Especially Interesting Money

The Democratic Party’s donkey and the Republican elephant entrench themselves behind piles of special interest money.
The Democratic Party’s donkey and the Republican elephant entrench themselves behind piles of special interest money.

Campaign finance reform has been a hot-button political issue since the early 1970s and the advent of soft money. Soft money describes unregulated amounts of campaign donations from special interest groups – a type of lobbying collective focused mainly on campaign finance – who then effectively control the candidate’s platform and voting record (Williams). The above cartoon, created by former Brigham Young University Magazine political cartoonist Aaron Taylor, depicts Taylor’s opinion of special interest groups and soft money – a natural evolution of the soliciting banned by the Hatch Act’s provisions banning federal employees from involvement in political campaigns – and their negative effects on the political process in America (Porter).

Taylor’s cartoon itself features the mascots of the nation’s two party system deeply pitted against the other in trench warfare, each sheltered behind a mountain of money bags. The animals themselves obviously represent their respective parties; additionally, the donkey wears the military uniform of Andrew Jackson, who created the logo after a political opponent called him a jackass (CBS News). The elephant, while not dressed as any specific Republican figure, exhibits attire evocative of the Republican-dominated Eisenhower era. The parties’ entrenchment against each other manifests visually through their foxholes, illustrating the perpetual gridlock inherent to bipartisan democracy. Outside their dugouts, piles of sacks labeled “Special Interest Money” further separate the two parties, mirroring the real life deepening of political divide through allegiance to financiers (Drutman).

Just as the bordeaux blazer clad, high ranking politicians depicted in Knott’s cartoon controlled the votes of their employees through intimidation and coercion prior to the Hatch Act, large businesses and labor unions exercise an enormous amount of power over legislators by extensively funding their campaigns. And the volume of money only increases. Despite the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act – a law intended to stop the flow of soft money into politician’s pockets – in 2002, spending from special interest groups increased by $366 million over the following two years (Thomson; Tarr &  Benenson). Due to this increased corporate influence, party leaders no longer have meaningful control over their constituents, lending credit to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s qualms regarding the Hatch Act’s depletion of partisan unity.

Taylor’s cartoon, along with Knott’s “How the Workers Will Enjoy It!” share an overwhelmingly negative view of money’s involvement in politics and high ranking political officials in general. While in Knott’s case, the elite solicited money and support from their employees, Taylor’s finds them subject to corporate soliciting themselves. Although further attempts at campaign finance reform continue to be debated in Congress, the lucre of the legislator’s current situation makes it hard to believe they would do anything to rock the boat.

 

Bibliography:

Drutman, Lee. “How Corporate Lobbyists Conquered American Democracy.” The Atlantic. April 20, 2015. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/04/how-corporate-lobbyists-conquered-american-democracy/390822/. Accessed 8 Nov. 2017.

“How the Parties Got Their Animal Symbols.” CBS News. August 26, 2012. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-the-parties-got-their-animal-symbols/. Accessed 10 Nov. 2017.

Porter, David L. “Hatch Act.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 4, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, pp. 103-104. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3401801858&it=r&asid=5a20cf84bb2588b9b2fbb925367456f7. Accessed 7 Oct. 2017.

Tarr, Dave, and Bob Benenson. “Soft Money.” Elections A to Z, 4th ed., CQ Press, 2012, pp. 592-595. CQ Press American Government A to Z Series. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX4159000195&asid=a0a0a053357280acb8ff8702bc67cd0a. Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.

Taylor, Aaron. Cartoon. Brigham Young University Magazine, Summer 2004. Web.

Thomson, Lisa Ann Jackson. “Informing Campaign Finance Reform.” Brigham Young University Magazine, Summer 2004.

Williams, Glenda C. “Soft Money.” Encyclopedia of Political Communication, edited by Lynda Lee Kaid and Christina Holtz-Bacha, vol. 2, SAGE Publications, 2008, pp. 749-750. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX2661300519&asid=ba65f9e04ce3b8852e1e94b8b2f7c36c. Accessed 10 Nov. 2017.