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. Josh

    For the presidential race they should make it a criteria that they need to raise X amount of dollars ((ike $20 million) to run for preseident. If they can't raise that much money they probably don't have a chance of winning anyway. That is the only campaign money they can use. If a canidate is caught using funds from other sources they are disqualified from the race. Also, the budget should stay smaller. The canidates need to show that they can spend money efficiently in their compaign, not just reach back into their bottomless pot of gold and bring out more.

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

      ..whers the money going?..the Media machines, they stuff their gut...this season its been better than ever...so who wins? MSM...and the 1%...the joke in this is that transparancy brings the issues of Occupy front and center..lol...ironic...

      January 24, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. R.L Name

    Citizen's United was a great decision. Speech must be free, no matter the source, period.

    The idea that the government should manipulate what speech people see or hear in order to "improve" elections is based on the idea that the voters are just drooling idiots who do whatever they are told. I reject that. Voters can handle it. They have full access to any info on candidates, in newspapers or the Internet or debates, they want. If they don't go looking for it, that's their fault, not the fault of money. Voters have 100% control over who is elected. Money has no power and elects nobody.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • MightyMoo

      "Money has no power and elects nobody."

      I call BS on this. Any one of those clowns elected to office will listen first to the guy making campaign/party contributions before they listen to Joe Schmoe off the street. From Colbert and Stewart doing their shtick with their SuperPAC to Chris Dodd of the MPAA screaming about SOPA and PIPA being shelved from what I last read.

      January 24, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • disgusted

      I too call BS on this.
      Voters can only decide based on the information they get (via the media they trust). It is clear that information (whether true or false), when repeated enough times (with graphic illustrations), influences the average voter (just ask Karl Rove). Very few voters look further than T.V. commercials. With big money, big lies get big votes.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chuck in Jasper Ga.

      If they are Republicans they are drooling idiots.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      Corporate officers and board members could always speak on behalf of their corporate interests. Now, however, they may raid the corporate coffers and hide behind its veil to influence elections, even if their message conflicts with shareholder sentiment. When money is speech, wealth will drown out the common man, and Citizens United grants them a collosal megaphone.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      You are a Moron. If money does not decide elections, why do you think the new law is a good idea? If I live in a very poor town with no jobs, how can I help my candidate that will work in my best interest? The Wealthiest Americans get to decide who our Politicians are. This is very wrong.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iliab

      So shall we also allow China, Iran, Taliban, Al Qaida to “disseminate” information in our media?

      January 24, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dave Des Moines

    I read about how good preschools and mentoring programs for our youth goes a long way in terms of future returns.
    They say it is easier for a younger person to pick up a second language, like Mandarin Chinese, the earlier the age. In the meantime, places around the world are teaching English to their kids at these early ages. They teach them math and science, as well. We are toward the bottom when it comes to STEM education. We say it is a national security issue for us not to know a few important languages or not know STEM. Then why are we spending so much on super PACs? How many teachers and mentors could have been hired in place of this money? It is a sad state of affairs.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gary

    Sad state of affairs but nothing a revolution or rebellion couldn't fix. Older countries in Europe and around the world have had there share and I think it's about time for ours in the United States. The rich and our government don't give a darn about the average working American and they definitely don't feel obligated to bring us up with them even though they made there money on our backs. It's greed and over inflated sense of self worth by the 1% at the top that ruining our country. I want my country back and I am ready to do my part.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rowdylander

      And whom exactly do you shoot when the revolution starts?

      January 24, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack Be Humble

      I don't see how a weekend wacko militiaman with an AR15 and a fully automatic Uzi is going to fare against his neighbor (a member of the State national guard) driving an APC with a .50 caliber heavy machine gun., or at the controls of a drone carrying hellfire missiles.

      The second amendment was a great idea (as interpreted that we might need to unseat a federal government that is abusing power) in 1789, but notsogood now.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      I agree and am ready to do my part as well. A Revolution does not have to be violent.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      ..Im fully expecting a civil war sooner than later...the sociopaths that run the World dont understand boundaries, their entrenched arrogance reminds me of Marie Antoinette...didnt work out too well for her...but I guess they see it differently

      January 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BlackDynamite

    You'll never get money out of politics. Political power is about as pure as Lindsay Lohan's sheets.

