A Curious Bystander

Megan Chrisler, Features Editor

SuperPACs and other forms of campaign donations have been under the radar recently as billionaires like Thomas Steyer spend money on their political agendas—in Steyer’s case, climate change issues. Even bigger news is the large amount of campaign funds going towards Secretary of State elections.

Most people don’t know the name of their Secretary of State, and they don’t care. Usually this wouldn’t be a problem, because the position hasn’t been a big deal. But because one of the priorities of the job is election management, Democrats and Republicans have been investing quite a lot of money into it (Democrats have created two superPACs, Republicans only one).

“Since 2000, it’s been clear to political operatives that in very close elections the rules and the implementation of the rules for running elections can make a difference,” Rick Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, said. “It’s not surprising we see competition over the office that has the most control over those rules and, especially in battleground states, this trend is likely to continue.”

So basically, both parties are trying to get some control of elections before voting booths are open in November. Money is an efficient way to do this. In fact, campaign contributions have been a source of criticism before this; some say that receiving large donations leaves a political party indebted to wealthy sponsors. It also may leave top government positions to only those individuals who are good at raising money, regardless of experience or competency at the job. Suddenly, the world of politics takes an elitist stance, and corporations are able to buy people who can implement their political agendas.

Still, others say that Secretaries of State are generally fair about how they set up elections (some of these people, of course, are former Secretaries of State). But the fact still stands that it’s fairly common for the wealthy to buy off the politically powerful in the form of large campaign contributions, and this does nothing for the public. Not only does this open doors for elitism, but charges of fraud and other misuses of financial donations are always in the headlines. Furthermore, this only helps income inequality and the class gap. Essentially, legislation is reduced to approval by the wealthy and the politicians they pay for.

As far as the Secretary of State position goes, it may not end up being a big deal. After all, how blatantly partisan can they be in the spotlight of public and media criticism? But if most or all large government positions become politicized in this way, as many have become, the sense of division will only continue in our politics. Politics should stop being a competition for money and power, and start being the foundation of effective legislation—no strings attached.