Unlike secret porn star mistresses and binders thrown at staff members, which are both pretty egregious skeletons to have buried in one’s career closet, campaign funding is not always a front-page scandal.
Thanks to Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s recent and groundbreaking approach to questioning during a recent House committee meeting, they might be on their way to becoming more of an issue.
At first glance, campaign funding might look like another non-issue. Particularly in America, we seem to have this attitude that our elected officials’ budgets are not as big of a deal.
After all, they earn it, right?
They spend all those sleepless nights on the floor of Congress, shuttle back and forth between their home states and the country’s capital, and pepper their speeches with reminders that they do this for us, and us alone.
The point that Ocasio-Cortez lays her fingers over during her role-play session, though, is the flaw at the core of that belief: if it is for our benefit, we shouldn’t care less about where that money comes and goes.
We should and deserve to care more.
And by “we,” I mean millennials in particular.
It is not surprising that one of the youngest members of Congress would shine a light on the murky waters of campaign funding laws, considering the ways in which this generation has found themselves growing up with lesser funds and opportunities than our predecessors.
After all, when student loan debt is skyrocketing and it’s commonplace to see friends and relatives crowd-sourcing through IndieGoGo or GoFundMe in order to secure funds for emergencies, why not question who is getting paid and how it influences their decisions?
A pivotal moment in the entire questioning was when Ocasio-Cortez briefly paused and then said, “that money,” referring to hush money gathered from corporate political action committees (PAC) funded campaigns used to legally pay off those who might testify to skeletons in politicians’ closets, “is considered speech.”
The idea of money as speech is a heavily contested one, but it holds water when you consider our current political environment. From tax breaks proposed for the wealthy to the fact that our government was shut down over a budget for the proposed border wall, there are indications of the ability of money to speak louder than real citizen voices to pepper articles, discussion, and political decisions.
Think about money as being a spokesperson for the corporation extending it, and it crying out from the pocket of the appointed official who sits down to write laws and passes judgment on the behaviors of said industry, and it is not hard to realize that this is indeed a conflict of interest.
The amount of pushback received by the Parkland activists from congressmen funded and supported over the years by the National Rifle Association is a key example of this conflict. The NRA has lowered its profile on Capitol Hill due to the increased scrutiny the gun control conversation millennials and Generation X are fueling has brought upon them.
One of the benefits in this generation being the leaders against campaign funding, and in Ocasio-Cortez’ clever role-playing speaking their language, is the fact that there is already a sense of irreverence for politics that has not been shared by prior generations.
We do not necessarily believe that these men and women deserve the money funneled their way by interest groups or private donors. We do not necessarily draw the conclusion that every check that passes over their desk will eventually result in positive efforts in our communities, or schools, or in legislation that supports our interests.
As more rights are challenged and we look forward to forging on with or without proper healthcare, a questionable job market and a struggling economy, we must think about what issues are benefiting while other efforts are deprived.
And thanks to Ocasio-Cortez, there is now a clear breakdown of exactly how and where a heavily legislated system still fails, not to mention the few regulations imposed on the powers of the executive branch.
It is long past due for campaign funding to become an issue on the table that isn’t slid aside in favor of something more titillating.
Money does talk.
And when it threatens to drown our voices and our efforts to make our lives and country better, we should be working on ways to improve the missions and agendas it speaks for.