As a college student, I often feel that I have no voice in the political arena because of the huge influence of money in politics. In a democracy, everyone should have equal representation no matter his or her social or economic status, but American democracy as it stands today does not afford everyone this right. Due to the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, money is part of free speech. Now, the more money you have, the more speech you have, and thus the more sway you have over policy-making. Through this decision, wealthy donors and Super PACs can release tons of money into the political arena and our elected representatives have to spend time sucking up to them so they can get enough money for their next campaign. The average congressman or congresswoman allotts about half of his or her day talking to big donors it should be spent time working on issues that affect constituents.
Big money flowing into campaigns affects a lot of the things we care about as
college students, such as the environment, the cost of college, income inequality and the war on drugs, among many others that affect us. Basically, it affects almost everything because it can determine the way politicians vote depending on who they get their funding from. For example, if a big oil company such as Exxon Mobil contributes $5,000 to a candidate from Texas in the 2016 election cycle, it is likely that candidate would support measures that help oil companies, such as tax breaks and environmental deregulation.
However, all is not yet lost. In states like Arizona, Connecticut and Florida, there is a system in place called public financing of elections, which allows the average person to donate a small amount of money, and the US Treasury will match it. The candidate running for office has to follow certain rules about campaign financing to get this match, but many candidates are beginning to utilize it. This system means that the representative is directly beholden to his or her constituents rather than big corporations.
No matter what you believe or what party you vote for, America is supposed to stand for equal representation and a government by and for the people, not by and for corporations and the super wealthy. Democracy Matters, a national organization with a chapter at Colgate, is a non-partisan group attempting to get big money out of politics and American voices back in. In preparation for the upcoming elections, Democracy Matters is hosting an information session entitled, “So What Do the Candidates REALLY Think?” Thursday, October 22 at 12:20 to explore what the candidates think about campaign money.