Your vote matters. Your political donations matter, too.
As investors, we understand the importance of money in our personal finances, but what about in our country’s electoral politics? If you don’t know much about campaign finance, you’re not alone. When I was asked to write this article, I quickly realized there was a lot for me to learn — campaign finance terminology, important court cases, and key legislation.
The ABC’s of Campaign Finance
Even those of us well acquainted with financial terminology may come across a few unfamiliar terms when trying to understand campaign finances. So, here are some common terms to get us started.
A Campaign Committee is a group organized by a candidate running for office to accept donations and spend that money on staff, ads, and any other political efforts.
Political Action Committees, commonly referred to as PACs, are outside groups seeking to influence an election. Most PACs represent industry, business, labor or ideological interests. PACs are regulated by the federal government and have constraints on their expenditures and budgets. They can give up to $5,000 to a candidate committee per election (primary, general or special), up to $15,000 annually to any national party committee, and up to $5,000 annually to any other PAC. An individual can donate up to $5,000 to a PAC per calendar year.
The Citizens United Decision refers to a landmark supreme court case that expanded corporations’ and outside groups’ ability to donate to contribute to campaigns. For a more in-depth explanation, check out this article from the Brennan Center for Justice.
Dark money is the name given to political spending meant to influence voters from nonprofits who are not legally required to reveal their donors.
The Federal Election Campaign Act is the legislation that regulates campaign finance. In 1974, the act established the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which is the independent regulatory agency that administers and enforces federal campaign finance law.
So, what is the true power of our dollar when it comes to contributing? And how can we make our contributions more effective?
According to some experts, the best move for individuals is to support early and support local.
Many people have already decided who to vote for by the time they register to vote. Near the end of a campaign, there are fewer minds to change. Donating early may have a stronger impact on swaying undecided voters. Research suggests that supporting candidates early in the primary can make a big impact on getting a candidate into the general election.
Similarly, supporting more local candidates is one way to increase the efficacy of your dollar. Most local elections don’t attract national attention or dollars. Small races need small donors.
As of the writing of this blog, the 2020 presidential election is projected to cost $11 billion. In contrast, the 2017 Minneapolis mayor election cost about $1.3 million. If you don’t have the ability to pledge $18 million to the DNC like Mike Bloomberg, consider supporting a local race.
And, don’t let your personal investments work against your political ones! Ensure you’re investing with the same ethics you’re voting with. Learn more about your impact today.
Want to learn more about how to vote with your wallet? Check out How to Vote with Your Wallet, How to Vote with Your Wallet for the Environment, and How to Vote with Your Wallet for Peace. Keep reading to learn more about investing in human rights and diversity.
October is an important month — and not just because of Halloween on the 31st. October is also Disability Employment Awareness Month and LGBT+ History Month. It’s a time of year for us to reflect on diversity and inclusion.
As ethical investors, we value inclusion and human rights. But, how can we show our support financially? Voting with our wallets for human rights and diversity is a critical first step towards supporting historically-oppressed groups.
Support Diverse Small Businesses
Show your support for disabled and LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs by shopping from their stores. With the holiday season quickly approaching, you can use your financial vote for inclusion when picking out presents for your loved ones this year. Get started by considering what kind of item you’re looking for and researching shops to support.
Got a four-legged friend in need of treats? Head to Gracie’s Doggie Delights. Are you looking for jewelry? Check out Automic Gold. In search of a new outfit? Shop designs from Rebirth Garments. In need of something else? Stop by one of the many lists of inclusive brands to shop, like 15 Black LGBTQ Small Businesses To Support Right Now or 15 Disability-Owned Businesses to Support During COVID-19.
In addition, you can keep a running list of shops you would like to support in the future. My notes app is full of creators I enjoy and links to their work. This way, I have their shop information when I can afford to support them.
Donate Directly to People in Need
Mutual aid is the radical idea of giving to your community in solidarity rather than as charity. The need for mutual aid has increased recently as many communities are fighting against the effects of systemic racism and the COVID-19 pandemic. Support human rights by supporting your neighbors.
Social media and crowdfunding websites have made it easier for people to communicate their needs directly. Activists such as model Aaron Philip have used their platforms to uplift the needs of community members. Facebook communities like South Minneapolis Mutual Aid are also great resources.
Following a few groups who promote mutual aid is a good way to keep yourself up-to-date on your community’s needs. When you have some extra money or other resources to spare, considering giving to a neighbor in need.
If you’re uncomfortable with the concept of mutual aid or donating directly to someone in need, ask yourself why. Mutual aid is meant to promote community and support your neighbors. Personally, I find the best way to show my support is through a mix of giving to mutual aid and local charities.
If you’re not donating directly to someone in need, do a little research on the place you’re donating to. A quick google search should give you some insight into the charity. For some more tips, check out this article.
Invest in What Matters
Finally, make sure your investments aren’t working against all your endeavors for human rights and diversity. Switching to socially responsible investing can help ensure that your finances are working towards a better future.
