The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
Debate over the “CRomnibus” spending bill closed out the 113th Congress—and 2014—with a bang. Ultimately, Congress passed the bill to avoid another shutdown and to fund the government until September 2015, the end of the fiscal year. But, lawmakers opposed the bill for its harmful policy riders, which, as my colleague Melanie Fineman explained, are amendments attached to legislation in its last stages to alter the language or to attach a new idea on a bill on which a compromise has already been reached.
One rider of particular concern will allow wealthy political contributors to give even more money to political parties. The provision creates three distinct funds within each national party, allowing individual donors to contribute up to $97,200 to each fund, each year. That’s $324,000 per year, or $648,000 per two-year election cycle. Until now, individual contributions to national parties were limited to $32,400 per year, or $64,800 in a two-year cycle. So, individual donors are now allowed to give 10 times the previous limit to finance national party activities, opening a dangerous door for wealthy contributors to gain undue influence on our political system.
As Jews, we must heed the warnings of our ancient texts that speak to the dangers of mixing money and politics (Deuteronomy 16:19). We are also commanded to stand up for the widow, the poor, the orphan and the stranger. In the words of former Chair of the Commission on Social Action Leonard Fein, of blessed memory, Jews have always acted on the belief that both our moral obligations and our self-interest require “a politics that speaks to the needs of those who have been left out or left behind, a politics of inclusion.” It is the poor and the immigrant who are ignored in a system where the currency that matters most is money rather than ideas. It is the poor who suffer when policy decisions are made by those who are dependent on the small percentage of the population that supplies the largest percentage of campaign contributions. Reflecting upon the unprecedented spending in the November elections and looking ahead to 2016 and beyond, it is imperative that we ensure every voter’s voice is truly equal, neither amplified nor silenced by outsized campaign contributions.