Overheard on CNN.com: 10 takes on money in politics
What do you think is the role of money in politics? How could the system be improved?
January 23rd, 2012
07:58 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: 10 takes on money in politics

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

This week's In Depth topic takes a look at money in politics, which is a favorite subject among CNN.com commenters. Below, we've compiled some perspectives straight from our readers.

Share your thoughts on this list, as well as your possible solutions. We'll be following up on this post later this week with your ideas.

In Depth: Where money and politics collide

1. What do you think about the 'Citizens United' decision?

The U.S. Supreme Court's controversial "Citizens United" decision sanctioned unlimited corporate and union donations to nonaffiliated PACs. This ruling has proven to be one of the top targets for many commenters, with lots of readers expressing opposition.

aduklips: "Did this really need to be written? Money = influence, and Citizens United enshrined this as Constitutional doctrine. It will take years to undo that case."

2. What other kinds of organizations get involved?

This reader suggested that 501(c)(4) organizations may be a source of trouble. These are a type of nonprofit organization.

medianone: "Rest assured CNN will tell us about Super PACs, which can raise unlimited amounts for hard-hitting ads, but have to declare their donors. But, will they do as good a job with Super PACs' more secretive handmaiden, the private 501c4 organizations? Which aren't required to disclose donor names but can funnel mega bucks from those undisclosed sources directly into Super PACs where it can be spent on influencing ads. Those 501c4's are what the big money doesn't want everyone to know about. The 501c$'s are where to contribute 'if you want to promote an agenda without any fingerprints.' Kind of makes the whole idea of campaign finance reform laughable."

3. Should there be campaign finance reform?

Some readers suggest that the system of campaign financing must be overhauled.

RinosRwinos: "Until we have campaign finance reform we will have the best government money can buy. Limit candidates to a set dollar amount and have full disclosure."

4. Do individual vs. corporate contributions matter?

A recent story about the troubles faced by political newcomers got some readers thinking about who should do the contributing.

VRage13: "What this points out is how much we need campaign finance reform. I favor a maximum contribution of $25 per registered voter per election. Let the elections be about ideas. This has the benefit of banning corporation from getting involved as corporations cannot vote and the individual seeking election can only donate $25 to his/her own election bid, so no more buy elections by the super rich pouring their own money into the campaign. 'Government of the people, by the people' means that normal people should be able to run for office with a chance of being elected."

5. Is money still needed in campaigns?

This reader suggests that maybe money isn't everything, especially given all the technology out there.

Guest: "There's nothing wrong with the old constitution. There aren't integral provisions for ludicrous amounts of campaign spending in there. All that needs to happen is to get rid of the campaign laws that turned bribery of a public official into corporate campaign sponsorship. Set the cap for campaign spending at $0. Honestly, in this day and age ANYONE can get their name out there. Ban political parties, ban lobbying, and include provisions in FCC contracts to provide a single spot for candidates who have met the requirements to get on the ballot. 60 seconds, so you had better make your statement count. It would eliminate corruption, over-saturation, and mudslinging."

6. What if campaign funding came from taxpayers?

A story looking at campaign spending reform after Watergate got a lot of readers thinking about the current situation.

US1776: "The only way to fix the campaign finance system is to get ALL the private money out of politics. That means that all campaign financing must be taxpayer-funded. After all, it's US, you and me, these candidates are going to be working for. So we want them betrothed only to us. And since we fund their campaigns then we have their full and undivided attention. Then we limit the amount of time for campaigning to 6 months. No more. And we give each candidate the same amount of money for campaigning and now we have a level playing field. Oh, and we outlaw all PACS so no mysterious money coming into to corrupt our election process."

7. Should government itself be changed?

One reader suggested that government itself is structured in such a way as to encourage campaign finance problems.

bjb57: "The only way to take money out of politics is to create a system where there is no incentive for private actors to influence politicians. The only way to create such an incentive is to decrease government's role in the private economy. Who wants to bet that Zelizer advocates doing that? He strikes me as a big government guy. Trying to legislate money out of politics is like hoping that water will run uphill. If you want money out of politics then you have to ask for smaller government. I know I would sign up for that in a minute. How about anyone else?"

