Susan Milligan is visiting six Election 2012 battleground states to talk with 50-plus voters for a report that will be published in the September issue of the AARP Bulletin. She posted this from New Hampshire.
Residents of the RiverWoods retirement community in Exeter, N.H., have seen plenty of political campaigns in their time, but there’s one thing these days that seems to bother them more than anything else: the idea that elections have turned into auctions.
Take Mary Remensnyder, 79, a retired schoolteacher. “The money we spend on elections is disgusting,” she says. “It’s sickening. It’s outrageous.” The money could be put toward more constructive uses, she notes — especially the skyrocketing sums being poured into negative political advertising, much of it paid for by organizations that she’s never even heard of.
Remensnyder is by no means alone. The disparate group of retirees at RiverWoods seem to be citizens united in their misgivings over — well, Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that allows corporations, labor unions and other groups to pump as much money as they want into election advertising that explicitly promotes or attacks individual candidates.
“I feel strongly that we need campaign finance reform,” says Barbara Dickey, 82. “When someone says, ‘I’d be willing to spend $100 million to get my candidate elected,’ that can spell the end of any kind of democracy.”
But with “Super PACs’’ spending like there’s no tomorrow, the residents of RiverWoods probably shouldn’t expect relief anytime soon. —Susan Milligan