I truly believe that political contribution caps are a complete sham. To begin with, campaigns and contributors always find a way around them anyway (and I think people should be allowed to personally contribute to anyone they wish in any amount they desire as a form of protected political free speech). More to the point, however, contribution caps are a band-aid that cloaks voter apathy.
Many who tout the caps think they will “level the playing field” (often in favor of their own political party or candidate) and stop the “corrupting influence of money”. They fail to understand that our system is already a level playing field: the only way to win an election is by receiving the greatest number of votes. There is no elected office in this country that can only be filled through a certain bank rating. Ultimate power remains in the hands of voters.
Political campaigns will spend gobs of money on cute fliers with little or no specifics. Contribution cap proponents point to this as the cause of the problem. They believe that campaigns go crazy looking for money to fund their marketing efforts. While it is true that campaigns do go overboard on fund raising for obnoxious amounts of advertising, it is hardly the cause of the problem they wish to address. The real cause is the voters.
Do you honestly think campaigns would spend so much if it did not work? Just like business, they are meeting a demand. That demand is that we should be able to hardly lift a finger to perform a vital duty as citizens of this great land. Thus, we demand campaigns come to us and give us quick sound bites and a plethora of pretty colored flyers and gag-inducing knickknacks. That demand is the problem and, especially with the advent of the internet, there is no excuse for it.
If voters were engaged as the Founding Fathers intended, it would only take a quick trip to the internet to peruse a candidate’s website and determine their positions on the various issues you may be concerned about. Additionally, there are a plethora of organizations with their various assessments and ratings you may browse. It is easy and hardly time consuming to slap together an email with your questions for candidates which either they or, in the case of larger campaigns, their staffers can answer. In local campaigns, you can also call the candidate and have a direct question-answer conversation with them.
For those willing to make the effort to become informed, prepare open-ended questions and do not give your position away (you may also want to phrase the question to appear to come from the opposite view of your own). That helps weed out candidates who pander. Be polite and keep in mind that those you speak with are regular people too. Each time I have personally called a candidate they are pleasantly surprised and happy to answer my questions.
After noticing how excited candidates became when I called, I started asking how many other calls they had received. Unfortunately, they could count the calls on one hand. Therein lies the true cause of our “money in politics” problem. Contrary to the expectation of the Founding Fathers and religious guides, complacency reigns supreme. This complacency is what has provided the opening for the “corrupting influence of money” in politics.
So the next time someone bemoans money in politics, tell them the culprit and most effective solution is easy to identify…in the mirror.