The following four individuals – Democrats and Republicans – are real life examples of how big money in politics undermines the will of the people and corrupts the democratic process in the United States.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema

Senator Sinema started out as a social worker who served on Ralph Nader’s 2000 Green Party presidential campaign. She was also strongly against receiving corporate campaign contributions. In 2017, she voted against corporate tax cut legislation. However, five years later, she became the highest recipient of money from pharmaceutical and financial service sectors. Since 2021, she has taken over $2.5 million from corporate PACs. Along with that new support from corporate PACs, her political positions have drastically changed. She specifically opposed two parts of proposed legislation: an increase in taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals, and a reduction of drug prescription costs for Medicare recipients. Senator Sinema claims that her views have not changed, but whatever her views may be, her voting history shows an unmistakable pro-wealth, pro-corporate trend.

Senator Joe Manchin

While also claiming that his decisions are not influenced by campaign money, Senator Manchin has received more campaign contributions from natural gas pipelines and the oil and gas industry than any other member of the U.S. Congress. Contributions to him from those industries have increased from $63,700 in 2020 to over $1 million in 2022, according to campaign finance records by Open Secrets. In the summer of 2021, Senator Manchin took a trip to an $18 million mansion in Dallas for a fund-raiser that attracted corporate donors who have supported him.

These senators’ votes were particularly significant in defeating proposed legislation to raise taxes for the wealthy and support green energy solutions – legislation that was of utmost importance to the corporate CEOs who donated to them.

Senator Susan Collins

Senator Susan Collins’s opinions on environmental policy have been influenced by money as well. During the Bush administration, she blocked drilling in Alaska and during the Obama administration, she co-sponsored a bill to cap carbon emissions. But since 2016, she has taken several votes to counteract her previous decisions. She voted against a measure declaring that climate change is real; filed for a joint fundraising committee with famous climate change denier Senator Jim Inhofe; voted for the Keystone XL Pipeline Construction; and voted to open drilling for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Her support from PACs and individuals in the oil and gas industry increased significantly over the years as this shift occurred. For the 2020 election cycle, Senator Collins accepted $377,000 from PACs and individuals in the industry, which quadrupled from only $85,000 in 2016 according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Senator Mitch McConnell

Senator Mitch McConnell uses his super PAC to influence the outcome of other political races. His chief of staff runs both the senator’s super PAC (the Senate Leadership Fund), and a secret money group (One Nation), which contributes its funds to the Senate Leadership Fund, as well as other groups that are part of the secret money network. One Nation is one of the primary sources for political ads for the Republican Party. According to CREW (Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington), this secret money group reported raising more than $172 million in their 2020 tax return. This consisted of several eight-figure contributions from anonymous donors, including one that gave $33 million and one who gave $13.5 million. Donors to these groups can remain anonymous because these groups are classified as 501 (c)(4) organizations. Senator McConnell uses these anonymous donations from wealthy individuals and corporations to his super PAC to influence elections across the nation.

Our elected officials are supposed to represent their constituents, not the wealthy few and not corporations. Since our founding, on the day of the Supreme Court decision in Citizen United v. FEC, Free Speech For People has worked to end the dominance of big money on our politics and to reclaim our democracy. Our campaigns in this fight include: challenging super PACs and ending foreign corporate spending in U.S. elections. And, we continue to advance the Free and Fair Elections Amendment, the People’s Rights Amendment, and other constitutional amendments to defend and expand our democracy.

Join us in the fight to protect our republic. Sign Free Speech For People’s petition to end foreign-influenced corporate spending in U.S. elections here.