Students Question Money in Politics: If you had five million dollars and the option to lobby or serve special political interests, what would you do?
Some Deerfield students considered the morality of money used to further political views and interests. According to the Wall Street Journal, Super PACs, spending groups funded by corporations, labor unions, and individuals, have spent over 460 million dollars in the 2012 Elections.
“If I had five million dollars, I would save some and donate the rest of it to climate change research,” Nina Sola ’13 said. “I’d keep some so that I could donate more money later on, ensuring that my views remain important to organizations after I had given initial funding.”
Sola said she did not think it was immoral to fund self-interests, but funding groups that have “detrimental effects for the public” was an abuse of power.
“One should have the freedom to pursue their own happiness in whatever way they choose, as long as it does not deprive others of their own freedom,” she said. “As long it does not harm anyone else, I think it is acceptable to use your money to support your views.”
Nolan Bishop ’13 said the question of whether it is moral to promote self-interest and political agendas through political donations must be addressed on a case-by-case basis. He brought up the example of spending to misinform people about climate change.
“Here, the immorality is obvious because it is a dishonest attempt to create uninformed consumers in order to benefit the select few who run the world’s fossil fuel industry,” he said. “The perpetrators of this campaign are indifferent to the effect of their campaign on society.”
Bishop said he believed political donations must be used with right intentions.
“I think that to advance one’s own cause politically even if it damages society is immoral for the same reason that stealing is immoral,” he said. “Political donations should be made with the intent of improving society, just as a politician’s true motive should be to improve society. If I had five million dollars, I would spend it to try and create real, tangible change through philanthropy—not gamble it all on a politician.”
Lena Mazel ’13 said if she had five million dollars, she would donate a large part to Beck’s Day of Service, an organization that donates food and builds houses for the poor.
“I think the greatest danger in this upcoming election is people that don’t think enough about who they are voting for,” she said. “Look into how Romney started Bain capital with funds from Salvadoran death squad leaders, but also look into how his taxes became low enough to see scrutiny from the Obama administration, that is, because he paid such a large percentage of his income to charity.”
She said, “Remember that politicians are human beings with all the complexity the human experience entails, only their choices play out on a much larger scale.”