Corporate Money in politics – 2010 statistics

Even though I support the Occupy movement and agree with Robert Reich’s video (promoted by MoveOn.org):

I think we all need a reality check on how “unlimited” this corporate money is in politics. After you educate yourself, you’ll realize that it doesn’t take much wealth from the bottom 99% to match the total amount of corporate wealth being poured into politics each year.

Total Corporate Contributions

Source: followthemoney.org

Corporate influence by sector, for every candidate

This PULSE interactive tool from from followthemoney.org really breaks down every politician in the USA and in which corporations are currently lining their pockets:

So the above plot (for North Carolina, 2008), local candidates won office with as little as $5000 raised. The most spent (Senator Marc Basnight) was $1,6 million. And there’s a DEM who raised $750,000 and still lost.

When mouse over each dot, it displays the candidate’s name, how much they raised, and from where:

So this democrat got over 20% of his total contributions from the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate industry. Unless you are a total idiot, you can easily tell this senator will not be supporting any tough economic reform bills on the home mortgage industry or reforming healthcare to redirect the cash flow away from insurance companies which drain the US economy of 16% of GDP each year. (One in every 7 dollars in the economy isn’t a real “product” – it’s just money directed to insurance companies).

These are the old school style of donations directly to candidates. I am still looking for SuperPac totals to date, but haven’t found them. Here is the best estimate I could find:

SuperPac fundraising totals

Citizen Inaction

Here is the context that has been missing. Corporations never “took away” our voice; we the citizens were not using that voice to begin with.

  • No Public support for public financing: The percentage of tax payers checking the box to give $3 to federal campaign funding has steadily decreased since 1960. In 2006 only 8 percent checked to give $3.
  • The citizen campaign contribution limit is $2500 per candidate per election. It would only take 3,000,000 (3 million) people giving $1000 to match all the corporate money ($3 billion) in the 2010 election. That is 1% of the people in the USA, or 2.7% of all households.

These two facts point to a national “do-nothing” psyche in America. We won’t give $3 to the pot, but complain when others are willing to give money to their candidates. We should be grooming and financing our own candidates more – the numbers show that it doesn’t take that much money to win.

Question to ask yourself: How much of your money would you give up in order to remove corporate donations from politics for good? $3? $30? $300? per year? The economics would enable this without changing any laws, if we bid high enough to support public financing.

  • Voter turnout: Has ranged from 40% to 55% and is the lowest in democratically governed world.
  • Only 38% of high school dropouts vote, compared with 84% of post-grad and 66% of those who have ever attended any college.

Not only are most people unwilling to actively support a candidate, they won’t even vote. People who complain that both candidates are wrong have not done anything to put forward better candidates.

Summary

Instead of complaining that there is too much money in politics, it’s time to flip that and say there are too few people in politics. We put forward too few candidates, mobilize too few voters, have the least educated voting public, and the result is the same results year after year. If the Occupy Movement wants to have a lasting impact, they need to tackle each of these areas as well:

  • Educating high school drop outs on their rights and obligations as citizens.
  • Convincing “real people” to run for local and state elections, where party politics do not dominate.
  • Getting more first time voters to vote, regardless of how awful the candidates are. There’s nothing wrong with “wasting your vote on a 3rd candidate” if you really wanted to protest the mainstream. In fact, that would scare the heck out of the main parties if the idea went viral.
  • Setting up socially conscious investment funds that donate 5% of all profits towards a neutral “third party candidates” matching fund modeled on the public financing system. The problem with public financing isn’t the concept, it’s the volume of the match. The public could easily augment the system, thereby achieving the goal of getting Candidates to opt out of the corporate financing game.
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