Money in Politics

Money in Politics

Are you tired of political ads yet? I know I am. They seem to have taken over our political culture. How did we get to this place?

I think there is a lot of confusion about how money in politics works, so here is a quick lesson.

All candidates are monitored for all the donations they raise. In fact, there are strict limits on exactly how much a candidate can accept from any one person or entity. For instance, a MN House of Representative Candidate such as myself can only accept $1,000 in donation per individual, per election cycle. 

So if candidates can only receive a certain amount of money from any one individual, how do they raise so much money? How can they afford to do these TV commercials?

The answer is PACs – political action committees. Many of the commercials you see on TV are not run by the candidate or the candidate’s committee. These commercials are paid for by PACs who choose to run the commercials on their own, supposedly without any input or knowledge of the ad from the candidate. These PACs are not monitored with the same scrutiny that the candidates receive. 

Some say these PACs are out of control. Let’s look at what Donald Trump has been raising.  You can go to the Federal Election Commissions website at any time to see the names of those who are donating to Federal Candidates. On this site on October 22nd, Donald Trump had raised $60,601,310.67. Of that amount he has raised $20,866,606.20 in individual donations, $12,605 from other sources and $35,102,887.27 from other authorized committees. For example, the Trump Make America Great Again committee gave the TrumpCampaign $4,465,029.29. These other committees do not follow the same rules as the candidate does, they do not have to disclose who their donors are, and they have less limits on how much they can give. Their ability to do this was supported by a supreme Court Decision called Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission.

In addition, while candidates can get money from these super PACs, other entities such as PACs and political parties can choose to spend money on the candidate without the candidate knowing. So, for instance, the Republican Party could choose to spend money on campaign ads for Donald Trumpwithout his input. 

You can tell when an ad is run by someone other than the candidate because all ads run by candidates must state they are paid for by the candidate’s committee. Ads run by others do not have to state that.

Beto O’Rourke in Texas is running on a position of not accepting these types of PAC money. You can read an article on his position on PACs here. 

To see the amounts of money raised for the major races in Minnesota, you can check out this MinnPost article or visit the Minnesota Campaign Finance page. For my campaign, I have raised 54% from individuals, 14% from SD 29 and the DFL party, 5% from endorsements such as Education MN (this is considered PAC money), 2% from other candidate’s campaigns, and 25% from the Minnesota Public Subsidy. 

The only way to end the onslaught of political ads during election season is to eliminate the ability of Super PACs to spend unlimited money without oversight. You can get involved with ending this type of political spending. Let me know if you want more information.

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