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How a Tiny Sliver of the Population Pays for Local Elections

Sean McElwee
The Week

However, money still matters a lot, and it probably matters more on the local and state level than it does nationally. As McElwee notes, the donor class has sharply different ideological beliefs than the public at large. For obvious reasons, they tend to resist the tax increases necessary to pay for better services, and tend to support "centrist" austerity derp like the Bowles-Simpson program. In other words, they're more conservative.

When a politician spends much of his waking life circulating among such people, listening carefully to their grievances and their ideas, and trying to convince them he's worth a large donation, it's only human nature that he will tend to sympathize with some of their views. From the other side, making such a process a hurdle one must clear will tend to select for candidates who are comfortable with flattering the wealthy or simply share their views.

So elections cannot be bought like ground beef, and one cannot simply disregard the expressed will of the voters. But when it comes tocomplicated budget argumentstax giveaways for the rich, and sundry other subjects that can fly under the radar, the influence of the rich is powerful indeed. This is why Emanuel has spent so much of his time as mayor privatizing public services and in bitter fights with the Chicago teachers' union over education cuts.

As McElwee argues, one very obvious solution to this would be a system of public finance for elections, so candidates can run for office without needing to spend half the campaign on bended knee before the local rich. But at any rate, this report is just the first in a series that will carry out similar analyses on D.C., Miami-Dade County, each individual state, and eventually the nation as a whole. Undoubtedly each will have their own demographic wrinkles, but rest assured: The voices of America's rich are being heard everywhere.