Americans agree on several issues, but 1 is keeping us torn apart. Here are 4 key facts.
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The presidential race is underway, so we should expect to hear more about money in politics from the candidates.

It is, after all, a factor that determines how politicians respond to all other issues and ultimately how people's lives will be affected by the policy outcomes.


Photo by Peter Stevens/Flickr.

So far, it hasn't come up as much as you'd think it would. For example, in the first two Republican presidential debates, the topic of money in politics was mostly avoided.

The exceptions were the occasional jab by Donald Trump at competitors he's funded in the past and this rare moment of partial recognition of the problem by Mike Huckabee:

"[W]e have a Wall Street-to-Washington axis of power that has controlled the political climate. The donor class feeds the political class who does the dance that the donor class wants."

Unfortunately, none of the more than a dozen candidates on stage came with an idea to share about how to fix the problem.

Money has become the biggest player in U.S. politics, but it's not always clear why that is and how it works.

Before you demonize any candidate for poisoning the democracy well, let's take stock of what's really happening. Here are the key things you need to know:

1. The early bird gets the loot.

Photo by Sheila Sund/Flickr.

In the early days of American politics, nominees were picked in backroom deals with party bigwigs. Primary elections were supposed to change that. At best, they were a way to make the process more transparent and democratic. They also made the contest a little more accessible to lesser-known "dark horse" candidates.

But the rise in competition stretched out campaign cycles as candidates hustled for position with political donors. Longer campaigns meant candidates needed more money, and so began the cyclical money-grab that defines American politics.

2. It's become an unfair tug-of-war.

Photo by skeeze/Pixabay.

Wealth inequality has reached obscene levels. Today, the top tenth of a percent of U.S. households (those with $20 million or more in assets) owns as much of the country's wealth as the bottom 90% combined.

Knowing that, it shouldn't come as a surprise that nearly half of all first-phase presidential campaign funds were donated by only 158 families and the companies they control. 138 of of those families back exclusively Republican candidates.

3. It's not illegal if you can't see who's doing it.

Photo by -JvL-/Flickr (altered).

There's a cap on what donors can give candidates, but when wealthy influencers want something, they can't be bothered with rules. So they created a shadow market for political donations, where they can dump money into politics through nonprofits — anonymously and without limits, thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.

They call it "dark money," and there's been a five-fold spike in such spending since the last general election. And speaking of rich families, 1 in 4 dollars of dark money spent in 2012 were linked to billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The political kingpins are out to set another record by raising nearly $1 billion for the 2016 elections through their network of dark money donors.

While those donations only go to conservative candidates and policies, even Republican leadership has gotten shifty about their growing power over the party — just not shifty enough to actually do something about it.

4. There is no room for agreement. Only domination.

Photo by Spot Us/Flickr (altered).

We know the richest political donors have a thing for conservative candidates, but that doesn't explain the stalemates on issues that most Americans agree on. For example:

So why haven't we celebrated unity and progress on any of those issues? Why aren't we leveraging the country's vast resources to lift people up, save more lives, protect the environment, and be as awesomesauce as politicians love saying we are?

Well, it's not really about "the people," let alone the planet. Donors like the Koch brothers don't drop cash like that to advance common interests — they do it in service of themselves. (I think now's a good time for this refresher.)

If money is the root of all evil, why do we let it rule our lives in such fundamental ways through politics?

Keep that in mind as the spectacle of the presidential race unfolds because there's more to governing than whose team wins. And if it's not already clear, the players aren't just the suits we see going tit for tat on the debate stage.

Everyone deserves a fair say in the electoral process, and the rest of us shouldn't have to stand aside while people who have more than they'll ever need call all the shots.

Can you imagine a future where good ideas and consensus — not just the biggest bank accounts — rule the day? Don't count on it until political leaders start getting honest about what's driving American politics and start showing the will to change it.

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Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

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Those of us who value facts, reason, and rational thought have found ourselves at some of our fellow citizens and thinking, "Really? THIS is how you choose to use the greatest tool humanity has ever created? To spew unfounded conspiracy theories?"

It's a marvel, truly.

Between Coronavirus/Bill Gates/5G conspiracies and QAnon/Evil Cabal/Pedophile conspiracies, I thought we were pretty much full up on kooky for 2020. But apparently not. The massive fires up and down the West Coast have ignited even more conspiracy theories, some of which local law enforcement and even the FBI have had to debunk.

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In 1945, the world had just endured the bloodiest war in history. World leaders were determined to not repeat the mistakes of the past. They wanted to build a better future, one free from the "scourge of war" so they signed the UN Charter — creating a global organization of nations that could deter and repel aggressors, mediate conflicts and broker armistices, and ensure collective progress.

Over the following 75 years, the UN played an essential role in preventing, mitigating or resolving conflicts all over the world. It faced new challenges and new threats — including the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, a Cold War and brutal civil wars, transnational terrorism and genocides. Today, the UN faces new tensions: shifting and more hostile geopolitics, digital weaponization, a global pandemic, and more.

This slideshow shows how the UN has worked to build peace and security around the world:

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Malians wait in line at a free clinic run by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Mission in Mali in 2014. Over their 75 year history, UN peacekeepers have deployed around the world in military and nonmilitary roles as they work towards human security and peace. Here's a look back at their history.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino

It sounds like a ridiculous, sensationalist headline, but it's real. In Cheshire County, New Hampshire, a transsexual, anarchist Satanist has won the GOP nomination for county sheriff. Aria DiMezzo, who refers to herself as a "She-Male" and whose campaign motto was "F*** the Police," ran as a Republican in the primary. Though she ran unopposed on the ballot, according to Fox News, she anticipated that she would lose to a write-in candidate. Instead, 4,211 voters filled in the bubble next to her name, making her the official Republican candidate for county sheriff.

DiMezzo is clear about why she ran—to show how "clueless the average voter is" and to prove that "the system is utterly and hopelessly broken"—stances that her win only serves to reinforce.

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Katie Neeves (L) photo by Jayne Walsh, JK Rowling (R) photo by Sjhill, CC BY-SA 3.0

Dear JK Rowling,

I am writing this letter to say a big thank you to you. You may think it strange that a gobby trans woman such as me would wish to thank you after all your recent transphobic outpourings, but let me explain…

I certainly don't thank you for your lengthy essay last month where you describe the abuse you have suffered (for which you have my sympathy) and in which you stated that you do not hate trans people, while at the same time peddling even more anti-trans mis-information. Sadly, your diatribe directly caused some trans children to self-harm and other to attempt suicide.

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