Snyder: Limit campaign funding



Campaign finance laws are to lenient as they are, so proposals to decrease regulation will not serve the common good.

Stephen Snyder

Money, as the adage goes, is the root of all evil. This opinion is in no place more evident and validated than the American political system. It can be said in no uncertain terms that American politics suffers an infection that pundits and even some politicians are keen to diagnose, but hesitant, unwilling or unable to fight.

At the heart of the issue is the legality of limitless campaign spending, allowing private corporations to buy their way into politics and have their personal interests served. The Citizens United decision of 2010 opened a proverbial floodgate of private spending and we continue to live in a society where the individual American finds him or herself disenchanted with their ability to enact change through political action. And can they be blamed for this apathy? No, not when the interests of private corporations supercede the needs of the American populous.

The most pertinent question we must ask is simple: how have we come this far? The answer is nearly as simple: speech is powerful, money is powerful, money (in this case, political donations) is legally permitted speech, so more money equals more power.

This is no great secret, but when the ability of a politician to win an election is determined by how affluent they are prior to an election or which of the dozens of super PACs invest in them, we will never have a government of the people or for the people, but rather it will be a government by the dollar, for the dollar and about the dollar.

The fact that we are painfully aware of how a majority of prominent politicians ascended to their positions of power is bad enough, but until recently, politicians showed the good grace to at least pretend they didn’t want to bathe in dollar bills. That changed, however, after Republican leadership in the form of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner pushed for further easing of campaign finance limitations to a government spending bill that would allow for even more money to be donated directly to political parties in addition to whatever funds are raised by partisan super PACs.

Politics must be primarily concerned with people, not dollar signs. When profits determine policy, our leaders have lost touch with their constituency, but with nearly perpetual encumbancy in Washington, D.C., it will be all of us who are left behind.

In an article published in the New York Times, John Coates, professor of business law, issued a grim analysis of the direction our nation is headed.

“Corporations have begun to displace individuals as the direct beneficiaries of the First Amendment,” Coates said.

The influx of money into the political spectrum does not serve the best interest of even a negligible fraction of American citizens. This trend of allowing elections to be determined by monetary investments is disturbing at the national level, but I can almost, but not really, stomach it because money is the master to which we all answer. As the Wu-Tang Clan puts it, “Cash rules everything around me.” However, what we should not abide is the fact that even here at Iowa State the influence of money in politics could play a disgustingly more significant role in GSB elections.

In an interview with the Daily following the 2015 GSB elections, election commissioner for GSB, Alex Rodgers, expressed his desire to remove the spending limit for candidates. I do not believe that an ability to buy advertisements and market yourself to students can be equated to buying votes, but the influence that increased campaign spending would have on student elections would only be detrimental to any efforts to expand the breadth of voices in GSB.

Just as it is on the national scale, quality and quantity of advertisements are no promise of effective leadership.

The freedom of speech is among our most treasured rights as American citizens, and the people who we task to decide such things have determined that money is speech; so be it. The broad spectrum of liberties we are allowed will certainly have their pitfalls, but I do not call for a change in speech laws because I know that no system is perfect and the good far outweighs the bad.

However, when the voices of the extreme minority, in this case private corporations, boom out relentlessly and without pause, the voices of the overwhelming majority are relegated to nothing more than a whisper. If nothing is done soon, that whisper could conceivably become silence. Tell GSB that campaign limits level the playing field and serve the greatest interest of the student body. When you vote nationally, and please vote nationally, educate yourself on where your candidate stands, but don’t forget to watch out and determine which shadowed fundraisers stand behind them.