Money and Speech

“Democracy as we know it will be lost if we continue to allow government to become one bought by the highest bidder, for the highest bidder. Candidates will simply become bit players and pawns in a campaign managed and manipulated by paid consultants and hired guns.”Sen. Wendell Ford.

In 2010 the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission struck down bipartisan legislation limiting campaign contributions. The 5-4 decision states that Congress does not have the legal authority to restrict campaign contributions.

As a direct result of this election, the money spent in the 2012 elections will probably break all previous records. Including individual campaigns, political party fundraising and super PACs, Governor Romney and President Obama collectively raised over $1.3 billion and spent almost $1.15 billion as of the end of August. House and Senate races add millions more to the money raised, as do the myriad of state and local elections and primary campaigns.

The Center for Responsive Politics, the organization that operates the website OpenSecrets.com, noted that super PACs will, for the first time, be operating for the entirety of this election cycle. This means we will finally see just how much of an impact they can have when they are at full force.

As of October 10th, outside groups have spent $490 million in this election cycle. According to the best estimates from the Center for Responsive Politics, the total amount of money spent on campaigns this cycle may only increase by a few percentage points over the previously held 2008 record; however, the proportion of overall campaign dollars spent by outside groups is expected to increase significantly.

There are a number of legislative proposals to address the excess amount of undisclosed money in this political cycle and to place limits or institute other types of modifications to campaign finance laws in an effort to counter the influence of corporate money, but they are stuck in partisan grid lock at both the state and federal level. For now we will have to endure the onslaught of corporate money and third-party ads on our TV screens, and worry about the potential influence that these corporate donors have over the politicians whom they help elect.

I for one am going to watch my TV shows online until the election is over…

Image Courtesy of EA WorldView.