This morning, I did something I never thought I’d do: I made a campaign contribution to a political campaign. Now, as a former journalist – a field where I was encouraged not to vote by my bosses in order to maintain the aura of having no political affiliation and thus being wholly unbiased (yeah, right) – I’m not going to share with you the party, candidate, or Super PAC to which my contribution went, although if you’ve read enough of my personal finance articles, you could likely make an educated guess. In any event, this post isn’t about politics per sé, but the semantics of donating money during the election cycle.
For about the past year in America, there’s been growing mistrust between the so-called 99% and the 1%. But, as it turns out, when it comes to elections, it’s really not the 1% at all; it’s more like the 0.000063%.
Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, wrote an article for The Atlantic that illustrates this idea rather succinctly:
A tiny number of Americans — .26 percent — give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. .05 percent give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate. .01 percent give more than $10,000 in any election cycle. And .000063 percent — 196 Americans — have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.
**Note: Emphasis in the above quote is my own.**
Sure, you can read the numbers and think, “Wow, that sounds like a really small part of the American population,” but I think it’s even more helpful to see them laid out before your eyes:
Look at that small, green slice of pie – it’s kind of ironic that it’s green, because that’s the portion of Americans who aren’t rolling out the dough. That small piece, representing just one-fifth of all Super PAC donations thus far in our current election cycle, reflects the combined donations of 99.999937% of us. In other words, just a tiny fraction of Americans – a fraction so small that you wouldn’t even be able to see the slice on a pie chart of this size – is responsible for dictating how political campaigns are funded and, in many cases, how they operate.
My Campaign Contribution
It was after seeing these stats on a network news broadcast that I decided to jump into the political arena myself. So just how big was my first-ever campaign contribution?
A whopping $25.
I’m on a budget. I work freelance, have a husband who works as a law enforcement officer, and care for two young children who grow out of clothes faster than a cheetah dashes across the African grasslands. $25 was pushing it for us, but I felt it was the right thing to do.
So Why Even Bother Donating Money?
Do I really think my measly $25 donation will make a difference to the candidate/issue/party/Super PAC I’ve decided to support? No, I don’t. It would be ludicrous to believe it would – not when there are billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, who can drop $10 million at a time to a Super PAC without batting an eye. I’d have to make my same $25 campaign contribution 400,000 times in order to get to the same level as the Vegas hotel magnate.
In fact, it’s billionaire donors like Adelson – who has pledged to donate $100 million this election cycle to back the candidates and issues of his choice – who make it so hard for the average Joes (and Janes) like me to make a dent in the donation process. The left-leaning website Think Progress recently reported that in terms of percentage of overall wealth, Adelson’s $10 million donation is equivalent to the average American donating $40. Think about that for a second – whether you’re on the right or on the left, it’s incredible to think that $10 million is, essentially, chump change to a guy like Adelson.
So if I don’t think my donation to the political process will ultimately make a difference, why did I do it? Because I can; because it’s my right. Just as voting is something we, as Americans should do in order to be involved in how our country is run, so should we find a way to back the candidates and issues that we believe are best suited to do the job. The old saying goes that if you didn’t vote, you shouldn’t complain about the results about the election; my donation essentially took that adage a step further.
I don’t believe my $25 will go very far, and I know that for others, it may be too much out of the household budget. But could you donate a dollar? Two dollars? My point is that simply donating money to a political campaign gets you involved in the process, makes you more connected to it, than you would be otherwise. It forces you to be more aware, to take some ownership and responsibility for the direction in which our country is headed.
I don’t care if you lean right or if you lean left; I’m essentially arguing that this is an investmentin our futurethat everyone should make, regardless of how big or small.
Reader, have you ever donated to a political campaign? Why or why not?