Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can certainly be persuasive, at least when it comes to election season.

No doubt the last couple of years of divisive policies, behaviors and statements have caused a significant rift not only in this country, but among friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. Worse, it’s not easing up. Election 2018 is in full effect.

Ads created and/or approved by candidates or groups and organizations that support one view or another are rampant. From commercials to mailers to yard signs, we are bombarded by names and labels and opinions that predict daunting realities depending on which way you vote. Sometimes, when a candidate receives a flood of support, it can be a true valuation or an illusion, or both.

For instance, for governor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has accumulated over $46 million in his campaign vault. His opponent, John Cox, $10.2 million.  Does Newsom represent a highly valued person or is it just vested interests that want to see him win?

As reported by the L.A. Times on Sept. 6 in “Track the millions flowing into California’s race for governor,” Newsom’s top donors are California Teachers Association ($1.1 million); Blue Shield of California ($996,440); Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the billionaire couple behind Fiji Water and POM Wonderful juice ($116,800); and Marissa Mayer and Zachary Bogue, former CEO of Yahoo and her husband, a Silicon Valley investor ($108,800). Cox’s top donors are himself ($5.6 million), Professional Financial Investors Inc., a property investment and management firm in Marin and Sonoma Counties ($149,000); Melba Jean and Floyd Kvamme, founder of Lichen Oaks Adaptive Riding Center, a therapeutic horseback riding center in Santa Cruz, and her husband ($68,400); and Thomas and Carolyn Dauterman, owner of Thomas Manufacturing, a manufacturer of nut harvesting equipment in Chico, and his wife ($39,200).

Seeing who the donors are doesn’t help much when trying to make an educated decision on what is right and wrong. Teachers and health-care insurance are good, right? Bankers and financial investors are bad? Donald Trump boasted about how he funded his own campaign. Is that a reliable way to evaluate someone’s worth as a politician? Perhaps, but it all depends on whether you are ideologically aligned with a candidate.

California propositions aren’t any better.  Millions have been poured into supporting and opposing November’s ballot initiatives, including $10.9 million for Prop. 4 for children’s hospitals versus no money in opposition; $13.2 million for Prop. 5, the property tax transfer, versus $1.8 million in opposition; $4.4 million for Prop. 6, the gas tax repeal, versus $31.5 million in opposition; $18 million for Prop. 8 regarding dialysis clinics versus $72.8 million in opposition; and $19.6 million for Prop. 10 on local rent control versus $55 million in opposition.

While reviewing the donors’ names may show obvious ties for or against any of the above, that doesn’t necessarily help the average person understand the best way to vote. There have been studies that show that most people cannot comprehend the true value of anything that costs more than $1 million since most exist on less than a six-figure income.

Over the years, between the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, which enabled practically unlimited spending on candidates without consequence or transparency, and the ultimate power and prestige that comes with being an elected official, it’s becoming more difficult to understand our democracy. Does it serve the people or the elite?

Moving forward as an informed electorate, it’s critically important to recognize that money and democracy simply don’t mix and we should stand behind getting rid of its influence in politics. Absolute power should not be for sale and money should not be a fair scale by which we evaluate politicians or propositions. Learn the issues for yourself. Political advertising only works if you allow it to.