Money in Politics: A Barrier to Civil Rights?
Thursday, October 15, 2015
DURHAM, N.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision opened the floodgates of political spending by allowing unlimited spending by outside political groups, or super PACS.
And today, experts are gathering in Durham to examine how money in politics is a civil rights issue.
Chris Kromm, executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies, says money from special interest groups is a serious threat to democracy because it drowns out the voice of ordinary voters.
"It helps influence which candidates have the most resources and are considered viable, what issues get talked about during campaigns, who lawmakers listen to once they're in office and all this fundamentally goes against the idea that all citizens should have an equal say in the democracy, you know – one person one vote," he points out.
Kromm adds that North Carolina is an increasingly diverse state, but he says research finds the majority of big political donors are white residents, which causes a large disconnect between voters and candidates.
Spending in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race last year was more than $100 million, making it the most expensive Congressional race in history.
A recent New York Times report found that just 158 families, or the corporations they represent, have accounted for about half of the money spent in the 2016 race so far, spending $250,000 each.
Kromm contends that kind of spending restricts who can run for office.
"That limits our choices to just those who can amass huge sums of money,” he stresses. “So the question is no longer whether or not you have a good platform, good ideas, can inspire voters, but it's more about the size of your wallet. "
Kromm says that North Carolina was once a leader in cleaner elections with a program implemented in 2004 that gave judicial candidates a public campaign grant for agreeing to strict spending and fundraising limits.
"It passed with bipartisan support,” he states. “Eighty percent of judges used it. And a lot of judges who ran said it was great because instead of dialing for dollars and trying to hustle up money during the campaign, they were talking to voters about what they cared about as judges. "
The program was nixed in 2013 as part of HB 589, a sweeping voting reform bill currently challenged in federal courts.
get more stories like this via email
This fall, additional free classes will be offered in Minnesota for people thinking about a career as a certified nursing assistant. It follows an …
Health and Wellness
Legislation signed into law this month by Gov. Charlie Baker is expected to bring updates long overdue to mental-health services in Massachusetts…
The Maine Department of Transportation is "going green," with plans to install solar arrays on three state-owned properties in Augusta. The …
Organizers behind a new Indigenous school in western South Dakota hope they can give young Native American students a more optimal learning environmen…
Numerous community advocates are calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to build a long-proposed subway station at 10th Avenue and 41st …
Relief may be on the way for many older Nevadans who need hearing aids but can't afford to pay $3,000 to $5,000 for a pair. The Food and Drug …
Workers in Michigan won major victories recently as a minimum-wage increase and employer paid sick time program were reinstated by court order…
Small-business owners and entrepreneurs in a handful of towns across the state have resources at their fingertips to help renovate and reuse historic …