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Opinion / Chen Weihua

Money killing govt of the people, by the people, for the people

By CHEN WEIHUA (China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-24 08:20

Money killing govt of the people, by the people, for the people

Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (L) looks on as Trump speaks about the results of the Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri primary elections during a news conference held at his Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, US, March 15, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

The breaking news in the United States these past days has been that the Donald Trump's campaign had only $1.3 million in cash on hand at the end of May, in stark contrast to the $42 million held by his rival Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Compared to the $28 million raised by Democratic front runner Clinton in May, Trump, the presumptive Republican candidate, took in a meager $3.1 million that month.

Many have been shocked by Trump's inability to raise funds at a time when the Republican National Committee has not fully thrown its weight behind him. The New York real estate mogul has been self-funding his campaign during most of the primaries, despite reports suggesting that some of the money has been used to pay his own companies.

Many people are waiting to see whether such a large fund raising gap will be narrowed in the months leading up to the November election. This, however, over-looks a key issue, the influence of money in politics, which is widely regarded as a cancer in US politics today.

Clinton does look to be bullish and powerful in fund raising. The latest report shows that she will soon tap into President Obama's email list that helped Obama's campaign rake in some $500 million through email and online donations in the 2012 race.

Just on Monday, Clinton attended a fundraiser in New York City attended by Hollywood stars such as LeonardoDiCaprio, Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Obama, who has complained about money in politics, has also been criticized for doing nothing about it during his presidency. He will soon spend much time hitting the campaign trails to raise money and support for Clinton.

The mania in the US for political fundraising has worsened since the 2010 Supreme Court decision on the Citizens United case which opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign finance, much of it in the form of super political action committees that pool campaign funds for or against candidates or proposed legislation.

According to the data released by the Federal Election Commission on May 23, Clinton had raised some $85 million while her super PACs amounted to $229 million, compared with $3.3 million and $63 million for Trump. Trump this week has accused Clinton of raising "blood money" from Wall Street.

Sadly, Bernie Sanders, the only candidate who has constantly taken on the campaign finance system head on in each and every rally, will not be his party's nominee.

Sanders called the campaign finance system "corrupt and increasingly con-trolled by billionaires and special interests. "I fear very much that, in fact, government of the people, by the people, and for the people is beginning to perish in the United States of America," he said.

Many Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, are deeply concerned about the problem. A Pew Center poll released last December found that 76 percent in both camps believe money has greater influence on politics today than ever before, while over 60 percent believe the high cost of presidential campaigns dis-courages good candidates.

Such public grievances are also reflected in a Gallup poll early this month that found a very low percentage of Americans have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" confidence in their institutions, including the presidency, Congress, the criminal justice system, the media, and big business.

And it is ironic that in the self-pro-claimed greatest democracy in the world, because of money a large percentage of Americans will be forced to make a brutal choice between lesser of two evils in electing their president in November.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily USA. chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com

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