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Pay to Play – 2012 Presidential Election

I was under the impression that our country is facing a financial crisis.  Therefore, I find it hard to believe the staggering amounts of money that are being raised and spent by candidates in the 2012 Presidential election.  These staggering amounts of money are compiled from fundraising efforts, private donations and most significantly, the political action committees (PAC).  While there are limitations on private donations, these political action committees allow groups to form together in order to raise funds to support a candidate that will work for their interests.  In 2010, the Supreme Court unleashed these political action committees in their Citizens United decision, which permits large corporations to spend an unlimited amount in support of their candidate.  These big spenders are “not just involved with shaping dialogue…they get involved with shaping policy, which inevitably makes the good of the people secondary to the good of the deepest pockets” (CNNOpinion).  The Presidential candidates further capitalize on deep pockets through extravagant fundraisers that are not open to the average American.  This over emphasis on money and the candidates’ belief that this money can buy the election has warped our election process and threatened the power of the people.  In order to hear everyone’s vote, this political fundraising must be scaled back and candidates need to win the presidency based on their political ideas and not based on the deepness of their pockets.

Over the past four years, our country has been faced with massive financial woes, yet our political candidates are working frantically to raise unbelievable sums of money to support their campaigns.  As of March 31, 2012, President Obama, the Democratic candidate, has raised 147.4 million dollars and the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, has raised 87.5 million dollars (Reuters).  Between the two primary candidates, 234.9 million dollars is being tied up in our upcoming election.  When did it become necessary for a political candidate to need hundreds of millions of dollars in order to pursue a chance at the White House?  Over time, our country has bought into this “pay to play” mindset, which believes that the candidate with the most financial support will win the presidential election.  Thus, the candidates have become much more aggressive in their fundraising efforts, seeking out the power players with the deepest pockets.  In the beginning of May, President Obama teamed up with actor, George Clooney, and together they raised 15 million dollars in one night (CNN).  Could these millions of dollars not be better allocated to our country’s needs instead of being used as bidding money for the presidency?  With millions of dollars being spent on negative campaigning, this is a hard question to ask.

With such large sums of money in each candidate’s campaign funds, there are temptations to utilize these campaign funds to further the candidate’s own personal needs outside of their run for the presidency.  According to Huffington Post, Mitt Romney utilized over 12,000 campaign dollars to pay for a corporate jet to travel to San Diego to monitor his vacation home renovations (ABCNews).  Another example of misuse of campaign funds occurred in the 2008 Presidential election when John Edwards reportedly used campaign funds to hide his extra-marital affair (HuffPostPolitics).  The over-abundance of campaign funds has encouraged such examples of misuse.

In order to regain the power of the people, this excess in political fundraising must be curtailed and restrictions put in place.  Each candidate should stand on equal ground and campaign for the presidency with his mind and not his money.  The political parties and action committees must be curbed in order for each and every citizen to have the opportunity to witness a candidate’s true platform.  Voters do not need the negative influence that corrupts the campaign process.  “By leveling the economic playing field, our politicians have a chance to return to being representatives of the people, not just the ones who know the right people or make the right promises” (CNNOpinion).

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