It’s well known that a vast majority of our politicians, especially on the Republican side of the aisle, are deeply beholden to the checkbooks of their corporate donors and special-interest lobbyists. The rise of dark money in American politics following the Citizens United Supreme Court decision is the biggest threat to our democracy that our nation has ever seen, allowing money from special interest groups and lobbyists to flood the political system, turning Congress into a for-profit enterprise that puts the needs of wealthy shareholders above those of the people they ostensibly represent.
The situation is made much worse by the lack of transparency that surround these transactions and the inability of any regulatory agency to properly monitor it; the rise of Super PACs have allowed donors to hide their gifts and prevent the American people from fully understanding what is transpiring behind the scenes. However, a new California ballot measure has an ingenious proposal – if passed, their lawmakers would be required to wear the logos of their top ten political donors, similar to the jackets worn by racecar drivers.
California Isn’t For Sale, a campaign started by San Diego entrepreneur John Cox, is beginning to collect signatures for the measure on January 1st, 2016. While the idea may seem amusing at first, Cox is very determined to make it a reality: “This is a very serious initiative. This is not a joke. If you came down from Mars and you looked at our electoral system, you’d say to yourself, ‘How dumb is this?’ You’ve got a system under which people who want something from government fund the campaigns of the people who make the decisions. How stupid is that system?”
It just goes to show how bad the political finance situation has become; the Federal Elections Committee has all but given up on trying to police the super PACs and the incessant flood of dark money pouring into political pockets; the IRS has been crippled by Republican defunding and is similarly incapable of enforcing any regulations. Cox notes that all this”money comes from wealthy companies and special interests that curry favor with elected officials. It is totally legal according to the laws on the books, but they are able to wield incredible power in our State.” He’s absolutely right, and it’s far past time the people started taking measures into their own hands to keep the corruption of the oligarchs out of our politics.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.