Apple News Facebook Twitter 新浪微博 Instagram YouTube Wednesday, Mar 27, 2019
Search
Archive
English>>

Big-money politics exposes the true colors of American democracy

(People's Daily Online)    10:28, March 19, 2019

The United States has long been seen as a beacon of democracy. However, the reality is that the influence of money in US politics has excluded a large number of people from the political process, making it impossible for many people to realize their political rights. The role of money in politics deprives the American people of their democratic rights, thwarts the true will of the people, and creates de facto political inequalities. In recent years, spending by organizations working to influence US elections has been increasing, while the influence of ordinary Americans has been decreasing. Big-money politics exposes the true colors of American democracy

Money is a lubricant for American politics. In fact, money has always been inseparable from US political activities. For this reason, fundraising has to be a top priority for all American politicians.

In recent years, the United States has continued to relax restrictions on political contributions. In the past, contributions made by persons to candidates for federal office were limited to $48,600 during a single election cycle and contributions to political parties was capped at $74,600, meaning anyone could give a total of up to $123,200. However, the US Supreme Court in 2014 struck down that cap. As a result, wealthy donors can support their political candidates without restrictions. In addition to providing direct contributions, wealthy Americans and businesses can also influence election results through lawful political action committees known as Super PACs, which can spend unlimited sums to influence the outcome of federal elections through independent expenditures.

Unrestricted political contributions provide a channel for super-rich individuals or groups to use money to influence politics and they expect the parties and politicians that they help get elected to return the favor down the road. Thus, of particular importance are the big givers and “super fundraisers” who have a lot of wealth and social connections and can raise a lot of money for candidates. In the US general election of 2008, a considerable number of “super fundraisers” got cabinet-level positions or became advisors. According to the UN’s Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights released in May 2018, the combined wealth of the US Cabinet totaled $4.3 billion and the US government represents the rich. In fact, the US government has a long tradition of appointing big donors to serve as ambassadors abroad.

Elections in the United States have become a money game. The purpose of elections is to express the will of the voters, determine the direction of policy, and select qualified leaders. However, big-money in American politics has distorted public opinion and made elections a game for the wealthy.

Spending on US elections keeps rising. Total spending by US presidential candidates went from $700 million in 2004 to $1 billion in 2008 and $2 billion in 2012. The 2016 US elections cost nearly $7 billion, making it the most expensive political election in US history. The cost of US mid-terms keeps rising, too. The four midterm elections held between 2002 and 2014 cost $2.18 billion, $2.85 billion, $3.63 billion, and $3.84 billion, respectively, and hit a record $5.2 billion in 2018. If the money spent on the 2018 midterms was distributed among the 470 congressional seats that were up for grabs (35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats), then it would cost over $11 million a seat on average. The US Senate election in the state of Texas in 2018 became the most expensive congressional election in US history, with Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke raising a record $69.1 million. The high cost of American elections has greatly increased the threshold for participation and has ruled out the possibility of the vast majority of people participating in elections.

Lobbying activities expose the essence of how money corrupts American politics. Political lobbying is a link in the political process of the United States and a lawful way for interest groups to exert their influence in the political process. Interest groups employ lobbyists to lobby members of Congress and other officials in order to influence legislation on behalf of their interests.

Lobbying has a long history in the United States and the industry has grown extensively over the years. In 1971, there were only 175 registered lobbyists in the United States. By 2009, there were about 13,700 registered lobbyists, spending billions of dollars annually to influence members of the US Congress.. Interest groups have increased their spending on lobbying, which was $1.44 billion in 1998. In 2011, spending rose to $3.33 billion, a 13-year increase of 131%. And the high spending can bring huge returns. In 2005, the lobbying group for the pharmaceutical industry spent $325 million on its lobbying activities, getting the Bush administration to pass legislation that would increase profits by $139 billion. In 1998, when Congress prepared a bill to restrict the tobacco industry, tobacco companies spent $67.4 million on lobbying to prevent lawmakers from standing up to the industry. Only the wealthy or companies with strong financial resources can exert political influence via lobbying activities. The lobbying system shows that American politics is the politics of the rich.

Big-money politics in the United States is tantamount to a money game. Facing so much money, many ordinary Americans do not stand a chance. The flood of money that pervades American politics is a huge restriction on the political rights of the American people.

This article is translated and edited by Curtis Stone from a commentary published in People’s Daily on March 18, 2019.

The Chinese version: 金钱政治暴露美国民主虚假一面 

The author is Li Yunlong, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (National Academy of Governance).

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Du Mingming, Bianji)

Add your comment

We Recommend

Most Read

Key Words