Marquette Wire

VIEWPOINT: Campaign contributions cloud American democracy

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Last year, insurance companies gutted health care, banks walked off with a trillion dollars in bailouts and the oil, coal and nuclear lobbyists hijacked the clean energy jobs bill.

And that was before the Supreme Court repealed all limits on corporate political spending two months ago.

The good news is that something can be done to prevent a wholesale takeover of our democracy by big money. Want to help? Read on!

Everyone knows it costs millions of dollars to run for political office. The 2008 election cost more than $5 billion. And a seat in the U.S. Senate can cost upwards of $50 million.

Where does this money come from? Unfortunately, huge donations come from corporations like Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil and Wal-Mart, and our elected officials have become dependent on these millions.

Politically, young people are frustrated because politicians indebted to their big campaign funders are not listening to our concerns. We worry about the fact that tuition keeps rising, grants and loans for college cost more and are harder to get, our parents are struggling through the worst recession since the Great Depression and good jobs are harder and harder to find.

But no one seems to be listening.

And things just got worse. As President Obama said, “The Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics.

“It’s a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and other powerful interests that marshal its power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

But despite all this, we can change things. Democracy Matters at Marquette is fighting back and we need your help. Many members of Congress are finally realizing that something has to be done.

To get real change, we need bold action — a new system of funding campaigns that will allow ordinary Americans to run for office, make politicians accountable to voters, not funders, and restore faith in our political system.

We need a public funding option for candidates similar to the successful systems now working in Maine, Connecticut, Arizona and other states and cities.

Congress needs to adopt legislation now that will allow Congressional candidates to use a public option as well.

No matter what cause or issue you care about, you have a right to be heard. But today, corporations are using their money to speak so loudly that our voices are silenced.

We need to join together to declare that democracy is not about corporate political power, but about ordinary Americans — including young people.

Help us to change the way elections are funded and free our political system from the stranglehold of big money.

Claire Niemet is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences

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