In the United States of America, we champion the power of the populace to elect the nation’s leaders. We are taught that each individual vote is important, and that each elected official has the responsibility of representing the electorate, lest the people cast their votes for someone else in future contests. However, in reality, elected officials have become increasingly indebted to their financial contributors while becoming less responsible to the voters themselves.
A political campaign has an ever-expanding roster of expenditures, including travel expenses, campaign consulting fees, and the alarmingly high cost of communicating with the voters via print advertisements and the media. The fact that Abraham Lincoln nearly impoverished himself by financing his own campaign seems to be nothing more than a charming anecdote from a bygone era. No candidate wishes to bankrupt himself to secure a position in our nation's élite, and thus he or she must seek the money to win an office from other sources.
A variety of measures have been taken by Congress in an attempt to limit campaign contributions and control campaign financing, from the Navy Appropriations Bill in 1867 and the Tillman Act of 1907, to the more modern Federal Election Campaign Acts of 1972 and 1974 and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as the McCain–Feingold Act. Many candidates have welcomed and even suggested reforms, including Teddy Roosevelt, who was so embarrassed by his corporate financing that he proposed Congress eliminate all corporate contributions. However, it always seems that wealthy contributors are able to circumvent the reforms by finding loopholes in the legislation.
Perhaps most distressing in recent campaign financing news is the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, where the Court decided to permit independent groups to raise unlimited amounts of money to promote candidates. This decision effectively negated the statutory limits enacted by the Federal Election Campaign Acts and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 was in specific reaction to the quadrupling of soft money campaign contributions between 1993 and 2002 from $105 billion per year to $421 billion per year. With the Citizens United decision, soft money is once again fair game.
Indeed, each candidate in the 2012 bid for the Republican nomination for President has managed to garner support from an incredibly powerful “Super PAC.” Mitt Romney is supported by Restore Our Future, Michelle Bachman by Citizens for a Working America, and even the lesser known Jon M. Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor, is supported by Our Destiny PAC. Super PAC events can be very lucrative for candidates, as proven when Mitt Romney appeared at a Restore Our Future event in July 2011, where millions of dollars were raised. Of course, in adherence to the laws, he did not make any direct appeals...