The CWA News | The Fight For Political Equality

Volume 75, Issue #4 | Winter 2015


158 Families Gave 176 Million

“The American government does respond to the public’s preferences, but that responsiveness is strongly tilted toward the most affluent citizens…the preferences of the vast majority of Americans appear to have essentially no impact on which policies the government does or doesn’t adopt.”

Source: Martin Gilens, Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America.

Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions, the richest of the 1 percent have been able to put their mark on our election process and our democracy.  Not only are the values and interests of the wealthy – which are very different from those of everyday Americans – now center stage, their mega-dollars diminish the votes and power of the rest of us.

There is a direct connection between big money in our politics and the attack on the right to vote.  We must break that connection and go on the offense. That means public policy that expands voter registration and makes it easier for citizens to cast their ballots. It means public financing of elections at every level to give everyday Americans an opportunity to participate either as a candidate or a supporter. It means exposing the core beliefs of the 1 percent. It means getting rid of the corrupting influence of big money in politics and restoring the ideal of government of, by and for the people, not the 1 percent.

The New York Times recently analyzed Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service data and determined that just 158 families and the companies they control have contributed half of the funds for Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, at least at this stage of Election 2016. Of these, 138 are Republicans, 20 are Democrats.

They are few in number but their wealth – combined with nearly non-existent campaign finance laws – are making it possible for the very wealthy to change the direction of public policy, despite the opposition of strong majorities of Americans.

The Rich Have Different Values

Higher taxes on those earning $1 million or more a year?

60 percent of Americans surveyed say the wealthy and corporations aren’t paying their fair share.* But a majority of states and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives continue to push for tax breaks for the wealthy and more cuts in social programs. 

*(Source: Pew Research survey, March 2015)

Unions and bargaining rights?

More than half, 58 percent, of Americans approve of labor unions.* But bargaining contracts and joining a union are harder than ever, as states look to weaken union representation in the public and private sector.

*(Source: Gallup poll, August 2015)

Climate change and global warming?

78 percent of Americans say the government should take action.* Yet it’s unlikely that the voice of everyday Americans on these mainstream policies will be heard, because it is drowned out by the money and influence of the 1 percent.

*(Source: New York Times/Stanford University/Resources for the Future public poll, January 2015)