Did you ever wonder why the recent midterm elections cost $3 billion – the most expensive ever? Or where all that money came from? Or whether it should it matter to you at all?
Well, the answer to the last question is a resounding yes! Because campaign contributions from wealthy special interests have affected: the BP spill and deep-sea oil drilling; the future of Pell grants for college students; the growing number of American children raised in poverty; global warming; the poor job market for college grads; the $1.1 trillion in tax dollars spent so far in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; soaring profits for big banks and oil companies and much more.
Okay, you get the picture. The money given to politicians' campaigns matters because almost everything you care about is related to what Congress does or doesn't do. And unfortunately, our representatives are much too influenced by billions in campaign donations.
So whose deep pockets actually fund campaigns? Who pays for all the commercials you try to avoid on TV, the flyers you get in the mail and the elaborate campaign events designed to convince voters to "Vote for Me?"
The fact is that most of that money doesn't come from small donations from ordinary citizens; it comes from a small group of big donors who work for large corporations. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, less than one tenth of 1 percent (0.04) of the U.S. population donated over 66 percent of the campaign money spent in 2010.
And that's not all. On Jan. 21, 2010, the Supreme Court reversed a law that for almost 100 years had prevented corporations and unions from spending unlimited amounts of money from their treasuries to influence political speech. So to make matters worse, an additional flood of money from wealthy special interests – especially giant corporations, financial and health care institutions, big oil and gas companies and others – was released into our political system.
It's simple to realize the incredible pressure on elected officials in our "pay to play" system to pay back their benefactors with tax breaks and other benefits.
Do we have a government of, by and for the people, or one bought and sold by big money campaign contributions? Are our elections turning into legalized bribery where money counts more than merit?
If, like many Americans, you think money in politics is unfair and corrupting and are wondering if is there anything we can, do the answer is yes! Here at Geneseo, the Democracy Matters club is standing up and speaking out, joining with students throughout the country and citizen groups to get big money out of politics and people back in. We want an equal political voice, even if we can't spend millions of dollars to make ourselves heard. But we need you to help to take back our democracy. Whatever you care about, you can be sure it is affected by political decisions. Join us to make your voice count!