Descrição de chapéu
David Wiswell

David Wiswell: The US Campaign Finance Circus

What benefit does a system that converts money into votes bring to our shared democratic ideals?

Money is the root of all evil, which is why it’s ideal to have it so deeply embedded in politics. This ensures that democracy works as it should: solely for the rich! In the US, problems of money in politics are becoming more bizarre and shameless. Politicians paying for support, using political donations for personal legal fees and stolen crypto customer funds being siphoned into campaigns.

It feels like democracies are suffering what American rap icon and convicted crack dealer Biggie sang: "mo money mo problems" —although the jury is still out on the mathematical ratio of "problems" to "crack".

Former US President and 2024 Presidential hopeful Donald Trump plays golf at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster, New Jersey
Former US President and 2024 Presidential hopeful Donald Trump plays golf at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster, New Jersey - Timothy A. Clary - 10.aug.23/AFP

Luckily, Brazil has not had any campaign finance misconduct. (Note: Petrobras may or may not have bought me an apartment in Guarujá in exchange for writing that.)

Wealthy Republican candidates Doug Burgum and Vivek Ramaswamy have each spent over $100 million of their own money on their current presidential primary runs. Obviously donating because the candidates really speak to them… personally. "I really share my values!"

Ramaswamy has also offered to pay a 10% commission to those who bring in donations to his campaign. Burgum has actually offered $20 gift cards to the first 50K people who donate $1 to his run!

Obviously, Burgum is not a math major. Why do this? To meet the threshold of receiving 40K unique donations required to get into the primary debates. But spending over $100M to become president which has a salary of $400K is suspicious math for such savvy businessmen… But not when you look at the bank accounts of many US politicians who through blatant insider trading, and potentially more nefarious means, inexplicably turn such salaries into sometimes $100M+ bank accounts.

There’s even a service called "unusual whales" that allows you to automatch stock trades of US congressmen who consistently magically seem to make perfectly timed investments, often while sitting on committees that influence the market. Last week US prosecutors accused FTX’s defamed cryptocurrency mogul, Sam Bankman-Fried, of funneling $100M of stolen customer funds to US lawmakers’ campaigns, in what they are describing as bribery. Basically selling theoretical currency with cartoons on it, then stealing it to give real money to those who make the laws regulating his ability to sell more cartoon money.

By now, if you don’t think Biggie was on to something, perhaps you bought some of his crack. And now I could use some.

Attempting to buy your way into office and then leveraging that power is not new. Trump spent $66M on his initial 2016 run, and, according to Forbes, Trump's businesses made $2.4B during his presidency.

You don’t have to be Burgum to do that math. And now Trump has reportedly spent $40M of his current campaign fund on his own myriad legal fees. Maybe he’ll argue his many arraignments were campaign appearances?

These are all cases that reinforce my view that money’s influence on politics can only pervert democracy.

Although, I believe democracy is Latin for "manipulating poor people". What benefit does a system that turns money into votes do for our shared democratic ideals? Whether politicians pay themselves or find others to fund them and ultimately become beholden to if the world doesn’t get the money out of politics, corruption is our only possible outcome.

Simply put: If we have "mo money" we’ll have "mo problems." I’m just saying that there’s an issue with democracy when it’s running into the exact same dilemma… as a crack dealer.