Selling to the Highest Bidder
by Thomas M. Fortuna, Sr. ◊ Feb 17, 2012
Every day in the United States, politicians are the recipients of contributions from millionaires, billionaires, and multi-national corporations. House members must average 1½ million dollars every two years to run for reelection. That is over $2,000 a day, every day they are in office, including Sundays. United States Senators must raise $3,000 every hour! With all this fundraising, how much time is left to govern? Elected officials claim they can receive millions of dollars in donations and remain committed to our interests. I say they cannot.
Donations are investments and, like any other investment, there is an expected return. Investing in elected officials yield the highest legal return available for millionaires, billionaires, and multi-national corporations. Millions in donations can yield billions in contracts and favorable tax laws. In 30 years, the tax rate on millionaires and billionaires has been cut in half. Income from stock is less than half that of work. This has contributed dramatically to the budget shortfalls around this country, requiring teachers and fire fighters to be laid off and the poor to go without heating assistance. Are contributors supporting candidates who favor minimum wage, worker safety, or public education? Or, are they supporting candidates who want to eliminate regulations on food safety and the environment?
Elections do not give us the best candidates to run our country. They reveal who has been the best at fundraising and making the most promises. They reveal who can keep the most back room promises. Candidates are forced into this situation because the candidate who raises the most wins…90 percent of the time. Politicians understand that if they do not support the contributors’ interests, they will face a well-funded opponent and smear campaign against them next election. That is a pitiful excuse for democratic government.
Every election, there is shock and outrage at the abuse of money in politics. Yet, every attempt to curb corruption falls unabashedly short. For every regulation, there are a dozen ways around it.
The time is now for 100 percent publicly funded campaigns. This will cost less than $25 a year for each taxpayer. We cannot afford not to. Let us not sell our government to the highest bidder.
Thomas M. Fortuna, Sr.