8. Are we worrying too much?

Not everyone is hyped up about changing things. Some people say voters will do what they want.

longtooth: "Although I'm uncomfortable with the Supreme Court decision allowing corporations and PACs to spend unlimited money on political ads, I'm optimistic enough to think that voters can still think for themselves, and recognize BS when they see it. Not all of them, of course, but enough to negate the blizzard of money flying at them."

MM22: "long: 'I'm optimistic enough to think that voters can still think for themselves, and recognize BS when they see it.' Exactly. Voters aren't so blind and stupid that they'll vote for 1) the person who put out the most ads, or 2) the person who spent the most money. Money is not equivalent to votes. Why? Because the burden is still on the voter to cast his ballot on election day."

9. How can technology be applied to campaigns?

Some commenters got pretty creative with alternative ideas for candidates wishing to spread their message.

BossMoney: "Let's look at this from a modern perspective. Have a public slush fund which is evenly distributed for all viable, legal candidates to use from. We have the internet, so let's utilize it, shall we? Instead of all the hand-kissing and back-patting that politicians do to get contributions (which makes them feel indebted), we have a public forum within the internet where regular citizens can log on and hear stump speeches and interact via question forums to whatever candidate they choose. This would wipe out the $$$ for votes that has corrupted our system. Of course, this is just a very vague and basic concept which would have to be built upon, but it's a start."

10. What other things should be examined?

This reader went on to suggest not only public financing but improvements to the voting system.

Centerlink: "We need 3 things to save the nation:
1) Public financing of ALL elections with no contributions allowed from 3rd parties or from candidates themselves – to completely decouple corrupting money from policy.
2) Eliminate electronic black-box voting systems and return to a verifiable paper ballot with tamper-proof systems.
3) Instant runoff voting – which has been proven to consistently select the voters' most desired choice and could make the intent of the electoral college completely obsolete.
Institute those 3 things and then let the chips fall where they may."

After reading this list, what do you think? What could be fixed about our political financing system? Share your thoughts below and in related stories, and we'll follow up later. Be sure to look at some prior ideas to improve the election process that came from our readers. Also, if you're a political donor, tell us your story on CNN iReport.

Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Elections • Overheard on CNN.com • Politics
soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. Not All Docs Play Golf

    This Citizens Untied supreme court deciosn will turn out to be the biggest, landscape-changing thing to come out of this whole political era, and yet it went right under the nose of the average American who didn't really care about it or know the significance of it at the time. It was hardly interesting news to the average citizen at the time. It was a partisan 5-4 decision along political lines in the supreme court, and clearly shows that the term "activist judeges" can apply to conservatives on the bench just as much as liberals. The ramifications of this will be devastating to the integrity of our democratic electoral process and to the value of any single individual's vote.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Forgive my misspellings....and no, it doesn't mean I'm stupid or invalidate my points.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • roldoc

      I couldn't have said it any better. A year ago President Obama expressed the same concern in his State of The Union address and one of the Supreme Court Justices in the audience mouthed "not true". Not to worry misspellings is human,your point is well stated.

      January 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. David Valentine

    Let's self fund elections.
    Tax political 501(c)(4) at 40%, and then distribute to candidates. If you run an ad, you pay

    Require weekly reports,and tax payments, and no donations within 2 week of election.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Jared

      The problem with that is then we have a bunch of Kennedy's and Bush's running the country. Which is even worse than what we currently have. (only a few Kennedy's and Bush's running the country)

      January 24, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. Logic

    How can anyone think that money having more of an influence on the outcome of an election is a good thing?

    January 24, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bob Ulrich Sr.

    Lets save the taxpayers millions by eliminating voting. On election day just have an accounting firm decide which candidate raised the most money and declare him/her the winner. ( Basically the way it works now )

    January 24, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jared

    The entire system is screwed up. As soon as it became ok for cnn, fox, abc, cbs, cnbc, John Stewart, Oprah, and Stephen Colbert to show political stances, then the election process became rigged. Who cares how much money is being spent? The biggest problem is the biased an often unfactual reporting being done by the television, radio, and web news industries. ( use the term "news" loosely, as there is very little unbiased news being reported on anymore.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. echo40

    Yes... Free speech, it is just the rich guys free speech is clearly louder than my speech.. Yes we are all equal, it is just the rich guy is more equal the me.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Voltairine

