WSW: Money, And A Lack Of Transparency In Politics

May 1, 2016

Kalamazoo County Administration Building - file photo
Credit WMUK

Western Michigan University Psychiatry Professor Michael Liepman says even the elected officials he supports constantly “have their hand out for a check”. 

Lipeman, who has been a practicing psychiatrist for 39 years, is part of a task force of Kalamazoo citizens asking local leaders to weigh in on the issue of campaign finance. Specifically they are asking the Kalamazoo County Commission to approve a resolution opposing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United Decision approved in 2010. Retired minister and teacher Harold Beu is also part of the task force. He says the constant need for money makes it hard for public servants to do their jobs.

Lipeman says the Citizen’s United decision allows greater amounts of money to flow to political action committees without disclosure about who is giving that money. Beu says transparency is important, but he says the amount of money in the system is giving corporations and the wealthy undue influence over the political process and the laws approved by Congress. Beu says the Presidential campaigns of both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders have tapped into the feeling that money has too much influence in politics. 

Asked why they are focused on the Kalamazoo County Commission, which cannot change the U.S. Constitution or the Supreme Court, Beu and Liepman say it’s not exclusive. Lipeman says communities around the nation are trying to get their local leaders on record objecting to the Citizen’s United decision, and keep the conversation going about the issue. Beu says getting the county commission on record doesn’t preclude lobbying federal lawmakers as well.

Short of amending the Constitution or a new Supreme Court decision that would overturn the Citizen’s United decision, Liepman says lawmakers could at least require more disclosure at the federal and state level. But he says that hasn’t happened so far.