It seems a week never goes by without multiple articles in The Kansas City Star concerning politics on both the Missouri and Kansas side of the state line and the issues of campaign financing, dark money, secret donor lists and a lack of transparency in our government.
There is no better example than recent coverage in The Star and other outlets about former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ secretive nonprofit, A New Missouri, which a General Assembly committee and the state auditor have said should be investigated for possible criminal activity. But it’s far from the only example.
All of these issues center on the takeover of elections and policy decisions by a small group of wealthy elites and the entities they control. The problem is not new, but it has recently reached epic proportions. Since 2010, election spending has skyrocketed, with billions being spent to define the outcomes of federal and state contests. Most of that money comes from fewer than 1 percent of Americans.
This new, self-selected donor class — not the people — now calls the shots. Too many of our representatives spend an inordinate amount of their time calling wealthy donors and raising money. And almost all Americans are locked out of this new big-money political system.
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Perhaps you, like I, have wondered how in the world we got to this point. I remember when we had campaign finance laws in place at both the federal and state level. Why are our states no longer able to regulate election spending? How did we the people lose our voice in our political process?
In a series of decisions over the past few decades, the Supreme Court has abandoned traditional constitutional caution in favor of an experiment that now allows unlimited money to be raised and spent in elections. With a theory that this spending — no matter the amount or the source of the funds — is simply freedom of speech and cannot be balanced by other rights and interests of Americans, the court has repeatedly struck down election and campaign finance laws.
The result: The demands of this new ruling donor class are met, and public needs are neglected. To be competitive, politicians are forced to spend much of their time raising money from and catering to big donors, while ordinary citizens and the issues that truly matter are seldom even addressed.
Granted, the Supreme Court has not removed the right of our states to enact their own campaign finance laws. But too many times, one of this elite group’s not-for-profit associations has moved a lawsuit through the judicial system and the court has struck it down on the grounds of free speech.
The Supreme Court shows no inclination to correct this mistake. That leaves it up to us, the American people, to use the constitutional amendment process to correct the court, as Americans have done multiple times before.
That is why I work to support the organization American Promise, which is spearheading its 50-state “Citizen Uprising” with one goal: passing a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to get big money out of politics and ensure fair representation of the American people.
American Promise – Kansas City Region is a local, bipartisan, group that reaches across the state line to create champions in Congress, the media and the general public for this 28th Amendment. We invite you to join us for our “Get Big Money Out of Politics” workshop Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Waldo Branch of the Kansas City Public Library.
Attending this workshop is a direct line of action you can take if you, too, are frustrated with the influence big money has in our republic.
Jerry Lloyd is the Facebook editor for American Promise - Kansas City Region.