The 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling saw to the amendment of the laws that regulated the influence that money had on politics through the removal of most limitations on outside parties’ expenditure on elections. The move led to the emergence of the Super Political Action Committees popularly known as Super Pacs. These are organizations independent of the political aspirants’ campaigning that can outsource unlimited finances from individual donors. These organizations bring in sponsorships from diverse factions with an interest in politics like interest groups, professional bodies as well as lobbyists a factor that gives these groups influence on the political process. Money has strongly influenced the political process positively by enabling voter information on party policies and negatively by undermining the democratic process that America was founded on and through the manipulation of the policy formulation and implementation process in the political process.
Money acts as an enabler of the political process through voter mobilization campaigns as well as in the information dissemination process which is imminent for making informed decisions at the ballot (Bowler & Donovan, 2016). Politicians have since time immemorial used the media in the political process to win votes as well as the support of influential political players like lobbyists and religious groups as well as corporate groups (Kuhner, 2014). Political advertisement and propaganda have been one of the ways the political system utilizes to achieve desired political outcomes (Kuhner, 2014). Political parties use the Internet, the print and the broadcast media for the coordination, communication, and recruitment of self interest groups through persuasion efforts which take up much of the political process advertising budgets (Bowler & Donovan, 2016). The influence of money in this context is however two fold despite its positive impact on voter mobilization since it leads to the locking out of viable candidates who lack the funds and sponsorships to make their policies seen and heard. Money therefore acts as a manipulative tactic which politicians use to make public relation spins to persuade the voters to give them their votes (Gilens, 2012). In this situation the product that's trying to be sold is the vote. Through the sponsorship of campaigns, money has an indirect influence on the topics that make it to public debates as well as drawing public attention to legislative issues that need addressing (Gilens, 2012). Money matters have therefore as a result locked out candidates with good not too much publicized policies from leadership while making way for the affluent are nominated. Money has therefore influenced the political process in the US through facilitation of the whole election process.
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Democracy is one of the key principles that the American nation was founded on (Bowler & Donovan, 2016). The concept of governance of the people by a government for the people is undermined by the influence of money on the overall political process. The political system is dominated the super-rich who sponsor the campaigns alongside the financial lobbies (Gilens, 2012). The soft money funded by these groups amplify the parties’ chances of getting into office through the massive publicization of party policies help which often comes with strings attached (Kuhner, 2014). The funding ensures that the political aspirants gain massive popularity with the voters thereby increasing the party’s chances of beating the opposition (Kuhner, 2014).Therefore; this depicts the power held by a few wealthy individuals and groups towards the determination of who gets elected and whom is beaten at the polls. Despite the fact that the public cast the votes, there is a higher influencing power that determines to whom the cast vote goes at the ballot (Gilens, 2012). The government is therefore for the people but not by the people since it these minority groups of the wealthy and influential people place whoever will favor their interests into power at the expense of leaders who have the common citizen’s needs at heart (Bowler & Donovan, 2016). Money influences the political process negatively by watering down the founding fathers’ dream of an America where the public had the power to influence policy through the government they voted in (Kuhner, 2014). Bernie Sanders whose campaign was centered on the democracy issue pointed out how the rich individuals and corporate have in the past influenced legislative processes which led to the widening of the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
Money has also had a negative effect on the policy formulation and implementation in the political process (Kuhner, 2014). The hunt for sponsorships diverts political aspirants' priorities and policies. The influential contributors change candidates' priorities to prioritize their needs over the needs of their constituent (Gilens, 2012). The sponsors needs often crash with the voters needs but since the politicians’ primary goal is to win the elections, most of them end up compromising their priorities and policies for the big win (Kuhner, 2014). While most citizens consider job creation among the highest ranking policies, the sponsors prefer to have the deficit reduction prioritized and since they call the shots after placing their political candidates in power, the leaders have no choice but to misplace their priorities in favor of their benefactors (Gilens, 2012). The quest for incumbent politicians’ re-election acts as their motivation when in office and since money is the pedestal that places them above their challengers, they end up focus on raising funds through passing legislations and policies which are favorable to future donors (Bowler & Donovan, 2016). President Trump’s confession about giving money to politicians in the past for favorable treatment serves to show how money negatively influences the political process pre, during and post election.
Therefore, the influence of money in politics includes voter mobilization, the effect on the policy formulation and implementation process and the undermining of the democratic process. The political system under the influence of the affluent few is undemocratic and can only be righted through legislation and amendment of the campaign funding laws.
Bowler, S., & Donovan, T. (2016). Campaign Money, Congress, and Perceptions of Corruption. American Politics Research, 44 (2), 272-295. doi:10.1177/1532673x15594232
Gilens, M. (2012). Affluence and influence: economic inequality and political power in America . Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
Kuhner, T. K. (2014). Capitalism v. democracy: money in politics and the free market constitution . Stanford: Stanford Law Books - an imprint of Stanford University Press.