Dark Money, Super PACs, shady multi-millionaires buying your democracy. When Americans were asked recently what they fear most, it wasn’t terrorists (unless you mean the sort that take over your TV at election time.) It was corruption of government officials.
It’s that fear that a certain multi-millionaire megalomaniac is playing into when he says “I’m so rich I can’t be bought – so vote for me.”
So is voting for a billionaire to protect you from rule by billionaires a sensible way to fight money in politics? Not exactly. It just looks that way on TV.
Is today’s election auction normal or inevitable? Neither. A handful of Supreme Court decisions, decided by a single vote unloosed the cash-flow. It’s happened mostly over the last ten years. As the Brennan Center reported this January, just one justice shifting opinion could speedily restore common sense limits on big spending.
Change won’t come easily. In the last quarter century, the share of political contributions traceable to the top hundredth of Americans has doubled – from 15 percent to 30 percent. Excess corporate cash rushes into every Congressional and State House office in the land.
Concentration of wealth is the problem. Corruption is the consequence. But it’s just not true there’s nothing regular Americans can do.
Reformers in California are gathering signatures to put a Voters Bill of Rights on the ballot next November that would require TV ads to display their top donors clearly – and overhaul the state’s campaign finance database to make tracking special interests easier.
California’s measure could send a message – even to the justices. Similar efforts are underway in Maine and Washington and South Dakota. But paying more attention to people making change would require money media to pay just a little less attention to that billionaire.