New York: We live in a country in economic distress. Millions are out of work and cutbacks in public services are pervasive at the city and state levels. The "great recession' is deep and could go deeper. Most families are tightening their belts and in some cases at the breaking point because their benefits have run out and money is so hard for many to find.
Hard to find, perhaps, for the people, but, curiously, not for their political representatives, their nominal public servants. Despite the fact that popularity for politicians, especially members of Congress, is at an all time low, campaign contributions are at an all time high. (A recent poll showed a majority of Americans want to toss out all incumbents)
The Washington Post reports, "House and Senate candidates have already shattered fundraising records for a midterm election and are on their way to surpassing $2 billion in spending for the first time, according to new campaign finance data.
To put it another way: That's the equivalent of about $4 million for every congressional seat up for grabs this year."
Think of that number, think of all the pressing needs in this country, and the world, and weep. But also think about why politics is so associated with, and seemingly dependent, on big bucks.
Some critics seem to believe there is no way to stop these practices because "the beast" must be fed.
"¨"Candidates are raising more money in 2010 than ever before, and spending it at a much quicker pace than 2008," said David Donnelly, director of the, Public Campaign Action Fund's Campaign Money Watch project. "With all the attack ads, candidates have to spend more time dialing for dollars and less time talking with voters. They have to feed the beast the endless raising and spending for campaigns that is devouring our democracy.""¨
"Devouring" is a term often associated with beasts.
Donnelly adds, "Regardless of the outcome next Tuesday, the winners will be the big donors.
There has been a big debate this year about the role corporations and to a lesser degree; unions have played in financing campaigns. The recent Citizen United Supreme Court decision makes it legal not to disclose where the money is coming from.
It's been said that business is taking over politics. As Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics which tracks political money, writes:
"When tens or hundreds of millions of dollars are targeting these midterm elections and our votes, but their origin is unknowable, one has to wonder whether someone isn't trying to pull a fast one on us.
OK, so we get a disclaimer naming the coalition that runs an ad. Maybe that disclaimer names a group with some vague, innocuous-sounding moniker. Or it's a group signaling that it has many "citizens" or "Americans" behind it. However, these groups often have no publicly known members, donors or contact info."
Many are up in arms about the latest wave of "secret money," some perhaps from overseas--including charges in one race in Washington State that the Saudis are involved. The group Climate Action Network Europe released a new report revealing the effects of Big Business -- all the way across the ocean -- trying to weaken US environmental laws by backing climate change denialists.
They reported in part:
"Big European emitters Lafarge GDF-Suez, EON, BP, BASF, BAYER, Solvay and Arcelor-Mittal supported climate change deniers in the US Senate in 2010 for $107,200. Their total support for senators blocking climate change legislation in the US amounts to $240,200, which is almost 80% of their total spending in the 2010 Senate race. This is why those funds are seen as systemic. This amount is higher than the same type of spending of the most notorious U.S. climate denier and Tea Party funder: Koch Industries ($217,000)."