Voters are increasingly concerned about the effect that money is having on the political process and are making those concerns known in polls and at the ballot box, though far more needs to be done.
Various reforms aimed at amending state campaign finance laws were passed during last year’s midterms, including in Arizona, Massachusetts, and New Mexico. In Missouri, 62% voted to approve Amendment 1, which bans lobbyist gifts of more than $5 and lowers the amount of money that can be contributed to state legislative candidates. In Florida, a measure to restrict public officials from using their position for personal gain was overwhelmingly passed.
Meanwhile, a proposal that would have loosened contribution limits in Colorado was easily struck down, with 66% of voters saying no.
Americans Despise Lobbyists’ Financial Impact on Congress
A recent poll by American Politics Research overwhelmingly shows that voters dislike the job Congress does, with its approval ratings falling under 20% throughout much of the past decade.
Faruqi & Faruqi, a national law firm headquartered in New York, New York, which handles securities, antitrust and consumer protection litigation among other practice areas, points to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling as a major factor for the growing discontent surrounding campaign financing. The high court’s 5–4 decision removed restrictions on political donations, allowing for the formation of Super PACs and unlimited political ad spending by corporations and unions.
According to New York-based Faruqi & Faruqi, donations from lobbyists are increasingly being used as a political weapon when parties do not get their way on important issues. If a climate change bill is struck down, the Democrats blame the fossil fuel industry. If a pro-life bill is struck down, Republicans blame Planned Parenthood.
While these tactics can work to stir up animosity against the opposing political ideology, they are primarily exposing the entire corrupt system for all to see. And it is increasingly clear that Americans do not trust the integrity of Congress in the slightest.
Corporations and Industry Groups Are Writing American Laws
Nor should they, based on a stunning investigation recently released by USA Today, The Arizona Republic, and the Center for Public Integrity. The investigation found that more than 2,100 “model” bills drafted by corporations, industry groups, and think tanks have been signed into law with minimal changes since the Citizens United ruling.
It is unclear how many other bills have been signed into law which changed their wording enough to avoid detection by the investigation’s computer algorithms, which scanned over 1 million bills in all 50 states for similarities between model legislation and the bills that were eventually signed into law.
One such bill made it more difficult for victims of personal injury to sue corporations, while another restricted payouts related to pain-and-suffering for people living in elderly homes.
Numerous model bills passed in state legislatures completely overturned laws that were voted on locally by citizens and/or their elected officials, including a bill pushed by the Airbnb-backed Goldwater Institute which overthrew short-term rental laws in four states, making them more favorable for the home-sharing company. Other bills have upended plastic bag bans and minimum wage hikes.
Of the more than 2,100 model bills signed into law, over 1,950 were launched by either industry or conservative groups, while less than 150 were from liberal groups.
With the stunning impact that industry groups and lobbyists have on the political process now laid bare, Faruqi & Faruqi says it is clear drastic change is needed, and that campaign finance laws and political donations will increasingly come under fire in future elections.