The 2010 elections have been dominated by headlines about anonymous donors, special interest influence, and record-breaking campaign spending and fundraising. So it’s clear that the real winner in all of this was big money — and the undue influence that major donors and corporations will have on elected officials in Albany, in Washington, and throughout the country.
We need to fight back against the take-over of our democracy by wealthy corporate donors. We need to demand that our state representatives in Albany pass a small donor and public financing system similar to those that have been working for years in New York City and in states like Connecticut, Maine, Arizona and elsewhere.
With public financing systems, ordinary Americans can run and win campaigns without depending on big private donors. And when elected, they are accountable to the voters, not to wealthy private contributors.
While a lot of ink has been spilled about outside spending in this year’s elections, it is important to remember that the candidates themselves raised and spent campaign cash at record levels. Outside spending fueled this dramatic increase in fundraising by not only increasing the number of races in play but also forcing candidates to spend more time raising money to defend themselves instead of using their time to talk with and listen to voters.
The escalation of fundraising and spending will not let up until we change the system of financing campaigns. It is estimated that the 2012 election will cost over $7 billion – with funding again coming from rich private funders. We may not know the names of the secret donors who spend hundreds of millions to influence our elections, but we certainly know what they want – a return on their investment to benefit them, not the American people.
All this big spending means one thing: those that ponied up to candidates, party committees, or secret groups will get an exclusive seat at the table and everyone else will get the scraps.
But we can fight back. Millions of Americans are frustrated and angry about the corporate high-jacking of campaigns. Here in New York, we have a real chance to force the legislature to pass a new small donor/public financing system that would begin to put voters in the driver’s seat and create a government of, by, and for the people, not wealthy corporations. We have the people power to do it — by working together and never giving up!
By Joan Mandle on November 4th, 2010