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Friday, August 26, 2005

Regular Americans Priced Out of Politics

More and more members of Congress are raising big bucks earlier and earlier. In the first half of 2005, 52 House incumbents raised more than $500,000; in 1997, only 3 House incumbents had raised as much. These warchests, many times built with contributions from corporate political action committees, enable legislators to scare off potential competition.

As Jonathan Salant reports for Bloomberg, even freshman legislators are getting into the act, raking in contributions from donors who didn't give to them the first time 'round. With one term under the legislators' belts, donors now have confidence that their campaign dollars won't be wasted.

Federal campaign laws allow donors to give $2,000 to a candidate for the primary and another $2,000 for the general. While this may seem like chump change to some, it is way out of the price range of 99% of Americans. In conjunction with the importance of campaign cash in deciding election outcomes and the emphasis placed on campaign warchests by the press, these high limits allow candidates with the support of wealthy interests to win races over those candidates with the support of the larger populace.

And now, with candidates raising campaign cash earlier and earlier, regular folks don't even have a chance to vote on a candidate who doesn't enjoy the support of wealthy America. Instead, we get predominantly cookie-cutter candidates backed by corporate cash from both major political parties who have very little in common with our opinions, perspectives, and lives.

In other words, more and more, campaign dollars are undermining our representative democracy, creating a government of the few and rich instead of a government that represents the rest of us.

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