Mo Money, Mo Winning


As much as I hate to steal an idea directly off of the blog prompt I have been curious about campaign finances for years and with the coming election, there is no better time to discuss such a topic. Campaign finances have been on the talking board for many people for countless years and now candidates deem it a positive when their campaign is referred to as “self-funded”. There has been debates about reforms of campaign finances and funding for years and yet none of the politicians seem to have been able to make a decision about it, shockingly enough. We as a people vote for candidates because we believe that they will represent the people as a whole. According to Fred Wertheimer and Susan Weiss Manes of the Columbia Law Review “our campaign finance system is undermining this system of self-government. People engaged in the business of influencing government decisions provide large amounts of money to the elected officials who make those decisions.” This quote almost perfectly sums up my feelings toward campaign finances and taking a look at the issue through the ethics lens makes me question it even more.

Taking into account the three ethical schools of thought about this, campaign financing only makes a little sense if consequentialism is the school of thought used. The consequentialist point of view is focusing on the results of the decision or action. The results of campaign financing can be seen from different angles. The broadest view is that the money received from campaign financing has a direct impact on the results of the election. For a majority of history there has been a direct correlation between campaign finances and winning. I was unable to find a legitimate source for this information but according to opensecrets.org in 2008 “In 93 percent of House of Representatives races and 94 percent of Senate races that had been decided by mid-day Nov. 5, the candidate who spent the most money ended up winning” This means that for the most part, more money equals more winning. Now the argument against this is that people are more likely to put money into the candidate that has the highest chance of winning. It is very hard to refute this argument because there is very little data that says otherwise. Overall consequentialists would argue for campaign financing by saying that whoever has the most money at the end of the race, wins.

The other schools of thought are different and they are the ones that I agree with. Deontological and virtue ethics provide a very basic analysis of ethical situations that apply to campaign finance well. Deontological is a duty based ethical response and I do not believe that it is anybody’s responsibility to provide money to a campaign. Campaign financing is just asking for political corruption and politicians having a business agenda when they are in office. I do not think that more campaign finances are a good thing and in my opinion politicians should be in office for their ideas and not for how much money they can raise. I know this is an extremely touchy subject especially at this point in the election. I believe that when a politician receives money from a big corporation then they “owe” them something when they make it to office. The politician is then put in the decision to decide what is best for the country or what is best for the big businesses. A majority of the time it is not black and white either and that is where the corruption can come into play.

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6 thoughts on “Mo Money, Mo Winning

  1. Well I think the problem here is not just the system we use to create these types of campaign results, but our culture as well. In a time where politicians seem to flip-flop on issues all the time many have yet actually realize they are being played by the game. The more money a candidate has, the more face time, advertisements, etc can be blasted into citizens faces. At that point if those citizens are told what they want to hear, or they even like the demeanor of the candidate their vote is almost set in stone. Its more than just a systematic problem that leads to things like this work, and changing a culture is harder than destroying a system in certain cases.

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    1. I agree completely, it is almost impossible to vote for a candidate who doesn’t have the funding that others do. They simply do not have the face-time to have an impact on more than whoever is in front of them. The system is flawed down to its very core people who operate it and there is so much that needs to be done to fix this problem. In order to become informed and pick a candidate of your liking, one must see the millions of dollars that are poured into the marketing of these people.

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  2. Campaign finance is certainly a topic up for considerable debate, and an important issue in this year’s election campaign. The fact of the matter is, most politicians are bought by the Super PACs and donors who fund them. It is a wholly corrupt system whereby those elected are more responsive to the needs of their business donors and not their own constituents. With this in mind, consider the ethical theory of deontology which focuses on duty. I would argue that the politicians’ primary duty lies with their constituents and not their donors. Thus, when politicians act more in accordance with their donors’ needs and not their constituents’ , they are acting in an unethical manner.

    I think its quite obvious that massive corporations and foreign governments are not giving millions of dollars to political candidates just because they want to be nice. Obviously, they are expecting some form of favorable legislation or other benefit from their financial contributions. Enron and other donors’ influence over Senator Leibermann is only one example of this larger issue. The Clinton Global Initiative is frequently accused of accepting large amounts of money in speaking fees for Bill while Hillary was Secretary of State. Bill would fly to foreign countries, give a speech for which he received hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Hillary would help pass legislation in the best interests of the donors. The book Clinton Cash describes many of these cases in detail…its an interesting read.

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    1. Is it the politician’s duty to serve the constituents or has the system been so incredibly effed up for so long that it is now their duty to serve who gives them money. Similar to a professional athlete being paid to do his or her best for their team. I am not saying that all politicians are rotten but it seems that we only hear about the ones that are. The points you made about Hillary Clinton are a great example of these legislation’s being passed in order to increase the size of the wallet in a politicians wallet. The system and culture is flawed, and we are quickly approaching the point of no return.

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  3. I would like to see how a Shareholder Value voter would view Super PAC candidates like Hilary Clinton. Personally, I might see her as corrupt and a puppet of her financiers, but a shareholder value voter would see her as simply a “legal entity” that is keeping the considerations of her “shareholders” as her main platform. From that point of view, she’s pretty legit. Inversely, self-funded candidates like Donald Trump are viewed as “holding their own reigns.” Regardless, it’s an interesting topic to view through the lenses of the ethical schools of thought.

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  4. You need to specify what the “benefit” is in elections. You seem to define it as winning. Why? I would argue that a measure of benefits is number of candidates who run and narrow margins. If we assume a diverse society, then elections should be rollicking affairs with close calls, many candidates, and HIGH turnover. The current system produces the opposite. So, defining benefits and costs, as well as “who counts” is a key part of the equation.

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