1. Update
  2. Voting & Elections

Money in Politics: What have we learned in the past five years?

By Hannah Graf Evans, January 21, 2015


Today is the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United vs. FEC; a decision that allowed corporations to spend money to influence elections the same way that individual people can. In the last five years, corporations, SuperPACs, and wealthy individuals have stepped up campaign contributions and further solidified the role of big money in politics. FCNL continues our mission to reduce the role of big money in government, which all too often drowns out the voices of American citizens.

Today is the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United vs. FEC; a decision that allowed corporations to spend money to influence elections the same way that individual people can. In the last five years, corporations, SuperPACs, and wealthy individuals have stepped up campaign contributions and further solidified the role of big money in politics. FCNL continues our mission to reduce the role of big money in government, which all too often drowns out the voices of American citizens. As we reflect on the past five years, what have we learned?

Democracy is about your voice. As campaign finance stands now, politician’s campaigns are heavily supported by corporate contributions and wealthy individuals. That means that a large portion of a politicians’ day must be spent “dialing for dollars” as the president mentioned in last night’s State of the Union address. The result is that our representatives are constantly in touch with potential major donors, and less in touch with their constituents. So the biggest factor that influences policy isn’t the money – it’s the access to the decision-maker.

That’s where you come in. You can change that dynamic by visiting congress members’ offices more frequently in your home district and any time you are in Washington. Your perspective as a citizen, as a constituent and as a community member is important for the office to hear – and it is part of your civic responsibility to share that perspective.

Grassroots momentum is growing. This week there are events all over the country to raise awareness about the role of big money in politics. At the state level, groups are working together to improve laws regarding campaign contributions and spending for state elections and support resolutions in state legislatures for a federal constitutional amendment.

In Washington, FCNL continues to work with the Faith and Democracy working group, comprised of about twenty faith groups committed to reducing the influence of money on policy decisions. In the 113th Congress, there were a number of different pieces of legislation which aimed for campaign finance reform. A proposed constitutional amendment, S.J. Res. 19, got a majority vote in the Senate, but was shy of the 2/3rds majority required for the passage of constitutional amendments. Since Citizens United many Americans have become more cognizant of big money in politics, but where to go from here?

Now is the time to get louder. The only thing more powerful than organized money is organized people. Rather than throwing your hands up in despair, think about how you can connect with other people in your area or in your state to bring not only your voice, but also the voices of your friends, meeting, church or school to Congress. Think about how you can inspire someone to realize that money in politics is their issue too, whether they care about the environment, school lunches, prison reform or gun control. Encourage people in your life to engage with this important issue rather than to give up on the democratic process. Restoring democracy begins with looking at the sources of power our democracy is drawing from. Together as agents of change, our voices and our votes can be much stronger sources of power than money can ever be.

In the past five years, a national conversation about money in politics continued onward and our network all over the country continued to engage despite the rise in election spending. We’ve learned from our visits to the Hill that it matters who offices are hearing from, and how often. So don’t let the big money monopolize your Congress members’ time – set up your meetings today and tell them what matters to you.

Hannah Graf Evans

  • Former Legislative Representative, Immigration and Refugee Policy

Hannah Graf Evans led FCNL's lobbying for compassionate immigration and refugee policies, with a particular focus on detention practices, the rights of border communities, and protection of vulnerable communities. Hannah served as co-chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition steering committee for three years.