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How big donors affect American politics

Kai Ryssdal Sep 5, 2014
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How big donors affect American politics

Kai Ryssdal Sep 5, 2014
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In the 2012 election, over 5 million small donors contributed about $370 million to the presidential campaigns. Another 100 people gave $470 million; those people are the mega-donors.

“The folks who spent the most money … did not, of course, ultimately get their way,” says Ken Vogel, author of “Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp — on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics.”

“There is a tendency to think that just because Barack Obama was reelected and because Democrats held the Senate that maybe big money didn’t have a huge impact on our electoral process,” Vogel says.

The Koch brothers are two of the big spenders that Vogel talks about in his book. Charles and David Koch are billionaire industrialists who hold seminars to bring some of the top Republican politicians and big donors together.

“They have become, in many ways, a new political party unto themselves,” says Vogel. “They have real presence. They actually go out and knock on doors, they do phone banking and they do real targeted social media. In some ways, because they don’t have the same restraints that the parties have in the ability to accept these massive checks that keep that infrastructure going, they are in many ways better positioned to do the functions that the party used to really have a monopoly on.”

Vogel says some of the federal courts’ decisions and legislation are what limits the party and candidates’ ability to accept the money. The result is a shift in power and money from inside the system to outside the system with these big donors. 

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