At the outset of an election cycle expected to attract unprecedented levels of outside spending from ultra-rich donors like the Koch brothers, a new poll finds that the American people, in fact, oppose the unlimited flow of dollars into politics, do not think money equals speech, and want to restrict the power of the one percent to buy ballot outcomes.
Released Tuesday by The New York Times and CBS, the findings "reveal deep support among Republicans and Democrats alike for new measures to restrict the influence of wealthy givers, including limiting the amount of money that can be spent by 'super PACs' and forcing more public disclosure on organizations now permitted to intervene in elections without disclosing the names of their donors," the Times summarizes.
A stunning 84 percent of respondents said that money has "too much influence" in American political campaigns today.
Furthermore, 85 percent of respondents said that victorious candidates either sometimes or most of the time "directly help the people and groups who donated money to their campaigns."
Interestingly, the majority of respondents—58 percent—think that both the Democratic and Republican parties benefit equally from "money in political campaigns."
From across the political spectrum, people in the U.S. are calling for change with "near unanimity," the study finds.
"There is strong support across party lines for limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns, limiting the amount of money groups not affiliated with candidates can spend, and requiring unaffiliated groups to publicly disclose their donors if they spend money during a political campaign," states a summary of the survey's findings.
The findings come at a time of record inequality between the ultra-rich and the poor and working classes in the United States. A recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds that the richest 10 percent of U.S. households own 76 percent of the country's entire wealth.
A report released Tuesday by Reuters finds that, as a result, there are signs of growing awareness—and resentment—of the ability of billionaires to buy elections.
"Whether these are the beginning of a new trend is far too soon to say, but polls show there is wider discontent about the perceived influence of big money in U.S. politics and a growing gulf between the country's very rich and very poor," the report states.
Major Media Networks and Politics
As the U.S. heads into the 2016 election cycle, where spending by candidates and outside groups is poised to approach $10 billion, groups dedicated to campaign finance reform are calling on broadcast media outlets to devote more coverage to America's broken election system.
"The stakes could not be higher," 18 campaign reform groups said in a letter sent Thursday to the heads of Fox News, CBS News, NBC News, ABC News, and PBS. "Now more than ever before Americans deserve to know about the need for campaign finance reform. We urge you, as the heads of the major broadcast news networks, to take greater action in the future to ensure that Sunday political talk shows and nightly news devote appropriate attention to campaign finance reform."
The organizations, which include Common Cause, Greenpeace, People For The American Way, and U.S. PIRG, say that a series of Supreme Court decisions relaxing campaign finance reform laws—especially Citizens United—have endangered both civic engagement and democracy.
However, the letter reads, "major outlets have largely failed to educate viewers about this crisis."
The groups cite specific examples where mainstream media fell short, such as:
- When Doug Hughes landed his gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn to draw attention to solutions that already exist to address the "corrosive influence of money in our political system," only one of the 17 segments devoted to Hughes and the gyrocopter landing provided substantial coverage to the message behind Hughes' protest.
- When a coalition of 50 campaign finance advocacy groups called on President Obama to sign an executive order that would require federal contractors to increase their campaign spending disclosures, broadcast evening news and Sunday shows did not cover the letter at all. Nor have they covered the 700,000 petition signatures or nearly 90 rallies that took place in 30 states urging the President to act.
- When the Federal Communications Commission board blocked congressional Democrats' proposal to strengthen political advertisement disclosures in advance of the 2016 election, broadcast evening news and Sunday shows did not cover the issue.
It remains to be seen how major networks will respond to such a call. After all, as The Intercept's Lee Fang pointed out last week, media companies are positioned to benefit from unlimited campaign spending. In 2012, Les Moonves, president and chief executive of CBS, memorably said, "Super PACs may be bad for America, but they’re very good for CBS."
Money and politics, it's how capitalism oils its wheels. Money is the life blood of capitalism. Everything is dependent on it and manipulated by its power. From birth to death it controls our options, our choices, our path through life and even the manner of our funeral. There is an alternative to this and it's apparent that more people in more areas of the world are desperately seeking a better way of organising our lives, our communities and our work situations in a fashion that affords us equity, inclusion and, dare I say it, democracy. That alternative is world socialism.