New financial reports from various campaigns released Tuesday demonstrate the growing influence of corporations and the rich on this year's presidential battle and themselves provide the largest evidence that reforms are needed to restore some voice to average citizens.
Opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to corporate spending on elections has been growing. On Jan. 20, the second anniversary of the ruling, demonstrations were held across the country, including in Annapolis, where groups and average citizens called for limits on campaign contributions from major donors.
Citizens United v. the Federal Communications Commission gave corporations unlimited rights to spend as much as they wanted on political campaigns and has led to an increase in so-called SuperPACs.
In the reporting period that ended Tuesday, Restore Our Future, the group supporting Mitt Romney, said it collected $17.9 million in contributions since July. The top four donors to the group were hedge fund managers, according to The Associated Press.
Winning Our Future, Newt Gingrich's SuperPAC, received $2 million from Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife. The AP reported that Adelson and his wife also gave $10 million to Gingrich in January, which was not listed because it didn't fall within the reporting period.
Those figures for Romney and Gingrich are just scrapings off the top of deep barrels of money that are being funneled into the campaigns of every candidate, including President Barack Obama, through SuperPACs.
Public opinion of elected officials is already at record low levels. People feel they have no say in government, and when they see big money influence steering politics to this degree they feel even less empowered.
Some Democrats in Congress want a constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions. But constitutional amendments can take years or even decades to get enough support. We need more immediate solutions.
In the short term, immediate reporting of contributions, with full disclosure of those giving, would at least provide a more accurate and timely window for average voters to see who is buying which candidate. Ultimately, however, we have to give the election process back to the people and, regardless of what the justices on our Supreme Court think, corporations are not people, nor should they be treated as such.