We have always known that money influences politics. It is a major component in our way of governing. Political influence can be easily obtained by writing a check. Candidates for political office, no matter how flawed, are always viable if they have deep pockets. An unknown Senator can become the first black President, in large part, because he can raise $750 million for his campaign. And the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United has opened the flood gates for monetary influence like never before. Nowhere has this been more evident than yesterday’s recall vote in Wisconsin.
Organized labor suffered a huge setback yesterday as they attempted to roll back Governor Scott Walkers’ union busting agenda.
Governor Walker had succeeded in eliminating the collective bargaining rights of the state’s unionized workforce. Democrats were furious and their massive protests were aired by the news media for weeks. Walker’s detractors were hell bent on rolling back the governor’s policies. In order succeed Democrats had to take back control of the state senate.
The first step was to recall six Republican Senators who were instrumental in passing the governor’s policies. If Democrats could win three of the recalled seats they would take control of the senate and clear a path to overturn the governor. The odds were long. The six districts in question had been held by Republicans for decades.
Here is where the money comes in.
A local referendum like this would normally generate $2-$3 million dollars in political contributions. But special interests realized that this Wisconsin vote was not just a local issue but a referendum on similar policies being carried out by conservative governors all across the nation. If Republicans were to lose, the path would be cleared to overturn the conservative agenda across the country.
So the outside special interests stepped in. They poured over $31 million dollars into the six contested districts. According to MSNBC’s Ed Schultz who spent months reporting live from the state capital; the money flowing into the pro-Walker coffers outpaced that of his opponents by a $10/$1 ratio. You could not turn on the television or listen to the radio without witnessing an attack add against the unions. In the end, the Republicans won. Democrats were only able to win two of the three seats needed for change.
So who would have won this important debate if the millions of dollars from outside special interests were removed from the equation? We’ll never know.
But we do know this. Our political system is broken. Power and influence does not gravitate to those who have the best ideas. It comes to those who have the deepest pockets. Until we take money out of the equation our way of governing and therefore our way of life will always be for sale to the highest bidder.