In a democracy, politicians are expected to represent each person equally, regardless of their financial status. The principle of “one-person, one-vote” means that no matter who we are, our rights to health care, education, housing, and other basic needs are equally important.
Money in politics complicates this system. When politicians receive large financial contributions from organizations, corporations, campaigns, or individuals, they are inclined to be more responsive to their needs. This puts the voices of everyday Americans at a disadvantage.
The involvement of money in our elections is a huge barrier for everyday Americans who run for public office but lack significant financial resources. Every person has the right to run for public office — but because of the role money plays in our elections, not everyone has an equal shot.
At LWV, we are committed to creating a more transparent and equitable small dollar funding system for elections, so all voters are valued no matter how much they can contribute to the candidate of their choice, making sure that candidates are elected based on their positions instead of their funds, and communities are empowered over organizations.
Because of Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission corporations can spend unlimited funds promoting individual candidates and political parties. As a result, elections are becoming increasingly expensive; the 2020 presidential election was the priciest to date, with costs estimated at over $10 billion and small donors (those who spend less than $200) accounting for a mere 22 percent of contributions.
This puts big-money donors at a major advantage, as politicians look to gain and keep their financial support by promoting policies that meet their needs. Further, Citizens United paved the way for the creation of super PACs: outside groups that can accept unlimited contributions from donors as long as they create their own independent advertisements and materials promoting certain candidates. For example, a super PAC can create a billion-dollar ad campaign promoting a candidate or issue, so long as they don’t give that money to the candidate themself.