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Editorial: Rethink money in politics

The fervor over the influence of money in politics has died some since its height during last year's presidential election campaign, but every day more special interests are throwing more money at elected leaders in the hopes of swaying their votes, and we need to put a stop to the practice.

Last week MapLight, a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan research organization that tracks money's influence on politics, sent out a press release highlighting money that was going to members of the U.S. House as they considered a bill that would allow private sector workers to trade overtime hours for unpaid time off.

The measure passed the House by a vote of 223-204.

Taking the specific issue out of the equation, as well as individual preferences concerning whether you are for or against the measure, a look at the numbers compiled by MapLight concerning special interest spending is startling.

According to MapLight, House members voting yes received, on average, $40,495 from groups supporting the bill. House members voting no received, on average, $102,508 from groups opposing the bill.

Additionally, MapLight reported, House Republicans received 10 times as much money from groups supporting the bill than from groups opposing it. House Democrats received 5.7 times as much money from groups opposing the bill than from groups supporting it.

The thing to remember is that this is just one piece of legislation. The money that the NRA and those who support gun control are pouring in to members of Congress is another issue that has grabbed a lot of headlines so far this year, but for every major piece of legislation there are scores of special interests lining up to give money to House and Senate members in an effort to promote their cause.

If you are against gun control you probably applaud the NRA's efforts. If you are against the overtime tradeoff bill you probably applaud the AFL-CIO and others who are fighting it. But if you think of it in a big picture sense, allowing this amount of money to influence our elected officials' decision-making is bad practice that ultimately opens the door to bad policies being enacted.

Sure, you may be on the winning side this time, but if the groups you support don't pony up enough money for the next big issue, you are likely to find yourself on the losing end of the battle.

We need to rethink the influence that we allow money and special interests to have on our political process. Policy decisions should be based on their merit, not on who has the biggest bank account.

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