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Political Report Cards

Perspective

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

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Special Interest Groups & Lobbyists influence elections…

The United States is a representative democracy. Citizens elect representatives to national, state, and local government; those representatives create the laws that govern U.S. society.

Although individual citizens are the only ones who can cast votes, special interest groups and lobbyists 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.

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.

Understanding how our elected politicians are performing their responsibilities in passing good public polices it is important to look at their record to verify if their actions are in line with your expectations.

ENGAGE TO CHANGE " OUR STATUS QUO"

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Undo “Citizens United”…

  1.  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 Eliminate the outdated and biased Electoral College voting system.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.

BENCHMARKING & BEST PRACTICES

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U.S. as compared to 35 OECD highly developed democratic countries ranks…

As contrasted with the 35 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) highly developed, democratic countries where the responsibility falls on the elected governments. Registration to vote in U.S. is an individual responsibilityIn the U.S., by contrast, registration is decentralized and mainly an individual responsibility.

Registered voters represent a much smaller share of potential voters in the U.S. than in many other countries. Only about 64% of the U.S. voting-age population (and 70% of voting-age citizens) was registered in 2016, according to the Census Bureau. The U.S. rate is much lower than many other OECD countries: For example, the share of the voting-age population that is registered to vote is 92% in the UK (2019), 93% in Canada (2019), 94% in Sweden (2018) and 99% in Slovakia (2020). Luxembourg also has a low rate (54%), although it represents something of a special case because nearly half of the tiny country’s population is foreign born.

REGISTERED VOTERS & VOTING AGE

 Registration to vote in U.S. is an individual responsibility…

As contrasted with the 35 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) highly developed, democratic countries where the responsibility falls on the elected governments.

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

REGISTERED VOTERS & VOTING AGE

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Registered Voters

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Voting Age Pop.

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VOTING AGE POPULATION PERCENTAGE

U.S placed 24th out of 35 OECD nations…

Despite the big bump in turnout in 2020 Election , the U.S. still lags behind most of its developed-nation peers when it comes to electoral participation.

Out of 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for which estimates of voting-age population in the most recent national election were available, U.S. turnout ranked an underwhelming 24th. 

 Voting Age Population (VAP) turnout  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 24th 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

VOTING AGE POPULATION PERCENTAGE

Funding Sources

POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS DONATIONS $$ & DONORS

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

A very small elite fraction of Americans give campaign contributions …

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%

 Donations to congressional campaigns come from 4 main sources:

  • Political action committees or PACs.
  •  Large individual contributions of more than $200.
  •  Small individual contributions of $200 or less.
  • Self-Funding money from the candidates’ own pocket. A very small elite 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.

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

SMALL & LARGE CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS

Only 1.44% of the United States population contributed…

 In the 2020 elections only 1.44% 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.

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THE FUNDING BEHIND CAMPAIGN SPENDING

Who gets the money? from 1% of the 1% of the population…

 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.

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TOP INDUSTRY DONORS TO CAMPAIGNS

Total Spend of $14 billion with Securities/Investments spending  ($257 million)…

 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.

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GENDER SPLIT BY NUMBER OF DONORS

Men are heavily overrepresented among top political donors…

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.

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Big Money $$ Influence

BIG MONEY $$ & LOBBYISTS INFLUENCE POLITICIANS

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The easiest way to raise money $ is to turn to 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

Total cost of the 2020 election will nearly reach an unprecedented $14 billion…

The total cost of the 2020 election will nearly reach an unprecedented $14 billion, making it the most expensive election in history and twice as expensive as the previous presidential election cycle.

The 2020 election is more than twice as expensive as the runner up, the 2016 election. In fact, this year’s election will see more spending than the previous two presidential election cycles combined. 

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PARTY DOMINATING ELECTION SPENDING

Democratic candidates and groups have spent $6.9 billion…

Democratic candidates and groups have spent $6.9 billion, compared to $3.8 billion for Republicans. Democrats’ spending falls to $5.5 billion when excluding spending by billionaire presidential candidates Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer.

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OUTSIDE SPENDING TRANSPARENCY

The top 10 donors combined to give $642 million…

Dark money spending is down, but undisclosed funds are making their way into super PACs. Only 30 percent of outside spending in 2020 has come from groups that fully disclose their donors, an all-time low.

