Federal Election spending (Presidential and Congressional races) will reach an all-time high this year, with reports projecting it to reach 5.8 billion, 7% higher than the 5.4 billon spent in the 2008 election cycle [http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2012/08/2012-election-will-be-costliest-yet.html]. However, far more funds than ever before will come from private individuals and the organizations they create to influence elections, known as Super Political Action Committees. Super PACs were born following the 2010 Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission which made it illegal to limit the amount corporations, unions, other groups, and individuals can give to organizations working to influence elections, as long as those organizations do not contribute directly to a candidate's campaign (Super PACs).
OpenSecrets.org reports that at this point in 2008, candidates had raised around $1.1 billion (out of $2.4 billion) versus only $608 million (out of $2.2 billion) today [http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2012/08/2012-election-will-be-costliest-yet.html]. The other approximately $1.5 billion spent this year is "outside spending". So far this cycle 47 people have contributed more than half (57.1%) of the $230 million raised by Super PACs from individual donors and just over 1,000 donors giving at least $10,000 have accounted for 94% of the money raised (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/influence-industry-small-group-makes-big-dent-on-super-pac-individual-donations-study-says/2012/08/01/gJQAupaGRX_story.html). The authors of a US PIRG and Demos study on Super PAC spending calculate that it would take 321,000 middle-income families, donating an equivalent share of their wealth (0.15%) to equal the total of the single biggest Super PAC contributor, the infamous Adelson family ($36 million) [http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/influence-industry-small-group-makes-big-dent-on-super-pac-individual-donations-study-says/2012/08/01/gJQAupaGRX_story.html].
With Americans ranking government corruption as the second most important issue to them this election cycle, behind only job creation, [http://www.examiner.com/article/majority-poll-seek-president-who-will-create-jobs-combat-corruption] this spending is indicative of a much larger issue: the major influence that private and corporate resources play in determining the outcome of our elections, and the issues debated and pushed in the first place.
The federal lobbying industry is as strong as ever, on pace to reach over $3 billion dollars in contributions with over 11,000 lobbyists at work [http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/incdec.php]. These lobbyists have already made their impression felt in a major way in this year's presidential race for one side. Seven hundred forty-eight Washington lobbyists and dozens of corporate and lobbying firm PACs have given $1.87 million to benefit the Romney Campaign in addition to the $5.25 million they've raised from friends, family, and clients. The client lists of these lobbyists include some of the biggest companies from the most powerful industries including financial services (Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs), fossil fuel energy (Exxon Mobile, BP, Koch Industries), and defense contracting (Lockheed Martin, Halliburton and Boeing). The Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee do not accept contributions from federally registered lobbyists [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/02/mitt-romney-lobbyists_n_1731540.html?utm_hp_ref=elections-2012].
There are no limits on how much individuals and corporations can contribute to lobbyists or Super PACs, not to mention their own efforts to amplify their agendas. Direct campaign contributions and Super PAC pooling, combined with an innumerable and only growing number of major media strategies including TV and radio ads, documentaries, conferences, and even "scientific" research designed to support a particular interest (think ExxonMobil’s funding of research "proving" their products were not contributing to global warming and calling into question its existence all together), make it possible for "special" corporate or private interests to exert a very significant influence on the outcomes of our electoral politics.
“Democracy must write the rules for capitalism, not the other way around. The only way to ensure this happens is to have some mechanism for preventing wealthy individuals and institutions from translating their wealth into political power” [http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/influence-industry-small-group-makes-big-dent-on-super-pac-individual-donations-study-says/2012/08/01/gJQAupaGRX_story.html].
Constitutional amendment anyone?
Michael “Mike Bhaiya” Berger is a Brooklyn based MC and Hip Hop Educator. He has taught Hip Hop History and Writing courses in Boston public schools and worked extensively with youth in underserved communities in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Middletown (CT), Mexico, and India. In the summer of 2011, he released his debut mix-tape with DJ Green Lantern, *DJ Green Lantern Presents: Mike Bhaiya-The Universe Is Dreaming Vol. 1*. Michael believes Hip Hop is eternal. Find Michael on Twitter®, @MikeBhaiya, or on his website at MikeBhaiya.com.
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