Points of Color


Points of Color

Politics has become a big money game with huge sums being raised and spent seeking the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations. According to the Federal Election Commission, contributions to all candidates in the 2016 race have amounted to more than $710 million dollars; the Democrats led slightly, having raised about $370 million compared to the Republican total of $340 million. On The Center for Responsive Politics website, Open Secrets.org, the contributions are sourced: $446 million, or more than 61% of the total raised, came from super PACs supporting individual candidates. This unsettling reality, of wealthy individuals and corporations spending an unlimited amount of money on favored politicians, can be directly attributed to the Supreme Court’s atrocious ruling in the celebrated case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010).  Among Democrats, more than 42% of Hillary Clinton’s fundraising came from outside sources, including super PACS, while Bernie Sanders took exactly the opposite route: a record number of individuals––2,513,665 contributors––each donated a small amount (average November 2015-January 2016 contriution: $27.16). Yet, as of this FEC report, Sanders led Clinton in fundraising: $182,182,143 to $180,158,371. Among GOP candidates, Donald Trump is shouldering the cost of funding his campaign primarily from of his own fortupne. In fact, 75% of Trump’s fundraising total, or more than $36 million, came from the candidate’s own resources. Other, failed Republican candidates, notably Jeb Bush, far outspent the Donald only to crash and burn. Bush, in his diastrous campaign, raised $155+ million––far exceeding any other GOP candidate––of which $121,143,468 came from outside sources, such as super PACs.


Although many leading corporations have enjoyed record profits in recent years, a culture has developed in which corporations actively seek to shield their treasure from U.S. taxes. For example, in 2015, General Electric and United Continental Airlines paid $0 the government in taxes. A legal industry has grown up with the goal of assisting companies to avoid their responsponsibilities; tax attorneys on staff and hired as consultants create complex strategies in which companies are able to render their profits as unavailable to the Treasury Department. Thus, 75% of Fortune 500 corporations hid profits–exceeding $2 trillion— in offshore tax havens in 2014. Also, a number of large corporations spent more on lobbying than they did on federal taxes between 2008-2012. Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service has endured budget cuts which have crippled that agency’s ability to audit large corporations. Corporations, on the other hand, have increased spending to the personnel responsible for developing tax avoidance schemes.


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