Be conscious of your investments. Your invested dollars go towards innovation, technology, and more. Make sure they’re working with your values. Check out our Human Rights and Diversity portfolio and learn more at InvestedInterests.com.
What does choosing a political candidate to vote for have in common with choosing an investment portfolio? If you’re anything like us – A LOT! Accountability is a huge component of how we curate our portfolios and our ballots.
Accountability is holding institutions and individuals to a standard that aligns with one’s values and morals. In our daily lives, it might look like taking responsibility for our actions or acknowledging our mistakes while striving to do better.
As ethical investors, we also bring accountability to finance. When we choose companies to include in our portfolios, we do so very consciously. We consider their intentions and impacts, what they hope to do and how they do it.
We carry that same energy into the polls.
Holding public officials accountable is a key aspect of a healthy democracy. We need room to criticize politicians (even those we like!) when they go against our values. Doing so helps shape our political future, especially surrounding key issues like sustainability.
Accountability and criticism can get a bad reputation. But, they are not inherently negative.
Criticism and accountability are tools to aid us in developing a better future. By understanding where we, as a country, have gone wrong, we can strive for new solutions to do better. In the words of author and activist James Baldwin, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
Sometimes, we’re asked to save our criticism for a different time, that now is not the right moment. But, our values are not fleeting. Our ethics should not be paused to make situations more comfortable for the majority.
I often find that the times when I’m told my criticism is not appropriate are the times when it is most necessary. Holding ourselves, our politicians, and our institutions to a higher standard is not disrespectful. Demanding more from our government to protect the rights of historically oppressed people is always appropriate.
So, what can we do?
We should carefully analyze the Biden Climate Plan to understand if it is enough to promote sustainability in our country. We should demand more from our government to tackle climate change and generate jobs that protect the environment. We should recognize the impact of RBG’s legacy on Indigenous people. Doing so does not make us disrespect of our politicians’ accomplishments, but rather, to echo Baldwin, showcases our love for the country and helps us imagine a better future for all people.
With the current elections looming, now is the perfect time to start engaging in a critical analysis of politicians, especially candidates in local elections. For Minnesotans, our ballots will feature races for U.S. President, U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, State Senator, State Representative, and Judicial seats. Getting to know candidates through resources such as Ballotpedia or MyBallotMN can help you make informed decisions on election day.
In other words, it is important to bring accountability into every space in our lives, especially our politics and our finances. These are two key areas where we can use our democratic and fiscal votes to shape the world around us for the better. As ethical investors, we can do this in many ways. Invest in social justice. Register to vote. Donate to campaigns that align with your values — especially close, local races. Engage in political conversations with friends and family, even when it is uncomfortable. To truly put our money where our mouth is, we must take every opportunity to fight for human rights, especially at home.
Across the world, thousands of people are killed in armed conflicts annually. It is our responsibility as global citizens to invest responsibly and refuse to fund violence.
Armed Conflict is NOT a Foreign Problem
Americans tend to call out global violence without critically reflecting on the United States’ role in armed conflict. With the largest military in the world, the United States is very much an obstacle to peace.
The role of the military in the United States is nuanced. With a proposed budget of $705.4 billion, not every cent going to the Department of Defense explicitly funds violent exploits. The money goes towards research, government contracts, and more. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman are just a few of the corporations benefitting from the massive defense budget.
This is not to say that investing in peace is an impossible task rather to recognize how much our country and economy rely on military funding.
Wars are expensive. Armed conflict is expensive. Making a collective action to invest in peace is a huge step towards ending conflict across the world.
Voting with your wallet for peace can be a daily activity. By understanding how companies support the military-industrial complex or actively fund armed conflict, we as consumers can make more informed decisions about where we spend our money.
Researching specific conflicts and how to boycott them is a great place to start. For instance, if you’re passionate about ending the oppression of Palestine, check out resources for boycotting the Israeli occupation.
Identifying specific causes you want to support or divest from can make researching companies easier and more manageable for daily life. For larger divesting goals, working with a divestment task force or an investment firm can make big goals achievable.
Divesting Works, The Sudan Divestment Task Force
Invested Interests got our start by working to invest in peace.
The Darfur Genocide began in the early 2000s when the Sudanese government armed Janjaweed began mass slaughtering and raping Darfuri men, women, and children in Western Sudan.
Working with the Sudan Divestment Task Force (SDFT), Invested Interests took a stand against these atrocities. Together, they ensured the task force’s divestment list was readily available through online tools and portfolios. Armed with the knowledge from the task force, individual investors could avoid the targeted corporations and divest from specific companies, like Schlumberger and PetroChina.
These efforts have had a significant impact on the region. And, while human rights in Sudan remain a pressing issue, progress has been made with the help of SDFT and Invested Interests.
Invest in Peace
We can all choose to invest in peace. While our causes and divestment strategies may differ, collective actions for peace are critical to building a peaceful future.
