When money meets politics

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The North American political arena exists as an ongoing forum for the dissection of democracy. As political wanna-bes gear up for the next election both across the border and here in Canada one thing remains eminently clear: money rules.

When the U.S. Republican convention opened on July 31, the party already had $137.4 million in its coffers for the upcoming November election. Not only that, but they expect more donations to flood in after the convention. The Democratic party is no different, grappling for funds to stay ahead of the game.

The question: how much money does it take to run a campaign? The answer in U.S. terms: enough to win. A candidate without strong financial backing will find him or herself out of the race before the public has a chance to assess their abilities. It's simple. If you can't buy media time, you can't really exist on the political front.

It appears that in the wonderful democratic land of North America, who can run is limited by how much money they have. So, just how many good candidates simply disappear due to a lack of greenbacks or loonies? The answer is a mystery, but scarier still is the political influence of those deep pockets on the people they choose to fund.

For example, right here in Canada, former prime minister Brian Mulroney received significant monetary backing from a man named Paul Demarais, president of a large organization of corporations called the Power Corporation. Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives gained power and Demarais' corporation gained a good amount of federal business under said PC government.

And who says money doesn't buy influence?

Although politicians and their parties are supposed to ignore where the money comes from, the simple fact remains that those who sponsor political groups often gain more eartime with those in charge. Prime Minister Chretien might hold a $300 per plate dinner to meet public supporters and discuss issues with them, but Joe Public can't exactly afford that kind of meal.

Therefore, Joe Public's concerns probably go unheard, or perhaps left in a pile of letters that are duly read and most likely filed under "G" by a staff assistant. However, the individual who buys 20 seats for himself and his friends will likely get to bend the PM's ear for a while. How the PM and other politicians interpret the input of a loyal money provider remains unknown.

In a democracy, everyone is supposed to be equal. But given the way politics run on money in both Canada and the U.S., democracy may be cheating the voting public by limiting who they can vote for to only those who can garner and provide financial support to run a campaign.