Free and Open Elections Are the Cornerstone to Any Democracy

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Free and open elections are the cornerstone to any democracy. The citizens of the United States have fought for years to increase this right to everyone, but also keep each vote as strong as the next. However, it has become obvious to many that their voting power is being shortened each election cycle. Money and influence from powerful, wealthy interest groups and corporations have made their way into politicians’ coffers in the form of major campaign contributions. This system has resulted in voters calling for further campaign finance reform including more regulation of election funding and a higher level of transparency. When it comes to financing presidential campaigns, an entirely new playbook is being written. The traditional yardstick, the money raised by individual candidates, may countless this time. Instead hundreds of millions of dollars may come from a relatively new political animal, the Super PAC. This financing vehicle sprang up in the wake of a 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United, which wiped away limits on corporate and labor union campaign spending (1). Super PAC is a term to describe the new independent-expenditure-only committees that form to fund issues and specific canidates. Basically, the Citizens United decision said that labor unions and corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money independently of candidates to convince voters to vote for or against someone. There is a lot of money that can be raised and spent on independent advertising along with other things. A very important point is this can all be done without coordinating with the candidates (1). A candidate's ability to raise money on his or her own does still count for a lot. Financial reports released this weekend show Texas Gov. Rick Perry outpacing his Republican rivals, hauling in more than $17 million for the third quarter. With $15 million in the bank, he put away half-a-million dollars more than former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who pulled in $14 million during the same period 2). No other major GOP contenders raised as much. Ron Paul was next with more than $8 million, but the rest raised substantially less and also had far less cash on hand 2). As for the man they all hope to replace, President Obama brought in nearly $43 million last quarter. And by the end of September, the incumbent Democrat had $61 million in the bank, more than all the Republicans combined 2). Some of that will likely be spent responding to attack ads from the new super PACs, like this one from the conservative group American Crossroads airing in North Carolina and Virginia (2). In just the last three months, according to the filings, the Obama campaign has spent more on payroll, more than $4 million, than several of the Republican candidates have raised 3). Fundraising in a post Citizen United world is characterized by a system of public secrecy and private disclosure 5). There are no current laws that prohibit any organization from spending large sums of money supporting a candidate and remaining private, while keeping the public in the dark. The most significant innovation is the rise of so-called Super Pacs, which can solicit unlimited contributions. These Super-Pacs would have happened without Citizens United. The organizational entrepreneurs that pioneered the Super Pac form, Speech Now, came up with this idea in 2007 and pursued this strategy long before Citizens United (1). A majority of the candidates campaigning in Iowa for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination are associated with at least one super PAC — one candidate had seven at last count 4). They are expected to pump hundreds of thousands — possibly millions — of dollars into political advertising leading up to Iowa’s Jan. 3 Republican Party caucuses and through other presidential primary contests continuing into next year 4). Fundraising numbers are important because they help generate buzz and excitement, and because in politics, money makes more money....
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