The Sad Truth about Our Elections

Zachary Peltonen, Staff Writer

America’s election system is a joke. If Joe Schmo decided tomorrow that he wanted to up and run for the humble office of representative or senator, he could not. That is because in order to run for these offices, you need to pay a fee. And I am not talking about the kind of fee that you pay for delivery when you order a pizza; I am talking about a seven figure fee.

The truth of the matter is that in recent years, our democratic election process, by which we choose the people that will lead our country, has been flooded with cash; and, this cash has increasingly come from wealthy donors and corporate sponsors. This is in large part due to a 2010 court ruling Federal Election Commission vs. Citizens United. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that due to the First Amendment, the government could not prevent political spending by nonprofit corporations.

Now what did this do? This created the monstrosities that we know today as the Super PACs. These are nonprofit organizations that collect money from donors around the country and then use it to spend in elections on advertisements and such. Senator John McCain called this the “worst decision ever.”

Why is this the “worst decision ever?” Well, let us look at the numbers.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a government watchdog organization, the average winner in the 2010 House races spent $1,439,997. The average winning senator spent $9,782,702. Of these millions of dollars, a good chunk of it came from Super PACs. For House races on average the winner received $563,328 from PACs. For winning senators it was $1,973,177. This creates a situation where candidates make promises to these organizations about, say, what they will put on their agenda after they are elected, in exchange for donations.

This is wrong in so many ways. While yes, anybody can donate to the PACs, average people cannot match the spending power of someone like Sheldon Adelson who, according to Federal Election Commission data, spent 93 million dollars in the 2012 presidential election.

So, if you or I really wanted to run for the Senate or for the House or even for President, we would have to raise an insane amount of cash to do it. While money is needed to run a campaign and get a candidate’s message out, raising money should not be one of the most important roles a senator or candidate should have, for obvious reasons. By spending their time courting donors, holding fundraisers, and raising money, our elected leaders and campaign candidates are wasting time. They are wasting the time that they could be spending reading, say, about the history of the Israel-Palestinian relationship, or time talking to ordinary people, or time working with their colleagues in the House and Senate to solve the problems of our nation. All of this is wasted time, and the time is wasted on the taxpayer’s dime.

Even issues that particularly pertain to Marian Students, like student loan and tuition rate increases— $1,280.00 for the 2015–2016 year according to the Office of the President— get sidelined because there is too much influence from other groups or people that have more influence, like, say, Sheldon Adelson (93 million dollars!).

It should be obvious to any observer of the political debates in this country that Congress cannot agree on much of anything these days. Maybe if everybody spent more time talking to each other instead of trying to raise money for their next election, some things would get done in this country.

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