Election night for a journalist is a bit hectic. After weeks and weeks of covering door knocking, roundtables and stumps speeches, elections culminate with a late night of number crunching, precinct data and phone calls to candidates who are probably ready for the interviews to stop. Election day is what Michael Scott from NBC’s The Office would call “Threat Level Midnight.”
So after the polls closed and the results were tallied, I sat down for an evening of vegging. I turn on my T.V. set to find a Hollywood-esq, movie trailer style epic featuring Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds declaring to all Iowans that this is “our comeback” (as in Iowa’s comeback). The music could have been played over a Bruce Willis montage as he and a group of unlikely heroes prepare to save humanity from calamity. Only 24 hours out from the election, I knew we were in for a media blitz to November.
Political ads, of course, are nothing new. But the increased frequency that we’ve seen in the past decade leaves voters feeling fatigued, and the message becomes white noise.
According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, $64,835,806 had already been spent nationwide by Super Political Action Committees (PACs) during the 2014 midterm election cycle. Including trade associations, unions and other 501(c)(#) organizations, $108,564,610 has been spent.
Most of this money is coming from groups not affiliated with the states in which the campaigns that receive the money are operating. This has been the same warning we’ve heard from political watchdog groups for the last several election cycles, but it continues to worsen with each passing election.
The answer is still, and always has been, public financing. Let’s give each candidate the same amount of money, funded by the tax payers, to make their case. But influencing the balance of power has in our legislative chambers has become such a big part of a successful business plan for the contributors to Super PACs that we may never go back. With the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizen United v. Federal Election Commission, the system has been degregulated even further and it might take a constitutional amendment to keep the interests in congressional campaigns local and the bank account equal for all candidates.
The true citizens can attempt to unite and petition our lawmakers to move toward a fairly financed election system. But until then we’ll pop the popcorn, grab some couch and watch our potential leaders star in not-so-must see T.V.
Staff writer Mike Mendenhall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.