Big Money Wins the Midterms
In today’s political environment – where wealthy and well-connected special interests spend billions of dollars on elections and wield considerable influence in Washington – it’s no wonder why Marylanders and others across the nation are fed up with government and turning away from the polls.
And who can blame folks for their cynicism? It’s a perfectly rational reaction to the influence of big money on elections and on the governing machinery in Washington.
As you may know, the 2014 election set two disturbing records: more than $4 billion spent and the lowest turnout since the midterm elections of 1942. While there’s no definitive proof of a causal relationship between these two trends, it’s worth exploring.
For the average citizen, the most important motivation for casting a vote is the belief that, when your candidate arrives in Washington, he or she will govern in a way that represents your interest.
Unfortunately, Big Money is making a mockery of that motivation. Because deep-pocketed special interests are funding these campaigns, they are the ones calling the shots in Washington, and your interest – the public interest – gets left behind.
Still, there is reason for hope.
Most people who run for public office do so out of a sincere desire to help others and to make a difference in their community. Many are deeply frustrated by the outsized role of money in politics and long to restore Congress’ credibility with the public. It’s time for lawmakers to consider reforms that address the influence of big money and give everyday citizens a real voice in their government.
One path – putting limits on campaign expenditures – has been effectively blocked by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United and the difficult challenge of passing a constitutional amendment to repeal that decision. But there is another way to address big money’s influence: set up a competing small-donor system focused on everyday citizens.
For example, a tax credit for small-donor political contributions would give more Americans the means to participate in the funding of campaigns. Boost those donations with matching funds, and candidates will begin to search out small donors instead of going to the PACs and the big-money crowd.
Imagine a Congressman standing in your living room listening to your voice because you have the power to fund his or her campaign. That’s the promise of a small-donor matching system. And that’s also why I’ve introduced H.R. 20, the Government By the People Act – to empower everyday citizens and amplify their voices in Congress.
Big money might have won this election, but there’s still hope that we can take back our democracy. It won’t be without a fight.
To learn more about what you can do to fight big money in politics, visit: http://ofby.us/citizen-cosponsor/.
Congressman John P. Sarbanes
Maryland's Third Congressional District