With the end of the Democratic debate Tuesday night, voters across the country have now had the opportunity to hear from the candidates of both parties about their vision for this country and what they would do if they were elected to the White House.
Voters get a lot of information from candidates during campaign appearances and interviews. However, the debates offer the opportunity for candidates to debate the merits of those plans and allow voters to hear alternatives compared side by side.
So while we heard fleeting mentions of Citizens United, campaign finance and the influence of billionaires, we’d like to hear more in-depth, direct questions posed to candidates of both parties.
For instance, in the debate earlier this week, both former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., brought up the issue in their introductions and conclusive remarks, but said little of substance or solutions on the matter.
After stating Americans are tired of the influence of money in politics, Webb stated, “I know how to lead. I did it in Vietnam, I did it in the Pentagon, I did it in the Senate and if you will help me overcome this cavalcade of financial irregularities and money that is poisoning our political process, I am ready to do that for you in the White House.”
A few minutes later, Sanders said:
As a result of this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, our campaign finance system is corrupt and is undermining American democracy. Millionaires and billionaires are pouring unbelievable sums of money into the political process in order to fund super PACs and to elect candidates who represent their interests, not the interests of working people.
Even though other candidates like Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have also proposed plans, the moderators asked no direct questions about this issue, so we weren’t able to hear much debate about proposed plans to fix our system.
But that wasn’t exclusive to the Democrats.
There are also several Republicans who have spoken out about the influence of money on the political process, including Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Lindsey Graham. Yet, going back through the transcripts, we could find no direct question and only a couple instances where Republican candidates addressed the issue.
The first was Trump during the first mainstage debate when he said, “I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people before this, before two months ago. I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me. And that’s a broken system.”
The second was during the second mainstage Republican debate when Ben Carson stated, “I in no way am willing to get in the bed with special interest groups or lick the boots of billionaires.”
Candidates on both sides of the aisle are talking about this issue and proposing plans of action. We’d like to see more direct questions posed about those plans. Specifically, here are the six questions we’d like them to answer:
1. Should the Citizens United and McCutcheon Supreme Court rulings be overturned?
2. Should so-called “social welfare” organizations — who aren’t required to disclose their donors — be able to participate in campaigns from the shadows?
3. Would you support efforts to reform the campaign finance system and help bring the public further into the political process?
4. Should political advertisers be required to identify the top sponsors behind all ads appearing on broadcast television, cable, the Internet and radio?
5. Should super PACs supporting your candidacy turn away donations when their source can’t be traced to a specific donor?
6. Do you support real-time, electronic disclosure of donations to any political campaign or organization?
We look forward to more debate from both parties and (hopefully) more discussion about this important issue in American politics.