Money in Politics A-Z



A is for Access. What's one thing that money in politics can buy? ACCESS. When a corporation donates heaps of money to a candidate or political party, it buys them access to that representative. Or in other words, they get a bigger piece of the dialogue pie. 




B is for Black Lives Matter. History proves that our government, at state and federal levels, is slow to respond to the concerns of black, indigenous, and people of color. One of the many reasons that contribute to systemic racism is big money in politics. On one hand, our government will listen to the political interests of the wealthy, further aggravating centuries of inequality which leads to political inequality. On the other hand, private prisons donate to political candidates, parties, and outside spending groups to secure their interests. The industrial prison complex has exploded since the 1970s and disproportionately affects people of color, especially black men.

In many states, strict voter ID laws and felony disenfranchisement laws affect millions of potential voters. Approximately 5.85 million Americans with felony (and in several states misdemeanor) convictions cannot vote. The Black Lives Matter movement calls for a solution and end to the systemic racism that allows a culture of corruption to go unchecked and black lives to be taken. #BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, and the demands have still not been met. Specifically, the top demand in 2020 is to defund the police. It comes as no surprise that BIPOC are less likely to be donors when our government and politicians continue to ignore our marginalized communities.



C is for Clean Elections. We have two upcoming elections left in 2020. Currently, candidates are running using Clean Election funds, which encourage citizens from all walks of life to run for office and to participate in the electoral process at all levels. Find out if your candidate is running clean by checking here




D is for Disclosure. Why is it so important for candidates to disclose how and what campaign funds they receive? It's important for candidates to report these funds, to be transparent. Funds coming from dark money and PACs might remain invisible to the voter and represent only the interests of wealthy corporations. Disclosure benefits everyone, but more importantly, the information is there and available for the journalists who are writing about elections. These writers report on where the money is coming from, which benefits the public when they read about it in their local newspaper and perhaps didn't know how to find the information. Click here to follow the money in Maine elections.



E is for Elections. Leading up to any election, we always see an increase of ads, often negative, on television, Youtube, our Facebook feeds, newspapers, and radio. The time crunch before election day is a wild spree of spending money to sway voters. In many countries there's a blackout on campaign news before or during the voting period. The idea is that voters have a brief silence from all the media "noise" to think about their candidate(s) choice. So which approach do you think is better? A bombardment of ads or a blackout period right before an election?



F is for Foreign Contributions. Corporations based outside of Maine or even outside the United States sometimes have strong interests in Maine law and regulations. Lawmakers frequently consider bills relating to pharmaceuticals, finance, and consumer products originating in other countries. Yet while foreign corporations are prohibited from contributing to candidates, they are allowed to make contributions to initiative campaigns and issue-oriented organizations. Spending relating to Hydro-Quebec and the power corridor controversy has brought this issue to the attention of media and policymakers. Maine could ban this practice as the LWV recently testified. At least 11 other states already have laws banning foreign contributions in initiative campaigns, according to a legislator active in this issue.


G is for Graft. Graft is one of the most egregious forms of corruption, i.e. using public office for private gain. One timely example is when four senators sold their stocks in January 2020 after a briefing in the Senate, when it became clear that the coronavirus outbreak could significantly effect our economy. They unloaded their shares, which decreased in value a month later, and the stock market crashed due to the global pandemic.

President Trump has the luxury of staying at his own properties without having to divest from ownership. Additionally, the Trump company charges the people who accompany him, like the Secret Service, to stay in his hotels while traveling. While laws are in place to prevent obvious graft, many more subtle examples go unreported or under-enforced.


H is for Healthcare. Most Americans will probably agree: we spend a lot of money on healthcare. Over $3.4 trillion dollars to be exact. And when it comes to money in Washington, the healthcare industry is the biggest spender of lobbying dollars. After the Citizens United decision, when the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not limit corporate spending for advocacy advertising during elections, public health advocates were alarmed that this would cause conflicts between public health policies and corporate interests. Hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry lead the way in spending, totaling about $400 million in 2019 alone. This can be troubling when healthcare giants fight for corporate interests and profit over the health of Americans. 



I is for Independent Expenditure. According to the Federal Election Commission, almost anyone can make an independent expenditure for or against a candidate. That includes individuals, groups, corporations, labor organizations and political committees. Independent expenditures are not contributions and are not subject to limits. What does an independent expenditure look like? As an example, a Super PAC, instead of donating money to a political candidate, could spend a ton of their own money on an independently produced ad that promotes their preferred candidate -- or attacks their opponent.