Thanks be to God for a good democracy! One man, one vote. That is our principle, isn’t it? Thanks to the Supreme Court, it is actually the law of the land today but those votes are influenced by the amount of money that you bring to the campaign and dramatic changes have occurred in the last 18 months.
Do you think of Caterpillar Inc., Proctor and Gamble, Cargill Inc. and other large corporations as just being your next door neighbors? The Supreme Court has decided that is just what they are and anything they want to spend in an individual election or all elections is their business. This is a real tragedy.
For over 100 years we have been trying to establish a level playing field in our elections and we were doing rather well until the Supreme Court came down in its decision with Citizens United which says that these enormous corporations, with their millions of dollars to spend on elections, are simply a delightful neighbor that we ought to get to know better.
I am happy to see that a really important organization that is dedicated to working to maintain a just society and fair elections has launched a program to overturn Citizens United by amending the U.S. Constitution. Public Citizen has just released a 72-page report on the damage done since the Citizens United decision was handed down.
Let me share some of the report’s key findings for your reflection:
• Spending by outside groups jumped to $294.2 million in the 2010 election cycle from just $68.9 million in the 2006 cycle. The uncharacteristically high spending in the 2010 election foreshadows the blockbuster spending anticipated in the upcoming 2012 presidential elections;
• Nearly half of the money spent ($138.5 million, or 47.1 percent) came from only 10 groups;
• Groups that did not provide any information about their sources of money collectively spent $135.6 million – 46.1 percent of the total spent by outside groups during the election cycle;
• Two groups formed by Republican strategist Karl Rove combined to spend $38.2 million, more than any single group. Next was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at $31.2 million; and
• Of 75 congressional contests in which partisan power changed hands, spending by outside groups favored the winning candidate in 60 contests.
Behind these boring figures there is a story that threatens our commitment to just and fair elections. For all of our weaknesses, our country has always had a basic commitment to fairness! We should all be concerned.