Friday, August 09, 2013

Nothing In Common Anymore

There is a conspicuous and growing disconnect between the public and the elected officials who are supposed to be representing the citizenry. Nowhere are the representatives and the represented more disconnected than on the subject of money in politics.

Poll after poll shows a tripartisan consensus among members of the general public that money is playing far too great a role in our elections, is having a poisonous effect on governing, and needs to be reined in.

According to the latest Gallup Poll half of Americans now have reached the point of favoring banning campaign contributions altogether. Voters of every political stripe oppose the U.S. Supreme Court's ludicrous Citizens United decision allowing unlimited election spending by special interest groups and want the ruling overturned.

Even those who are best positioned to buy elections – namely America's top business leaders – are evidently getting tired of the political money game and have grown uncomfortable with elected officials being bought. Three-quarters of them regard political giving as "pay to play" and close to 90% believe the campaign finance system needs to be overhauled.

The political establishment, on the other hand, has a radically different view. The problem is not that there is too much money in politics, but rather not enough. Witness the bipartisan voice vote in Wisconsin's state Assembly in June to pass an amended elections bill doubling the limits on campaign contributions.

Not only do political insiders believe campaign donations should be even bigger, they also believe the money should be hard to see. Witness the lack of action – no votes, no committee consideration, not even a public hearing – in either house of Wisconsin's legislature on bipartisan legislation like Senate Bill 166 that improves disclosure by closing the notorious "magic words" loophole and thereby shining light on the dark money in elections.

Instead we have the assistant Senate majority leader introducing legislation that would gut Wisconsin’s campaign finance disclosure laws. Currently, the occupation and employer of any donor who gives more than $100 must be reported. Under this new legislation, disclosure of only the occupation of any donor giving more than $500 would be required.

There are 862,064 contributions from individuals in the Democracy Campaign’s searchable online database. Of those donations, 825,827 or 96% are $500 or less. Contributions of more than $500 total 36,237. If Grothman’s new proposal had been state law all along, our database would be 96% smaller and would show the occupation but not the employer of each of the donors who made those 36,237 contributions.

Put another way, if this bill had been law when we built our database, citizens would not have been able to see what that database enables them to see today, namely the economic interests of donors who gave more than $122.5 million to Wisconsin politicians since the mid-1990s.

It is neither healthy nor sustainable for voters to be thinking one way and their "representatives" thinking and acting another way. Some course corrections are sorely needed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Corrections" are needed but won't happen. People will want to continue on with entrenched habits (alterations to which MIGHT send a real message) whilst doing conspicuous, symbolic efforts that drain individuals, provide headlines, and yet, do Jack.
What if everyone at Bobfest, or even all the folks involved (directly or indirectly) with the Solidarity Singers LEFT FACEBOOK. Really left it, not just took some weekend hiatus, or didn't Like anything for 3 hours. But all-out left. And never went back.
Would the Solidarity Singers and Co. be willing to give up seeing endless doe-eyed tube-top-clad Selfie shots, and Angry Birds? Willing to stop hitting the Pavlovian Like button in response every cyber-fart bit of stimuli that comes along, believing that is SELF EXPRESSION??!?
A social network is a house of cards, supported each by the other. We have only to think of MySpace to know what happens when the locusts decide to chew elsewhere. The folks who sing their hearts out and then go put up their achin' feet to relax on Facebook, it's just...insane.
As it is, Zuckerberg is taking YOUR MONEY and funneling it to Paul Ryan. And taking YOUR LIFE and funneling it to the NSA. It's such a joke - all the earnest Liberals using Facebook to "make a difference". Sit in a chair for 5 minutes and meditate on how astronomically deluded that is. Lemmings rushing blindly to the almighty Algorithm.
People won't change, they just want to occupy themselves with FEELINGS of Change. And if possible, a few people can make a buck off the frustration of the voiceless.
And hey, be sure to LIKE this rant on my Facebook page. That'll show 'em.