Change is the inevitable pledge of virtually every presidential candidate – unless of course you’re the incumbent. And yet without fail, the excitement of every election cycle brings with it the inescapable reminder that with these often unattainable, or flat-out ludicrous, promises, comes disappointment. The biggest of these unavoidable letdowns is that, despite politicians’ lip-service to being the candidate of “change” and irreproachable character, they all partake in the embarrassing practice of exploiting the massive loophole that purports to be campaign finance – a.k.a. soft money.
The quick definition of soft money is unregulated monetary contributions – which makes soft money so appealing. No pesky contribution limits, no reporting to federal agencies, no having to be tied to what message this soft money attempts to peddle.
This country has attempted campaign finance reform before. But these attempts always end up half-baked, under-supported and ultimately virtually ineffectual. The so-called McCain-Feingold act was congress’ best attempt to plug the hole allowing the never-ending stream of soft money into political campaigns. Instead of successfully corking the bottle and stopping the flow, all it did was force pressure to build up until the system began to burst at the seams. What we’re experiencing now is that explosion.
I’m referring to the McCain-Feingold’s attempt to address the tiny bother that is “issue advocacy” ads – often taking the form of attack ads. While this regulation managed to stay in effect for almost a decade, two years ago,
the great and powerful Oz the Supreme Court decided, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that they really enjoyed smear campaigns the First Amendment prohibits government from placing limits on independent spending for political purposes by corporations or unions. This makes total sense because handing extremely rich and expansively powerful yet oddly faceless corporations a megaphone through which it can spew unchecked, misleading and dangerous propaganda is exactly what the framers intended when they were writing the constitution. Yeah, they also totally just forgot to explicitly throw in that money equals speech and corporations are people. (I’ve always felt rich people should speak more than anyone else, anyway.)
This is all a rather roundabout way of saying that money in politics is bad! If you don’t believe me, just wait until your State’s Republican primary, and the accompanying circus, rolls into town (if it makes it that far) and begins bombarding you with ad blitzes filled with ominous voices, out of context quotes, spurious statistics and black and white b-roll that seems like it was taken off a used video cassette. Then you can see first hand what unchecked money in politics can do to skew the truth and, likely, the election.