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What the news media won’t tell you: Money drives elections in the US

January 7, 2012

We are just a few days past Super Tuesday and already the news media is spending a great deal of time talking about how GOP candidates are jockeying for position.

We see regular stories of polling, what candidates need to do to make a better show or keep up the momentum in the coming weeks. We have seen stories about GOP candidates dropping out of the race and when they will come to Michigan.

MLive has a section on their main page that provides some in house stories and a lot of Associated Press coverage of the GOP race and the Obama administration. WZZM 13 has a main banner on their homepage listed as Election 2012, but the link takes you to a site hosted by channel 13’s parent company’s flagship paper, USA Today. The local TV ratings leader WOOD TV 8 has an election button featured on their main page entitled On Politix and they do tend to run more stories about elections, such as a story “explaining” the Michigan primary. That section also features channel 8’s Sunday morning political talk show, To the Point, where former aid to Pete Hoekstra, Rick Albin, lofts softballs at politicians from the two-party system.

What you don’t see much in West Michigan news coverage, besides the occasional barebones numbers, is much coverage about campaign financing. What some political analysts refer to as the Mother’s Milk of Elections, campaign financing is what really drives the election bus, especially at the federal and state level.

For instance, there was a great deal of coverage about how close the GOP race was in Iowa in the mainstream commercial media, but virtually no one bothered to discuss which candidates were raising the most money, from whom and how that was determining the GOP primary race.

The Center for Media and Democracy ran such a story a few days ago, which focused on the real winner as being the Super PACs. The article puts in perspective the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United and how that has put private money and corporate power in the driving seat for most elections.

However, try to find good investigative stories from the mainstream commercial press on who is giving money to which candidates and how that impacts the electoral process. If the commercial media was paying attention at all to one of the major critiques of the Occupy Movement they would be aware that corporate influence of elections and the US political system is what motivates many across the country who have no faith in the political process.

It is not common knowledge that Mitt Romney has raised nearly twice as much as any of the other GOP candidates, raising over $32 million. Even less known are the sources of his campaign contributions. According to the most recent data on OpenSecrets, Romney is receiving the bulk of his money from Wall Street banks and other financial institutions.

On the Democratic Party side, the Obama campaign is way ahead of all the GOP contenders, having raised over $86 million at this point. Most of the main contributors to the Obama re-election campaign are also from Wall Street and corporate America, with media behemoths Microsoft and Comcast at the top.

The consistency of this data should tell us something about how the electoral system works in the US. Goldman Sachs has contributed thousands of dollars so far to both Romney and Obama, because they want to hedge their bets in such a way that they can have access to either party to influence policy. Since 1990, Goldman Sachs has contributed over $36 million to political candidates, with Democrats receiving $21 million and Republicans $14 million. Add to that the millions Goldman Sachs spends annually to Lobby Congress and you see how money is the Mother’s Milk of electoral politics in the US.

The 7th grade civics lesson we were all given about one person, one vote seems a bit off the mark once we are willing to take a look at how politics really works. To not see this means we are either naïve or just plain stupid. Again, we have the commercial news media to thanks for much of this, since they make it a point to not investigate how money drives politics.

Therefore, we need to do our own homework when it comes to such issues. We need to do the work to uncover the corruption, which is inherent in the US political system. We need to visit OpenSecrets to find out how money is driving the 2012 Elections. We need to look at who is giving to Presidential candidates, Senate and Congressional Candidates. We need to know that Senator Debbie Stabenow has raised 7 times the amount of money than her closest GOP challenger Pete Hoekstra. We need to know who is contributing to 3rd Congressional Representative Justin Amash.

We also need to use resources like Consider the Source, a service of the Center for Public Integrity and Factcheck.org. People should consider attending an event on January 12, hosted by Occupy Grand Rapids entitled, Ending Corporate Control of Government.

Even more importantly, we all should consider that the political system we have in the US is not only corrupt it is extremely limiting and primarily serves the 1%. We need to create systems and structures that promote real democracy, grassroots democracy and participatory democracy. The so-called representative democracy we have now doesn’t serve the needs and the interests of most people or the rest of the planet. It’s time we built something new.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Paul Disanto permalink
    February 19, 2012 4:53 pm

    Goverment is corrupt both Parties Power To The People let the Citizens decide not the Big Corporations

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