By Robson Swift
Money in politics is a plague on American democracy. It spits in the face of American values, and the only way to stop it is to amend the Constitution. The term “money in politics” refers to cooperation and wealthy individuals being able to spend an unlimited amount of money to political campaigns. The history of money in politics before the 1900s is relatively unknown due to the lack of records, but in 1921 the Supreme Court of the United States case Newberry v. United States held that Congress can’t regulate primary elections and the financing of political campaigns and in 22 years the first political action committee or PAC was established. In short PACs are organizations that raise money to influence elections and are usually attached to political campaigns especially at the federal level. These entities were heavily regulated and restricted in their influence, but with waves of deregulations in the 1970s and 1980s they gained more and more influence as they spent money on political campaigns. But the most influential decision on money in politics happened in 2010 when the Supreme Court decided Citizens United. This landmark decision was the most important decision in modern American politics. In it, the Supreme Court treated corporations as human beings with rights. It also considered that money was free speech. Since corporations were human beings and money free speech, corporations were able to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaign.
This problem violates Americans’ right to participate in political life, given to them not only by the U.S. Constitution, but also the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a human rights treaty that the United States has joined. Equal participation in political life would look like the American ideal, a government by the people, for the people and with this, one would reasonably think that the government would properly represent its people. So for example if one percent of Americans supported a bill it would have a one percent chance of passing. That would be the ideal; does America meet the ideal? According to a joint study by Northwestern and Princeton Universities, if you fall within the bottom ninety percent of wage earners you have literally zero influence on lawmaking in this country. No matter how much support from the bottom ninety percent a bill still has a thirty percent chance of passing. If one percent of the ninety percent support a bill then it will still have a thirty percent chance of passing. But if you are the top one percent of wage earners you your influence on lawmaking is close to the ideal. If one percent of the top one percent supports a bill it has a one percent chance of passing. This shows how little the government represents its people and how the top one percent of wage earners have a stranglehold on law making. In a democracy or even a republic the people should have influence over laws being passed because it affects their lives, but for the majority of Americans this isn’t true. The reality for most Americans is bleak. They are under the will of the richest Americans and have little to no power to stop them because the richest Americans essentially control law making.
This reality is why money in politics is one of the most important issues or problems in America because it influences every other issue in American politics. The reason why the government continues to cut healthcare benefits even though the majority of Americans want to expand healthcare is that healthcare companies spent billions of dollars on congressional and presidential campaigns. If Americans want to gain ground on any sort of issue that may go against any corporation’s agenda they have to first get money out of politics. How does one do this? The general consensus is that you would need to pass a constitutional amendment. How does one do that? Well, you can’t go through Congress because many members of Congress are part of the problem. The only way one can pass a constitutional amendment on money in politics is to have an article 5 convention where two-thirds of the state legislatures agree to a convention to revise the constitution. This is the only option because state legislatures aren’t as influenced by corporate money as federal legislatures and they are beholden and responsive to their constituents so it would be easier to influence states to get money out of politics compared to the federal government because they have no incentive to keeping money in politics. The people of America need to start calling their representatives and fight as hard as they can if they want democracy and control handed to all of us and not the wealthy few.