With more of political corruption getting discussed on a mainstream level, the issue is now on the table to get tackled.

Bernie Sanders who is running as a Democrat for the upcoming Presidential election is notably the only candidate in the party that has no Super PAC. Yet, Sanders is number four in overall money raised through the campaign. His policy is anti Super PAC and wants to overturn the Citizens United decision. The Sanders campaign asks for individual small contributions from anyone that wishes to give. The average donation is less than $30. Sanders has more individual donations than any other candidate running, rather than a modest list of very wealthy and influential ones. Sanders has explicitly stated that Wall Street and the one percent will not like him.

When there is corporate interest, the interests will never be fully given to the citizens. When there is corporate incentive, there will always be a precedent set for what they want, not what the people need. It’s subtle bribery that’s made legal by our system.

When a candidate has Wall Street an ally, they will not challenge the one percent or actively put forth policy that would hold them accountable for tax evasion or the disproportionate distribution of wealth.

Elections should be free and fair, not skewered by money and coercion. There is a reason there used to be rules and caps on people with power.

The politicians gunning for your vote are supposed to represent what is best for you, best for the country and best for the collective public. It’s hard as a voter to believe that when when you look at a politician, you’re not really looking at simply a representative. You’re looking at dividing interests. You’re looking at a corporation and an oligarchy.

Campaign finance reform is a dire necessity. Supreme Court Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission needs to be overturned, and any other legislation like it. Political illiteracy and apathy are the biggest reasons the people in politics are able to carry on doing what they want to do. There is the petition to overturn Citizens United online, along with other groups working to educate the public on big money in politics. If money is not taken out of politics, money will continue to rule our politics. Educate yourself and look closer.


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