How Money-Bought Politics Hurts Good Causes and Real People
By Richard Walden
President, Operation USA
Operation USA, one of the world's most agile and innovative relief agencies, on average, runs on about $1.5M (cash) per year. That sum allows us to deliver between $10M-$20M in humanitarian and development aid and make a number of carefully chosen grants to community-based organizations throughout the world.
We are considered more a "boutique" NGO than a juggernaut. Imagine our disgust, then, at the $25M attack ad campaign announced by American Crossroads, a GOP super PAC. Assuming a Democratic retaliation in equal measure, it's fair to ask why people continue to donate to such dubious endeavors. What a colossal waste of resources -- comparisons with what we do are impossible to avoid since this money comes from private sources. For many election cycles, I have beseeched people to match what they give a politician, party or PAC with a donation of an equal amount to their favorite nonprofit.
Those nonprofits, large and small, are hurting as election campaigns burn through copious amounts of funds. The Obama-Romney race has just reached the $1B mark; with an equal or greater amount going largely unreported by PACs. All-in, this year's national elections are expected to absorb $6 billion in private discretionary funds.
This is a reminder to all those among you who share our concerns. Please try to ramp up your own giving so that nonprofits don't have to shoulder the burden of drastic cut backs in local and state government services; to help meet needs in a world where food production is running behind population growth; the environment is deteriorating from pollution and climate change; largescale political violence in many countries is displacing millions of people; and, the spread of disease has not yet been adequately mastered.
Nonprofits generally try to cope with these problems and many others. You have a choice. You can fund an ambitious politician, an avaricious campaign consultant or an amoral media war. Or you can Be The Change and focus on making people's lives far better than they are now.