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Political Report Cards

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Historical Context

The U.S. federal government is composed of three distinct branches— legislative, executive, and judicial —whose powers are vested by the U.S. Constitution in the Congress, the President, and the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, respectively.

Although nothing in U.S. law requires it, in practice, the political system is dominated by political parties. Elections are decided between the two major parties, Democrats and Republicans.

 Although individual citizens are the only ones who can cast votes, special interest groups and lobbyists may influence elections and law-making with money and other resources. At times, this influence has grown so noticeable that some have called into question whether the U.S. is truly a democracy of the people or something more like an oligarchy of special interest groups. The media also play an important role in politics by influencing public sentiment and acting as an information filter.

 TOP 10 Richest Members of Congress

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Influences of Big Money $$ & Lobbyists

The average senator has to pull in more than $14,000 dollars every single day, just to stay in office. One of the easiest ways to raise that kind of cash is to turn to lobbyists, who make big donations and organize fundraisers for elected officials in order to buy influence for their clients.

One recent study found that “on average, for every dollar spent on influencing politics, the nation’s most politically active corporations received $760 from the government.” That’s a 76,000% return on investment. And it works on both sides of the aisle — top lobbying firms raise big money for Republicans and Democrats at the same time.
PDF Study: Lobbyist

 2020 Election Spend

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Democrats Dominate Election Spending

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Political Action Committees (PACS) Large Contributions > $200 Small Contributions < $200 Candidate’s own pocket

Campaign Donations and Donors

A joint analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics and Sunlight Foundation of elite donors in America unveiled the following facts. PDF Study: 1% of 1%

A. Donations to congressional campaigns come from 4 main sources: 1.Political action committees or PACs; 2. Large individual contributions of more than $200; 3. Small individual contributions of $200 or less; and 4. Self-Funding money from the candidates’ own pockets. A very small fraction of Americans actually give campaign contributions to political candidates, parties or PACs. The ones who give contributions large enough to be itemized (over $200) is even smaller. However, the impact of those donations is huge.

B. In the 2020 elections only 1.39% of the United States population contributed more than two hundred dollars to federal candidates, Pacs, parties and outside groups- Just 4,537,054 donors gave a hefty 75.73% of all contributions.

C. Who gets the money? from 1% of the 1% of the population are Large Individual (41.5%), Small Individual ( 22.4%), Other (14.9%), Self-Funding (13.0%), Pacs (5.0%) and Organizations (3.1%) respectively.

D. In the 2020 election the same pattern continues with a whopping Total Spend of $14 billion with Securities/Investments spending  ($257 million). Followed by Lawyers/Law Firms ( $250 million); Education ($236 million); Real Estate ($235 million) and Health Professionals ($144 million) respectively.

E. They’re mostly male, tend to be city-dwellers and often work in finance. Compared to the population at large, men are heavily overrepresented among top political donors who accounted for 65 percent of the total contributions.

Both parties are reliant on donations from the One Percent of the One Percenters.

Small and Large Contributions

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Top Industry Donors to Candidates/Parties/Pacs

The Funding Behind Record-Breaking Spending

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Gender Split by number of Donors

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Senators by Party

Representatives by Party

Women in Congress

US Congress - Senate & House

Current Year 2021 has seated the 117th Congress

Total Senators

The United States’s 50 states each elect two senators for staggered six-year terms. A senator represents between 0.6 and 40 million people, depending on their state’s population.

The day-to-day activities of the Senate are controlled largely by the political party holding the most seats, called the “majority party.” See a count of senators by party in the current Congress:

Total Representatives

The United States is also divided into 435 congressional districts with a population of about 750,000 each. Each district elects a representative to the House of Representatives for a two-year term.

As in the Senate, the day-to-day activities of the House are controlled by the “majority party.” See the count of representatives by party in the current Congress:

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Salaries Plus Robust Benefits

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Our Taxes Pay Congressional Members Salaries and Benefits

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Tenure of Senators

Tenure of Representatives

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Registered Voters

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Voting Age Pop.

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Benchmarking & Best Practices

In the U.S., registration to vote is mainly an individual responsibility as contrasted with the 34 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) highly developed, democratic countries where the responsibility falls on the elected governments.

  1. The registered voters represent a much smaller share of potential voters in the U.S. than just about any other OECD country. The Census Bureau report shows only about 64% of the U.S. voting-age population were registered in 2016, compared with Slovakia ( 99%), Sweden ( 94%), Canada (93%), UK ( 92%) respectively.  PDF Study: Voters
  2. The 55.7% Voting Age Population (VAP) turnout in 2016 puts the U.S. behind most of its peers in the OECD. Looking at the most recent nationwide election in each OECD nation, U.S. placed 30th out of 35 nations for which data is available.The highest turnout rates among OECD nations is Turkey (89% of voting-age population) , Sweden ( 82.1%), Australia (80.8%), and Belgium (77.9%).  PDF Study: VAP

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Engage to Change “Our Status Quo”

  1. Undo “Citizens United”, Citizens United v. FEC – is a landmark 2010 Supreme Court case that changed the face of campaign finance and money in politics in the United States. Most notably, Citizens United granted corporations, nonprofits, and unions unlimited political spending power that undermines our democratic processes.
  2. Eliminate the outdated and biased Electoral College voting system. The Electoral College system distorts the one-person, one-vote principle of democracy because electoral votes are not distributed according to population. This causes significant overrepresentation of small states in the “College.” For example an individual citizen in Wyoming has more than triple the weight in electoral votes as an individual in California. How is this democratic?
  3. End partisan Gerrymandering in federal elections and prohibit voter roll purging. Gerrymandering is a practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries.
  4. Create a national automatic voter registration system that asks voters to opt out, rather than opt in, to insure all voting eligible people are signed up to vote.
  5. Demand Term Limits for Supreme Court as well as Circuit Court Judges appointed to minimize partisan rulings on issues that matter to us the public.