In case you’ve completely detached from the cultural zeitgeist these past few months, at long last, states across the nation are about to hold midterm elections this Tuesday, November 6. Early voting has already commenced, as mail-in ballots are being counted and polling places are preparing for an election that has become nationalized as a midterm report on the Trump administration thus far.
What’s up for grabs this Tuesday? There are a slurry of swing congressional seats, senate spots, governorships, and statewide ballot measures that American voters must consider. However, amidst the punditry that we’ve been hearing for months on end regarding predictions, candidate performances, and policy issue platforms, there is one aspect that often does not garner nearly enough attention given the severity of its influence in influencing our electoral process: campaign contributions made in large part by corporate PACs and wealthy donors.
Democratic candidates across the country are shattering records as they head towards a hopeful blue wave, flipping swing districts in a fight to take back the House of Representatives from Republican control. Many of these candidates have pledged to reject campaign donations from corporate PACs, or political action committees created exclusively for fundraising money to donate to campaigns or spend on behalf of them, and in turn rejecting the corporate interests that come along with the donations.
Corporate PACs are not to be confused with super PACs, which serve as separate independent expenditure committees that may raise and spend an unlimited amount of money for or against political candidates without giving money directly to campaigns. Corporate PACs typically involve members of a company collecting funds for a candidate, therefore rejecting these funds signifies a rejection of personal investments from the business class. From New York’s congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to California’s Senator Kamala Harris, nearly 200 Democrats have promised to place the interests of communities and constituents before corporate interests.
While this trend reflects a growing progressive shift in the way we view the influence of big money in politics, this is but a single step towards equalizing the playing field and pushing for major federal campaign finance reform. The unrestricted influx of dark money flowing into campaign politics is inherently dangerous and threatening to our values of equality, fairness, and transparency. The concept of “one person, one vote” fades into the abyss as a small group of wealthy elites are ultimately granted major influence in policy decisions that seriously affect us all.
There are factions who argue that campaign contributions are an exercise of free speech, protected by the First Amendment, and just another function of our democracy where those who have the wealth can do with it whatever they’d like. The toxicity and volatility of this ideology cannot be emphasized enough. The same corporate donors in the vein of the Koch brothers and company wishing to influence policy outcomes in America made their money off the backs of exploited labor, poor working conditions, and historical discrimination towards marginalized communities.
If the Democratic party platform truly wishes to emphasize social justice, then the party must also commit to securing economic justice as the two go hand in hand, both extremely vital in ensuring the sanctity of the other. The amount of Democrats we’ve seen speak out against the acceptance of corporate PAC money is wonderful but it is not enough, and time is a precious resource that we are drastically running low on.
Unrestricted campaign contributions should not be considered free speech when it is done at the expense of the communities that have suffered immensely as a result of unbridled corporate mistreatment and exploitation. Doing so only contributes to a growing disparity between the class of interests that are being represented at the highest levels of government. That cannot be a standard of democracy that we soon come to normalize in this nation. At what point do we break away from the wheel of oppressive political hegemony and institutionalized class inequities?