Money in Politics: US Politics and Government

Money in Politics: US Politics and Government

Jonathan Lopez

US Politics and Government

Karen Streuning 

12/11/19

 

Money in Politics: Danger or Benefit?  

Prompt: Is money—especially money connected to special economic interests—a danger to democracy or is it, as Justice Kennedy says in his Citizens United opinion, protected speech? 

 

Throughout all of civilized history, money has always been a looming shadow over all forms of government with its seemingly endless influence. The influence of money has helped nations thrive in almost every way but has also torn nations apart leaving them just empty land. And in modern times, the power of money is greater than ever with more ways to access it through banks and corporations. This has caused the US government to start thinking about to what extent should money influence the way government runs and place limits on where could it be spent and how much can be spent. But many have pointed out the fact that money in politics is a good idea because it can help people get an important message across and is protected by the constitution as it is considered as part of the freedom of speech. This leads to the question of “Is money a danger to the democracy of the United States?” After analyzing the history of money in politics and looking at modern events to see what money has accomplished, it is determined that money is a danger to democracy. This is because money can be used to alter the amount of exposure candidates have be used to prevent any policies and legislations from passing through, remove power from the average citizen, and will lead to corruption of those in power.

It can be said that no other time in history has money played a role in government than today which is arguably true as the government knows the power money has. With this unchecked power bending what democracy is in the United States, the government has placed some laws to restrict the involvement to make sure no one candidate becomes too powerful but it still wasn’t enough as recent presidential campaigns have shown. Action has been taken starting in the 1970s where the government has tried to limit how much money can be spent directly or indirectly to support a candidate but this has been rendered ineffective. This is seen as companies like Citizen United, a nonprofit organization for labor unions, claimed that companies are considered people as there are people in the company to act on the behalf of Citizen United. This was declared as Citizen United showed a documentary about Hillary Clinton within 30 day of the primary elections, trying to discourage people from voting for her which is against the law but as mentioned before, Citizen United claimed they were protected under the freedom of speech as they were a “person”. This decision was made by the Supreme Court when the movie was threatened to be taken down as it painted then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in a bad light. When this decision was made it opened up a metaphorical pandora’s box where companies were now able to donate as much money as they wanted to under the guise of individual expenditures which is something the government cannot regulate as it would compromise the constitution and the trust of the public. This new decision was arguably the most powerful one in modern history as the power dynamic was shifted away from the government and towards those who hold the money shaking the meaning of the American Democracy.  

The second main reason money is a major enemy and deterrent of democracy is because it can be used to prevent laws and legislations from passing through. This is called lobbying and is a major problem that has been present for much of American history. Lobbying is often associated with someone trying to influence members of congress and these people are called Lobbyists. These lobbyists are often part of interest groups who seek to both, directly and indirectly, influence what laws pass and which don’t and many lobbyists are often hired by companies or interest groups. The power that lobbyist often have vast amounts of money and resources behind them and offer information and other undisclosed services to current congress members and in return they support the congress member with resources like votes to make sure the policy does or does not go through, as described in the text We the People Eleventh Core Edition. Another way lobbyists help congress members is through indirect lobbying where they turn to the public and mobilize them to support the interest group’s agenda by voting in favor of them, which gives the congress member in power a reason to fight. This is a danger to democracy as not only interest groups can hire lobbyist but also companies who have vast amounts of resources can hire multiple lobbyists to manipulate congress to pass laws and policies in their favor and this shows in our government wherein an article by The Atlantic is was found that corporations spend 2.6 billion US dollars lobbying congress. The policies the companies want to pass are only beneficial for them and to give more to the corporations, someone has to lose and that someone is usually the public by ignoring laws and policies that serve them. 

The problems of money being involved in politics do not stop there and lead to a rift being made between the public and the government, which is the last major reason on why money in politics is a major danger to democracy. This rift is caused by taking power away from the masses as the leaders of government become more corrupt leading them to abandon the very people they are meant to represent and guide. This is best exemplified with the then Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello and his Cabinet who resigned after it was found out that they were sending millions of dollars to contractors with political ties, according to an article by CNN titled “Puerto Rico’s Governor Downfall: A timeline”. This is deplorable on many levels as Puerto Rico has was struck by a Hurricane, devastating the land, displacing millions of families, and causing millions in damage to the homes and property of those families. In addition to that, it was also leaked that the governor was slandering other important figures in government like Speaker of the New York City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito calling her a “whore” and his political rival for the next election cycle, Yulin Cruz where he endorsed her murder and implying she is crazy for going against him. This is coming from someone who was elected to help the people and to be doing these atrocious actions while his people are suffering just for his own personal benefit. The people did not take this however and after violent protests and much outcry, he resigned and promised to not run again, much to the happiness of the Puerto Rican citizens. This is only one recent and known example in the US of how badly money can corrupt someone and destroy the democracy which this country was built upon with more extreme examples present in other countries. 

The idea of money in politics has been around since the first government system and it is impossible to fully keep the two apart. The idea these two interacting can have a myriad of benefits for the public but when that meaning is taken and twisted into something sinister and selfish like how many political figures and corporations are currently acting, that’s where the line should be drawn and action must be taken to preserve the values and ideals of the Constitutional and the meaning of a democracy. History has proven many times money is used for more individualistic benefit than societal and this threat takes away the trust between the public and government. Change should not be something that is decided by those with money but by the people who actually face those struggles. When interest groups and businesses become so powerful that they can influence government on such a massive scale, can they really be considered an ally of the people when they can so easily betray them with no real consequence? These are the problems that plague the US and should be resolved through regulations on how much influence can one entity hold because if not then your fate can be decided by a business who seek to use you for gaining more wealth but nothing will happen if you don’t go out and vote for these changes and become more involved with government and each other to make sure you are properly heard and understood.

 

Citations

Jeffrey Toobin. 2012. “Money Unlimited: How Chief Justice John Roberts Orchestrated the Citizens United Decision.” New York: The New Yorker (May 21).

 

Drutman, Lee. 2015. “How Corporate Lobbyists Conquered American Democracy.” The Atlantic

 

Chavez, N. (2019, July 28). Private leaked texts, massive protests and a governor’s downfall: A timeline of Puerto Rico’s political unrest. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/27/us/puerto-rico-governor-scandal-timeline/index.html.

 

Sanchez, R. (2019, July 17). These are some of the leaked chat messages at the center of Puerto Rico’s political crisis. Retrieved November 11, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/16/us/puerto-rico-governor-rossello-private-chats/index.html.

 

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