How private campaign donations are effecting elections

Steve Chiotakis: There's another Republican presidential debate scheduled for Tuesday night in New Hampshire, and many candidates are raising tons of money. Seems like nothing new, but just in the last few years, campaigns -- of all levels, and from both major parties -- have started getting more money directly from corporations, which are looking to influence elections and the candidates who will help them the most.

That's the subject of an article in this week's New Yorker magazine. And Jane Mayer reports on
one case of a very powerful man in North Carolina who bought major influence in state elections there. Jane is with us from our bureau in Washington. Hi Jane.

Jane Mayer: Hi, how are you?

Chiotakis: Doing well. What changed to allow this corporate influence on elections?

Mayer: Well, the Supreme Court in the end of 2009 had a decision called "Citizens United," which allows corporations to give money to directly affect the outcomes of elections.

Chiotakis: And Art Pope, who owns this discount store chain Variety Wholesale, right?

Mayer: That's right.

Chiotakis: Influenced a lot of money giving in these North Carolina races that you highlight, right?

Mayer: That's right. Three-quarters of the so-called independent money that went into state races in North Carolina in 2010 came from accounts linked to one businessman -- this is Art Pope.

Chiotakis: And what did he do? I mean, what did he want?

Mayer: He wanted to flip the legislature from Democratic to Republican. And he wanted to do it specifically that year because they were going to be doing redistricting -- which then allowed the Republicans in the legislature to redraw the districts in Congress. They now expect to pick up four Republican Congressional seats.

Chiotakis: And has this been going on across the country, or is this specific to North Carolina?

Mayer: It's part of a nationwide plan called "REDMAP" that was drawn up by Ed Gillespie, who used to be the head of the Republican National Committee.

Chiotakis: This can go either way, right Jane? I mean, corporations can back Democrats or Repbulicans -- so it could be "BLUEMAP" right?

Mayer: It could be "BLUEMAP." And it's not just corporations, but unions also can now give to try to affect the outcomes of campaigns.

Chiotakis: If people are upset about this, on either side, is there anything that can be done in the long run?

Mayer: Well, I suppose that there could be challenges brought, and they could try to re-hear it in some fashion, but at the moment, it's the law of the land -- and it's already transforming politics.

Chiotakis: Jane Mayer, reporter from The New Yorker with an interesting story this week. Jane, thank you so much.

Mayer: Glad to be with you.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...