'Winner-Take-All Politics'

The mix of money and politics has reached new heights.

November 17, 2011
/ PRINT / ShareShare / Text Size +

Unchecked spending

It is hard to believe that the authors of the Federalist Papers—Madison, Hamilton, and Jay—would have supported the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrow but landmark 5-4 decision in 2010 for Citizens United.

That ruling held that the First Amendment prohibits government from censoring political broadcasts in candidate elections when those broadcasts are funded by corporations or unions.

That decision deep-sixed attempts at campaign finance reform and opened the floodgates to unlimited “soft” money from political action committees (PACs), Super PACs, and individuals so long as those entities were not directly tied to a candidate’s campaign.

The 2010 elections were the first elections following Citizens United, and the impact of the court’s decision was clear, according to the nonprofit and nonpartisan investigative journalism group ProPublica.

A greater sum of money than ever flowed through the 2010 campaigns and much of it was provided by new groups that are barely regulated.

Citing a new 2011 report from the Federal Elections Commission, ProPublica claims that independent spending by PACs, groups, and individuals more than quadrupled over the previous election cycle.

Outside spending

Spending by political parties stayed roughly the same, showing that this new campaign-financing landscape is eclipsing traditional party fundraising efforts because these new groups can take in unlimited funds.

The result is independent groups forming a shadow campaign apparatus fueled by unlimited and often undisclosed contributions—without the same accountability required of political parties or candidates’ own PACs.

An example is the unavoidable and constant presence of issue advertising that makes television advertising executives drool over the revenue they bring. Issue ads don’t explicitly endorse candidates but they are terribly effective in swaying voter preferences despite their misleading, negative, and highly subjective tone.

Increasingly, these national shadow groups are pouring money into state and local elections as well, as witnessed by the record amounts of outside money spent on the recall elections in Wisconsin this past spring by corporate interests and unions alike, as well as the successful campaign that overturned recent Ohio legislation affecting public sector union employees.

In Wisconsin, an effort to recall Governor Scott Walker officially kicked off November 15, but a Walker sponsor registered his “intent” to recall Walker on November 1. That trumped the planned kick off and jump started the flow of unlimited and untraceable money in support of the governor two weeks ahead of his opponents.

Next: Crossing the Rubicon

Post a comment to this story


What's Popular

Popular Stories

Recent Discussion

Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

Your Say: Who should be Credit Union Magazine's 2014 CU Hero of the Year?

View Results Poll Archive