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The power of PACs

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While there seems to be more talk about the 2016 presidential election than the 2014 mid-term elections, make no mistake this year’s races are very important.

However, they are also going to be just a preview of how nasty the presidential race will be with Republicans, Democrats and those unnamed special interest groups slinging mud and avoiding the true issues we here in America are facing.

Why is avoiding the issues easy for today’s candidates? The answer is easy – money. The Supreme Court’s narrow decision to uphold Citizen’s United in 2010 allowed unnamed sources to purchase ads, donate money and buy candidates.

So much of a candidate’s time now is sponsoring fundraisers, buying votes and ignoring the needs of everyday Americans.  

In the Feb. 11 Op-ed posted on CNN, Ben and Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen and Communications Workers of America president Larry Cohen had some good points of how money has taken the “We the people” power out of election results.

“Many Americans are becoming convinced that their votes don’t count, that our political process is controlled by the biggest bankroll, and that money, not the public interest, sets policies and priorities in government,” Cohen said in the Op-ed. “Big money gives a big voice to the wealthy and corporations, at the expense of the rest of us. It threatens the democratic voice that is the foundation of our country. Freshman representatives in Congress are asked to spend nearly half their time raising money, many providing special interests can afford to pay $5,000 a plate for politicians’ fundraising breakfasts, or for such things as ski trips, pheasant hunts and luxury golf tournaments.”

Currently, individual donor contributions are capped at $123,000, which is more than double the median family income in America. Regular, hardworking American cannot compete with that, which means we essentially do not matter once a candidate starts looking at what they need to do to win.

While I don’t agree with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi often, I do agree with the reasoning for her and Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Maryland, to introduce H.R. 20, the Government by the People Act, which was officially introduced last week.

Super PACs took hold of this country, bought elections and even though Pelosi opponents will try to find every reason in the world to hate this bill, it is good for America.

According to recent reports filed with the Federal Election Commission last week, super PACs raised more than $140 million last year. That is $41 million more than what groups raised in 2011. There is something wrong when PACs are raising more than $40 million more in a non-presidential election year.

This is happening on both sides of the aisle. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, raised $12.5 million in 2013. That kind of money can sway a lot of politicians to look at the PAC’s cause to force more background checks for guns and improve gun legislation.

According to a Huffington Post report, billionaire investor Tom Steyer donated $11.1 million to PACs working to fight climate change.

These PACs are buying our politicians and what have we got for it so far? The current Congress is the least productive on record. They do not answer to the people, and PACs are only going to allow that continue.

HR 20 addresses a lot of the these issues by encouraging the participation in everyday Americans.

Key provisions in the bill include:

Provide a refundable $25 My Voice Tax Credit.

Establish Freedom from Influence Matching Funds to boost the power of small-dollar contributions.

Provide candidates with an opportunity to earn additional resources in the homestretch of a campaign so that the voices of the people are not drowned out by big money.

At the end of the day, we should remember this is  not a partisan issue facing our elections, it’s an American issue.

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