    What's important is the integrity of the voting process. Keeping things like the Florida Presidential election scandal of 2000 from happening, and avoiding computerized voting, which are far easier to compromise.....

    January 24, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Carole

    Liberals/progressives are angry because now everyone can raise unlimited money like they have been doing for years. The playing field is now level and they are hopping mad about it. One thing that does need to be done is to limit campaign season so that it cannot begin before January of the election year. The constant campaign mode of politicians is one of the reasons Congress is so ineffective in getting things done.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seth

      the "unlimited monies" you cite – is that from small donations across millions of voters? Is that really better than millions of dollars each from a handful of folks that want to perpetuate the game that keep them wealthy and in power? Unfortunately, the one person, one vote principle that the US was founded upon is long gone...

      January 24, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Carole, please stop perpetuating your false propaganda. So your saying EVERY liberal/progressive person is angry? You know this as a fact? I think MANY AMERICANS regardless of their political position are angry at what is happening with politics in the U.S. and from those like you that can't see beyond their political ideaology.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • disgusted

      "... the playing field is now level..."
      How is it 'level' when one corporation can spend more money than a thousand individuals put together?
      America is about equal opportunity- if money is speech, then corporations have a megaphone, courtesy of Citizens United.
      And please, stop comparing unions and environmental groups composed of thousands of citizens to CEO's with an agenda!

      January 24, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      You are a Moron and an idiot. You will see someday that this will hurt all Americans whether Republican or Democrat.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Seth

    I like the comment someone made before – "Payola Rules" Thanks, SCOTUS

    January 24, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |

    Romney EARNED this money, pursuing opportunities available to ALL Americans. The taxes he paid will be used to buy food stamps for thousands of Americans who are dependent on obama's socialist policies ... and will also help pay for Obama's salary.

    January 24, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Howard, just because an opportunity is available doesn't make it right. What do you think happened to all of the pension funds of the corporations Bain/Romney destroyed. I can tell you.....those employees had their pensions taken over by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation which is run by????........the Federal government. So those taxes he paid will help fund the PBGC so those employees he fired can get maybe one fifth of the pension they were promised. Real nice there Howard and way to show3 empathy for those less fortunate than you.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • CJ


      You are a bafoon. SuperPACs will destroy this Country and all Americans (Republicans and Democrats) will pay a dear price for this horrible decision.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Car

    Gee here is a novel idea...instead of individuals or corporations donating to a political campaign – how about giving it to or matching the donation to the national debt!

    January 24, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Scott

    And we wonder why our country is in the plight it is. Money controls everything now, which is why the divide between classes continues to grow. As long as this continues, things will just get worse.
    Equal FREE Time for all candidates on all major stations/newspapers. Preliminary election removes the pretenders from the contenders. Our process is out of date with current technology and out of step with the country.
    No more two party system, no more "Who has the most money. wins".
    Who knows, we might actaully get a candidate that wants to help the country, rather than a candidate that will have to repay favors...

    January 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jack Be Humble

    If this trend continues, the only home grown industries left in the US in 20 years will be political advertising and lobbying.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. CJ

    How can the Supreme Court state that unlimited donations to a Political Candidate is about Freedom of Speech? It makes zero sense. The wealthiest shmucks can now buy every Politician with no consequences. (Legal Bribes) Our own Legal system did us in.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. glyder

    secession.the answer for at least some.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jonathan

    I made a site where you can create a superpac. Freesuperpac.com. Just go there and follow the instructions. Support the advertisers if you can, but the point of the site is to show how easy it is to create a Super PAC. Have fun.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. R Strimul

    I appreciate the sentiment about keeping money out of politics. But I find it hilarious that people think that it can be effectively regulated, or that the solution is a matter of controlling corporate money. Most people depend heavily on corporations for their information. This website is run by a corporation. Fox News is run by a corporation. Quit being played for a chump.

    Here is a little exercise for everyone who wants to improve elections. For 30 days before any of the elections you vote in this year, boycott every corporate financed source of information. No TV at all. No radio. No corporate websites. Nothing that has any kind of advertising. Have your family and friends do it too. I dare ya.

    Corporations spend money on politics for two reasons: it's effective and it has a great payback. You can change behavior when you are willing to do your part to stop the rewards.

    January 25, 2012 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
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