The problem with those self-styled idealists in both
national parties who want to limit the increasing volume
of money in U.S. elections is that they could not, and
cannot, devise legislation which would accomplish their
As we have seen, following the passage of McCain-Feingold,
the so-called “special interests” always find legal ways to
get around the law’s restrictions. Furthermore, the U.S.
supreme court continually has ruled that contributing
financially to a federal political campaign is a form of free
speech, and can be limited only when there is a clear and
present risk of abuse.
Behind most of the rhetoric about money in politics is a
game of seeking partisan advantage. Liberals denounce and
condemn affluent Americans and corporations for trying
“to buy” elections. Conservatives denounce and condemn
labor unions for trying to do the same.
The historical fact is that money has played a role in American
elections from almost the outset of the Republic. It is fair to say
that special interest groups once did have an unfair advantage
in promoting their candidates and causes. But the 20th century
brought much more of an equilibrium to the financial aspect of
elections, especially after 1936, and today both parties each
have ample numbers of rich donors and large organizations
participating in financing their election campaigns.
One of the most ludicrous and demonstrably false assumptions
made these days, usually promoted by liberals and Democrats,
is that rich persons and corporations are uniformly conservative
and Republican. In fact, most of the “new rich” are liberals and
Democrats. A new study shows that most of the millionaires in
Congress are Democrats. Some of the richest Americans, many
of them billionaires, give exclusively to Democrats and liberal
causes. One hundred years ago, it was true, “big” business and
corporate moguls were almost entirely Republicans, but that has
long ceased to be so. Today, many of America’s richest citizens
and largest corporations create a liberal public image about
their politics, and routinely choose to support “progressive”
and left-leaning candidates over conservative ones. They respond,
furthermore, to politically-correct pressure from the left much
more often than to conservative interests and principles.
Liberals like to single out such individuals as the Koch brothers
(who contribute to conservative candidates and causes), but
conveniently fail to mention George Soros, the Rockefeller family
and many of the newly-created billionaires of the high tech
industry (who contribute only to liberal candidates and causes).
In short, the discussion about money in politics has become a
shell game devoid of honest debate.
The bottom line is that money does not buy most competitive
elections because good candidates from both parties either have
enough resources of their own, or can raise them from their party’s
supporters. Character, personality and ideology still matter more
in most elections.
Rich liberals and conservatives should be able to contribute to
the candidates and causes of their choice. Yes, unions should be
able to contribute to candidates who support their interests, and
both liberal and conservative organizations should be able to assist
those who share their political views.
If there is an unfair advantage in elections today, it might be more
likely found with those incumbents of both parties who remain
in office long after they make their most useful public contributions.
That is a genuine political issue that neither party today is prepared
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.