Get started today with the Peace Portfolio from Invested Interests.
What is the Supreme Court?
Since the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we’ve been seeing the Court in the news more and more. As we know, the Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. The nine Supreme Court Justices take on cases of federal significance. However, there may be a few key components of the court that we’ve forgotten since high school history class.
Two major powers of the court to consider are docket setting and judicial review. Justices determine which cases they will hear, or add to the docket, every session. In order to add a case to the docket, four justices must vote in its favor. Adding a case to the docket determines what sort of issues will be up for discussion during the session. Judicial review is the power of the court to determine the constitutionality of legislation.
The Supreme Court is an exceedingly powerful institution. Decisions made by the Court can affect Americans for generations.
Vacancies on the Court
While the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg earlier this month is shocking, it is not unprecedented. With life-long appointments, the court has seen many vacancies in election years. But, an incomplete court is not ideal. The last time the court had eight justices in 2016 many cases ended in a tie. A 4-4 ruling means the lower court’s ruling is upheld without setting a legal precedent. Some describe it as if the Supreme Court never heard the case at all.
What is the Political Role of the Court?
While the Court is intended to remain nonpartisan, there is no such thing as an apolitical Supreme Court. The Court exists in the political sphere. Nominations and appointments of justices are overseen by politicians. After the president nominates a new justice, the Senate holds a vote to confirm the appointment. Appointments and confirmations are incredibly controversial in presidential election years. Since the position is appointed for a life-term, many people believe the appointment should be done after the election by the incoming president to reflect the American public’s political vision for the country.
In 2016, the Republican-controlled Senate blocked then-President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination for this exact reasoning. They claimed it would be against the American public’s wishes to have a president on his way out decide the future of the court. However, the same Republicans are pushing for a Trump nomination and Senate hearing prior to the November election.
Having a court that leans in one party’s favor is extremely advantageous for that party. Broadly speaking, it can mean fewer obstacles for passing partisan policies.
What’s at stake in 2020?
With the passing of left-leaning Justice Ginsburg, Trump has the opportunity to ensure a conservative majority in the court. Armed with the powers of docket setting and judicial review, a conservative court could overturn progressive legislation.
Key issue areas to consider are reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, and more. These all areas where a conservative court has the potential to overturn progressive strides from the last few decades.
What does the Supreme Court have to do with Investing?
As ethical investors, we believe investing is inherently political. Investors vote with their wallets for the future they want to see. We refuse to engage in investing that does not follow our values. In order to build our vision for the future and discover our values, it is critical to stay up to date on social and political issues.
Being engaged in democracy is central to impact investing.
People’s human rights should not be contingent on a single Supreme Court Justice. We need to use our ballots, our dollars, our voice, and every other tool at our disposal to dismantle unjust systems and ensure human rights for all people.
Want to learn more about how to vote with your wallet? Check out our last blog post.
Within my lifetime, the conversation around the climate crisis has shifted dramatically. After years of corporate greenwashing and placing the responsibility of environmental degradation on the consumer, people are beginning to recognize that we need large-scale, federal policy to ensure the future of our planet.
Current Sustainability Efforts Aren’t Enough
Individual actions are a great start, but not enough to combat ecological disaster. Recycling, which was promoted by the plastic industry, is ineffective. Less than 10% of plastic ever gets recycled. The idea of understanding your personal carbon footprint was popularized by British Petroleum, the second-largest non-state-owned oil company in the world.
Corporate greenwashing refers to a company’s practice of engaging in seemingly environmentally-conscious work without actually promoting sustainability. Greenwashing poses a real threat to the environment. By misleading consumers, people may inadvertently damage the environment they thought they were helping.
In addition, by placing the burden of sustainability on the individual, corporations can avoid accountability for their own environmental abuses. Using the court of public opinion, corporations engaged in environmental exploitation can demonize consumers who don’t recycle or use straws rather than condemn the plastic industry.
Building a Sustainable Future Together
All of this is not to say that we, as individuals, are powerless in the fight for the environment. Using our democratic and fiscal votes, we must support radical climate justice to ensure the best possible future for our children. However, we must be wary of how we wield our political power.
Supporting corporate greenwashing and individualism will not secure the sustainable future we need. Instead, we must demand climate justice from our political leadership and use our dollars to support truly sustainable solutions as much as we can.
We also want to ensure that our financial future is not funding an unsustainable future. By collectively divesting from companies promoting the use of fossil fuels, creating nuclear waste, and destroying natural resources, we can send a message that we will not be silent while corporations drive the environmental future of our planet. We will take a stand for real climate justice with every chance we get.
We can do this by investing in environmental funds that support our financial future and sustainability. At Invested Interests, our carefully-curated environment portfolio helps you easily invest in green companies, alternative and renewable energy companies, and companies promoting sustainability. Reach out to our team today to learn more about how you can align your investments with your values.