When I read Hoosier Action Resource Center's latest report on the influence of corporate money and power at our Statehouse, I was horrified but not entirely surprised.
According to the report titled “Corporate Captive” and data from FollowTheMoney.org, 92% of legislative campaign contributions came from PACs and large donors. The 2020 Indiana General Assembly elections were overwhelmingly financed by wealthy big donors and corporate PACs, and their priorities took center stage in the 2021 legislative session.
Although they are supposed to serve all of their constituents, the truth is that our elected officials are most accountable to the people who put them in power and who can keep them there. Indiana's campaign finance laws allow organized money to wield significant power over elected officials.
Indiana has no limits on contributions from individuals or from PACs. In theory, corporate contributions are capped, but corporations can easily exceed their caps through contributions from executives and their PACs.
I experienced this firsthand at the Statehouse this year.
This year, I started following what has been happening at our legislature, and I was shocked. There were many bills that could have helped Hoosiers but were immediately cut down.
For example, my representative, Peggy Mayfield, R-Bloomington, wrote a bill (House Bill 1559) which would have established a database of contaminated sites in Indiana, and it never even got a reading.
Indiana is one of our most polluted states, and many people are dying because of it. I live in the Mooresville/Martinsville area and have seen it firsthand.
HB 1559 bill was, unfortunately, not the only time this year that corporate money ended up outweighing public good. HB 1309 was clearly written to benefit businesses. Although it purported to protect pregnant workers, the actual goal of this bill was to protect businesses from having to do anything to protect pregnant women. The bill is very vague, leaves room for lots of confusion and will accomplish nothing in terms of helping keep pregnant women safe and healthy.
I left this year's session very frustrated that businesses have more say in government than my family, my friends and other struggling people do. As frustrated as I am, I also know that the outcomes of the 2021 legislative session were not inevitable.
By coming together across race and place, we can make our legislators heed our voices and act in our interest. We can demand and win campaign finance reform and better legislative transparency.
The future can be better and brighter, but it will not just happen. We must make it happen.
We can only do that by organizing and coming together. It will not be easy and it will take all of us working together, but organized people can defeat organized money.
Belle Gott is a Mooresville resident and member of Hoosier Action.