Campaign funding harms the integrity of U.S. democracy

Ben Goldstein, Staff Writer

As President Donald Trump has appointed numerous large-scale campaign donors to prominent positions in government, scores of Americans are asking themselves whether unlimited private campaign financing should be allowed in elections. New York Jets Owner Woodie Johnson as Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Chicago Cubs owner Todd Ricketts as Republican National Committee Finance Chairman, and Christian philanthropist Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education have contributed six or seven-figure sums to Republican campaign fundraising organizations. Nevertheless, as campaign donors have the potential to un-democratically shift public policy towards their personal interests, limits must be set on private campaign financing.

One major concern that many Americans have about private campaign financing is the ability of significant donors to dictate specific areas of policy.  After coal magnate Robert E. Murray donated $300,000 to the Donald Trump Inauguration with clearly political intentions, the Trump administration responded by eliminating regulations on coal-fired power plants, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreements, and cutting funding for alternative energy development following a suggested energy plan given to President Trump by Murray himself.

Pro-Israel advocate and casino owner Sheldon Adelson saw his multimillion-dollar donation pay off as well, as President Trump readily accepted Adelson’s plans in moving the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.  This financial lobbying often has serious repercussions for Americans.

For instance, after receiving millions of dollars of direct and indirect political contributions from the milk industry, President Richard Nixon’s counsel John Ehrlichman chuckled and remarked, “We better go get ourselves a glass of milk. Drink it while it’s still cheap.”

Many Americans fear that the failure to limit campaign funding gives powerful companies too much control over the outcome of elections.

“By allowing corporations to play this large of a role in our elections, the fairness of the democratic system is exploited,” commented freshman Nathaniel Kimball.


Furthermore, numerous United States citizens feel that their political influence is diminished by the influence of donors. According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, over 70% of Americans believe that people who donate large sums of money to elected officials have more political influence than those who do not, while fewer than half of non-donors said that they believed that ordinary citizens can influence government if they are willing to make the effort.

“Citizens and corporations with money will disproportionately influence politicians and policy, “ stated senior Danie DiRuggiero.

Campaign donors are 42% more likely to be a millionaire, 28% more likely to be white, and 13% more likely to be male than the average American.  This leads large swaths of the population to feel that the overwhelming bias of donors contradicts the political influence of minority, female, and economically-struggling Americans.

“Private campaign financing results in corruption, because super-rich donors finance candidates that support their values,” said junior Joshua Gitman.

Those who oppose limits on campaign funding often allude to First Amendment protections of free speech. In discussing Super PACs and indirect political funding mechanisms, junior Benjamin Aranoff said, “I think that if you aren’t directly funding the candidate, then [private donations] have to be allowed. Limiting spending on something not directly involved with the candidate is limiting free speech.”

Supporters of unlimited donation believe that, in restricting campaign donation, the United States is suppressing political expression in an un-democratic manner.

This view was upheld in the 2014 Supreme Court Case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, although Justices Breyer and Ginsburg said that “This decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve” in their dissent.

Major private campaign donations have repeatedly provided wealthy donors with a means of obtaining the President’s ear in a corrupt bargain that drowns out the political influence of underrepresented Americans while prioritizing corporate motives at the expense of consumers. For this reason, it is in the best interests of the American people to encourage limitations on private campaign financing.

As a nation, we will not truly achieve liberty and justice for all if the voices of the masses are suppressed by the wallets of the few wealthy enough to financially support a presidential campaign.