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Pay to Play – 2012 Presidential Election

May 21, 2012 Leave a comment

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).

Young Adults Rock the VOTE

April 25, 2012 4 comments

Over the past trimester in Government class, there has been a strong emphasis placed on the importance of voting.  In particular, we have discussed the value of getting young adults excited about the upcoming election because a strong, young voter turnout can make or break a candidate’s run for the presidency.  In 2008, a record-breaking 52% of Americans (ages 18-29) participated in the presidential election (Knight Foundation).  President Obama targeted young voters by creating music videos, campaign commercials, and campaign advertisements that included popular singers, actors, and sports figures.  President Obama credits this young vote as a key factor in the success of his 2008 presidential nomination.  However, now there is concern that the 2012 election will not draw a strong young adult vote because President Obama has not fulfilled many of his original campaign promises.  As a young adult, I feel strongly that the United States cannot let this happen.  It becomes vitally important to identify ways to motivate young adults to take part in the election process.  I have become very interested in the different vehicles that are being utilized to target these young Americans.  Obviously, social media sites, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, are key aspects of reaching out and communicating to this population.  However, the ideas for encouraging young voters have broadened beyond the use of just these forms of social media.

In 2012, MTV, Knight Foundation and several other organizations joined together to create a new game, Fantasy Election, modeled after Fantasy Football, which is a hugely popular game among young adults.  According to the CEO of Knight Foundation, “It’s a fantasy game but the stakes couldn’t be higher.  If a fun format, competitive prizes, and credible information give young people the habit of engagement in civic life, it will be a big win.”  This interactive game will provide players with a “team” of presidential, Senate, and House candidates to play each week against others in a league similar to fantasy sports.  Players at all levels are encouraged throughout the game to register and vote.  Fantasy Election, through a fun process, provides education and encouragement towards the participation of young adult voters.  MTV’s Vice President of Public Affairs, Jason Rzepka, states, “The paramount objective of the game is to get young people to register to vote” (CNNTech).

Celebrity influence is another avenue in encouraging young adults to fulfill their civic duty of voting.  One such example is an organization, Rock the Vote, that targets young voters under the age of 25.  This organization was originated in 1990 in response to an often heard complaint: my vote doesn’t matter and my voice isn’t heard.  The primary goal of Rock the Vote is motivating young Americans to register to vote and to immerse themselves in the entire election process.  Since its origination, Rock the Vote has enrolled more than five million teens as voters.  Celebrities, such as The Black Eyed Peas, Christina Aguilera, and Madonna, are mouthpieces for this organization.  Their celebrity status provides the necessary attention that draws young adults into this critical process.  Rock the Vote has joined with MTV in developing public service announcements and a YouTube page where such celebrities can address political matters.  Facebook and Twitter are both partnered with Rock the Vote and this incites interest in regards to upcoming elections.  According to the President of Rock the Vote, Heather Smith, “The candidate that figures out how to address the issues and frustrations of young Americans in a meaningful way is going to earn their vote in 2012” (First Take).  Rock the Vote joined together with several clothing manufacturers and created a “#ScantoVote social media powered QR Code t-shirt” (Huffington Post).  This t-shirt, in conjunction with a smart phone, will provide an easy method of registering to vote, which is the first step in getting young adults to exercise their voice in an election.

“If we as [MTV] can get young citizens when they’re 18 and when they’re 22, they are a long way on their to being active and informed participants in our democracy from now on” (CNNTech).  CNNTech claims that if we can inspire young men and women to vote as soon as legally possible, they will grow to be more active participants in the election process.  Young voters have the power to decide the next President and those to come.

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