As a first time voter, I want to be as well informed as possible before I make my decisions and send in my absentee ballot. As a citizen of Oregon, I get to vote on all sorts of interesting issues including funding for arts in schools, a ban on gillnets, and marijuana legalization. However, backers of two ballot measures having to do with casino legalization decided to cut their losses on Tuesday and call it a campaign. These backers who had hoped to “authorize the establishment of privately owned casinos” throughout Oregon pulled their financial support on Tuesday, acknowledging that the measures had insufficient support among voters. According to The Oregonian, this came after the campaign had already “spent and raised more than five million dollars” backing the two measures.1 Five million dollars that could have been injected into Oregon’s economy gambled away.
What a waste. And the sad part is that this amount is insignificant when compared to what is typically spent on national political campaigns. Thus far in the 2012 election, Obama has spent $615,600,000 while Romney has spent $530,700,000.2 Considering the amount of time that both candidates have dedicated to our economic problems, one would think that they would be more frugal when it came to campaign spending. On top of this, the Wall Street Journal estimates that Super-PACS have spent around $340,450,753 thus far on the 2012 elections.3 Cumulatively, that is nearly 1.5 billion dollars that have been spent by Super-PACS and the Obama and Romney campaigns. Ultimately, one of the candidates will lose the election and roughly half of all that money will have been spent for a losing campaign. Oregon doesn’t need to establish casinos; diehard gamblers have already found a home in the headquarters of political campaigns and Super-PACs! At least the casino backers in Oregon knew when to cut their loses and back out. It’s hard to imagine the Romney or Obama campaigns making such a decision.
And this is only one reason that these exorbitant sums have a detrimental effect on elections. Because ads have such a large effect on the outcome of elections, campaigns often come down to nothing more than a spending battle. I find this notion that an election can be about nothing more than spending appalling. Shouldn’t an election be about the quality of a campaign’s platform and their vision for the future rather than the depth of its pocketbook? Moreover, I firmly believe that corporate money should be limited if not eliminated. Citizens alone should be the ones who decide on important issues and self-interested corporations shouldn’t wield such disproportionate influence. If corporations backing casinos had been able to influence the outcome of the ballot measures in Oregon, an important element of the State’s democracy would have been compromised. Until rulings such as Citizens United are overturned and campaign finance is more tightly regulated, money will continue to play a significant role in our political process.