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Change election laws to limit the influence of big donors & dark money read more

Change election laws to limit the influence of big donors & dark money


Goals

  1. Limit the power of big donors and dark money
  2. Make government more responsive to the people it represents
  3. Increase civic participation among Californians

Background

The faith Americans have in their political system to work for them, has greatly diminished since the late twentieth century. The American political system seems to be working more and more against the American public; whether it's the lack of progress on issues important to Americans, the apparent kickbacks from lawmakers to big campaign donors, or the presence of corruption in government on all levels.

The Supreme Court decision of Citizens United has limited the ability of lawmakers to regulate elections and the amount of money spent on campaigns. As a result of that decision an unprecedented amount of money, about $7 billion dollars in the 2012 election cycle, has been spent on federal and state elections. The money being spent on these elections, however, is not from everyday individual Americans. Most of the money is coming from big donors and dark money, undisclosed sources of funds. This problem creates an inequality in representation that Americans have in government. The influence that moneyed interests seem to have in elections is unhealthy to a political system that was designed for "We the people."

Source:

$7 billion spent on 2012 campaign, FEC says

Opinion of Justice Stevens

The Problem

In California, big donors and dark money made their presence know during the 2012 election cycle. Money spent in the state totaled over $600 million dollars according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. A large amount of that money came from big donors and dark money sources, some not even from California.

One example of this was the $11 million dollars donated to Small Business Action Committee to spend on the ballot initiatives Proposition 30 and 32. This group received most of the money from an Arizona based non profit group, Americans for Responsible Leadership, who gave the money without disclosing its donors. That group in turn received the money from other out of state groups with the goal of trying to shield its big donors, who were attempting to influence the outcome on the two propositions.

An ongoing investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the Attorney General is identifying the sources of the money that was poured into the state. The California Fair Political Practices Commission has deemed it to be "the largest contribution ever disclosed as campaign money laundering in California history." The ability for big donors and dark money to spend large amounts of money in California can, in time, lessen the voice everyday individual Californians have in their elections.

Sources:

National Institute on Money in State Politics

Dark Money Donors Unmasked In California

California Fair Political Practices Commission

How do we move forward?

There are ideas on how to diminish the power that big donors and dark money are gaining across the state. A couple of these ideas include passing legislation to have more disclosure and transparency of campaign contributions. Another idea is trying to enact a constitutional amendment that reverses the Supreme Court decision of Citizens United. The first idea would only accomplish making the dark money less dark, by giving the names of big donors and where they spend money during elections. The latter idea involves a long process that needs to happen not only on the state level, but also on the federal level. Though it will be good to attempt these ideas, the problem remains. Average Californians do not have the same representation as big donors.

Source:

For Clean Campaigns: DISCLOSE Act—and Constitutional Amendment

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