US voters' anger over big money in politics mounts as presidential campaign intensifies

Updated: 2016-04-19 09:03


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US voters' anger over big money in politics mounts as presidential campaign intensifies

Banners are seen in front of the Capitol during a rally against Money Politics in Washington DC, the United States, on April 17, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

WASHINGTON - What brings Americans from across the country to the capital city this spring is -- in addition to the iconic cherry blossom -- disgust with money's role in politics.

Over the past week, American voters' anger and frustration were on full display on the Capitol Hill, where thousands of activists held rallies and staged sit-ins to protest big money in politics and barriers to voting.

Chanting slogans "money out, people in" and "one person, one vote," demonstrators who felt disenfranchised denounced the campaign finance system that they believed favors interests of big donors over the needs of the public.

On Monday, the final day of the protests, about 300 demonstrators were taken into custody, bringing the total number of arrests to more than 1,200.

The demonstration is one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in Washington's history, according to Adam Eichen, deputy director of communications for Democracy Spring, a coalition of more than 100 groups that organized the protests.

"This is a big story," Eichen told Xinhua. "This is unprecedented actions, according to Capitol police."

However, the week-long protests received extremely minimal coverage in US mainstream cable news. They devoted merely 30 seconds to the massive arrests on April 11, according to The Intercept, a US investigative news website.

"I think it's a mistake on their (cable news) side," said Eichen. "It's really a shame that the cable news and big outlets did not cover us because this was people trying to make their voice heard."

"If the Congress is not listening, (and) neither is the media, then we are running into trouble here about how to get the words out," he said.

The protest epitomizes the wide-ranging dissatisfaction of the American public. Forty-two percent of adults in the country rated dealing with money in politics a top priority for the president and Congress, according to a January survey by the Pew Research Center, up from 28 percent four years ago.

The influence of the wealthy on politics, though long-standing, emerged as one of the key issues in this year's presidential campaign.

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who has made it a central theme of his campaign, has gained considerable support from people who believe the system is rigged against them.

During the current campaign cycle, billions of dollars from the wealthiest people in this country are already flooding the political process, said Sanders, calling the campaign finance system "corrupt."

Republican candidate Donald Trump has also criticized the influence of large campaign contributions in his run for the White House. The billionaire real estate mogul has said he cannot be bought.

In another protest against money in politics, Sanders supporters showered Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's motorcade in 1,000 single-dollar bills when the former secretary of state drove to a fundraiser with actor George Clooney and his wife Amal in Los Angeles on Saturday.

For two seats at the head table with Clinton, a couple must contribute or raise a whopping 353,400 US dollars. Single tickets cost 33,400.

Clooney, in an interview aired Sunday, admitted that it is "an obscene amount of money."

"The Sanders campaign when they talk about it is absolutely right. It's ridiculous that we should have this kind of money in politics. I agree, completely," Clooney said.