The explosion of campaign cash influencing our political framework tends to provoke intemperate and unrestrained criticism from scores of individuals and organizations urging elected officials to reevaluate and overhaul critical elements of campaign finance laws.
California native John Cox may have found an infallible solution to politicians’ refusal to produce meaningful reform of campaign finance rules.
Cox, an entrepreneur, real estate developer and attorney from San Diego, has amassed $1 million and has scored over 350,000 signatures to promote a ballot initiative which would require California’s assembly members to wear the emblem of donors when in session.
“It’s meant to capture the imagination of California voters,” Cox told Al Jazeera. “To really understand what is going on in their state capital. This initiative hits home for Californians. There are better ways of maintaining the electoral structure. What you have is a bunch of people who want something from government, so what they do is fund and staff the campaigns of politicians.”
In addition to gathering signatures and a reserve of cash, Cox’s group has gallivanted around the state with full-size reproductions of all 120 members of the state assembly, adorned with the trademarks of each member’s top donors.
For officials sensitive to public scrutiny, shame is a formidable device.
Corporate influence apart, this prescription Cox offers is a major advancement to fairness but remains a meager treatment for the poisonous influence of dark money: SuperPACs and other outside groups spent close to seven-billion dollars in the 2012 election cycle; another four-billion was spent in 2014.
PACs have been diligent at their work: Since 1990, donations have soared from slightly over $300 million to an all-time high of $1.5 billion in 2008. Despite the fact a small amount of PAC money raised flowed into the coffers of individual office holders, the remainder was spent on advertisement campaigns designed to distort the truth and mislead the electorate.
Attempts to reform the system are risible: Referred to as campaign finance reform, lawmakers apply manipulated language to legislation which exonerates or hides the complicity of corporations and PACs from scrutiny, while the outside influences benefit from the exploitation of loopholes or vague language written into laws. It is not uncommon to bear witness to the rare, reform-minded legislation die prior to leaving committee or the issue be used as a diversion during an election cycle.
What was once a concept for an independent structure to inform the public, act as a safeguard, advocate for a group of individuals and set standards for membership, has grown into a well-organized but dangerous syndicalist society which has continued to strengthen its suffocating stranglehold on the legislative activity in states and in Washington, D.C.
With elected officials as donors’ willing co-conspirators, lawmakers are inclined to descend to great depths to accommodate PACs, lobbying groups and corporate interests: Lawmakers shield the activity of PAC and corporate cash; in return, corporate agents and PACs lavish their keepers with a lifestyle which would make the most decadent Roman emperor envious.
It is difficult to define which is more revolting: Politicians who betray the public trust and are swayed by the control donors exert or the equally corrupt enterprises on the exterior of government which engineer a disruption of democracy and shroud their activity.
Despite impassioned pleas from voters delivered through the voting booth for elected officials to remove obstacles from legislative undertakings and ensure lawmakers and laws work to the benefit of their constituents, the single-greatest obstacle lies not in procedural issues on the floor of either chamber, but with the hypnotic influence of campaign donations and their impact on our elected leaders.
[Al Jazeera] [opensecrets.org] [californiaisnotforsale.com] [Photo courtesy dcclothesline.com]