Money Can Buy You Favoritism: Let's Reform Campaign Finances

Wall Street Bull Behind Bars - IllustrationMoney can’t buy you class, but it sure can buy you favoritism by a political candidate. Before we analyze what's right or wrong with current laws, I think it's important to understand the current laws as best we can.  To put it simply, for the 2012 election cycle, individual contributions to federal campaigns, parties and other political committees may not exceed $117,000.  That’s the cap for an individual, not a household, family, or corporations.

Corporations are not permitted to donate to a candidate, however they can contribute to Super PACS, the party, campaign committees and more.

And although we’ve had campaign finance laws in place since 1867, they serve a superficial purpose.  

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Obviously, wealthy families can find easy loopholes through these campaign finance laws and pay well above the individual cap to support their candidate. In 2011, for example,  a mystery corporation donated 1 million to a political committee backing Mitt Romney five weeks after the company was formed.  Only two weeks after the contribution was made, the company was dissolved.  In the last two years, Super PACs raised approximately $181 million with roughly half of that money coming from fewer than 200 of the super-wealthy. 

Why worry about who can donate and how much?  Well, politicians know who their big donors are.  They know who is paying their bills and they know there is an expectation for these “donations.”  What ends up happening is that favoritism is bought.  Favoritism for your industry or your political agenda(s). 

When you consider how much uncapped money is donated by corporations and unions, it’s hard to argue that favoritism is not purchased.  We have seen political campaign scandals rear their ugly heads in state and federal campaigns all over America. Behind every scandal is someone that stood to profit from it in some way.       

In 2010, after some reform was written, the Supreme Court ruled to remove limits from corporate spending on political advertising that John McCain helped to rewrite.  

Today, it’s not clear how we can fix the laws but something should be done to help level the playing field  between parties and candidates and eliminate favoritism that occurs amongst all political parties. 

Opponents of limits on campaign contributions may argue that contributing to a political candidate or party is infringing upon their fundamental right to exercise free speech.  The government may, however, place reasonable limits on your protected rights based on several different factors that will take much too long to discuss in just one post.   

So what can be done? 

I’m not sure what the right solution is but something else should be done.  Maybe we revisit the influence of Super PACs again and then put a limit on how much a candidate can raise each year?   Seems like the easiest solution to a conundrum of issues.    

Image via DonkeyHotey/Flickr

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