Perhaps your jaw drops when you hear the staggering amount of money the Coca-Cola Company spent on one 60-second Super Bowl ad — roughly $9 million.
Now multiply that number by 100, and you’ll get the approximate amount of money the Koch brothers plan to spend during the 2016 election.
At an invite-only meeting held last week for billionaire conservative donors, oil tycoons Charles and David Koch announced that they will spend $889 million to back republican candidates in 2016.
Less than a month before the Koch brothers’ announcement, Mitt Romney decided that he would not be launching another campaign for the presidency — a decision that came just after mega donor William Oberndorf emailed a group of republicans explaining that he wouldn’t back a third Romney run.
It’s no secret; there’s a lot of money in American politics, more now than at any other time in history. And it’s not just wealthy individuals making large political contributions; it’s businesses, too. In the late nineteenth century, U.S. courts acknowledged that a business is simply a collection of individuals and therefore established a concept known as corporate personhood, which extended some constitutional rights — otherwise granted only to individual people — to businesses. Originally intended to protect individuals while they performed corporate jobs from lawsuits, corporate personhood not only allowed businesses to sue, but also allowed others to sue businesses as opposed to business owners.
In recent years, the treating of corporations as people has gone too far. In 2010, the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United held that corporations have First Amendment rights, allowing these institutions to give unconstrained sums of money to political campaigns.
Though an argument for stricter campaign finance laws is not a particularly novel call to action, it’s an important one that remains relevant, especially as we approach the 2016 election season.
Simply put, the nation’s wealthiest have the biggest political influence. While everyone has the right to speak freely and voice an opinion, the donations of the super rich inflate the value of their speech while diluting the value of the common man’s speech. This phenomenon puts the very values that this country was founded upon at risk — it severely compromises the health of our democracy, taking the power from the people and placing it squarely into the hands of rich people and thriving corporations.
It’s not as though the super elite are selflessly donating their money to politicians. Instead, they expect a return on what they consider an investment.
Some argue that the political investments the Koch brothers made during the 2014 midterm election have already paid off. In response to the newly conservative Senate’s approval of a Keystone pipeline project, New Republic Magazine wrote, “Just one month into the new Congress, and already the Kochs’ fossil fuel interests — which include oil pipelines and refineries — have neatly aligned with Republican priorities.”
As we question current campaign finances, we encourage our readers to ask themselves the following questions: when was the last time you sent an email that scared a politician out of a race? When have you been able to push a personal agenda through congress?
The time is now to place limits on monetary campaign contributions because it’s not right that a handful of billionaires can pay for a substantial voice in government, while the rest of us can only cast a single vote.