Updated: Feb 28
This article is a result of a conversation about campaign contributions I had recently. I am by no means judging anyone for the manner in which they are living their life. I realized that I was spending money, sometimes a decent amount on a regular basis, at places that fundamentally oppose everything I stand for. Not only that, they are spending millions of dollars every year to end the way of life I value a great deal. I am changing the way I spend money now that I know about the political activities of some of these companies. I came to the realization that the few, super-rich political donors I am helping support are having a profound effect on politics and policy. I hope you reflect a little bit about how your money is used after it leaves your wallet. Thanks for reading!
Everyday you do things that effect the future of this country more than how you voted on election day. It's true. Each of us has the same number of hours in a day. How you spend your time says a lot about what is most important to you. Saying you don't have time to do something means other things are more important. The same goes for where you spend your money. Is convenience more important to you than what your money is funding? Are you willing to trade temporary comfort for long-term repercussions? Have you even thought about it?
This article explains how your time and money influence the political environment more than who you voted for. Then, I'll explain some changes you can make to ensure your influence impacts the way you want it to. Each of us has a responsibility to take part in creating and/or maintaining the world we want to live in. Understanding how you impact the larger political climate is very important. Even small contributions to people and committees you oppose is catastrophic. Support the people who support your ideals. If everyone did this, the country would look much different.
Where Do Politicians Get Money to Fund Campaigns?
Find out who is contributing to your Representatives here.
Money wins political campaigns. Yes, there are exceptions. They prove the rule. For the most part, the candidate with the most money wins. It's a fact. Maggie Koerth-Baker with fivethirtyeight.com, points out that between 2000 and 2016, 90 percent of candidates who spent the most in House races won. The only exception was 2010 when 86 percent of top spenders won. It is not different in other types of political campaigns. It is easy to see that money matters. But, where does the money come from?
Candidates get money from four sources: political action committees (PACs), large individual donors, small donors, and the candidate's personal fortune. In 2010, the majority (48%) of donations to Congressional candidates campaigns came from large individual donors (THE TOP 10 THINGS EVERY VOTER SHOULD KNOW ABOUT MONEY-IN-POLITICS). I realize there are limits on contributions to candidates. Stay with me. I will get into that. Most of the money paying for political campaigns comes from wealthy individuals. Most of those contributions come from businesses supported by you and I. Without us, they would not have the money to further their political agendas. Each dollar you spend with a company owned and/or ran by a large political donor contributes to furthering their ideals. Are you completely comfortable with aligning yourself with the ideals of the companies where you spend the most? If you are not sure, find out here.
There are many ways to get around contribution limits. People and businesses with large amounts of money are able to easily avoid problems with contribution limits and are able to give unlimited amounts to their causes and are able to stay anonymous in many cases. This makes it more difficult to identify the companies and people working against causes that are important to you.
The first way to avoid campaign contribution limits is referred to as soft money. Soft money or,outside spending, is referring to political expenditures made by organizations and individuals other than the candidate campaigns themselves. All outside groups that aren’t political parties are allowed to accept unlimited sums of money from individuals, corporations, or unions. With these donations, groups can engage in a number of direct political activities, including buying advertising that advocates for or against a candidate, going door to door, or running phone banks. (Center for Responsive Politics)
Another type of donation from any undisclosed source is called Dark Money. The two types of Dark Money are 501c Political Nonprofits and Super PACs. Political nonprofits are under no legal obligation to disclose their donors. When they choose not to, they are considered Dark Money groups. Super PACs can also be considered Dark Money groups in certain situations. While these organizations are legally required to disclose their donors, they can accept unlimited contributions from political non-profits and “shell” corporations who may not have disclosed their donors, in these cases they are considered Dark Money groups. While super PACs are not allowed to coordinate any of their independent expenditures with a candidate's campaign, many are run by people who are personally close to a candidate or formerly associated with a campaign. Political organizations working to influence the 2016 elections outside party or official campaign structures spent more than $15 million in 2015, and only reported about $5 million of that to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).(Center for Responsive Politics)
It is possible to write entire books on this part of the political process. For the purposes of this article it is important to understand that these committees exist and that they have a great impact on politics. There are a small number of wealthy individuals making a huge impact on the American political process on both a local and national level. Those individuals are getting the money they are spending on political causes and campaigns from people like you and I. Therefore, people like you and I are directly contributing to causes we may, or may not, agree with unwittingly through how we live our day to day lives.
There is Something We Can Do
Most people either never think about where they spend their money of feel they are too insignificant to make a difference. Regardless of which group you fall under, there is something you can do. First, start thinking about where you spend your money. Why are you shopping with a certain business? Convenience, habit, you just do. Do your shopping habits mirror your beliefs? What does where you shop say about you as a person? If the FBI were to profile you based on the receipts in your trash, what conclusions would they make? These are all important things to think about.
The easiest way to make sure your dollars are going to do the most good is to shop at locally-owned, small-businesses whenever possible. Giving your hard-earned money to people living and working closest to where you live and work just makes sense. First, it keeps money in your community instead of sending it to people out of your area and probably out-of-state. Secondly, small business owners are worried about paying their rent and other bills and simply do not have the resources to fund political campaigns and organizations in an unbalanced way. Purchasing your morning coffee at a locally-owned coffee shop instead of Starbucks changes the way the profits are spent, even if the political views of the owners align with each other. The same is true of any other large corporation versus a local mom-and-pop. Reinvesting in your community is always the right answer. The extra dollar or two it costs to shop local will pay off in big ways. Remember, how you spend your money is a reflection of what is important to you. You can make your budget fit your ideals if you try. Even changing one or two things will make an impact.
The second way to make a difference is to know what the companies you patronize frequently stand for. There are things like insurance, mortgage, and cell phone service that each of us pays every month. It is important to know what, if any, political causes or campaigns the companies and/or CEOs are contributing to. For instance, I found out that AT&T was one of the top contributors to Beto O'Rourke's recent campaign. I have been a customer of AT&T since it was Cingular. I am personally not a Beto supporter and am looking for new cell service.
Find out who is contributing to your Representatives here.
What About How You Spend Your Time
At the beginning of this article I mentioned that how you spend your time is also important. The hobbies and recreation you participate in says a lot about what's important to you. People tend to spend a lot of money on their hobbies. Supporting the businesses that support the sports and/or hobbies that you enjoy and participate in is extremely important. If you value your right to bear arms and never go shoot, buy new guns, or buy ammunition, what does that say? Is the right to bear arms actually that important? You are communicating to the outside world that it is not. Just like giving money to companies with opposing views, not supporting companies that support your views is bad. The words you say have little meaning without actions to back them up. Take some time to reflect on what is important to you. Does your money and time communicate the same things you say you stand for?
The purpose of this article is to simply make you think. I am going to make a few changes in how I spend my money after the research I have done for this article. I am not advocating for one particular political view. This article is simply to make you think about the way you support certain political causes without directly knowing it. If everyone would be mindful about how the corporations they support turn around and utilize their profits, America would likely look much different than it does today. Are your hard earned dollars accurately representing you after it leaves your bank account? Do the things you do during your time off accurately represent who you are as a person? Do you make an effort to support the things that you consider important other than Election Day? All I am asking is for you to think about it.