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Most voters named political corruption as a top-of-mind issue ahead of the 2020 election in a new poll.

Political corruption seen as America’s biggest problem, another poll shows

More voters see "corruption in our political system" as the country's most pressing problem than any of the other issues getting greater attention in the 2020 campaign, new polling shows.

The online survey conducted in September asked voters whether seven different issues were an "extremely serious problem" for the country, and the only one where a majority said yes was political corruption; rising health care costs came in second at 49 percent.

The poll is only the latest to declare the electorate's dire concern about the broken political system. In just the last month, two-thirds of voters told one poll they believe the country is on the "edge of a civil war" and a plurality in another poll identified the government itself as the country's biggest problem.

But the topic of democracy reform is getting hardly any mention in the presidential race. Though most of the Democratic candidates have plans for limiting money in politics, making voting easier, securing elections and restoring the balance of powers, few have emphasized these ideas on the trail. And President Trump, who four years ago ran as the candidate most interested in "draining the swamp," rarely mentions this aspiration anymore.


The new poll was released Friday by the group that commissioned it, the Campaign Legal Center. CLC advocates for tighter campaign finance rules and easier access to the polls, and so issues of the broken political system were three of the seven "biggest problems facing the country" from which to choose. And almost two-fifths of respondents labeled "unlimited, secret donations to political campaigns" and "the influence of big money from corporations and special interests in our political system" as extremely serious problems.

Across the political spectrum, majorities in the poll agreed with the notion that they're directly impacted by all the money corporations and special interests spend on elections. Three-quarters agree with the accurate statement that corporate and special-interest campaign spending has increased in the last decade.

But the agency charged with overseeing the campaign finance system has been sidelined for the foreseeable future. While 71 percent of those polled want the Federal Election Commission to take on a more active role in enforcing money-in-politics rules, since September it has been powerless to do so for lack of a quorum.

In a second poll commissioned by CLC and released Friday, an astonishingly strong and bipartisan 83 percent (85 of Democrats and 81 of Republicans) support changing the rules to require public disclosure of contributions to all organizations that spend money on elections. (Currently, politically active nonprofits may keep their donors secret, the source of the term "dark money.")

The first poll of 855 likely voters was conducted online Sept. 16-22 by ALG Research, a Democratic firm, and GS Strategy Group, a Republican firm. The two outfits also conducted the second survey of 800 likely voters contacted Oct. 3-7.

Those polled signaled the requirement should apply equally to groups on both the left and the right. About three-quarters of respondents (the range was 73 percent to 77 percent) said they backed donor disclosure by Planned Parenthood, the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, which generally back Democrats, and National Right to Life and the National Rifle Association, which generally align with Republicans.

"Real transparency about who is spending big money on elections will mean more government accountability, less influence for wealthy special interests and less political corruption," said Trevor Potter, CLC's president and a Republican commissioner on the FEC two devades ago.

With enough commissioners, the FEC could address the public's call for increased transparency by creating new disclosure requirements. For the time being, though, the agency cannot create new rules.

Even before the FEC lost its quorum, it was not consistently enforcing campaign finance laws due to frequent partisan deadlocks, Potter said. And now, with only three members, the agency cannot address violations "during one of the most expensive election cycles in history," he said.

We’re all about the issues that have broken American democracy — and efforts to make governments work again for you, your family and your friends.
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The House on Friday passed legislation to restore a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. The bill would require advance approval of voting changes in states with a history of discrimination. Here President Lyndon Johnson shares one of the pens he used to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Passage of historic voting rights law takes a partisan turn

In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.

The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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TV stations fight FCC over political ad disclosure

Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.

With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.

This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.

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1952 Eisenhower Answers America

On TV, political ads are regulated – but online, anything goes

Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.

With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.

Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.

Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.

I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.

Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.

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