In the midst of continuing controversy over Citizens United and campaign spending, a private citizen may be single-handedly driving Missouri politics. (Missouri abolished contribution limits in 2008.) Since that time, Rex Sinquefield has spent more than $20 million on local politics. His main goal is to abolish state and local income taxes and replace them with sales tax.
We talk often in class about whether corporations should be able to spend money in campaigns. One of the arguments opposing corporate involvement is that normal citizens cannot participate at the same level because they cannot donate as much money as corporations. Sinquefield completely smashes this point – he clearly able and willing to spend large amounts of money in elections. To do so is his right as an American citizen. However, the influence he gains from these massive contributions makes me nervous. The New York Times article (link above) hints that when Sinquefield decides to participate in a campaign, his desired outcome wins. Even before the 2008 ban on contribution limits, Mr. Sinquefield managed to donate boatloads of money to campaigns by forming over 100 PACs.
Sinquefield is a private citizen engaging in Constitutionally protected free speech by spending his own money. So why does it feel un-democratic? Maybe it’s because 22 of the 143 ballot measures in Missouri this year were written by Sinquefiled’s lawyer.
Personally, I’m terrified of the implications of Missouri’s ban. This precedent may lead to a nation in which rich citizens and corporations can blatantly control elections and the outcome of campaigns – which does not seem democratic to me.