We, the people, will lose the elections

Published 8:26 am Monday, February 8, 2010

Over the last six months Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and now the United States Supreme Court, have decided that the manner in which state and federal campaigns are funded must change.

Since 1990, Minnesota residents who donated to a political party or a candidate for state office have been eligible to receive a tax refund of up to $50 for individual filers and $100 for couples. The governor has cut this tax refund and it is projected that the state of Minnesota will save roughly around $10 million each budget cycle; that is approximately $5 million a year. This is a drop-in-the-bucket method of fixing the deficit.  

Last June, Mike Dean, the executive director of the nonpartisan government watchdog group Common Cause Minnesota, said the tax refund has been a valuable way to engage average people in the political process in an interview aired on Minnesota Public Radio. Dean expressed great concern over the influence big money will have on candidates, particularly when the government is denying our voices in this manner.

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Mr. Dean’s concerns were valid. Last Friday the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a major portion of a 2002 campaign-finance reform law. The Supreme Court has opened the flood gates by giving major power to corporate and union dollars. These organizations can now legally influence future elections. The balance of power has changed. Candidates will become beholden to corporations, lobbyist and special interest groups and unions to finance political campaigns, leaving the common citizens out of the equation. This upcoming election we will see more deep pockets and outsiders, using the tactics of mudslinging and dirty politics to the extent that we have never seen before in their efforts to try and buy elections.  

We, the citizens, are going to be the big losers.

Mike Lee

Albert Lea