Selling Your Vote to the Highest Bidder

Our political system is broken. This is a statement that always seems to be true, but the extent to which it is accurate has become increasingly obvious in recent years. I am not just talking about partisan bickering or gridlock, because sometimes a slow, deliberative legislative body is a good thing.

I am more concerned by the fact that many states are enacting laws to make it harder for some to vote while, at the same time, the richest people (yes, that includes corporations) are being given an unbridled “right” to secretly affect local, state and national elections.

The Brennan Center for Justice recently estimated that because of new voting laws, more than 5 million eligible voters will have additional significant barriers to voting in 2012 (including, to a large degree, college students). These voting laws have little de-monstrable effect on reducing voter fraud, but do have a track record of disenfranchising voters who already have traditionally faced the most marginalization.

It seems that politicians are not interested in ensuring that every citizen is heard. In-stead, money appears to be the form of free speech du jour. Matters have gotten worse since the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling. The amount of political spending by outside groups has quadrupled since 2006. What’s worse, in 2004, 97.9 percent of outside groups disclosed their donors; in 2010, only 34 percent did. Secretive political groups are spending money in amounts never before seen, and in a manner like never before. You might say, “Why should I care? This doesn’t affect me!” Campaign finance affects everything and anything you interact with on a daily basis: the food you eat, the student loans you sign, the age at which you can legally consume alcohol and the price and speed at which you download that newest song.

On a more fundamental level, campaign finance laws affect how people in power re-late to you. Our leaders need to listen to the thunder of our voices instead of the money raining down on them.

We need to advocate for the option of publicly financed, “clean” elections that make our leaders accountable to us, their constituents. Citizens in Maine, Arizona, North Caro-lina, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Vermont have fought for and won clean elections in their cities and states, and have seen incredible results. Here in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has signaled his strong support for campaign finance reform and asked the legislature to enact a small donor system of voluntary public funding of elections. Let Albany hear you on this issue!

Contact Noah Goldberg at [email protected].