Do Voters actually Care Enough if Candidates take a lot from Special Interests?
Think Piece/Open Discussion
Recently, I’ve been looking into whether special interest money could have an unexpected influence on a pair of House races in the current cycle. The races are close and one leans Republican while the other leans Democratic. The races are specifically being looked at because the leading candidate is taking in a lot of special money interests.
The first race in question takes place in California’s District 45 in Orange County. The Republican candidate, Michelle Steel, was the incumbent and the Democratic lead challenger is Jay Chen. Similar amounts of money have been raised — something like $3.45 Million to $2.95 Million respectively — but Michelle Steel has taken nearly 30% from PACs while Jay Chen has taken a measly 8.4%.
PACs are a legal vehicle for funneling money from organizations into a race but a large majority of voters actually dislike the influence of money in political races. In September 2018, NBC conducted a poll that found 77% of voters claim “reducing the influence of special interests and corruption in Washington” was either the “single most” or a “very important” factor in deciding their vote for Congress.
The polls themselves don’t determine the reasoning behind the dislike. However, it is reasonable for voters to ask whether or not a candidate will put the interest of their voters first, or the interest of the donor organizations. If it’s the latter, that’s a malign influence of money on politics.
If voters become aware of the candidate taking contributions, it might influence their choice of who to vote for, which would make the top taker vulnerable in this close race.
In New Hampshire, District 2’s election where the race is between Anne Kuster and a Republican field. The former incumbent — which is Anne Kuster — has a fund-raising advantage of $2.79 Million to $321,000 respectively. George Hansel has done the majority of the fundraising for the GOP side of it. Anne Kuster has chosen to raise a lot of her money from PACs and a race with such a huge discrepancy in funding is rated to be close.
If both of the mentioned races consist of leading candidates doing things voters don’t agree with, does this compromise their leading position at some point? Generally speaking, it probably doesn’t matter to people. What matters most is how the candidates will vote on bills of worry. It really would only matter if there are new issues and a candidate may be lying about what he/she supports. An example can be guns. If a candidate says he/she will vote to protect gun rights, and then he/she takes money from the NRA, that’s great. We can believe he/she really will vote to protect gun rights. But if he/she was saying he will try to make gun ownership illegal but was taking money from the NRA then that is something people will want to know. He/she is no longer trustworthy.