HESS: Wine caves are a symptom of Citizens United

We must fight to overturn the decision of Citizens United in order to reduce the power of corporate interests in our political system

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The “cave” that was mentioned is alluding to an alleged closed-door meeting held by presidential candidate and former South Bend, Mayor Pete Buttigieg with billionaire donors. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

If you watched December’s Democratic debate, there is no way that you missed the phrase “wine cave”. The “cave” that was mentioned is alluding to an alleged closed-door meeting held by presidential candidate and former South Bend, Mayor Pete Buttigieg with billionaire donors. Fellow candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., took aim at Buttigieg, pointing out that his campaign financing structure is exactly what is wrong with politics in America — billionaires and corporations funding campaigns. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., later continued the discussion by comparing former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign structure to that of Buttigieg’s. This discussion illuminated the issue of the wine cave, and billionaire donors more specifically, as perhaps the biggest threat to our democracy. As Americans, we must resist the wine cave by halting the control big corporations and billionaire donors have over our government.

This big money that is being handed out in wine caves is not hushed and quiet — it is loud and overpowering politics on every level, from the presidency to city council. In the 2018 election cycle, the finance industry alone donated over $500 million to campaigns and super PACs. While the donations slightly favored Republicans, both parties received millions of dollars from the sector. All corporate interests and lobbying groups together easily spent over one billion dollars throughout the election cycle. 

If any candidate truly believes in supporting most Americans, then they must recognize that giant corporations and billionaires funding our elections is wrong. It ties a candidate directly to big money, which then allows the origin of the cash flow to have control over the candidate once they are in office. This endless cycle of campaign financing supports a system that is looking out for billionaires and corporations instead of the people that it is intended to protect. The gun lobby, the pharmaceutical industry and the big banks all influence our elected officials with their millions in donations, which often makes the considerations of the majority of Americans less important. 

Unfortunately, there are several roadblocks in overcoming corporate control on our government and the first is Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations to spend an unlimited amount of money to advocate for or against candidates and gave rise to super PACs. This case cemented big money into American politics and activists since then have been successful in exposing the downfalls of this decision to the public — 85 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of Republicans support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. The American people want to see money’s influence on politics disappear, but in order to amend the Constitution, the elected politicians must vote on this hypothetical amendment — the same politicians that are already wrapped up in corporate interests. The public has already decided that it is time for change, but if the corrupt system is fighting for corporate interests, then it would be very difficult for an amendment such as this one to pass.

Difficulty fortunately does not equate to hopelessness. While our political system is wrapped up in corporate interests, not every politician has submitted to the ultra-rich’s control over our democracy. Presidential candidates like Sanders, with his “political revolution”, and Warren, advocating for “big structural change”, are leading the fight against big money’s power in our elections. The Senate and the House have already introduced amendments that would overturn Citizens United and 19 states have already passed resolutions in support of a constitutional amendment overturning the ruling. 

But overturning a corrupt system is no easy task and no politician alone will be able to solve this issue. In order to overturn this disastrous ruling, Americans across the country must speak up. Simple things, like calling your legislator and supporting candidates who want to overturn Citizens United is a great start. We need marches and displays — we need a movement. This is a fight for our democracy, for our integrity, and for our future. We must overturn Citizens United in order to fight against billionaires in wine caves affecting our election cycles and government. It is not right for the top 0.1 percent to be in control of our political system. Going into 2020, we all should be fighting for this change and supporting candidates that can help enact it. It is time to end the power and financial structures that start with billionaires in a wine cave. Let’s take back our democracy and resist corporate control to establish fair and equitable democracy in the United States.

Hunter Hess is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com

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