These big money groups are typically funded by ultra-wealthy individuals. The top 10 donorscombined to give $642 million to federal committees so far this cycle. Roughly 98 percent of that money went to outside groups.

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 TOP 10 RICHEST MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

Half of the Senate was worth more than $1,696,020 million…

Below are the top ten richest members of both the House and Senate, collectively they account for almost half of the entire net worth of Congress.

The median of the estimated net worth of Senate and House members – half of the Senate was worth more than $1,696,020 million. In the House, half of the members were worth less than $489,514.

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Congress Structure

US CONGRESS CONSISTS OF SENATE & HOUSE

Illustration of the US Capitol Building

Current Year 2021 has seated the 117th Congress with following representations…

The United States Congress has two chambers, one called the Senate and the other called the House of Representatives (or “House” for short) which share the responsibilities of the legislative process to create federal statutory law. They occupy opposite ends of the Capitol Building.

In practice, our political system is dominated by political parties. With rare exceptions, elections are decided between the two major parties: Democrats and Republicans. Therefore, much of U.S. politics boils down to party politics.

Typically, a political party is a political organization seeking to influence government policy by nominating its own select candidates to hold seats in political office, via the process of electoral campaigning. Parties often espouse an expressed ideology or vision, bolstered by a written platform with specific goals that form a coalition among disparate interests.

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.

CONGRESS BY PARTY

Senators & Representatives by Party…

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.

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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WOMEN IN SENATE

Women make up just over a quarter of all members of the 117th Congress…

Women make up just over a quarter of all members of the 117th Congress – the highest percentage in U.S. history and a considerable increase from where things stood even a decade ago.

There are 24 women in the Senate, one fewer than the record number of seats they held in the last Congress.

A record 120 women are currently serving in the House, accounting for 27% of the chamber’s totalWomen make up a much bigger share of congressional.

Women make up a much bigger share of congressional Democrats (38%) than Republicans (14%). Across both chambers, there are 106 Democratic women and 38 Republican women in the new Congress. Women account for 40% of House Democrats and 32% of Senate Democrats, compared with 14% of House Republicans and 16% of Senate Republicans.

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TENURE OF SENATORS

47% of Senators are men over the age of 61…

The tables show a breakdown of how many years the senators have been serving in office.

47% of senators are men over the age of 61, while only 7% of senators are women 61 years old or younger. 

30% of representatives are men over the age of 61, while only 16% of representatives are women 61 years old or younger.

A record 120 women are currently serving in the House, accounting for 27% of the chamber’s totalWomen make up a much bigger share of congressional.

Women make up a much bigger share of congressional Democrats (38%) than Republicans (14%). Across both chambers, there are 106 Democratic women and 38 Republican women in the new Congress. Women account for 40% of House Democrats and 32% of Senate Democrats, compared with 14% of House Republicans and 16% of Senate Republicans.

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SALARIES & BENEFITS OF CONGRESS

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Benefits for Members of Congress are robust…

The compensation for most Senators and Representatives is $174,000 per year. This excludes the Speaker of the House salary of $223,500 as well as the President pro tempore of the Senate and the majority and minority leaders who bring home $193,400 annually.

Benefits for the Members are very robust.

  • Members of Congress get the entire month of August and two weeks around Easter off.
  • Perhaps one of the more expensive congressional perks is travel. Most flights between their home states and Washington, D.C., are funded with taxpayer money.
  •  Should a member of Congress be killed while serving their term, the surviving family members are entitled to death benefits equivalent to one year’s salary — a minimum of $174,000.
  •  One of the most coveted congressional perks is free airport parking separate from public garages. They pay zero dollars to park at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport.
  •  For many Americans, the 401(k) acts as a substitute for a pension. But Congress members have access to both. Five years of service is all that’s needed for members of Congress to become eligible for a pension.Those who serve just five years are guaranteed annual pensions of at least $14,000.
  •  Members of Congress procure a bonus tax deduction of $3,000each year for living expenses while away from their home states and congressional districts. 

CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS SALARIES

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Speaker
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Majority and Minority Leaders

CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS BENEFITS

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Free Flights To & From Work - Taxpayers Cost
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Death Benefits - 1 Yr Salary
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Free Airport Parking - Taxpayer Cost
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Pensions - After 5 yr Service
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Tax Deduction