Having read The Times' Aug. 2 article, "Corporate campaign fundraising picks up speed — which reports that businesses and conservative groups are taking advantage of a recent Supreme Court decision on campaign contributions and donating large sums of money to Republicans — one can probably conclude that the size of a candidate's campaign war chest is the best indicator of electoral success.
If this is true, I have an idea. Instead of holding expensive elections and subjecting ourselves to increasingly idiotic ranting and mudslinging, we should just declare the candidate who collects the most campaign money the winner and use the money saved to reduce the deficit.
If the number of people who vote is any indication, few of us really care about who runs the government, and the rest are perfectly willing to leave that job to those who have a reason to care, namely big-money interests — be they wealthy individuals, corporations or labor unions. A 2006 study that analyzed the correlation between companies' stock prices and their political donations showed that moneyed interests got that way by utilizing their resources wisely — in this case, by investing in government affairs and buying government privilege. The study found that the firms that donate to the highest number of candidates can expect to see their stock prices increase. Even more dramatically, a University of Kansas study published last year showed that a recent tax break for businesses allowed some firms to receive a whopping 22,000% return on the money they spent lobbying — far more than would have been earned investing in any kind of productive endeavor.
Again, what do we care? The public's money is nobody's money. Our votes really don't count, so why take the trouble to show up on election day? Politicians need to get reelected, and they can't do that without money — big money that can't be garnered by small donations from individuals. And with the Supreme Court decision this year granting the same free-speech rights to corporations and unions as individuals, the door is open to unlimited "purchasing" of legislators. One need only look at the millions of dollars spent by health insurers or the finance industry in an effort to make sure that those two pieces of legislation didn't make too much of an impact on their bottom lines.
And the joke that the proposed Fair Elections Now Act turned into — the DISCLOSE Act, which Senate Republicans voted to filibuster last week — is likened to being able to see the oil bubbling out of the ocean. At least we can see what is happening on the surface, which should make us feel good. But it also gives us little incentive to prevent the actual wrongdoing.
Where's the outrage? How is the torrent of big money flowing into our elections to be prevented? Maybe we, once and for all, should show our disgust by demanding that our legislators provide for simple public funding of elections. Its time has come. We can't afford to continue losing faith in our democracy.
Lou Del Pozzo lives in Pacific Palisades.