Since Alison Lundergan Grimes announced her run for United States Senate in July of 2013, she has raised over 11 million dollars in campaign money–more than any opponent of Mitch McConnell has ever raised. While shocking, this is nothing new for the campaign over the hotly-contested seat. Mitch McConnell’s campaign has raised over 23 million dollars–four times more than he raised for his 2002 campaign. More than 40 million dollars have been spent on this race alone, making it the most expensive Senate campaign in United States history. According to the National Association of State Budget Offices (NASBO), the per capita income of Kentucky is $23,210. This makes the McConnell/Grimes campaign worth more than 1,730 times that of the salary of the average Kentuckian.
So why should we care? After all, it’s a well-known fact that politics are expensive. The 2012 Presidential campaign totaled $2,345,211,863 dollars in spending for both sides, worth far more than any Senate campaign in history. But the circumstances of the McConnell/Grimes race are different. The presidential race determines the leader of one of the world’s most powerful countries for the next four years,but this campaign is not for a national election, it’s a state election. Yes, incumbent Mitch McConnell is the Senate minority leader, but that doesn’t change the fact that this race is in Kentucky, a largely ignored state which is seldom the center of national political activity. And yet, not only is the campaign worth more than $40 million, but most of this money isn’t even from Kentucky. We also need to care because the race is closely tied to Louisville. McConnell is a Manual graduate and this election is the first that the class of 2015 will be able to vote on. The notion behind Congress is that Senators and Representatives are supposed to uphold the interests of their constituents back home to create proxy democracy, right? How can this occur when Kentuckians are so abstracted from the process?
All groups listed as donors for both campaigns are either PACs (Political Action Committees), SuperPACs (which have fewer restrictions on donation limits) or 501cs (tax-exempt nonprofit organizations that are not required to disclose individual donors). These interest groups have donated $20,655,306, more than half of the entire campaign’s cost. Of these 35 corporations, 18 are exclusively conservative, 13 are exclusively liberal, four do not list their political views, and only three are based in the state of Kentucky. That means that fewer than 10% of the largest donors to the race are actually associated with the state in which the election is taking place. The people controlling the campaign which has the most effect on Kentucky residents aren’t even from the state of Kentucky. The ads that barrage you from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep are paid for by corporations in California, New York, Texas, Washington D.C, and barely, just barely, Kentucky.
This is corruption of the highest form. “Our” politicians are not concerned with our matters, they’re only concerned with the money they’re getting from big businesses across the country. The PACs which continue to support them while in office use the threat of taking away money to make sure politicians vote the way they want them to. Our politicians are no longer our politicians, they’re hardly even politicians anymore. They are merely pawns in the chess match of SuperPAC versus. SuperPAC, while the concerns of the American people were set aside long ago.
So what can be done? Even if the candidates are corrupt, to stay away from politics entirely would just be rolling over and giving up. Instead, inform yourself not with the commercials sponsored by the campaigns, but rather from reliable news sources which hold politicians accountable. And if you can vote, use that power wisely. The voice of the people of Kentucky was meant to be heard, and taking action can keep it from being drowned out in a sea of out-of-state money.