Published letter to the editor
Akron Beacon Journal / September 9, 2011
Thanks to editorial writer Steve Hoffman for reporting on Partners Advancing Akron’s Future (“These partners mean business,” Sept. 1). Such independent organizations are a result of last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision permitting corporations to transfer funds directly from their treasuries to support or oppose political candidates.
The group, funded by many of Akron’s largest corporations and prominent wealthy individuals, further diminishes what’s left of our representative democracy. Groups like this raised so much money in the 2010 mid-term elections that their collective political voices via attack ads drowned out the voices of people and communities without money. It’s no wonder that the problems facing the working class and poor continue to be ignored while tax breaks and bailouts to large corporations and the wealthy continue.
Hoffman is quite right to assert that the rise of these groups make existing campaign finance rules at all levels of government less effective, including those promoted by me and many others connected to Dollars and Democracy and passed by Akron voters in 1998.
To call these laws unnecessary, however, is untrue. The rules, upheld in federal court, prevented then and now the mayor from making large contributions to council candidates, resulting in the election of several council members without major financial backing.
A challenger without appeal to major wealthy or corporate interests nearly defeated the mayor in 2007, while another is providing a serious challenge this year. If the rules were such a benefit to incumbents, why did virtually all oppose them?
The 1998 rules were never meant to be a final solution, any more than any reform on any issue is final. That’s why many who worked on Dollars and Democracy subsequently worked to pass full public financing of elections and are now working to amend the U.S. Constitution through the Move to Amend campaign.
Blaming Dollars and Democracy and the vast majority of citizens who voted for campaign finance reform is simply incorrect. The core reasons for the increasing distrust of politicians and for the political influence of the wealthy and corporations in Akron and across the country are the profoundly undemocratic legal doctrines that corporations are persons and money is speech.
If corporations and the wealthy continue to spend more money influencing elections and public policy, what’s left of our democracy will be transformed to mere myth.
Northeast Ohio AmericanFriends Service Committee