In May of last year, telecommunication companies lobbied aggressively in North Carolina to prevent local communities from building their own broadband networks. Corporate cable providers such as Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink argued that competition with local networks would be unfair, and paid out significant money to lawmakers in North Carolina to ensure passage of a bill that would restrict municipal broadband projects. Local broadband networks are cheaper and faster, and at least six cities in North Carolina fought against the bill. Unfortunately, it passed – with the help of North Carolina lawmakers who received significant campaign contributions from telecommunication lobbyists. In fact, the four primary sponsors of the bill received a total of $37,750 from telecommunication donors. (One of the cities that opposed the legislation, Raleigh, was partially represented by the bill's sponsor, Marilyn Avila (R). Representative Avila explained her decision to part ways with her constituency as an effort to protect businesses from "predatory" local governments.)
There are different opinions on what we should do about the campaign finance system, but almost everyone agrees that lobbyists and other wealthy donors exert a troubling influence over political outcomes in the United States. When the Supreme Court handed down its Citizens United decision, the political heft of lobbying power gained a bit more strength. Why? Because elections cost money—a lot of money—and most of that money comes from a very tiny sector of the American public, comprised mostly of corporations and wealthy individuals.