The 2013 special recall election is over; the ballots have been turned in, the votes have been counted, and State Senators John Morse and Angela Giron have been removed from office. The informational flyers that have been covering the walls of CC’s dorms and academic buildings are slowly starting to come down, and students won’t hear “Have you voted yet?” from campaign volunteers as they head to Worner for lunch.
In the wake of any election, reflecting upon the implications of the results is crucial. Constituents of Morse and Giron’s districts ultimately determined the results of the election, but the groups who financed each side’s campaign set a poor precedent for elections to come. The special-interest lobbies that heavily invested in this recall election sent a huge political message heard on national, state, and local levels.
The lobbying of legislatures by corporations who have a vested interest in certain policies has always been a part of federal politics on Capitol Hill. Industries will pay lawyers and former politicians lucrative salaries to go to Capitol Hill and attempt to persuade U.S. senators and representatives to vote a certain way.
Special-interest and big money groups have also played a role in funding campaigns on both sides of the political spectrum, but since the “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” Supreme Court ruling, their influence on politics has grown exponentially. This ruling took the government’s regulatory hand off the checkbooks of corporations, associations, and labor unions, allowing for huge donations to be given to politicians who will protect these special interests.
The presence of special-interest groups in this recall campaign was huge on both sides. The National Rifle Association spent $362,000 in the effort to recall the state senators, and Michael Bloomberg’s group Mayors Against Illegal Guns gave Morse’s campaign $350,000. Millions of dollars from different corporations and associations were spent on the outcome of this election, which was essentially pointless.
Taking two seats away from the Democrats in the State Senate does not give the Republicans the majority and certainly does not change the gun safety measures that were passed this year. Recall elections are a small expense to special-interest and big money groups. However, the cost is not as insignificant for the taxpayers of counties where they are held. As of Aug. 28, the planned cost of the recall to the public in Morse’s district was $190,000, and the cost in Giron’s district was $300,000.
Unfortunately, these costly elections are becoming more common.
Since 1908, nineteen states and the District of Columbia have adopted recall provisions. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, two of the three gubernatorial recall elections during the last 100 years have occurred in the past decade. Between 2011 and 2013, 45 percent of recall attempts against state lawmakers have been successful.
The use of recall elections will continue to increase as long as special interest groups have a say in it. With the nationalization of local issues, special-interest groups can finance these races. Currently, when lobbying fails to change a representative’s policy decisions, special-interest groups can resort to bully politics to run well-intentioned leaders out of office.
This bullying threatens the American government system. When voters elect their representatives, they are entrusting them to act with deliberation and a degree of independence. Allowing special-interest groups and big money to abuse the recall provision in local communities only results in further empowerment of these negative influences, making sensitive topics ever more polarizing in American politics.