    This isn’t a Republic anymore. It is the Oligarchic Corporatist States of America. The only way that We the People can even start to get our Democracy back is to make it illegal for any group, including/especially corporations, whose members don’t all have equal say in the resources they generate, to influence the government in anyway and to cap the amount of donations that any politician can accept and use for any campaigns to a relatively tiny amount. Our votes are all but meaningless at this point. Big business and big money grease both sides of the aisle and people feel that they must vote for either a Republican or a Democrat to make their vote “count”, when both are in the pockets of the 1%.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JA

    Are you kidding me "CITIZENS UNITED". What do you consider liberal and conservative? Citizens views are divided by Democrat and Republican. The Congress and Senate and President are all Divided. We will never be UNITED as one. Another BS brainwash by the “you know who”. Our belief system will never change unless it starts from the top not the "CITIZENS UNITED" lol blah

    January 24, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Walt

    If the Occupy movements begin to return in the spring, demanding changes to PAC legislation should be an obvious and high-priority objective that even these people can agree on.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seth

      And term limits for congress. Too much of citizen's interests are sacrificed in order to focus on being re-elected. Turn off the money influences buying votes and re-elections

      January 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      Agreed Walt

      January 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. richard abraham

    I BELIEVE ALL AMERICANS WOULD WANT THE GOVERMENT TO STOP ALL MONIES BEING SENT TO FOREIGN COUNTRIES.WE NEED TO TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN PEOPLE, AND STATES FIRST, NO NEED FOR POVERTY IN OUR COUNTRY AT ALL. BILLIONS ARE BEING SENT ABROAD, IRRESPOSIBLE OF OUR GOVERMENT. ALSO THE BANKS THAT WE BAILED OUT ARE NOT ACTING RESPONSIBLE ON SALES OF PROPERTIES, I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO PURCHASE A HOUSE FOR 4 MONTHS NOW, BANKS ARE ACTING IRRESPONSIBLE, IN THIS POOR ECONOMY. THESE CARE CALLED SHORT SALES.THIS IS THE WORST I HAVE EVER SEEN IN 21 YEARS IN REAL ESTATE. THE GOVERMENT NEEDS TO GET THESE BANKS IN LINE, AND IF THEY NEED TO HIRE MORE PEOPLE, THEN WE AS PEOPLE NEED TO LET THEM KNOW THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE IN THIS ECONOMY TODAY. THEY COULD CREATE MORE JOBS AND GET THE SALES GOING TO BOOST THE ECONOMY. THIS IS NOT GOOD FOR AMERICA. THEY SAY THEY HAVE TO MANY FORECLOSURES, WELL THE SHORTS SALES , IF THEY ACTED APPROPIATELY THIS WOULD STIMULATE THE ECONOMY.YOU HAVE THE VIEW OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE, PLEASE ADDRESS THESES SERIOUS PROBLEMS.ALSO WE SHOULD GET AWAY FROM TRYING TO CHANGE FOREIGN COUNTRIES, THEY HAVE LIVED THIS WAY FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS, WHY DO WE THINK WE CAN CHANGE THEM WE JUST MAKE THEM DISLIKE US MORE. USALLY THE GOVERMENTS ALIENATION, GETS US IN MORE TROUBLE . THANK YOU, I WILL BE LISTENING. AND MANY OF MY FRIENDS ALSO. THANK YOU.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Caity Upton

    I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some . . . people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over HERE in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, or, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future, for our children

    January 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Patrick Bengelink

    Congress needs a new pledge. I pledge allegiance to my party, and to the republic for which my party stands. Two Nations , without interference from God, divided along party lines, with liberty and justice for only those who agree with my party. I would like to see them open tonights speech with their new pledge.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jack bowie

    Eliminate Super Pact. Set the maximum contribution at 5000.00 for each person. Even if a person belongs to a group, he/she can only contribute 5000.00. Equal playing field.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Economystic Extraordinaire

    Scalia was asked about the decision during a presentation before the South Carolina Bar on Saturday, exactly two years after the court handed down the 5-4 decision in the case that led to the rise of Super PACs. They are outside groups affiliated with candidates that can take in unlimited contributions as long as they don't directly coordinate with the candidate.
    "I don't care who is doing the speech - the more the merrier," Scalia said. "People are not stupid. If they don't like it, they'll shut it off." [LET THEM EAT CAKE]

    January 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. patsy nomore

    Bill Moyer`s said it best..."The system isn`t broken,it`s FIXED".... .. The 5 paid off SCOTUS crooks just protected their bribes.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
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