The New York Times reported Sunday that a mere 158 families have contributed over half the donations to the 2016 presidential campaign thus far. With money coming in through super PACs and backdoor individual contributions, keeping track of contributions has become nearly impossible.
In Iowa, it’s inevitable to feel the weight of those contributions bearing down as 2015 winds down and the caucuses near. Every day we have a presidential candidate or 15 visiting the state to push his or her campaign strategy to the forefront.
With that candidate comes the monetary backing of the nation’s elite. In the report from the Times, those 158 families – along with the companies they own or control – contributed $176 million to the campaign thus far. The 2016 election is projected to see over $5 billion in total.
With this strong of an influence coming from these few people, what are we as voters supposed to expect from a candidate and campaign? Is it reasonable anymore to have a part in an election, or are we sitting on the sidelines watching as our country is ruled by the extreme minority of its citizens?
The special interests of the individuals, PACs and companies vary from energy interests to gun rights to tax reform. No issue is immune to big money; climate change, Title IX, Common Core, and more are represented in some way by big money in American politics.
More super PACs have been formed since the decision of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, bringing more players with more money into the political conversation. With the sheer number of these committees involved, it would seem as if many Americans were taking part in the campaign funding process. But 158 families out of an estimated 120 million would prove otherwise.
For Iowans, there is little to hope for in terms of political clarity since we sit at the starting line for caucus season. As the first of the nation’s caucuses, Iowa is critical to any politician’s campaign if he or she has any hope of making it to the White House. With that comes the inevitability of big money following candidates to our state.
Not everyone chooses to sit passively by and get flooded by political output. The organization Iowa Pays The Price aims to combat campaign finance issues in the state. The hope is to lift the veil from Iowans’ eyes and tell candidates what many Iowans want; less money in politics and more accountability for candidates’ finances. If they can achieve that mission, maybe Iowans would see a different state during election season.