David Gregory of NBC’s Meet the Press recently asked Newt Gingrich if he had any advice for a future presidential candidate. Without missing a beat, the former Speaker of the House answered in five words: “Raise a lot of money.”
Although Gingrich likely lost the Republican presidential primary for myriad other reasons, he could be forgiven for concluding that money was all that mattered in the end. His campaign was on its last legs and mired in debt when one wealthy donor extended him a critical lifeline. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson pumped $5 million into a pro- Gingrich Super PAC called Winning Our Future, single-handedly keeping Gingrich competitive. Adelson and his wife would ultimately contribute $20 million to help Gingrich before finally pulling the plug. But even this generosity couldn’t keep pace with Mitt Romney’s prodigious fundraising. Romney’s campaign and pro-Romney Super PAC raised a combined $154 million through April 2012, overwhelming the competition with a constant barrage of ads.
It’s no secret that money has dominated American politics for decades or more—and that its grip on our democratic process has never been tighter. In the article below, we discuss why the above story is so troubling, the extent of the problem, how we got here (from a legal perspective), and what we can do to create a democracy in which the strength of a citizen’s voice does not depend on the size of her wallet.
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