How Big is Your Influence?

January 12, 2012
By Linsey Pecikonis | 0 comments

Its easy to see the dissatisfaction that Americans currently have with our government. Poll after poll shows Congress ratings in the single digits and President Obamas just over 50 percent. Even this fall, people clamored to the streets occupying parks and public spaces around the country demanding that their needs be listened to since they no longer felt direct contact with their elected officials generated any sort of result. But as we continue to see this dissatisfaction and tension with our government escalate to new highs, campaigns and Super-Pacs across the country are receiving millions upon millions of dollars in donations to help sway undecided voters and muddle the image of the opposition. How can the growing discontent with our government translate into such a super growth in campaign contributions by both candidates and Super-Pacs. Ive got two words for you Citizens United. In January of 2010 the Supreme Court handed down its decision for Citizens United v Federal Election Committee, stating that the first Amendment in the Constitution prohibits the government from placing restrictions and limits on independent contributions for political purposes for corporations and unions. This decision essentially unleashed corporations and untapped money into the political process. This week on the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Courts decision, we see plain as day the impact this decision has had on our political process. Just yesterday, TIME reported that Republican presidential candidates and outside groups have spent $38.7 million on political advertising since last fall. Thats 4 months. If you break down 38.7 million over 4 months, Republican candidates and outside groups have spent and average of 9.67 million per month. Already these same groups have spent over 9 million to influence voters for the upcoming South Carolina primary happening on January 21st. This election isnt the first time weve seen a influx of spending. During 2010s Congressional elections, which was the first federal election to occur after the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision, spending by non-party committees (corporations and Super-Pacs) increased to approximately $304.7 million dollars or four times the level reported for the 2006 Congressional elections. And 2010 wasnt even a presidential election. This monetary influence and spending is astounding especially if you consider the outside economic conditions around the country. When everyday Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck decrying that the distribution of wealth be more evenly distributed, is allowing corporations to buy and influence politicians because of campaign contributions fair? Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakly put it best in a recent post: It means the influence and interests of the wealthy few will continue to further shout down the voices of everyone else. And because of the shadowy nature of these groups, it also means that a large portion of their advertising will take the form of negative attacks, which will only contribute to the increasingly hostile nature of our political discourse. A quick look at the 2010 census data clearly indicates that the distribution of wealth is a major problem for a majority of Americans who have coined themselves the 99 percent. The Washington Post reports that this gap is real - the share of overall U.S. wealth held by the top 10 percent of the population that increased from 49 percent in 2005 to 56 percent in 2009. Another alarming statistic from the census found that a record number of Americans nearly 1 in 2 have fallen into poverty or make earnings that typically classify them as low income. While all of this can be overwhelming and make any rational person scream out of frustration, we can win back our political process. If the growing number of angry protesters occupying public discourse on this income gap has taught us anything, it should prove that when citizens rally together demanding enough eventually the government must listen. Its time for us to begin to rally around overturning the Citizens United decision. Luckily, the movement has already begun. In cities and municipalities across the country citizens have encouraged their local governments to pass resolutions opposing the Supreme Courts decision. Just this week, New York City Council passed a resolution but these resolutions arent just in major progressive cities like New York and Los Angeles resolutions or ballot measures opposing the decision have been proposed or passed by 36 local governments. These governments include places like Duluth, MN, Oakland, CA, Albany, NY, and Boulder, CO. This isnt a fight that will be won by local governments alone. Weve got to take the movement and build strengthening the fight by bringing the voices of all Citizens on board. Back in December, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a constitutional amendment, The Saving American Democracy bill that would overturn Citizens United. Since Bernie wrote to DFA members on Tuesday weve had over 50 thousand supporters stand up and become a citizen co-signer to the bill. The movement will continue to grow but we need supporters from every state, every community to join on. This fight to overturn Citizens United will not be simple especially since, we the people, will be tackling giant corporations. Will you become a co-signer today and ask your friends to do the same? Together we can stop corporate influence in politics and bring back democracy to those that truly count the people of the United States.

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