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Money – free speech and politics | Survey

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Undisclosed donors giving enormous amounts to political campaigns under the cover of “free speech” have effectively destroyed the concept of “one person, one vote” in today’s political arena.

More than 80 percent of Americans want limits to the amount of money that individuals, corporations and membership organizations can give to political campaigns, and more than two-thirds want to do away with Super PACs altogether.

Candidates, initiatives and referendums that traditionally enjoyed “grassroots” support from their constituencies are now completely overwhelmed by cash infusions from “big money” entities, such as wealthy individuals, corporations, membership organizations, PACs and Super PACs.

By far the biggest abuse has been created by the 501(c)(4) “Social Welfare” entities that are charged, in order to maintain their tax exempt status,  with spending the majority of their collected funds on “charitable, educational and recreational” endeavors. Individuals, corporations, membership entities, etc. can avoid the legal “donor’s rules” by contributing unlimited amounts to the 501(c)(4) who in turn can spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns as long as they are not “coordinated” with the campaign process.

Rules governing this process are weak at best and violations of “intent” are obvious. Donors going through this SuperPAC 501(c)(4) “tunnel” do not have to have their names disclosed, so voters have little or no knowledge of who is promoting a candidate, initiative or referendum, or of their agendas.

SuperPACs allow special interests and a small, privileged minority to quiet the voices of the majority of voters with dramatic amounts of cash and thereby dominate our political process. Did you know that:

• 93 percent of funds raised by SuperPACs in 2011 came from contributions of more than $10,000 – and from just 23 out of every 10 million people in the US population!

• More than half of SuperPAC money came from just 37 people giving over $500,000 each!

• Spending by outside groups has quadrupled with 72 percent of political advertising spending coming from sources previously prohibited!

• Wealthy donors generally do not want their names, companies or organizations identified because they fear political, economic, member or shareholder reprisals regarding their contributions, thus utilizing the SuperPAC tunnel where no disclosure is required!

Undisclosed and largely out of state donations of significant size are evident in Washington State in the races for governor, senator, house, attorney general – and on the key initiatives and referendums.

This is a national and local Kirkland issue. Our voting power is diminished. Presentations, with more than 350 Kirkland resident petition signatures, have been made to the Kirkland City Council (a group known for good ethics) requesting passage of a municipal resolution stating that (1) “Corporations are not People”, and (2) “Money is not an expression of Free Speech.” The request is under study and a decision is expected within the next two months – a decision surely to test political capital within the council. A decision favoring the resolution would join Kirkland with Bellingham, Seattle, Olympia, Port Townsend, Port Angeles, Auburn, Friday Harbor, Southworth and act in concert with other resolutions being pursued in Tacoma, San Juan County, Clallam County and at the Washington State level itself.

Kirkland and Washington state would join more than 300 similar efforts across the country at both municipal and state levels. A favorable resolution is endorsed by the Washington state Democrats.

So, do we (Kirkland) want our local, state and national politics to be controlled by a very, very small minority of wealthy individuals, corporations, membership organizations and PACs/SuperPACs (many from out of state), whose only real goal is to influence political campaign outcomes? I think and hope not!

Here are some things you can do to make the citizen’s voice count!

Call and write letters to each of the Kirkland City Council members to encourage them to pass the resolution and speak out as a municipality that corporations are not people and money is not an expression of free speech – and to require full disclosure of donor names and amounts donated.

Write letters to the editor of the Kirkland Reporter encouraging them to endorse the resolution that corporations are not people and money is not an expression of free speech – and to require full disclosure of donor names and amounts donated.

Go to the Kirkland Reporter website at www.kirklandreporter.com and participate in the survey on “Money in Politics,” the results of which will be published in a later issue and delivered to our city council.

Should we let a small minority of undisclosed wealthy entities determine who wins elections? Do we doubt that fact that “winning” candidates in these circumstances owe allegiance to their hidden donors rather than to their constituencies? The answers are simply “no.”

Bill LaMarche is a Kirkland resident.

 

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